How to Handle High Risk Terminations
September 3, 2013
How to Handle High Risk Terminations
By: Carol Frederickson
Every termination situation is FLUID! As new information is discovered the situation may escalate or de-escalate. You need to be constantly re-evaluating the situation and your decisions. The more dangerous the termination the more fluid the situation!
When possible, suspend the employee with pay pending an investigation. This allows you to determine the actual threat level and put security steps in place. Suspension is always a better choice than a hasty termination that isn’t well thought out.
During the suspension, try your best to be neutral to be positive with the offender. You want to avoid being accusatory even if it is warranted. Advise them that you are looking into the situation and that you want to conduct a thorough investigation. Give them an approximate time line for the suspension and assure them that they will be paid. Be prepared to talk with them and answer their questions and concerns as much as possible.
Begin an investigation into the event(s) that led up to the behavior or situation at hand. In most cases this investigation will take much longer than you think and you will uncover a history of bad behavior. Make sure that a basic risk assessment is a part of the investigation. You also want to determine the person’s state of mind and whether they have a permit to carry or have access to guns.
Here’s a checklist of things to remember to prepare prior to the termination:
- Document, document, document! Even if you are in an “at-will” state you need to protect yourself from a potential law suit and the best way to do that is through documentation.
- Your security department is a pivotal part of high risk termination. They should be notified early in the process as the physical security of the organization is their responsibility.
- Depending on the threat level consider hiring a consultant to help you through the process or to handle the actual termination. This is important and can be a very cost effective expenditure in the long run.
- Once you have determined the threat level, hire armed security guards or off duty police officers to be present (but not seen) during the termination.
- Consider handling the actual termination at an off-site location. It will be seen as neutral territory and the employee in question is not in fear of being embarrassed in front of fellow employees.
Avoid taking away someone’s hope…it may be all they have to hold on to! Consider offering them a separation package that is at least 10% higher than your normal practice. Offer them job counseling services so they can have help preparing a job resume for future employment. Give them access to EAP services. Explain your company’s COBRA plan (people panic when they think that they will lose their medical benefits).
If you have a concern about the terminated employee coming back onto the property then serve him/her with a trespass notice at the termination. If the employee shows up on the company property after the termination he/she can be arrested. If there were threats against an employee or the company you may want to consider an order of protection. In some states an order can be obtained for an entire company versus a single person.
Ensure that employees are notified that the terminated individual no longer works for the company and should not have access to the company or any company property. Also, advise employees what to do if they are contacted by this person. While you want to protect the confidentiality of the terminated employee, it is imperative that you protect the safety of all your employees. You do not need to reveal details of the termination.
When you are face to face handling the termination remember to stay neutral and offer the person as much respect and decency as you can. Allow them to share their feelings, concerns and fears. Empathy and understanding will serve you both at this point.
It is your duty to predict foreseeable risk, to protect employees and (if necessary) warn employees of potential violence. Remember that the situation is FLUID!
About Carol Fredrickson
Clients rely on Carol Fredrickson’s skills, knowledge and expertise to prevent 6-7 figure lawsuits, and more importantly to avert violent workplace disasters. She is a recognized authority on workplace violence, conflict in the workplace and personal safety. She has been profiled and interviewed by hundreds of print, radio, and television outlets and she consults with the media on a regular basis.
Since 1993 over 100,000 people have benefited from Carol’s powerful message of personal strength and self reliance. She keeps audiences on the edge of their seats with stranger-than-fiction case studies and “worst case scenarios” pulled from hundreds of real-life violent workplace situations – and preventing hundreds more through her work “in the trenches” onsite with corporate clients, partnering with law firms, and working closely with law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Carol Frederickson is a consultant/trainer living in Phoenix and this is her 2nd blog for this site. For more information about Carol’s speaking, training and consulting, visit www.violence-free.com or call 623-242-8797.