Employee Terminations as a Catalyst for Violence

Feb 22, 2016
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Catalysts that trigger incidents of workplace violence vary greatly and do not always involve the actions of an employee or employer. However, most experienced HR professionals have seen first-hand a violent reaction of an individual employee who has just been reprimanded, disciplined, or terminated.

To ensure that a termination meeting is as trouble-free as possible and, therefore, less likely to lead to a violent outburst or confrontation, HR professionals should conduct meetings consistently and, if possible, according to a “script” to make sure that all points are effectively covered. This does two things: It increases the HR practitioner’s comfort level because everything is written down in a checklist-type format; secondly, it increases the comfort level of the employee because the meeting will (hopefully) be smooth, unintimidating, and unemotional. To conduct a trouble-free—and therefore, incident-free—termination, direct the meeting in the following sequence:

  1. Tell the employee the purpose of the meeting, communicating the reason for the termination in the most concise way possible.
  2. Advise that the decision is final and cannot be reversed.
  3. Tell the employee the effective date of the termination.
  4. Review a written summary of continued benefits, if applicable.
  5. Have the final paycheck ready, or inform the employee of when and how it will be delivered, keeping in mind any applicable state laws on time limitations for that delivery.
  6. Outline any remaining steps in the process (for example, return of company equipment, remaining days of work, transition of project).
  7. Tell the employee how and when notification of COBRA will be made.
  8. Answer questions briefly, and without argument.
  9. Wish the employee good luck.
  10. Stand, extend your hand, and remain standing until the employee has left the room. (Depending on the circumstance, this step may include escorting the employee to his/her workspace to retrieve personal items and then walking him/her out of the building.)

If the termination involves an individual who has exhibited violent, disruptive, or otherwise inappropriate behavior in the past, security (or, in extreme situations, local law enforcement) should be placed on standby to avoid a time lapse between any possible violent reaction from the employee and assistance in containing that violence.

Excerpted from Maria Greco Danaher, Give Your Company a Fighting Chance: An HR Guide to Understanding and Preventing Workplace Violence (SHRM, 2015).

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