Prevent Workplace Violence During Job Termination
For many people, work is life. Losing their job can be traumatic, even if they can see it coming. As an employer treat each termination with extreme caution.
The key to an uneventful termination is planning. Whether laying off one person or a hundred, don’t leave anything to chance. Large layoffs tend to be more unwieldy, therefore more dangerous. They require extra planning.
Most managers deal with the unpleasant task of terminating an employee at some point. Whether or not the employee expects the termination, a small chance of violence or retaliation from the terminated employee exists.
Even employees who take in the news and accept it. May still try to sabotage the company or individual staff members. Take the same precautions with every terminated employee to avoid the unexpected.
Ensure to have all measures taken ahead before the terminations.
Protect the building, staff, yourself and intellectual property of the company etc
Below are steps you can take to mitigate violence or the unexpected.
i. The worst termination mistake is surprise. If someone is failing, confront them. If their job is on the line, tell them so. Don’t allow managers to give good ratings to poor performers. Discuss poor performance as it arises don’t wait for annual reviews. Warn problem employees that their work is unsatisfactory, and tell them what needs to be done and by when. If someone’s job is in jeopardy, tell them they could be terminated.
Don’t lay people off unexpectedly when they’ve had good performance appraisals, or when they haven’t had any warning. Doing so hits hard and creates anger.
ii. Ensure at least another person is present in the room during termination. This ensure security and someone to help diffuse any potential anger.
iii. Alert building security if there is one before hand
iv. Provide some kind of assistance to terminated employee, severance pay. You can be generous with the severance payment, training etc
v. Collect all company valuables from employee before termination
vi. Ensure employee logins and access to secure areas are all changed
vii. Announce the termination to other employees so they can be on alert if the terminated employee comes back to the building. Remind them not to share any company information with the terminated employee.
viii. Treating the person with as much kindness and dignity as possible throughout the process. That’s always important, but it’s especially key in situations where you fear violence.
ix. Ensure the staff have gone through a process of progressive discipline, where you provide clear feedback about your concerns with their performance and what you need to see change etc. This provides forewarning.Firings at high levels tend to be especially brutal, so make sure even high-level managers are measured.
So you don’t just jump into a “you’re fired”
x. Allow departing employees to save face and maintain self esteem. Don’t attack them or put them down. Explain the decision, but acknowledge their strengths and contributions.
xi. Continue medical benefits or other perks company can afford can easy off any potential anager.
xii. Listen for fallout. If you hear, “I’m going to get even,” “You’ll be sorry for this,” or similar comments, take them seriously.
xiii. Explain the severance package in writing. Nothing makes a departing employee more angry than guessing about money and benefits.
xiv. Resist the urge to return threats with threats. Instead, offer support: “That sounded like a threat Ben, you must be really angry. I’d like to hear more about it.” Disarm anger by listening and showing empathy.
xv. Do not take a break. There are numerous instances of an employee asking for a bathroom break or time to compose him or herself, and using the break to retrieve weapons.
xvi. Wait until the end of the workday to terminate, if possible. This protects the dignity of the person being fired and minimizes the number of employees on hand should a situation escalate
xvii. 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
xviii. Allow the person as much dignity as possible, but be brief and to the point. Do not get into a back and forth
Conclusion – Employees who are fired in this manner are far less likely to feel they were treated unfairly. They’re far less likely to leave angry or bitter, and you’re far less likely to be a target of any hostility.
These basic humanistic steps can greatly reduce the risk of termination violence. Take the threat of violence seriously, even if you’re an experienced pro. Plan carefully so nothing is left to chance. Treat people fairly, and most of the time they’ll react accordingly. If and when they do get angry or upset, you’ll be well prepared.