Guide On How To Fire An Employee Safely
Part 2 of 2
In part I of this article, we discussed how to actively plan for the unfortunate event of an employee termination. Now, the decision has been made, all legal aspects have been considered and planning for the termination is nearly complete. You have reached the actual day of an employee termination. Now what?
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Setting up for success
To be successful, while minimizing potentially concerning events, certain items are critical:
- Have a written “Check List”. You want to keep the termination moving and you don’t want to forget any important steps.
- This is a done deal, not a discussion – Focus on the termination.
- Be respectful of the employee, but be firm.
- Be prepared for follow-up as needed.
The Check List
This can be a formal, company consistent list prepared by Human Resources or it can be prepared by the supervisor before meeting with the employee.
- Provide documentation of basic information, including employee’s full name and any company identifier such as an employee number. These identifiers are important when you notify others not directly involved in the termination, such as accounting personnel.
- List any documents that are to be provided to the employee such as termination letter, letter documenting terms of severance, letter enumerating any restrictions on return to workplace, etc.
- List material to be collected (material owned by company) such as:
- ID Card
- Keys/Access Cards
- Credit Cards
- Computing equipment – laptops, iPads, etc
- Company uniforms
- Company vehicle
- Company owned tools
- List any individual or department that should be notified of the termination such as:
- Physical security officers
- IT security personnel
- Coworkers that may be impacted
- If appropriate, have someone escort employee to the room designated for termination.
- As discussed in Part I, be conscious of space and seating arrangement. Do not block the employee from exiting the room, if or when they desire, but be in a position to ensure safety of those involved and monitor any unexpected behavior.
- Be direct but respectful. Notify employee that their employment is being terminated.
- This is not a discussion. Deflect any arguments such as “why”? The decision has been reached by management after much consideration, and the decision is final.
- Verbally explain terms of severance and provide employee any documentary material, including a letter of explanation.
- Collect all company property, particularly IDs, keys and access cards, as included on Check List.
- Closely watch employee reaction. This is primarily the responsibility of the second management/human resources person in the room. At best, this is an emotional process so some reaction is expected, but be conscious of extremes. Be aware of any physical threats, direct or implied. If this termination has been recognized as a potentially hostile termination and security support is waiting nearby, be prepared to call them in if needed. Note: In my experience as a management and security professional, if someone threatens to call their lawyers when being terminated, I am happy. People who call their lawyers, generally don’t resort to violence. If the termination has been properly planned, managed and documented, company lawyers shouldn’t have significant problems handling any necessary defense. Threats of concern are any direct threats of violence or veiled threats such as “you will be sorry” or “you will pay for this.” Also of concern is extreme despondency that may indicate that they are a threat to their own life.
- Complete the termination and escort the employee from the facility. If this is part of a routine “lay-off” with little to no concern of potential violence, the employee can be allowed to pick-up their personal items before they leave. If this is a potentially hostile termination or if it may cause unnecessary embarrassment to the employee, belongings can be sent to the employee or other arrangements can be made.
- Notify appropriate personnel that the termination is complete. These notifications should be as included in your Check List.
- Monitor social media for threats from the terminated employee and/or members of their family or close friends.
- Facility security personnel or other employees should notify proper individuals (Human Resources, Management) if a terminated employee, whose access privileges have been suspended, attempts to return to the work location. Threats or concerning comments from any terminated employee must also be reported.
- If a concern of potential suicide exists (These are very real! I know of three termination related suicides that happened at companies where I worked) then notify local police where the employee lives, and ask them to conduct a “well check.” If you explain the circumstances, most Police Departments are happy to assist. A termination related suicide can have devastating consequences on families and anyone involved in the termination. Be cautious and pay attention to potential signs. Also, remember that a potential suicide can turn into a workplace violence incident if the terminated employee decides to “take someone with them.”
Terminations, while never easy, are a part of everyday workplace life. Be cautious and ever mindful that under the best of circumstances a termination can turn into an act of workplace violence. However, if properly planned and executed, hazards can be minimized, employees can leave with their dignity and business as usual can continue at your company.
For more information on employee behavioral patterns that could be warning signs of an active assailant or threat of workplace violence, download our free behavioral threat assessment chart, or check out our Active Assailant Readiness Training course.