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pinpoint a specific threat or act to concretely suggest that Robert will be
violent at work. While Robert seems to be going through a rough
stretch, his co-workers aren't seeing the dangerous side of his behavior
and believe that, like all eccentric people, Robert has a side of him that is
different from the rest of the engineers he works with. That side, aloof,
uncomfortable with people, egocentric, also makes him a good engineer,
probably the best engineer in the group. For these reasons, his co-
workers haven't accurately evaluated his level of increasing danger.
A day after a particularly degrading and offensive meeting with his
supervisor where Robert was placed on administrative leave without pay
because of the deterioration in his work, Robert took his guns to work
and shot and killed three managers, including his supervisor. He
wounded four others including several people who had nothing to do
with the company and who were just there to deliver packages. The
security guards assigned to the company shot and killed Robert in a
struggle, and the company is left to sort out the reasons that it took them
so long to take remedial action and to correctly determine his level of
violence. Everyone interviewed believed that Robert was going through
a patchy time but he would snap out of it. No one felt that he was exces-
sively dangerous or that he had potential for violence, other than the
EAP counselor whose warning to the company went unheeded.
Questions from the Case
1. Do you believe that Robert's company should have taken earlier
action to help Robert by suspending him with pay and referring him
for counseling in a facility not connected with the company?
2. If you were the counselor, how would you have treated Robert's
growing anger at the company?
3. Do you think that companies have the right to fire workers who are
not violent but have the potential for violence? How do you think
this determination should be made to protect the rights of all parties
4. What types of behavior in Robert should the company have seen as
possible predictors of violence? Do you think a program to help co-
workers and colleagues identify potential for violence would reduce
violence in the workplace or might it contribute to increased paranoia
and dismissals for potential violence that aren't warranted?
5. As a consequence of unfair dismissals, might a proactive policy actually
lead to more violence by people who had no intention of doing any-
thing violent but who now feel so badly treated that violence is now
an option they might consider?
6. What is management's role in preventing workplace violence?
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