If there's one thing I've learned over the many years that I've been covering the H-1B visa issue, it's that there are some people in the U.S. IT work force who appear to be unstable. I have received direct threats in response to some of my blog posts on H-1B-related topics-warnings of the dire consequences I will face because of the views I've expressed-and some indirect suggestions about the fate that should befall people who share views they attribute to me, whether or not I actually hold them. It all begs an extremely important question: To what extent do these people pose a threat of violence in the workplace?
An example of the type of indirect threat I'm talking about came in response to my recent post, "Why the Anti-H-1B Argument Isn't Being Taken Seriously."
Don Tennant, when the 40 million unemployed Americans finally wake up and realize that they will never again be able to afford to buy food, fuel, or clothing, they will do that which they should have done years ago: overthrow the federal government of the USA. Then, they shall round up all you Republican traitors who maximized your corporate profits by giving our jobs to the freaking immigrants. These unemployed, starving, American patriots shall give you traitors your long-overdue comeuppance: violent death.
I've gotten used to this stuff over the years, and it generally doesn't faze me. But I found this one particularly disturbing, simply because the author wasn't the typical whacked-out, anonymous poster with some ridiculous, militaristic pseudonym. It came instead from an IT professional who provided his full name and an email address, which I was able to verify (I receive an email notification whenever a reader posts a comment, so I was able to confirm that the comment came from that email address, barring some elaborate spoofing hoax). I went to the individual's LinkedIn page and learned all about his very impressive professional status.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he lives in the Washington, D.C., area and he has a law degree and experience as a Web administrator, network administrator and digital forensics examiner. As I was reading this guy's profile, I couldn't help but wonder why he had no qualms about being publicly identified as someone who advocates the overthrow of the U.S. government and the violent death of "Republican traitors."
I also couldn't help but wonder whether this guy poses a threat to his coworkers at the "small IT consulting company" where, according to his profile, he currently works as an "IT generalist." What are the warning signs of workplace violence that we can watch out for when we have people like this-not to mention those who are inclined to make more direct, anonymous threats-working alongside us?
Rich Cordivari, vice president of learning and development at AlliedBarton Security Services, a provider of security personnel for workplace environments, has compiled a list of warning signs of workplace violence that we all would do well to familiarize ourselves with. Cordivari cautions against overreaction, but encourages employees to report disturbing behavior:
While every situation and set of circumstances is unique, there are some warning signs that are commonly exhibited by individuals in need of assistance. If you are feeling uncomfortable in any situation with a co-worker, or noticing these warning signs, you should notify a manager or someone in a position of authority within your organization.
Remember that just because someone exhibits one of these behaviors does not necessarily mean they are prone to display an act of violence. It is when someone has a noticeable change in behavior, if these behaviors are observed in combination or if the behavior is displayed constantly that you should consider telling someone about the situation.
Here's the list of behaviors that Cordivari says you should be on the lookout for: