ok, this one is (again!) out of the scope of anything I've had to deal with.

We have plans in place for dealing with and communicating about a threat against our facility (bombs, fire, whatever), but nothing that specifically deals with how/if/when I should communicate to my staff that I have received a personal threat.

I live on site at the nature area that I help manage. I have begun to receive "presents"--deer heads on my doorstep, heart on top of my husband's car, deer Liver by my driver's side car door, dead raccoons everywhere.

How/when do you notify your staff that this is going on? Do you notify them?

(And yes, this is almost certainly related to the firing incident a month or two ago.)


I have 2 new hires that have been here only a month or two, and they are fabulous. I don't want to scare them off, but I also don't want to withhold information that may be important to their safety.

See? Isn't your cubicle looking good right now?  :D

jhack's picture

Bug Girl,

Wow, tough situation.  I know you've contacted the police - that is absolutely a good move.  You might also consider contacting your own lawyer to find out if there are other avenues (restraining order?) available to you.  Is there an HR-like group in your not-for-profit that you could notify, as well?  They, too, should be notified.   

Unfortunately, since this is likely work-related, your directs should know.  This is way outside my experience, yet it could affect them.  So you need to be matter of fact, level-headed, and explain what happened, and what they should be aware of (specific persons, vehicles, etc).  They may have experienced or seen something that would only make sense in this context.  And they deserve the protection that knowledge would bring them.  

As with any difficult situation at work (layoffs, M&A, etc) you need to articulate what course of action you're taking to address the situation (the police have been notified, HQ is alerted, restraining order is in the works, etc) so that your information is empowering, not just bad news. 

Good luck.  You have a large community of folks out here who are with you in spirit.  


John Hack


bug_girl's picture

My boss came over to my house for 2 hours and talked to the police with me.  I wasn't sure how much to say/not say to the cops about what was happening internally, so deferred a lot of questions to her.   For a High D/High I, she really was great and supportive. It can be done :)

I'm not that concerned about my personal safety--this is something that is supposed to rattle my cage and make me go away. I don't think the people involved are smart enough (or sober enough!) to actually do anything other than be Redneck Don Corleone in the middle of the night. 

I am mostly concerned with keeping my family and staff not freaked out and calm! 

I am stepping up my patrols in the morning, since I don't want one of our visitors to find something disturbing.  (Why am -I- patrolling? We have so little budget that I had to cut our guards back to half time.)

It's a good suggestion to mention that we are taking it seriously and that both our HR, legal team, and state/local cops have been alerted. 

I'm not at my best right now, and knew that if I crowd-sourced the "what next" you would have some ideas for me :)


thaGUma's picture

Letting your directs know, and letting them know it may be personal, is a good idea. they would be more worried if they heard/saw what was happening to you and thought it came with the territory. Having seen some of the effects of terrorism on employees of Huntingdon Life in the UK, there is a lot to be said for information.

Lets hope the .... is soon dealt with, your safety and the safety of your family is more important than your job or the company. I am not impressed if you have to do the patrolling yourself - your company has a basic duty of care that should ensure they keep you safe.


bug_girl's picture

We got re-assigned the same lovely pair of cops that helped me during the dismissal/gun incident--they really made me feel a lot better. It also helps that they know some of the background of our situation.

They are doing all the interviewing and investigating, so my team and I can stay focused on our work.  They are also sending a clear and visible message in their most charming good-old-boy way: "don't mess with Bug, or you'll answer to us."    :)

Sadly, I think our intern from California will never come east of the Rockies again--she's convinced that midwesterners are gun-happy psychos now.  At least she'll be going home soon and be out of this mess!   :(


#1_Don's picture

This advice is not management-related, but the lawyer in me won't shut up.

If you need solid evidence of who is doing what you might consider buying one of those automated cameras that hunters use.  They are called trail cameras and can be purchased in almost any store that sells hunting supplies.  Try to get one that takes infrared photos or videos and has an invisible flash. Most infrared cameras have a flash that is a visible red. That would just result in the bad guy seeing and stealing your camera.

Once you have a good photo or video of the person caught in the act, the police can take that and either proceed with prosecution or at least make the person aware that there's now no doubt about who is doing what .  A really good infrared trail camera will set you back a couple hundred dollars.

On the upside, once the situation is over, you can get some really cool photos and videos of the animals that roam your area at night.

Don (Yes, I am a lawyer and a hunter)

bug_girl's picture

we have had several additional incidents of vandalism, although at least none of these involved body parts!

Sadly, I suspect that we will never catch who is responsible--I did actually try deer cams, but they just don't take a good enough photo for us to see the license of make of cars at night.  (the lights blot out the details).

The biggest issue is that we have NO money in the budget--we just had a 20% cut, and will probably have additional cuts in 2010.  So, we are unable to add any security, or even change the locks.

I am amazed with my team--they are consistently performing well, even though we were left with a horrible mess when the other employee left.   What a difference getting the right people in the right place makes!!

In O3's, my staff are annoyed, but also getting jumpy--we don't know who to trust, since the culprit is clearly a current or former employee.  I have no idea how to address that--thoughts?



jhbchina's picture

Bug Girl,

It's time for you to tighten up your resume and find a new opportunity. Sorry to say, the reality is that with more budget cuts coming, and a your personal safety in jeopardy, it is time to move on. Don't stick your neck out for a job, your life is not worth it. Start looking after the holidays. You and your family deserve better.

Good luck

JHB "00"

bug_girl's picture

I have seriously thought about getting a new job--as I've mentioned in another thread, I usually work well over 50hrs/wk.  And I have almost applied for several things...but at the last minute, I always decide I don't want to go.

I love it here, even though it makes me crazy. I have 3000+ acres to help manage for conservation research--when will I ever get to do this again?  I have robots milking my cows and threatened species breeding under my watch.  I give scholarships to deserving students, and help them get started in their careers.

All of the other options open to me will mean going back to a desk. I'm not ready for that yet.

Now that some time has passed,  I think the nature of the sabotage is simply some jerk(s) having a powertrip. I don't think that there is any intent other than to rattle our cages. We're rattled, alright!  But I hate to give her/them the satisfaction of having driven me off.



mmann's picture
Licensee Badge

If your organization is unable to protect its people and its assets, the jumpiness in your staff is justified.  They may be physically injured, or their jobs could be taken from them when the perpetrator decides to escalate to gasoline and a match.

The only reasonable way to lessen the jumpiness is to demonstrate to them that leadership has taken appropriate action to protect them from the threat.  Leaving the organization may eliminate the threat, OR it may strengthen the behavior in the perpetrator, increasing the threat.  You can't really predict the behavior of an unstable person.


bug_girl's picture

That is a really good point!

Well, the continued presence of the police should help... I will think about this.

ashdenver's picture

Maybe it's just me but my take on stuff like this is always along the lines of "What does being jumpy accomplish?"  It's kind of like worry - it wastes energy and distracts us from our goals.  It weakens us.  If being jumpy or worrying about a wealth of possibilities that may never come to fruition actually served a purpose, I'd say GO FOR IT!  Obviously though, it doesn't.

Having the perspective is one thing; applying it is another.  Just knowing that being jumpy & worried doesn't accomplish anything doesn't make it instantly go away.  If it's a former employee doing these things, how does being jumpy help catch the person?  If it's a current employee, how does being jumpy send the message "We're not putting up with your antics?"  

I know just saying "Don't be jumpy, it's not productive" isn't going to solve the problem.  Nor will it address the budgetary concerns or unease about the future of the organization.  I do think, though, that there is power in moving forward with confidence.  Being alert and aware is different from being jumpy. 

I don't suppose it would help to suggest that the DR's think of themselves as Terminators (cyborgs) that are able to do the work without the fear, missing nothing, noticing everything, would it?  LOL 

DiSC profile: 7-2-1-5

mtietel's picture
Training Badge

In a previous life, after a layoff some threats were made against the management of the company.  The details of the threats were never widely communicated, but there were FBI agents at the office for a few weeks.  I assume that since you've been in contact with the local police they're working with other authorities as appropriate.

On another note, my wife and I are associated with a nature center in our area.  PM me if you need anything.

bug_girl's picture

We are now one month past my last post...and things are GREAT!

With the new members of the team that replaced the past dysfunctional/fired folk, it is now a happy and functioning workplace.  We have huge budget challenges, but we're all still feeling optimistic that we'll make it hold together somehow.  It's especially great to see the employee that was always a high performer blossoming now that she has folks at her level to work with.

In our most recent all-level meeting (there's only 5 of us in this unit, counting the intern, so we just sit down and chat once a week to make sure we all are connected) I told them I'd answer any questions they had, within confidentiality limits, for one day about this topic.

It was a good way to clear the air.  At this point the failures of the past are pretty glaringly obvious, so there is no need for -me- to discuss performance issues.  Our general conclusion was that the annoying incidents would probably dwindle down to nothing soon, simply because it's hard to sustain a high level of schmuckery over time.

I always like stories with a happy ending, so thought I would update folks.

As usual, thanks to Mike, Mark, and all the MT regulars for your support!!


jhack's picture

It's so good to hear that things have turned out well.   I've experienced the transformation that follows the departure of a toxic colleague, and it's beyond refreshing. 

Don't forget to give credit to yourself, when the moment permits immodesty. 

John Hack

bug_girl's picture

And...they're back.  We've had 3 break-ins at our research building in the last 2 months. Each time, they steal the same set of data.

We go out...collect it again...and it gets stolen again.  In fact, it was stolen within 2 hours of its collection the last time, which suggests someone is WATCHING.

It's clearly freaked out my staff, and I am again stumped about what to do.  I honestly don't know what to do or say to them. 

Help? Suggestions?

       --  Bug, who has a whole herd of Drama Llamas now


(BTW, I'm having all the doors re-keyed today, but we may end up having to use some of our budget (which was cut 25% this year, BTW) for an alarm system.)

shawnmkelly's picture


I suggest you look into a web cam (a couple of hundred dollars) since video may be more compelling than just an alarm. Some cams have software that come with them that will start to capture video based upon motion and store on a computer on your network.

I was thinking this may be more cost effective, plus it would help identify the suspect, in your budget constrained environment.

Good luck!


bug_girl's picture

and...we had another theft last night. I am concerned that the events are beginning to be closer in time, which suggests an escalation.

However, the most interesting thing for me was that my response on hearing of the latest theft was "Dang it, stop messing with my team!!"  I am madder about how it's affecting them than anything else. 

I have apparently internalized the MT mindset, which gives me something to be happy about in the middle of all this chaos :D


As a side note--how can I get my boss to realize that I am having to spend a lot of time dealing with police/paperwork rather than the usual priorities?

I am still being asked to deliver the same stuff on the same deadlines, while having a whole lot more on my plate.  (And the stuff on my plate is highly emotionally charged....which doesn't quite compute for boss).

bug_girl's picture

we now have had a week of break-ins, and some animal killings. I was still floundering about how to help my team through this.

While we were all standing around waiting for the police to come (again) I just turned to them and said "I have no experience with something like this. I have no idea what the right thing to do is. I have no freakin' idea  what I'm doing.  But if there is anything you want or need from me, I'm there. Just let me know."

Immediately, I saw everyone's shoulders drop as they unclenched. We all had a "what the!??" discussion, and things got better just like that.

I think it's going to be a long way back to normal, but I hope that was a turning point. There's been an arrest (of a former employee), but that person remains at large, and will probably not be jailed even if convicted.  I won't say much more about that.

I'm trying to put a little spin on things by focusing on what we will get from all this disruption--the security system we've been asking for for the last 2 years. And better security habits.

My 2 new (superstar!) employees seem to be in this for the long haul, although I'm worried about the emotional toll of loosing some of our "babies."  I don't think there is much I can do about that other than to provide resources to our employee support system. 

I have also convinced our current intern that I am a Middle-aged Mutant Ninja Manager, which can't be a bad thing :D

jhack's picture

Another example where being honest and human with employees gives the best result.  

You and your team are in our thoughts...

John Hack

Dani Martin's picture
Licensee Badge

Hey Bug Girl -- I'm getting caught up on the forums and just read the whole thread.  I still can't believe what I read.  Sounds like you've done an amazing job dealing with it!

I had some thoughts that kept running though my head as I read your posts and comments about budget cuts.  Maybe a local security company and/or video equipment store would be willing to donate some equipment to help.  Your organization may not want the publicity, but what do you think about notifying the local newspaper and tv stations?  They might do some investigative-journalist-stakeout thing.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you and your team!


bug_girl's picture

It does help me a lot to be able to tell folks what is happening, and get ideas from outside the chaos.

I'm fairly sure we have the culprit identified now--and that person is VERY unwell.  The main issue now is to try to keep them off our property, and keep ourselves (and the animals!) safe.  Unfortunately, we are looking at weeks or months before a resolution.

All this has definitely made us look at how we unconsciously do things that can undermine security.

For example, our staff have always marked their days off--and the names of volunteers covering for them--on a calendar hanging in the office.  But that means that -anyone- passing through will know when there is only one person in the office at a very remote site.  And what person that is.

It's a lot of little things like that that we're now changing, and that's not a bad thing.

Thanks again, everyone.

bug_girl's picture

Wow. Firing someone was bad.
But I am beginning to think that preparing to go to court for a jury trial of a former employee is far worse :(

I'm composing an email right now to my current (and wonderful) employees on how to deal with a potential subpoena for witnesses.

It's rather surreal.

--Latest Update on the Thread that Will Not Die


bug_girl's picture

The former employee pled guilty to several misdemeanors rather than felony charges just before Thanksgiving. We did not have to go to trial, although I and several other staff were served with subpoenas.  We received a small amount of money in restitution that will help us replace the animals that were killed. 

As part of the person's probation, they are not allowed to be in the vicinity of our facility for the next 6 months; we also served notice via counsel that it's a lifetime ban as far as our org is concerned.

Finally. We seem to be done.

I could never have made it through this roller-coaster of coaching, disciplining, and then dismissing someone who turned out to be quite....unwell.....without all of your help over the last few years. I have learned SO MUCH from all of you.

Thank you Mark and Mike for giving me the tools to survive, and thank you so much to the community for your support.




astyak's picture


Just read your saga. First let me say I am so sorry that you had to go through this. It must have been horrible. I am so glad that the criminal justice system worked as it should. That brings me to my point. As a police manager I have watched people for years not report things right away. Please Please Please, don't give any free probation violations. Make sure you report every violation as soon as you can. Find out who his probation officer is and get them in your network. They are now a resource for you. 

A great book for dealing with threats at work is Gavin de Becker's "Gift of Fear." It helps to understand the reality of the situation. It would not have applied directly to this situation but is a good guide for anyone who has to dismiss people. 

Finally, have a party for the staff that remains. Celebrate the return of normalcy but don't abandon your safety plans.

Brad Johnston

bug_girl's picture

Everyone has instructions to call 911 as soon as that person is in sight.

Sadly, we didn't get the mental health counseling we had requested be part of the settlement for that person. 

Given that we know the person is armed and willing to kill animals randomly--yeah.
We aren't taking any chances.

Thank you for the book recommendations--I'll have to look that one up. I hope that I never have to do this again--but at least now I know that I can if I have to.