A Disgruntled Employee Turns Deadly

I was rocked last week when two local entrepreneurs were slain by a disgruntled employee.  It struck a nerve.

As with many such recent cases, the investigation found that there were visible signs displayed to others by the employee suggesting things weren’t right.   They were either ignored or weren’t considered seriously enough.

How many times have we heard the phrase “don’t worry, he’ll get over it”.  Well, he didn’t, and now a 13 year-old girl faces life without her parents.

Acts of violence in the workplace are rarely random.  In fact, most are premeditated and occur after a current or former employee reaches the tipping point.  This takes time – a week, a month.

I’m not going to get into the psychology or mental state of any individual who completes such a heinous act.  Many things need to line up in a perfect storm of sorts for someone to snap like that.  But somewhere along the line the workplace has become an accepted place to snap even in the most violent manner.

If you’ve managed people at any level then you have likely managed a disgruntled employee.  If you’ve either fired or laid people off you have probably gone through the process of escorting someone out of the building and had security present.  It’s uncomfortable and unnerving.  Most managers prefer to avoid conflict in dealing with subordinates, but it doesn’t always work that way.

It requires a huge leap to go from being upset over a change in commission structure to murder, but in this case it happened.  Issues that start out small can turn into those larger than life itself if you let them.  Nobody believes it can happen to them in a million years.  Then it happens and invariably someone says,  “well….now that I think about it he/she was very upset about…”.

Be aware.  Pay attention.  Be proactive.  Talk.  Explain.  Discuss.  Check-in frequently.  We all have ways to sense an underlying problem with an employee.  Use those senses.  In these cases conflict avoidance is not an option.

It just may save your life.


About Mike

Mike has been an executive in the biotechnology industry for the past 20 years. Mike is a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara, earning Bachelors degrees in Business Economics and Geography. Mike also earned his MBA in Finance from California State University, Fresno. Mike is married to the mother of his 3 children and currently lives outside of Boulder, CO. In his spare time Mike enjoys hiking, fishing, skiing, reading and coaching basketball.
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