Webinar presenter Mark Warren answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Dealing with High-Risk Terminations. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Mark, you’ve mentioned a book, I think during your presentation, what it’s asking for the name of the author wasn’t James Madero? How do you, we’re not sure of the spelling on that?
Mark Warren: Actually, it was just an article that was on the Internet, wasn’t a book, just an article and it’s called Deadly Terminations… and How to Avoid Them by James N. Madero.
Audience Question: Are there any other books that the audience should be looking at to learn more about this and in addition to your white paper that you have there.
Mark Warren: I always recommend it, and we did it in the last webinar. And that’s Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear. That’s a great starting point for them.
Audience Question: Are high-risk terminations a higher likelihood in today’s environment, given societal tensions and given the impacts of COVID on the economy?
Mark Warren: Well, I think that sometimes, things are cyclic. Where what’s going on in the nation can definitely raise tension, doubt and fear of those types of things. Well, the reality is workplace violence is down from in the 1990s. It may not seem like it, But I recently read an article, and I cannot recall the name of the article. But in that article it stated that it was down since the 1990s. Because employers were doing better at putting workplace violence policies in place or at least being more aware that they needed to do something about workplace violence.
Host: Excellent, Good to know one. And if people are working remotely, these days also have maybe changes the dynamics.
Mark Warren: It does change the dynamic significantly, right?
Audience Question: There are a lot of managers and organizations out there who, more or less think that an employee’s personal life is just, frankly, none of the company’s business. Or take the attitude of all. That’s their problem, meaning the employee’s issue. If we’re at an agency that has taken the stance, how can audience members or managers work to change that approach? Kind of like how you were talking about really looking at the whole employee. What’s going on with this person? Are they a victim of domestic violence? How do you, how do you get higher-level management to realize, we got to look at the whole person?
Mark Warren: Man, that’s such a great question. And I wished I had the answer. The reality is, it’s through education. You’re going to have a lot of old school leaders that, you know, that’s just their style. They don’t believe in it; I don’t want to pry. When I mentioned that stuff I’m not talking about, checking people’s Facebook page every day. Specifically, when we have a potential threat, we’re getting into that behavioral assessment process, and what we’re trying to do is look at all factors impacting the person, how do you do an assessment? You don’t do it on just the person. You won’t get a clear assessment of the risk factors that are possibly there. So, you really have to look at it, we call it a multi-pronged approach. We’re talking about the person. We’re talking about their family life, their friend’s circle, their work environment, co-workers. We’re talking about financial stressors, if at all possible. So, it really goes beyond just looking at the individual when we do those assessments. And that’s why you’re seeing so many of the corporate clients getting to where they’re relying on security professionals that are trained for this type of stuff. And rather than having a full-time employee that costs you a lot more, having somebody on standby that you pay, an agreed-upon hourly wage, when used is much more efficient. By retaining a company, we know we have you as a potential client. You’re not paying anything; you’re just signing a services agreement with us. But when it comes to your question, I mean, you’re talking about changing people’s perspectives. And the only way that you’re going to do that is to open their eyes to the potential problem. Well, how do you do that? Either something bad has to happen, and it either has to hit close enough to home, or they just have to be awake enough that when it happened, they were paying attention. And it struck a nerve with them to where they go, “Oh, that could happen here.” The circumstances either are so close to something that they’ve had happen in their life previously. Now, they understand, they say, “Oh, wait a minute. I never saw that happening.” And they start paying attention. So, as an employee, sometimes leading from the bottom up can be difficult. But I have seen it done very successfully. And it’s when you have an interest in it, and you see it, print out that article. If you can’t give it directly to that boss, give it to maybe somebody, you have a relationship below that boss and say, “Hey, I just wanted you to see this.” I read this article about workplace violence, and it’s really pretty intriguing. Here’s a copy of it. That’s the educational process. Don’t think that you have to wait for somebody like me to come in to educate people. When there are so many of you listening today that are intrigued and you do your own research and homework on this stuff because I know from conversations that we’ve had through these webinars, that you guys have a lot of great intelligence and knowledge. You can be that informal teacher that starts changing the dynamics of the culture that can make it safer.
Audience Question: Isn’t social media protected speech? And Mark, I know you’re not an employment specialist. I’d be curious to hear your take. Especially given, you were just talking about how employers can kind of look at people’s Facebook pages and Twitter and kind of see what their state of mind is. What’s your take on that?
Mark Warren: Well, and my take on it, is, no, I’m not an attorney, but I can tell you, in recent history. How many people can you recall from national news that had been terminated from their employment because of what they posted on social media? And I can probably do a quick Google search and come up with multiple ones that have been terminated as the result of that. There is a certain degree of protection there, but not when it comes to what you put in the open public? That’s like the article. That’s why I was very cautious to give him credit for his article that is his document, but he had it open-sourced on the internet. So, I used it and quoted from it, but that’s why I gave him, you know, the kudos for it. So, when it comes to social media, you have the First Amendment Right. And that’s to protect you from the government. You have the right to say, whatever you want. Your employer can use that against you, and some of that stuff has stood up in court. Keeping in mind, when I talk about using it, I’m talking about using it for a behavior pattern to determine, from an assessment standpoint, whether this person has a higher-level risk or not. What the employee or the employer does if they use it as part of the termination, you made this threat or statement, that’s only part of the case file. They’ll have to defend whether it stands or not in court. That’s not something necessarily, I get involved in. So, you have the First Amendment, Right, whether your employer can try to control that, but I’ve just seen within the last two years, there’s been a lot of people that have been terminated by employers on what they posted on free platforms.
Audience Question: Could you, again, go back and review the definition of boundary probing? Again, and maybe include an example.
Mark Warren: Well, boundary probing, literally, it’s going from A to Z. How are they going to get there? And so, when you look at boundary probing, what we’re really talking about is they are testing your reaction or response to something that they know they probably shouldn’t do. As an example, trying to think of something off the top of my head. You know, if I am in the break room, and I say, “You know, that supervisor, John. I hate his guts, and if I get a chance, I’m going to kick his whatever.” Depending on our organizational policy that very well may be a direct threat against John. And a supervisor was sitting right there and heard me say it but doesn’t say anything. Well, he didn’t say anything to me or reprimand me. So, I know as far as in front of him, I can get away with saying stuff like that. So, the next time, I may actually say, “You know John, is going to get a black eye first chance I get,” and now I’ve gone a little bit further, and the same supervisor didn’t say anything. So, I’m probing to see if anything’s going to be done, what will they tolerate, and what will they not? And what is it? It’s letting me get away with more and more and emboldening me to feel more confident. Confirming that what I’m doing is right or justified. What I’m trying to do is justified in my mind as well. I hope that in short, makes sense.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Dealing with High-Risk Terminations.