The threat of violence whether it emanates from a disgruntled employee or the threat of terrorism require both a concerted and an individual response. Terrorism in any form is terrorism. Having been exposed to the daily taunts, acts of intimidation, verbal threats of bodily harm are as debilitating psychologically as the blunt strike or the piercing bullet. Vigilance and security awareness makes for a good prescription. In my previous writings on the topic of workplace security, I've attempted to draw a correlation between the disgruntled employee and the terrorist from within by suggesting similar patterns of behavior, traits and characteristics coupled with freedom of access and possession of the company's secrets. My observations clearly implied a volatile ingredient worthy of skeptical assessment.
Following a recent article written by Louis Rovner, Ph.D, entitled "Protecting Your Company from Terrorism Within", I interviewed him regarding the article. Dr. Rovner is a psychologist in LA who consults to businesses, government agencies and law enforcement agencies, one of a handful of polygraph ? psychologist nationwide. He believes that the potential for disaster is at every employer's doorstep and I agree with the assessment. He said, "Thousands of Terrorist call the United States home?hundreds of terrorist sleeper cells scattered throughout the U.S. awaiting orders and instructions need to assimilate in order to survive". What do they do? The thrust of this edition is a testimonial to the existing synergy between Dr. Rovner and I on the topic of workplace security as a legitimate discussion. I believe the solution to the minimization of any potential exposure is an aggressive but practical security plan which addresses the workplace security issues in greater detail incorporating training and security awareness.
Now I would like to draw that necessary correlation between the seamless similarities existing between the "event driven" explosive conduct of the "disgruntled employee" and "the Terrorist from within". In an investigation I conducted several years ago an otherwise hard working employee with a diagnosed personality disorder was reassigned from his regular duties due to a medical determination. It was to have been a temporary change. However, during the ensuing assignment he was exposed to constant abusive taunting and harassment by co-workers. In response he began retaliating in his own way, initially innocuously and eventually more aggressively. The verbal threats directed at co-workers and supervisors escalated to more hostile conduct. It was clear he was sending a message of his displeasure. While left alone at the office computer terminal he began browsing the Internet for bomb making sites. He had been engaged in this clandestine operation for several days before a sharp supervisor noticed his strange behavior at the terminal. In an effort to protect the evidence, he used a ruse to get the employee away from the terminal until my arrival. The subsequent interview of the employee disclosed a pattern of hostile retaliatory conduct in response to a lack of confidence in management and his co-workers to protect him from the abuse. His aggression escalated from the verbal to the near physical as he sought ways to avenge his tormentors.
Are You Really Safe??
Before we get into a technical discussion about the potential Terror from within, we need to answer a few questions and remind you that the problem lies well within your ability to manage. Do you know what to look for? Do you have a mechanism to address breeches of safety or security? Are your employees properly screened during the hiring process? Is there a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy and Program and lastly, are employees receiving relevant training? If we acknowledge NO to any of these questions we have the ability to take corrective action NOW. I know how resource intensive the process can be, but you don't have to go at it alone. Like the disgruntled employee who is "event driven" the Terrorist waits for the event. In both cases, they are the classic "sleepers" willing to hide their intentions until they are ready to act out. Linda Lockwood, PhD at the Metropolitan State College, Denver, Colorado reminds us that workplace violence is obviously a serious problem that must be better understood in order to prevent its occurrences. I ask that we consider the threat from within a bit more seriously by developing your security policy and plans to minimize your exposure.
Protecting Your Company From Terrorsim From Within?
In the article by Dr. Rovner, he writes that the Employee-Terrorist is "calculated" and will wait for the opportunity to strike, while using the employer to survive beyond the stipends provided by their terrorist group, the unwitting employer is the potential target depending on the type of business or government agency. But even if the companies are not specifically targeted says, Dr. Rovner, they are indirectly and unknowingly supporting Terrorist by providing a source of income. Like the Terrorist who awaits the call to action, the disgruntled employee is "event driven" by the circumstances. Both the "Terrorist" and the "Disgruntled Employee" share some other common opportunities as "employees"; they have access to the company and are familiar with the company secrets.
The Potential Threat?
Driving home a clear and evident example of the potential terrorist's ability to penetrate even a secure environment, I am reminded of the British Daily Mirror Reporter, Ryan Parry who compromised the Buckingham Palace's hiring and recruitment procedures by providing false credentials and gaining precarious access to the President of the United and his wife while staying at the palace. Even though the palace had an elaborate security system and employed the most stringent security measures to guarantee the safety of President Bush, Parry successfully breeched security by falsifying his references. According to security officials they were satisfied that both the security and criminal records check were robust and done correctly. The response may have satisfied some political end but didn't answer the question of what type of employee background check was done to authenticate and validate the hiring during the screening process. Such access was a breach at the hiring phase when in all likelihood, the responsibility fell on the lonely shoulders of a lowly paid clerk who merely followed the checklist.
5) What To Look For??
I believe the collaborative process of the Threat Assessment Team concept enhances the essentials and promotes shared awareness in the identification of the potential threatening applicant during the hiring process. The same collaborative process can be used to insure the right individual passes the hiring and recruitment process early on before permanent employment. Dr. Rovner says that companies, agencies and organizations can take preventive measures. He suggests that the Human Resource Department be a bit more aggressive during the hiring phases by instilling the essential skills of the investigator. Verification of all data at the hiring process is critical. He said, "One of the scariest things about the Terrorist is that they look just like you and me". While psychologist have not developed a foolproof terrorist profile, he suggests that most Terrorists posses a number of the same traits. Tactfully worded questions during the interview process will alert the interviewer. Dr. Rovner further suggest that since the Terrorist possess common traits the use of properly designed questions will tell whether the applicant has most or all of the traits.
He suggest they are:
- Dissatisfied with their lives
- Have low self-esteem
- Are true believers
- Are antisocial
- Lack pity or remorse
- Have grievances against our country and our allies
- Are tremendously loyal to their terrorist group.
Anyone intimately familiar with the Threat Assessment Process would quickly discern that some of the Terrorist's traits and characteristics are common to the disgruntled employee. If you would like a copy of Dr. Rovner's article, please request if via email and I will send you a copy of along with contact information for Dr. Rovner.
Felix P. Nater a retired U. S. Postal Inspector is the President of Nater Associates, Ltd., a Security Management Consulting Practice specializing in Workplace Security and Workplace Violence Prevention. Mr. Nater works with clients and their leadership team to design security policy, plans and program and train employees on Workplace Violence Prevention.