What do some workers and a lit firecracker have in common? - Both are ready to explode. - Once a fuse is lit, it's hard to stop the consequence. And that's why Michael Tabman preaches taking care of the matches.
In today's economy, with downsizing companies, stagnant pay, shrinking 401(k)s, higher health care costs and clashing politics, many people's emotions are volatile.
It doesn't take much to light the match.
Tabman, who retired after 24 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, beefed up his resume by becoming a CPA. With those credentials, he opened Spirit LLC, a risk management and asset protection business in Kansas.
When he's called in to help an organization, it's often after an emotionally or financially explosive event occurs.
"We need to listen better. We need to be a prevention-oriented society," Tabman urges.
Heed the warning signs
Tabman cites incident after incident when workplace violence or fraud occurred after warning signs were ignored.
Frustration with bureaucracy, job loss, marital trouble at home - all these situations typically are manifest in behavior change before a flash point happens.
"It's not necessarily grievances that cause violence. It's grievances that aren't addressed," Tabman says. "And, quite often, it's tied to difficulty communicating with a supervisor."
That fact places a hefty burden on bosses. If an employee who exhibits markedly changed behavior doesn't state outright what's bothering him or her, a supervisor needs to be intuitive.
"There's a very fine line to cross for a boss to intrude in a worker's personal life," Tabman acknowledges. "It's hard to ask personal questions."
One commonality Tabman finds in workplaces where he's called in to help is a frustration with policies and procedures that don't make sense or that are followed unfairly.
Another commonality is failure to do adequate background checks when hiring.
Still another is failure to separate duties or have checks and balances so that a single worker doesn't have sole control over the money.
"It may not be PC to talk about profiling," Tabman says, "but profiling works. When the warning signs are there, when there's a triggering event, we need to be alert. Listen to what they say. They mean it."
"It" may be violence inflicted on others, suicide or "suicide by cop," Tabman says.
But to focus solely on those kinds of dire circumstances is to ignore the full range of safety and security needs for most organizations, he says.
Start with the power to damage organizations by data theft. Flash drives make it easy. Security systems need to be in place before a disgruntled employee walks out the door with vital, proprietary information, he advises.
"It all comes down to minimizing risks," he says, quoting Albert Einstein: "Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them."