During the course of business, you may be faced with terminating an employee whom you suspect may act violently. Human resource and personnel managers should be aware of this possibility and always make security conscious judgments regarding any high-risk terminations. Terminating employees is never pleasant but the stakes are extremely high if the individual has a history of workplace violence, or potentially could be aggressive or violent. There are many reasons an ex-employee might seek revenge against their employers but job loss has been cited by employers of all sizes as one of the top three factors that contributed to instances of workplace violence at their businesses.
How to Lower Your Risk
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- Conduct the termination meeting in a neutral location so the employee doesn’t feel cornered and attacked. If you feel the employee might pose a risk to other employees, yourself, or the company, have a third party present. Make sure security is nearby or even have them present at the termination meeting.
- Schedule the termination early in the week. This prevents them from plotting revenge over the weekend. Offer immediate outplacement service to focus their attention on the future and discourage brooding about the past.
- If you feel they might threaten you during the meeting, keep the desk between you. You should sit closer to the door and never place the volatile employee between you and the exit.
- Explain why the employee is being let go and stress it is not personal. Have ready their final paycheck, information on benefits, and a number to call if they have questions. Inform the employee that they may use the company’s grievance procedure for any final work-related complaints.
- Be prepared to get the employee off the premises as quickly as possible. This may mean not allowing them to clean out their workspace. Have a supervisor do it and ship the employee’s personal belongings to them. In order to avoid embarrassment, you can also allow the employee to collect their personal belongings after hours, during lunchtime, or over a weekend with management present.
- Beef up security post-termination. This includes changing the locks, deactivating the employee’s keycard or badge, changing passwords and always notifying building security.
Get Help When You Need It
If you have any issues, a company that has personnel who are professionally trained in non-physical crisis intervention, verbal de-escalation, nonviolent confrontation management, and employee protection techniques, such as SACS Consulting, Inc., can offer assistance before and during high-risk terminations. They can also provide a security presence during the termination meeting, escort the employee from the premises and monitor the individual’s activities for a specific time frame, as well as assist with training and development of staff response strategies for potential confrontational scenarios.
The goal is always to reduce the potential threat of workplace violence and reduce potential liability to your business.