Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Violence in the Workplace

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting column this past week about how bosses need to learn to confront troubled employees. Given the tragedy at Virginia Tech, this is a very timely article. It gets you thinking -- how can you tell if your coworker is potentially violent or is just bad tempered or eccentric?

Back on April 6 we did have an incident in my office. A female employee was getting some maintenance work done on her office computer. She told the technician that she did not like his cologne, and he should leave her cubicle immediately. He must have thought she was joking. So she pulled out a squirt gun and told him she was going to shoot poison at him.

This particular woman is about 60 years old and has worked in my office for over 20 years. She has a history of bizarre behavior (including another gun episode) and litigation. No one willingly works with her. As you have guessed, no one really does anything about her, either. I can't believe it's because they like her lemon cake recipe.

Do you have situations like this at work? Given the proximity of this incident in time to what happened at Virginia Tech, one can become pretty paranoid. What is it about managers that they can't fire someone like this? They've certainly fired some others.

There is some good news for me, anyway. I am transferring jobs, so I won't be in the same office or even building with her. In fact, I will be working in DC while the office I am leaving is in Virginia. The transfer is not related to the incident of a few weeks ago, but I do feel that much better about getting away.