Terminating an employee can be traumatic for the employee and pose a threat of violence for the employer. However, preventative measures can be put in place to help smooth the transition.
One of the reasons we should pay special attention to terminating an employee is the increase in the workplace in this country. Workplace violence statistics are worrisome; they have been going up steadily since the mid-2000s.
Signs of the Threat of Violence
Although it is often impossible to predict the behavior of individuals under stressful situations such as a termination, there are several signs, including an employee’s history, that can alert HR professionals to an increased threat of violence potential. This information can be obtained by doing due diligence before 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 history of violence or misconduct.
These activities are an essential part of the safe termination of an employee exhibiting potential threat of violence (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 misconduct, or disciplinary issues. Regardless of the circumstances, terminations should be managed in a thoughtful, respectful, and safe manner, and all applicable human resource regulations and laws must be followed.
If there is a strong suspicion of possible TOV, the organization should obtain the advice of a qualified threat assessment professional before scheduling any termination.
Awareness and Preparation Are Key
If a potential TOV termination is anticipated, a professional termination plan should be prepared and followed. The program includes a detailed checklist to ensure an organization has done everything possible to ensure a safe and appropriate process during the termination meeting.
Similarly, a professional termination plan should provide a list of scenarios during an actual termination, including what actions may need to be taken. It is essential to be familiar with as many scenarios as possible and 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 can result in dire consequences, physically, psychologically, legally, and financially. The guidance of a professional in preparation for such proceedings can prevent significant complications down the road.
The following are helpful tips to keep in mind when terminating an employee and to prevent the threat of violence:
- Conduct the termination discussion without the immediate presence of briefed and alerted security personnel 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, their 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 promptly elevate and share data with security professionals and management.
- Prepare in advance and leave little chance.
TAL Global’s experts offer solutions to specific challenges regarding workplace safety and the threat of violence. Our approach covers, among other things, the following:
- Customized termination planning guidelines to keep everyone safe during the termination process.
- 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)
Johnathan Tal is Chief Executive Officer of TAL Global Corporation, an international investigative and risk-consulting firm. He served as a military field intelligence officer for the Israeli armed forces during the 1970s. Tal has also served as an antiterrorism security specialist. He is a licensed investigator, Certified Private Investigator (CPI), and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and he holds a Bachelor of Science degree. He can be reached through his company website at www.talglobal.com.