Terminating an employee can be traumatic for the employee, and a difficult task for managers, supervisors, and HR professionals. Beyond normal terminations, terminating an employee that may respond violently requires special attention and special preparations.
One of the reasons we should pay special attention to the process of terminating an employee that may become violent is the increase in U.S. workplace violence in general and workplace shooting incidents in particular. Workplace violence statistics are worrisome; the most recent records by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that workplace homicides rose to 417 cases in 2015, up by 2% from 2014’s figures. The number of shootings also increased to 354 in 2015, a 15% rise from 2014.
Indicators/Signs of Potential TOV
Although it is impossible to predict the behavior of individuals under stressful situations such as termination, there are several signs, including an employee’s history that can alert HR professionals to an increased Threat of Violence (TOV) potential. This information can be obtained by doing due diligence prior to the termination, including contacting the employee’s immediate supervisor to learn about the employee’s demeanor and conduct, and reviewing the employee’s personnel file for any past history of violence or misconduct. These two activities are an essential part of the safe termination of an employee exhibiting potential TOV tendencies. A security professional should be contacted to conduct a threat assessment if any concerns are developed involving observed erratic behavior, a prior history of threats or violence, or prior misconduct or disciplinary issues. Regardless of the circumstances, terminations should be handled in a thoughtful, respectful, and safe manner, and all applicable HR regulations and laws should be followed.
If there is strong suspicion of possible TOV, the organization should obtain the advice of a qualified threat assessment professional prior to scheduling any termination.
Awareness and Preparation Are The Key
A TOV Termination Meeting Plan (TTMP) should be prepared and followed if a potential TOV termination is anticipated. The TTMP is a detailed checklist to ensure an organization has done everything possible to ensure a safe and appropriate process during the termination meeting.
Similarly, a TOV HR Termination Response Matrix (TTM) provides a list of possible scenarios during an actual TOV termination, including what action should be taken. It is important to be familiar with as many scenarios as possible, as well as the ways to respond to each scenario. The last thing you want is to start improvising with a crisis on your hands.
Incomplete or incorrect handling of the termination process of a violent employee may result in dire consequences, physically, psychologically, legally and financially. The guidance of a professional in the preparation for such proceedings can prevent significant complications down the road.
The following are helpful tips to keep in mind when terminating an employee:
- Conduct the termination discussion without the immediate presence of briefed and alerted security personnel who are trained to deal with violent events (security does not have to be present in the room, but should be stationed within easy access and ready to act immediately).
- Let the terminated employee go anywhere in the facility, particularly the parking lot or garage, his/her office, or a bathroom, without the escort of security personnel.
- Let a terminated employee return to the workplace under any pretense without the involvement of a security escort upon arrival at company premises.
- Take warning signs seriously
- Consult superiors and professionals as soon as you suspect there is potential for violent behavior.
- Document every incident and elevate and share data with security professionals and management in a timely manner.
- Prepare in advance and leave little to chance
TAL Global’s experts offers specific solutions to specific challenges, all within the concept of our Team of Experts philosophy– a holistic approach that views workplace security and safety as a continuum of interrelated challenges; each independently requiring an expert in a different discipline, but altogether requiring a team solution. This approach covers, among other things, the following:
- Customized TTMP and TTM guidelines to keep you safe during a TOV termination scenario
- Workplace violence threat assessments
- Workplace violence audits, strategy and program development
- Workplace safety (e.g., access control, and risk management)
- Investigations – preemptive, preventive and post-event
- Conflict de-escalation and conflict management
- Workplace violence prevention and handling, resilience and business continuity training (for HR, management and employees)
Would you like to learn more? To speak with a workplace violence professional contact TAL Global at +1 (408) 993 1300.
* – HR reps to review the person’s background check in advance for possible violence/stressor indicators (e.g., person has a criminal record indicating past violence/substance abuse, trains in martial arts, has military/law enforcement background, going through divorce or other significant life change, has significant financial hardship, etc).
Information contained in this document is based on TAL Global workplace violence expertise and information from ASIS International standard ASIS/SHRM WVPI.1-2011 Standard, as well as www.theeap.com.