Rather than putting his equipment off to the side and taking a seat, he began to engage in some very odd behavior.
He clicked the tripod into place, set up the camera and aimed it right at me. When I inquired what he was doing, he said he needed to record our session for his own edification. When I pressed him to explain why, he snapped back at me and became agitated. His aggressive stance had put me on high alert.
When I discouraged him from doing this, he became very insistent that he be allowed to “film the process.” He also appeared concerned and fearful that his manager had referred him to health services, believing that he was being unfairly targeted. I tried to explain the process, but he refused to dismantle his equipment.
After a few more attempts to reason with him, I recognized that this was not going to be a productive situation. There were several warning signs telling me that this man was a genuine threat.
- Refusal to comply with reasonable requests.
- Paranoia and feelings of persecution.
- Distorted thinking
- Displaying excessive irritability
- Inappropriate communication to coworkers or supervisors such as responding to
- Filing unreasonable grievances or lawsuits
- Any dramatic change in an employee’s appearance or behavior should be cause for concern.
Security and Human Resources should work closely together to ensure that safety measures are in place should an employee become threatening.
Some employees will follow through with the recommendations. In this case, the employee did see the psychiatrist, but refused the medication regimen that was recommended. Over time, it was determined that he could not be at work without medication, and he went out on disability retirement.
If an employee like this follows a psychiatrist’s recommendation, there is still no guarantee that the employee can be in the workplace, but attempting to comply with the recommendation at least gives him a chance to succeed.
Given the recent prevalence of workplace violence, every workplace should have procedures in place not only for handling such incidents, but also for making fair determinations about an employee’s fitness for work. Companies should not hesitate to refer to outside mental health providers who specialize in fitness-for-duty evaluations.