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The Safe, Gentle Way to Terminate a Worker’s Employment

Terminating someone’s employment is always stressful, no matter how bad the fit may be for your business. But some employees take these stressful situations to a dangerous—even violent—place. In 2019 alone, multiple HR team members have been assaulted and even killed across America after a routine firing took a dark turn. When HR professionals prepare to terminate an employee’s employment, it’s common to consult with legal counsel. Too often, though, they don’t think to consult security experts to help prepare a plan in case things escalate.

Sometimes, hoping for the best doesn’t cut it. Some procedures for terminating employment are better than others at keeping HR personnel and other employees safe from unpleasant or potentially dangerous situations. The first step to take is to assess potential warning signs that a termination could become heated or violent. There are physical indicators that an employee is prone to violence that might seem obvious: abusive language, violent gestures. and clenched fists, for example. But others might be more subtle:

  • A chronic inability to get along with fellow employees
  • Mood swings and anger control issues
  • Expressions of paranoia or persecution. Being a “victim”
  • A history of problems with past jobs and and/or personal relationships
  • An inability to get beyond minor setbacks or disputes at work
  • A fascination with guns, weapons or violent events
  • A sudden deterioration in work habits or personal grooming
  • Signs of stress, depression, or suicidal ideation
  • A major life problem, such as divorce or legal problems

If any of these warning signs have been observed in an employee who must be terminated, it may be prudent to have a security professional conduct a threat assessment. Security personnel can help you craft a custom action plan for the termination meeting. Here are some basic tips:

  • Once the decision to fire an employee is made, complete the task quickly and limit his or her contact with supervisors and coworkers.
  • Hold the meeting in a room close to an exit, so a terminated employee can be escorted out quickly if necessary.
  • Have security standing by nearby, but not in the same room as the meeting.
  • Avoid embarrassing the employee. Allow them to keep their dignity.
  • If the employee makes threatening statements during the termination meeting, take them seriously.
  • Hire security officers to protect your staff after the employee is fired.
  • Wait until the end of the workday to terminate, if possible. This helps minimize the number of employees on hand should a situation escalate
  • Minimize any reasons why the employee would have to revisit the workplace. Mail a check; have uncollected belongings sent to the person’s home via a delivery service
  • Allow the person as much dignity as possible, but be brief and to the point. Do not get into a back and forth
  • Emphasize any severance benefits and outsourcing help that may be available. Some organizations will not contest unemployment or offer the option of resigning.

These may seem like extraordinary steps to take, considering violent terminations are very rare. However, it only takes a single incident to cost someone’s life. If you have concerns about an employee, don’t take a chance. For a consultation on how your business can prevent workplace violence in all its forms, contact KRESS today. We’ll help you implement the policies necessary to keep your workplace safe and secure.

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