Emotional Ticking Time-Bomb Employees, and the Effect on an Entire Agency

“Raise your hand if you know someone who has committed suicide?”      Many hands go up in class…

“And how many of you, knew they were going to take their own life?”      Silence… no hands go up… a somber gasp of sadness across the classroom.

The Ticking Time-Bomb employee appears to be all buttoned-up on the outside, but on the inside is suffering from mental pain and suffering.  They may be at their wits end, and is ready to burst, but no one knows how bad they actually are, until it’s too late. The fact is, one Ticking Time-Bomb toxic employee, can blow up not only themselves, but an entire agency.


When you hear an officer say, “I’m Fine,” or “I’m good,” and your gut is telling you something is not right… they are likely NOT FINE at all!


The Ticking Time-Bomb employee is imploding internally and externally, and can take their stress out in four areas:

  1. On their family, loved ones, and friends
  2. Hurting themselves, sometimes to end it all through Suicide
  3. On co-workers, becoming toxic inside the department
  4. On the street with excessive force, escalating a call, or constant cursing


Although you are not aware of it, this ticking time-bomb doesn’t happen overnight, it takes years to build before it will eventually explode!


How does this happen?

At the start of a public service professional’s career, (i.e. Police, Fire-fighter, or EMS), they start with an empty mental backpack, filled with hopes of the perfect dream job.

At the beginning of their career, a few pebbles get tossed into this mental backpack…

  • like bringing child-hood issues to the job
  • painful life issues (i.e. divorce or abuse)
  • implicit bias that they’re not aware of


As the years progress in their career that mental backpack gets filled with more pebbles, and even big boulders

  • like witnessing traumatic events
  • experiencing life threatening calls
  • working with toxic employees
  • harassment within the agency
  • everyday stressors (like COVID 19)


Ultimately that pack-pack becomes too heavy to carry anymore, and the Ticking Time-Bomb will implode when least expected. This causes an officer to enter a downward spiral and eventually triggers the Block-Out Syndrome to occur.



How can one Ticking Time-Bomb employee blow up an entire agency?

Regrettably, this Ticking Time-Bomb employee can be pushed into a case of block-out syndrome. When this happens, it can take the entire agency down too. You are not thinking clearly, you can’t make rational decisions, and you are surely not thinking about others.

Most of the time you are unaware of your over-reactions to situations… like over-reacting on a call and using un-necessary use-of-force.


Ticking Time Bombs get hardened over time. They are often told by supervisors… “Just suck it up buttercup”


Help for the Ticking Time-Bomb

When supervisors don’t show they care, or don’t know how to show empathy to a struggling employee, they may be thinking, “well you don’t care about me, so why should I care about you or anyone else.” How do you expect me to care, show race equity, understand my implicit bias issues, when I am all messed up inside?


An implosion from within can be reflected in fit of rage, which could be career-ending for the public service professional and a black-eye for the agency. Worst case scenario, you may even hurt someone else, or cause deadly harm.



At RITE Academy, we call it falling down the Emotional Awareness Ladder and eventually ending up in Block-Out.


Once you are experience Block-Out Syndrome, you may need someone else to step in…Duty to Intervene.


Duty to Intervene is witnessing your co-worker out-of-control. RITE duty to intervene rite

  1. Step In
  2. Tap Out
  3. Take Over



Part of the RITE Program, addresses the person first through emotional intelligence training. Understanding your own emotions and being AWARE, of what you are feeling is the first step to changing anything in your life.


Each agency must do more to help officers through providing officer wellness training that encourages officers to understand their own emotions.


We are working with more and more agencies that have said, “it’s okay, to not be okay… and we now provide the mental help our employees need.”


RITE Ladder at the bottomBeing aware that you are experiencing some negative emotions, is the first step. As we teach in class, “it’s okay to drop down the Ladder where Anger and Frustration are, Just down live down there.”


In RITE Training we help departments teach Emotional Intelligence first. Once you are aware of your own emotions (EI), then you can move onto helping others with Social Intelligence (SI).


RITE FIRE FIGHTER_snipRITE’s Emotional Awareness ladder is the first step in learning what makes you tick. By asking yourself, “what I am feeling” you start the process of understanding your actions.

The RITE Model helps improve department morale while building community trust.



You cannot take a blind-eye to the employee who may be showing warning signs. Don’t let someone inside your agency implode like a ticking time-bomb before it is too late.



RITE Training helps ALL public service agencies improve communication to avoid the Block-out Syndrome, to De-escalate situations, build Career resiliency, Leadership skills, and Departmental recruiting. See our EVENTS page for our next training. Contact us about RITE TRAINING at your agency.