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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I’m Susan White, a national HR consultant. With me is my co-host, JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and author of “JoyPowered,” “The JoyPowered Family,” and our newest book, “The JoyPowered Team,” which I, JoDee, and five other people wrote. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about insider threat, crisis management. In SHRM’s HR magazine, Summer 2019 edition, Roy Maurer cites a 2019 SHRM survey that says that 48% of HR professionals said their organizations have experienced some kind of workplace violence. That’s startling and scary.
It is! I can’t believe it’s that high.
I know. When you think about the ones that aren’t reported, I mean, it’s probably higher. So we’re very lucky and happy today to have a guest that can help shed some light on this topic. It’s Mark Grimes. Mark is the owner of 23 Risk LLC and a certified threat manager. 23 Risk LLC is a provider of specialized human risk services. They are a select team of experts and specialists in insider risk, protective intelligence, employee screening and selection, and behavioral analysis. They are based in Washington DC, but work across the globe. Mark, we’re so glad you’re here.
I know! I love your intro, like who ever heard of a certified threat manager? That’s awesome!
Thank you for having me!
So I know, Mark, that you prefer the term “insider risk” over the term we hear all the time, “insider threat.” What is the difference?
So this is a bit of semantics, but we prefer the term “insider risk” because it reflects a more proactive approach to this problem set. So if you imagine a timeline where somebody is onboarded into your organization, presumably after some sort of screening process, right, some kind of interview process, they’re onboarded, and they spend time in your organization, and for whatever reason, and we can talk about some reasons, but they sort of start trending downward, they start exhibiting some negative behaviors, some deviant behaviors, and they follow along what some experts would call either a pathway to violence, or along the critical pathway to some sort of negative event, right? And that’s, that’s, that’s the person becoming an “insider threat.” But “insider risk” sort of reflects our approach, which is let’s frontload efforts. Let’s get out ahead of the problem. And let’s, let’s prevent this from happening to begin with.
I like that.
Yeah, I do, too. So give us some perspective on this, Mark. What, what kinds of bad things could be happening inside of our companies that we are unaware of?
Yeah, so one of the reasons why I love talking to Susan and talking to other HR professionals is, it seems like people in this, in this profession really understand human problems in a way that others might not. And I love talking war stories and I love, I love talking about you know, bad case examples and people’s stories. So some, some bad things that can happen. So the way I look at this is more of a, of a spectrum of deviant behavior. Okay, so on the on the left side of that spectrum, you might have some, some more benign incidents, like time card fraud, poor performance, maybe even some workplace harassment, not getting along well with colleagues, that sort of thing. Okay. Then as you increase intensity of problems, you might see something like theft of intellectual property, you might see some sabotage. And what I mean by that is, “I’m disgruntled, so what I’m going to do is delete data from your servers. I know I’m going to be terminated, so I’m going to erase files, or print out data to take with me to my next employer,” that sort of thing. Okay. And, you know, insider threat can, you know, a lot of different things to different audiences, it can mean everything from theft of intellectual property or trade secrets. It used to be known under an umbrella called “corporate espionage.” It has changed, right? We don’t really hear much about “corporate espionage” anymore, or at least that terminology, of course, it’s still around if not more robust than ever. So and tracking along that, that spectrum. On the farther end you get, you get some pretty nasty behaviors, right? You workplace violence, or even an extremely rare event like an active shooter kind of scenario that we’ve seen. So I look at it as more of a spectrum of deviance. I don’t like to sort of narrow that – the, the picture and say that insider threat is just theft of trade secrets, or just deletion of data or just workplace violence. I like to, I like to look at this problem in a more holistic manner. And one of the reasons why I like to do that is because when you look at this problem set, it becomes apparent that you need to get out in front of this and you need to be proactive. And one of the really interesting things that when you look at a behavioral model called the critical path or the critical pathway, and this is typically seen among the audiences who look at theft of data, okay, taking it to a competitor or even selling it to a competitor. One of the things you look at is, is, you know, it starts with behavioral predispositions. So there’s something wrong to begin with. Okay? And that might be a psychological problem or behavior problem like narcissism, or like even, even in a more extreme example, like, like the person is a sociopath, okay, so it starts with some sort of inherent flaw.
You know, I was just gonna say I, you know, I think one of the things I was going to ask you is what can HR and business leaders do to minimize insider risk? It sounds like understanding that sometimes people are bringing this baggage or this problem to the interview, right, that we –
How do we figure it out?
And not only that, but if you look, if you look closely enough, you might see it in in previous employment. So you know, HR audiences are used to this notion of screening, maybe they use behavioral interviewing, which is what you teach, Susan, or maybe they use psychometric testing. Maybe background checks or reference checks. You know, one of my favorites is using a very thoughtful resume screen. I think the resume speaks volumes, if you really know what to look for. Look for gaps, look for patterns of employment. Are they all short? You know, does, does the story makes sense? Does the narrative of the person who you’re looking at make sense as a track along the logical path or not? I think, I think that’s, that’s a big tool in your toolbox when you’re, when you’re screening people. But I agree with you, I think, I think these problems don’t come out of thin air. I think they’re there if you want to find them. And, and one of the things we’ve learned the hard way is you have to look for something in order to find it. And if you’re just, if you’re just compartmenting yourself into looking at, okay, I’m just looking at at this candidate for this position, just for skills and attributes that we’re looking for and nothing else. Well, you’re probably going to miss some of these other deviant behaviors because you’re not looking. That’s, that’s one of the areas where, where we help our clients in what to look for.
You know, I think that’s really smart. JoDee and I have – are really high in the StrengthsFinder Positivity. This is like the last thing I think about.
Maybe I’ve got somebody in front of me that’s hiding deviant behavior, but it sounds like it’s smart.
Right. Well, and Mark, on the other hand, you know, one of SHRM’s initiatives for 2019 is getting people back to work, and even in such a tight labor market, organizations are being encouraged to hire people with criminal backgrounds. How do, how do we know how to balance that, to understand what to look for and what to ask for, but then also to give people a second chance in the process, too?
Sure. That’s a, that’s a discussion we could have for about 40 hours. I am sympathetic to that point of view, and if you think about it, you know, traditionally the companies who have had a robust insider threat program already, you know, it used to be the mature industries who knew about this problem and spent money on it were big pharma, high technology kind of companies because they had, had a history of being burned with insiders, so they were willing to spend money on that problem, okay. But now the market is changed and the definition of “insider threat” has changed to reflect so many different deviant behaviors that it’s hard, and a lot of the the companies that we try to work with are either small, like startups, or they’re mid-size, but they don’t have money to offer, a lot of money to spend on in-house solutions, so they can’t afford to have an entire insider threat or threat assessment team. And, you know, for example, Disney has, you know, hundreds of people who do this, um, and but, you know, I’m sure a lot of the professionals who are listening or that work with you, Susan that are, you know, they don’t have a ton of money to spend on this problem, so I am sympathetic. But, but here’s the good news. If you follow some standard HR best practices, you’re probably hitting on, say 60%, 70% of what you need to do for to address insider risk, okay, and that is smart hiring, that’s resume checks, that’s background checks. If that’s good, that’s going to cover a lot of the the issue. Okay. And with a little bit more effort, you can sort of plus up your capabilities to, to handle the more exotic or more complex problem.
Yeah, share, yeah. Share with us some of those plus ups. Yeah, if you would, what, what could we be doing, especially in industries where we’ve got, you know, I guess all, all businesses, but some businesses I think have even increased risk.
Sure. So one of the things is just recognize that it can happen to you, okay, your, your culture is not unique. You know, it’s, you know, I don’t care how small your company is, it could be five people in a startup, if you’re creating valuable intellectual property, that property is at risk of leaking or spilling or being sold, okay? It’s just nature. It’s just, it’s human nature. Somewhere along the line, you’re going to have an employee who isn’t exactly on the same page as you, and that’s just the reality of the world we live in. Right? And so they might be disgruntled, and they might leave under under negative circumstances, and so when that happens, you have to wonder, well, what happens to your to your data, what happens to your intellectual property when that person leaves taking it down? You know, did that person sign a nondisclosure agreement? Did you remind them of that on their way out the door? Did you do an exit interview to remind that person of their responsibilities, and, and did you allow that person reign in terms of system access while they were employed, and especially as you approach the termination date, did you restrict access? Um, you know, one of the things that I’ve learned is through, especially through Carnegie Mellon’s national threat, insider, insider threat center, is most of these incidents occur plus or minus, say 30 days of termination. So think about a disgruntled employee who’s being terminated against the critical window of time when you need to start restricting access, okay, and you even hear about stories where even somebody who, somebody who has been terminated, they still retain system access, they still have their login credentials. So who – so one thing is, you know, do you have a plan on how to terminate somebody?
And are you working with your IT department to to restrict access, to cut off access on, on or or about the termination? They do have the capability to audit systems, so that’s something, sort of, that you can plan ahead of time for. And you can even do a tabletop exercise with the different department heads in your organization say, look, let’s say we have a sample employee here who’s exhibiting really negative or, right, deviant or strange behavior, or colleagues are worried about that, okay? The rumors are starting to trickle into HR or maybe security or maybe just branch managers. And so run a tabletop exercise with your management team and say, “Okay, what do we do? What do we do here?” And do we interview that person directly, okay, what are the positive and negative implications of that? Are we interviewing other people, their colleagues? Are you doing that in a nuanced and sophisticated manner, or are you just going to hear a bunch of gossip about somebody that’s unfair?
You know, these, these are standard HR problems, but when you look at it from a workplace violence perspective, they kind of, it kind of brings to mind some, some more meaning, right? So, go to your HR department, go to, go to HR and say, or I’m sorry, IT, and say, okay, you know, can we can we audit their, their records? What are they doing at work? Are they printing out a lot of our sensitive data? How are we protecting that data online?
I have a client that as soon as someone goes on warning, they become under heightened security. And that may be very common, but they, based on studies that shows that with somebody starting to have a performance issue or other type of behavioral issue in the workplace, that that might be when they start thinking about their next job, and start thinking about is there material here or information here I could take, and let alone thinking about revenge or, you know, anger in the workplace.
Yeah. I have to tell you, I’m I’m fascinated with this topic, and I was excited to have you on the show, but I also was thinking like, oh, it’s so important because other people are experiencing this, but not me. But everything you’ve said so far, except for the active shooter, I have experienced, mostly with myself personally, but also a few with with clients of ours. And I just, every time you tell you say something I’m thinking, yep, yep, yeah, I’m checking that off, checking that off. So it’s, I have to say, I’m surprised, like I hadn’t thought of all of those different types of things all in one place, and I’ve never had a violent situation, but I have had, three different times I’ve had personal threats around it. That certainly made me nervous about that there was a risk, and that how do we know, how do we know or how does an organization know when they want to bring in a firm like yours to help them get better and wiser? I mean, is it just, should everyone be doing this, or is are there some – sounds like one critical time is before people might be getting let go or on performance issues.
So, so our, our market is pretty diverse, okay, so think about the Disneys of the world, or the Verizons, or Amazon, they have a very, all the big firms out there, especially technology firms, have a very robust threat assessment and insider threat team already in existence, okay? So, so what can we offer them? Well, you know, my team is comprised of experts in this, okay? We have clinical psychologists on my team. We have experts in behavioral interviewing, in elicitation and credibility assessment, okay, so, so what we can offer sort of the big companies is a fresh perspective and some professional education in terms of an in-house seminar, okay? But then you get, you get sort of into the mid-size and smaller size companies who don’t have the breadth of expertise to deal with, with this problem, what can we do for them? The same thing, in-house seminars, and even some, some sort of, some consulting over time, to help them stand up efforts to work with their HR team. If, even if it’s just one HR professional handling everything, we’d be happy to consult with that person and work, work together to sort of address these issues.
That’s great. So you’ve talked about in-house seminars, could you talk a little bit about the kind of training that 23 Risk provides when they’re – like, who’s in the audience inside of a company? And what kind of things do you enable them to be better at?
Well, we love working with HR, because like I said before, HR understands this problem, even if they haven’t really thought about insider threat before, they understand human problems. Okay? But this is a team sport. By the book, the right way to do this is to include HR, IT, security if you have it, and certainly, and certainly legal as well. Make sure everything is on a sound footing. So if you’re going to make a call on somebody and say, hey, this person presents risk to the organization, and, you know, organizations have an obligation or duty of care to protect their employees, right, and that’s a pretty serious obligation. So if you’re going to make a call, or you – is your call on sound footing, and that’s where legal comes in, that’s where it, that’s why we have clinical psychologists on our team to sort of establish really firm footing to make those hard calls when, when problems arise. But we do love working with HR. We love counseling and advising on interviewing strategies, whether it’s screening somebody before they get hired, or even interviewing a problem after it surfaces, we love that kind of stuff. So that’s just a small sampling of what we can do, but it really is, it’s, we, everything we do is custom, so whatever you want to do, whatever you want to address, we can do it.
Yeah. What do you think is the number one mistake you’ve seen companies make regarding threats or theft or, what do we, insider risk?
Hiring the wrong people, not conducting the proper due diligence on hires. I think that’s where it starts. And in order to do that, and in order to frontload efforts, and maybe add one or two additional steps to an onboarding process, what does that mean? It means time and money, right? It means you’re spending more resources on recruitment and selection of somebody before they even enter into the organization, and that can be a hard sell at times for a small company to spend more money, but in the long run, it’s, it’s an easy win, okay? In SHRM, I, I know Susan, you, you’ve, you know, we’ve talked about this, but there’s research on bad hires out there that can be cited. It’s, it’s a, it’s a clear win, spend more money hiring the right people. Okay, so that’s number one, and number two is recognizing that it can happen to you. If you have those two things, you’re solving probably 80% of this problem.
So we’re moving to a worst case scenario. Do you have any advice for our HR listeners if they have an employee, a customer, a vendor, or a stranger who causes or threatens violence in the workplace? Do you have kind of like, okay, here’s a quick thing to do, just to – always remember to do this.
Take them at their word. Okay? So if somebody is threatening you, listen to them. And that sounds obvious, but I think there’s, there’s a number of cases where people think, okay, well, this person is angry, maybe they’re, they’re even legitimately disgruntled. Maybe they were treated poorly. Maybe there was an unfair sort of situation. And so people are sort of reluctant to think, okay, this might escalate. Now, maybe they think like, okay, you know, the person’s angry, but we’ve seen angry, angry employees before, or it makes sense in the context of the incident. So we’re going to sort of de-escalate the problem and it’s going to go away on its own. Okay? That’s not the right solution. De-escalate, certainly, and try to find an off ramp, you know, people talk about off ramps a lot in this, in this industry, where instead of the behavior escalating to something, something critical happening, you know, bringing in counseling, listen to them, find, find a workaround or solution where, if they’re, if they’re having problems in a certain office, maybe, maybe it’s time to move into a new role in your organization, right, to find some sort of win-win scenario. But if there is a threat that’s being – that’s been articulated, you need to listen, because you have an obligation, duty of care for your staff. And then what? So that’s where prior planning comes in, have a plan for this, and it can happen to you.
Mark, I’ll share a quick story with you. Years ago, I was in HR, and we had hired a new young staff who, I connected with him as soon as he started and said, “Oh my gosh, I live, like, right across the street from you. We’re neighbors.” Well, a month later, we were firing him for a multitude of things, but it was obvious that he just was really struggling with probably what were some pretty severe mental illnesses, and I was not involved in his termination because he had said some threatening things to me personally. And I’m like, oh, great.
He knows where you live!
Yes! Like, it was scary to me. I’m like, that’s the last time I tell someone I live across the street from them! Give them my address, right. So, I mean, in the end, it was all safe, but boy, did it really make me rethink about that.
You know, it’s so interesting, too, when Mark says – Oh, go ahead, Mark.
I’m sorry. Um, you know, so when, when those things happen, I always think, hey, let’s pull their HR file, right? Let’s pull their resume. You know, what, what could we have seen? You know, it hindsight being 20/20, okay? Nobody has a crystal ball, but let’s pull their file and go through it and say, okay, was there anything, was there anything here that we could have seen before? I think that’s fascinating. I love – that’s called a, an after action, or a scrub on somebody. We love being a part of that, just to learn, learn the lessons from those incidents.
That’s such a great education for us in HR, too, maybe there’s something we missed.
Yeah. Well, and I can tell you, you know, I don’t know that I got to the root of that, but this was, he was a new college grad who had gone to work for a very large, prominent company, seemed like the ultimate success story, you know, the place where you would want your child to go to work right out of college, great training programs, and he didn’t have one positive thing to say about them. He was incredibly negative about what a horrible place it was to work, and we all, to this day, I think of that company, like, wow, he was so negative, and I think that was our sign that we missed, right? That he was, yeah, a miserable, unhappy person. Again, I think he probably had an illness, I, I don’t mean to judge him. But yeah, so.
And that’s fascinating, and so if, imagine if that were to come up in your your first or second interview, okay? And a very, you know, clever interviewer can see that kind of thing and say, okay, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about that experience you had, and sort of explore that, you know, when, when somebody, when somebody makes a statement like that to me in an interview, I think of it as a door being opened. Okay? There’s the statement, and then there’s everything else that’s coming, and that’s a door being opened to a new room of a house, and it’s an invitation. So I’m going to walk in that room and I’m going to explore it. Okay? And see what else is there. And so that’s, that’s, that’s a fascinating part of this job.
Yeah, I bet. I bet you get all kinds, I can only imagine.
Mark, what else? What else do we need to know? Our listeners are usually the business owners, HR professionals. When we think about insider risk, any other advice you’ve got for them?
Educate yourselves. I mentioned Carnegie Mellon, their national insider threat center, I have a program manager certificate through them. Pretty robust program, so it’s great for HR staff or insider threat or security staff to obtain that certification, because it’s sort of a, you know, a baseline of of the best practices that have been established. You can read free research on this on Carnegie Mellon site. You also mentioned I’m a Certified Threat Manager, and so that’s through an organization called The Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, or ATAP. ATAP is the best organization of its kind to address a potential for violence, or workplace violence, or school shootings, that sort of problem set. Again, it’s also a very robust certification. It’s not easy to obtain. But both of those organizations are great resources for professional development and education. And to, and to learn about these problems.
Nice. And Mark, how can our listeners reach you if they are interested in learning more or working with you directly?
You can go to our website, 23risk.com. Unfortunately, because of the genealogy site 23 and Me, you’re going to get a bunch of hits. We have no affiliation with them whatsoever. But put in the number 23 followed by the word risk dot com, I’m the first hit. Maybe you can link on on the JoyPowered site as well.
Yeah, yeah, it’ll be in our show notes. So.
If you – I just wanted to throw out, you know, if somebody is not sure about bringing us in for a seminar, consulting, or something, but they just want to talk over a problem.
We love doing that kind of thing. We love talking through complex issues. It’s it’s a win-win. It helps us and it helps it helps the client as well.
That’s great. Well, Mark, I know you’ve taught me a lot, so I really appreciate our friendship, and I appreciate you coming today and being part of this podcast.
Yeah, very informative, very informative.
So all right, have a great day. We’ll let you go, we’ll just continue the rest of the show. Thank you again.
The JoyPowered Workspace Podcast is sponsored by Purple Ink. Purple Ink’s customized HR services will help you make your workspace JoyPowered. Whether you’re looking for help with recruiting, compliance, or leadership training, we listen to what you need and tailor our solutions to you. What we won’t change? Our positive approach. Check out purpleinkllc.com, That’s Purple I-N-K LLC dot com, to find out how we can help your business.
Our listener question today is from Eric in Indiana. He says, “I listened to your podcast on starting a job search and found it very helpful as that is what I am going through now. I wish I had listened to it sooner as your point about always being job change ready. My only question about your advice is to include a cover letter when you apply online. Everyone I know who hires people says they don’t ever look at cover letters. Do you really think it’s necessary?”
You know, I have to tell you, Eric, that I think it’s a gamble. I – as I meet with other HR professionals, and I teach classes to people that are in the talent acquisition space, I usually ask, “So how many of you want to see a cover letter?” And usually half the class raises their hand, the other half says I’m not wasting my time. I don’t have time for that. And the half that raises their hand says it’s really important to me, because I get a chance outside of a resume to see what the person really believes they’re bringing and how do they speak? How do they write? If I don’t get a cover letter, I don’t even look at the resume. JoDee, how about you? You spent a lot of years in the recruiting space.
Yeah. So a couple thoughts. I will admit that I usually don’t read them.
Okay, you’re that, you’re that half.
But I do think if you have a story to tell, or it’s important to add one, it never would hurt to have one, right? Even if they don’t read it, it doesn’t hurt to have it there. And certainly, I think you have to be careful, I see sometimes where a company will say a cover letter is required. So you better be careful and make sure you have a cover letter, if that’s a requirement. And certainly there might be jobs where a cover letter could really be more important. You know, if you’re going to do a lot of writing or communicating specifically, I think they would want to see your style. I do. It’s funny, I just talked to a lady yesterday who lived in California and wanted to move to Indiana for family reasons, and she said, “How do I tell this story? I want to put it in my cover letter, but I know most people won’t read it.” And I told her, I definitely thought that was important for her to include a cover letter, because people are going to wonder, why is someone from California applying to this job in Indiana? But I also recommended to her that she somehow put that on her resume, because if they didn’t read the cover letter, I thought that was very important for hiring managers or interviewers to know that information.
Now I think that’s fair, and I have to tell you from my years in recruiting, that if someone was send a cover letter at the bottom, they’d say, I’m anxiously awaiting your call, or I look forward to it. I have to tell you, it created an onus on me. I could not ignore it if someone was, if they said to me, they’re waiting for a call back or they’re waiting to hear from me. I know that’s weird, but that’s me.
Well, maybe that’s good then, maybe they got the call.
They heard from me. So Eric, I would do it. I know it’s a 50/50 shot, but I would still do it. Well, good. So in the news today, HRdive.com published an article on July 19, 2019, about a study Digital Ocean, which is a cloud based platform, released after survey, after surveying 4,500 respondents about one of our favorite topics, working remotely. Yay! So I’d like, I think we ought to share what the study said. JoDee, you want to start?
The first one’s that 86% of IT developers work remotely, a third of them from home.
Wow, you can tell that IT developers are definitely in demand, they can dictate where they’re going to work.
Yeah, I do think it’s a combination of that, A is the demand for it, and B that it probably is a role where it makes sense for them to be able to do that,
Have that peace, have that quiet, have that creative space.
Sales people I think, is, I don’t have a statistic on that, but it’s probably another one where a lot of people work from, from a home office as well.
Sure. Yeah. Well, good. Second point they found in the survey was 43% said that the ability to work from remotely is a must have when considering a job offer.
So as you’re thinking about talent acquisition, do you really need people to be in in your office every day?
And I think a key to that, at least, is to try and offer it sometimes. Right? I was at a client’s last week who, most of their people have a very hands-on role with their customers, but they can work remotely one day a week, and that was hugely popular with them.
Would be to me. So the survey also gave us some insights about employee engagement.
71% who work remotely said they felt connected to their company culture. I’m thrilled to hear that one. Because that’s always, I think, a concern on both sides, even for the people who want to work remotely, that they might not feel connected.
Yeah, so whatever these digital companies are doing with their developers, it’s really working. And then finally, the 29% who said they did not feel connected noted it was primarily due to being excluded from online conversations, because they weren’t physically present for them.
You know, I just heard an awesome idea in the last couple of weeks that a company was doing, were having Zoom or Skype lunches for people who work remotely. So they would just, you know, eat their lunch and talk like we would talk at lunch, and I thought that was the best idea, because they were saying that what they found that people worked from home were included in meetings and were included in, you know, one-on-one conversations, but that this specific statistic that they were excluded from offline conversations wasn’t happening, and if you think, even when you have, I know for me personally, when I have someone on a Zoom call then we, we end the call and then we have our sidebar conversations, right? And that’s the part they are missing out on.
Well, that’s interesting. I do schedule like Skype coffees with people, giving it that kind of more of a social air, but you know, it goes right to business. But I think if we were eating lunch or eating, I think that you couldn’t help but be more social, right? I don’t know if I chew pretty though. I’d have to really think about who I was doing it with and what I what I chose to eat.
But isn’t that funny? You probably don’t think about it that much if you just were live having lunch. It just seems so much more visible on a call, I think because we see ourselves, too.
But you know what? That’s true. Yeah, if I had to see myself when I was eating lunch at a restaurant I would eat differently too. Anyway. Alright, well, thank you.
Thank you and have a JoyPowered day.
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