Lesson 4: Topic 5 of 14

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Mental health screening is another tool you may wish to utilize. Whether they are self-assessment evaluations or screenings by qualified mental health professionals, these focus on mental disorders revolving around employment. Often this takes the form of a questionnaire centering on one’s emotions, lifestyle, and general wellbeing. If every employee at a company gets a standard mental health screening, or screenings are conducted randomly, accusations of discriminatory behavior against any one person or group of people can be avoided. Screening staff means some mental health problems may get picked up which otherwise would have flown under the radar.

Remember that many Americans struggle with various mental health challenges and continue to be excellent workers. “Mental health problems” can include social anxiety, ADHD, or PTSD. How can managers and supervisors identify someone who is outside of the norm and potentially violent?   Behaviors are telegraphed not just by making overt or subtle threats. Other indicators may include, but are not limited to:

  • Depression, withdrawal, anxiety, or paranoia
  • Lack of attention to personal appearance (clothing, hair, and hygiene)
  • Increasing absenteeism, which may be brushed away by vague physical complaints
  • Being quick to find fault with others but unwilling to accept blame for his/her mistakes
  • A sense of victimization or self-pity
  • Increasingly inflexible and hypersensitive to criticism
  • Shows severe mood swings, especially when accompanied by agitated, explosive, or highly emotional responses
  • Bringing up problems at home or problems in society at large
  • Talking about fighting, weapons, et cetera, especially when doing so seems random or unrelated to the topic at hand
  • Anonymous and seemingly random acts of vandalism are happening (e.g. equipment is being damaged, employees’ cars are being ‘keyed’ in the parking lot)
  • Other employees are afraid of this person

There currently exists no definitive study linking workplace violence with jobsite environmental factors ― however, it is well documented that constant negativity and stress can precipitate problematic behavior. Troubling social change at the jobsite is one factor: downsizing (or the identical euphemism “rightsizing”), a reduction in force (RIF), restructuring, outsourcing, or corporate mergers and takeovers. Another factor is having a toxic work climate; combine that with a sense of helplessness or despair that “things at work will never improve” and morale will definitely lower. Staff may harbor grievances against leadership for real or perceived slights. Any of these may act as a trigger to an employee who is already on the verge of snapping.