Appendix D: Dealing with Threatening or Potentially Violent Behavior
The UCSF Zero Tolerance Standard for Workplace Violence states in part:
UCSF is committed to maintaining a safe workplace that is free from threats and acts of intimidation and violence. When faced with these situations UCSF has taken swift and remedial action to protect the rights of employees, faculty and students… The Standard is intended to bring awareness to all on campus that threats or acts of violence and intimidation are taken seriously and will be investigated.
The Threat Management Team (TMT) was established by UCSF in response to concerns about workplace violence and as a means to implement the Zero Tolerance Standard. The TMT coordinates responses to concerns raised by Campus and Medical Center administrators, faculty, staff and students. The team is intended to augment existing University systems and is convened whenever departments need help responding to a potentially dangerous situation. It is comprised of several campus units (see below) with special expertise and professional training in assessing and handling violence in the workplace. These units work together systematically to assess and address behavior perceived as disruptive, intimidating, threatening, or violent.
Any act of intimidation, threat of violence, or act of violence committed against any person on the property of the University of California, San Francisco is prohibited.
- Intimidation: A physical or verbal act toward another person, the result of which causes that person to reasonably fear for his/her safety or the safety of others.
- Threat of Violence: A physical or verbal act which threatens bodily harm to another person or damage to the property of another.
- Act of Violence: A physical act, whether or not it causes actual bodily harm to another person or damage to the property of another.
- No person shall possess or have control of any firearm, deadly weapon, or prohibited knife, as legally defined, while on the property of the University of California, San Francisco, except as required in the lawful course of business or as authorized by the UCSF Police Department.
- Any UCSF faculty member, student or employee who is the subject of, or a witness to, a suspected violation of this standard should report the violation to a supervisor, manager or person in authority who is not involved in the conduct.
- Any UCSF supervisor, manager, or person in authority who receives a report of a suspected violation of this standard shall document the incident, and notify an appropriate UCSF official.
- Any emergency, perceived emergency, or suspected criminal conduct shall be immediately reported to the UCSF Police Department. Sexual violence is also criminal conduct and shall be immediately reported to the UCSF Police Department.
- Any UCSF faculty member, student or employee found to be in violation of this standard may be subject to criminal prosecution as well as discipline up to and including dismissal pursuant to applicable University Personnel Policies or Collective Bargaining Agreements.
Some Warning Signs
Managers and supervisors are urged to respond EVERY time to threats, intimidation, and/or actual violence, but to use common sense when assessing potentially violent behavior. Even though this section lists some behaviors that may indicate a potential for violence, it is important to keep in mind that these characteristics do not necessarily predict violence and that some violent people may display no symptoms at work. Keep in mind that some of these characteristics may apply to otherwise productive employees, most of whom would never commit a violent act. In cases where a person's behavior is ambiguous, ask yourself and train your staff to consider, these two questions:
- Might the behavior(s) be potential or actual acts of intimidation or threat?
- Might other individuals informed of the behavior(s), consider them potential and,or actual acts of intimidation or threat?
Commonly identified behaviors that may signal the potential for violence:
- Has outbursts of rage and anger and may intimidate others.
- Cooperates poorly with others.
- Blames others for own problems.
- Displays changes in work patterns such as tardiness or absenteeism.
- Demonstrates extreme or bizarre behavior, or deep depression.
- Is known to abuse alcohol or drugs.
- Has had a recent loss.
- Is disgruntled more than usual about work and is fixated on perceived injustices.
- Exhibits low self-esteem.
- Engages in sabotage behavior.
- Has a history of violent behavior.
- Shows an extreme interest in or obsession with weapons, e.g., paramilitary training, weapons collections, compulsive reading of gun magazines.
- Discusses weapons excessively at work, carries a concealed weapon, or flashes a weapon to test reactions.
- Makes either direct or veiled verbal threats of harm (e.g., predicts that bad things are going to happen to a co-worker or supervisor).
- Intimidates or instills fear in co-workers or supervisors. (This includes verbal as well as physical intimidation.) Examples include harassing phone calls and stalking.
- Has an obsessive involvement with the job, often with no apparent outside interests. (This trait is usually coupled with failed or strained outside relationships; the workplace becomes the person's sole source of identity.)
- Is a loner who has little involvement with co-workers, with the possible exception of a romantic interest in another employee. This interest is frequently so intense that the targeted employee will feel threatened and may want to report the unwanted attention as sexual harassment.
- Is fascinated with recent incidents of workplace violence and openly approves of the use of violence under similar circumstances.
- Shows an escalating propensity to push the limits of normal conduct, disregarding the safety of co-workers.
- Is highly suspicious or paranoid, and often believes that the whole world is against him or her.
- Handles criticism poorly and has problems with people in authority; holds grudges, especially against a supervisor, and often verbalizes a hope for something to happen to the person against whom the employee has a grudge.
- Expresses extreme desperation over recent family, financial, or personal problems.
What you can do: Do not ignore or downplay direct or indirect threats from any person, as they could escalate into serious incidents later on. To prevent the escalation of such incidents, every member of the campus community should learn to recognize and report behavior that is disruptive, intimidating, or could potentially lead to violence. All managers and supervisors are encouraged to take the Violence in the Workplace training offered periodically by the TMT. You should also ensure that employees in your department are familiarized with the Zero Tolerance Standard, including its Procedures for reporting any events covered by it. As a supervisor, you should take immediate steps to address problem behavior and ensure the safety of your employees. In addition to careful documentation of the incident, your primary responsibility is to notify a member of the TMT immediately.
The units that comprise the TMT are as follows:
- UCSF Police Department (415-476-1414): The role of the UCPD in the TMT is to investigate possible criminal background and activity, determine weapons ownership, provide security in situations of violence and imminent risk, and contribute its expertise to the risk assessment process. In all cases of actual or imminent violence, call 9-911 immediately.
- Medical Center - Department of Security Services (415-885-7890): The role of Security in the TMT is to ensure the safety of Medical Center employees and facilities, work in conjunction with the UCPD in areas shared with Campus, and contribute its expertise to the risk assessment process.
- Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (415-476-8279): The role of FSAP on the TMT is to advise on all relevant psychological and behavioral signs, symptoms, and risk factors of actual or potential violence that necessitate threat management. In addition, FSAP arranges Fitness for Duty and Return to Work procedures when indicated, and provides individual assessment, counseling and group debriefings for employees impacted by such situations.
- Legal Affairs (415-476-5003): The role of Legal Affairs in the TMT is to ensure that all UC (as well as relevant state and federal) laws and regulations are duly discussed and observed in the course of Team deliberations, recommendations and interventions, as well as to manage liaisons with outside legal counsel.
- Labor & Employee Relations (Campus:415- 476-3908; Medical Center :415-514-4946): The role of Labor & Employee Relations in the TMT is to keep the Team cognizant of, and compliant with, UC labor policy and procedure, collective bargaining and employment-related legal issues, investigate relevant employment history, and ensure that disciplinary and other recommended actions are handled with appropriate autonomy from the TMT process itself.
Planning & Prevention: Managers and supervisors in your department might wish to discuss and plan for preventing and responding to such issues, including educating staff, students, and faculty. You should take into account the nature of your work, your location, staffing, and other unique features such as whether your unit handles cash or is responsible for issues that people feel passionate about. Some actions to consider:
- Conduct a workplace security survey. (the UCSF Police Department - Crime Prevention Unit is available to assist you, as well as the Security Department for all Medical Center departments).
- Train staff, students, and faculty to safely respond to hostile individuals.
- Communicate the Zero Tolerance Standard to all staff, students, and faculty.
- Establish a departmental procedure for reporting harassment, threats, or acts of violence; train all to report all such incidents rather than retaliate.
- Where possible, limit access to the workplace by non-employees.
- Follow the appropriate campus policy for taking disciplinary and discharge/dismissal actions with consultation from appropriate campus resources.
- Never ignore threats! Consult and document where appropriate.
- If there is a threat, consider temporarily relocating the threatened employee's workstation to a more secure area, screening incoming phone calls, providing an escort, and other protective measures.
- Be aware of potential conflicts between employees and take action to resolve them before they grow.
- If someone enters your workplace with a weapon, 1) immediately contact UC Police at 9-911; 2) leave the area with as many others as possible; if not possible, hide and protect yourself; 3) do not try to negotiate with the assailant.
- Plan for responding to staff needs after an incident by using available resources such as FSAP.
- Retain evidence — voice mail, email and/or any other written messages perceived to be threatening.
The cooperation of everyone is a crucial part of keeping our campus safe. Your full commitment and assistance is required to ensure that the essential University mission can be achieved in a safe and healthy environment.
Available Violence in the Workplace training: TMT members provide consultation and education on Zero Tolerance, violence risk assessment, threat management intervention, and violence in the workplace training. Please contact any unit or department on the TMT for consultation and further information about their services.
UCSF Threat Management Team:
Office of Legal Council
Medical Center Department of Security Services
- Conflict Resolution:
- Dealing with Difficult Behavior:
- Health and Safety Training for Supervisors:
- Sexual and Relationship Violence Resource
- Customer Service & Employee Relations: