Employee Termination Safety

“It’s just business.” A phrase often used to break bad news to an employee, or as a reminder that not everything is personal. While work is just that, business, when something monopolizes the majority of your time, the lines between business and personal are often blurred.

There are a multitude of reasons people lose their jobs. Sometimes job termination really is personal. Maybe the personalities in the workplace don’t meld well together, or the quality of the work being produced is sub par, or perhaps an employee is unreliable. Regardless, the factors that go into the decision to fire an employee are multifaceted.

On the flip side, sometimes people lose their jobs due to circumstances completely beyond their control. Downsizing, organizational restructure, and mergers are just a few reasons employers are forced into a position where layoffs are necessary.

Either way, the reality is that when someone loses their job, it immediately becomes personal. Job termination is life-changing, sometimes life-shattering, and employers should always keep in mind that it is impossible to predict how someone will react when he or she is put under that type of extreme .

 When preparing to terminate employment, being in tune with the employees work and personal life can help protect the safety of other staff members and the company as a whole.

There are a several indicators that make an employee much more likely to become violent in the workplace.

 Precursors to dangerous behavior include:

  • Mental health instability

  • Finance problems

  • Job related stressors

  • Conflicts with friends, family and/or peers

  • Marital stressors

  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse

Whether you’re the owner of a company or part of the human resources team, it is important to recognize if an employee being fired or laid off may becomes violent, and it is critical to have a plan in place, before that happen.

One of the easiest ways to prevent workplace violence, especially during termination, is having a security plan and procedure established.

Prevention starts during the hiring process. The right employee will greatly reduce the likelihood of workplace violence.

  •  Perform a financial history review. History of financial mismanagement disqualifies the candidate.

  • Candidates with numerous arrests or convictions are disqualified.

  • Implement mental health evaluations and personality inventories at the final interview. This weeds out candidates that may not fit in with your team and would expose mental health or family stressors.

Employee access to upper management should be limited or restricted.

  • The damage to C-level executives, Program Managers and other decision makers would be catastrophic to business.

  • Access coded or keyless entry to the upper level management offices or sensitive areas of the office should be required. Access can be revoked at any-time by HR.

 Quarterly performance reviews.

  • Allows for open communication of the employees’ performance and expectations.

  • Able to correct deficiencies before they become out of control. Reduces the risk of the employee “snapping.”

  • Gives management a chance to let employees vent or discuss problems they see in the company, giving them a voice.

  • Maintain disciplinary reports on employees. Terminating a poor performing employee shouldn’t be a surprise.'

  • Terminate poor performing employees sooner than later, before they have too much vested.

Plan for the Termination/Layoff.

  • Convey a clear picture to why the termination is happening.

  • Be compassionate and transparent. The more the employee knows the less they will over react.

  • Offer job placement services, re-education, severance packages, and / or extended health care for a period of time.

  • Have a security plan in place and review it with stakeholders.

  • Have a designated location for the termination, preferable far away from the rest of the staff.

  • The termination room should be arranged so the HR rep isn’t in a position where he or she can’t leave if the employee gets aggressive. See diagram below.

room layout.PNG
  • Have more than one person in the termination room, preferably a plain clothes security or protection agent to help de-escalate and respond. They can be introduced as an HR Representative or Witness. An armed or uniformed security guard may create an unneeded situation or aggression.

  • DO NOT TERMINATE ON MONDAYS, FRIDAYS OR BEFORE A HOLIDAY.

Statistically, 77% of attackers spent a week or longer planning their attack. Additionally, 72% of attacks in the workplace occur before first responders arrive. This means, if the safety plan is to call the police, odds are the damage will already be done by the time first responders arrive.

The unfortunate fact is, when you’re in business, sometimes a company and an employee just need to part ways. Letting someone go is hard, but all businesses have to do it. The key to a smooth transition is to be prepared, know the warning signs of danger and most of all, treat the employee being terminated with respect and compassion.

For a more comprehensive breakdown of employee termination safety, please contact Kristin at kheidenberg@apodgroup.com. We would be glad to have a one-on-one conversation about your business and situation.

Noah Graeme