Ready, Aim, Fire (Risk Mitigation During Terminations)
Called into a termination meeting, an Illinois man pulled out a handgun, fatally shot five co-workers and wounded five police officers. In Orlando, a fired employee returned later and fatally shot five employees before killing himself. A Los Angeles man, fired from his job at an auto parts store, shot and killed six co-workers before dying in a gun battle with police.
Terminations are almost always emotional. The key is to keep them from turning deadly.
Risk mitigation prepares for the “what-ifs.” What if the employee argues and threatens? What if the employee turns violent? What if the employee has a weapon?
Most human resources professionals are caring individuals. They’re not thinking about safety and security, but about treating the terminated employee humanely while following company policies and government regulations. But safety and security should always be a prime consideration when terminating an employee.
Best Practices During Termination
- Place an experienced manager in charge of the termination, and brief everyone involved beforehand about the process.
- Always have a witness to the event. In an ideal situation, assign two people—at least one of the same gender as the employee—to help defuse any potential issues. The best-case scenario also includes video surveillance in real time.
- Position HR personnel so they always have an accessible escape route; they should never have their backs to the wall or otherwise be in a position where they can be cornered or blocked from leaving.
- Post security personnel nearby, and provide HR employees with a way to quickly call for help, such as a code word or another discreet communication method.
- Escort terminated employees off the premises immediately, preferably not back to their desks or work stations. Instead, HR personnel should box the employee’s personal belongings.
- Use a third-party carrier to return equipment, so the terminated employee has no legitimate need to come back to the workplace.
HR personnel should be briefed on how to calm upset individuals. One common, and effective, technique positions the termination package as a carrot by making it contingent on employee compliance with the company process.
Employees should also be trained to look for red flags, even before considering termination. If any exist, security personnel should be placed on alert for an extended period. Terminated employees have returned to their former workplaces with a weapon weeks, months or even years later. Security personnel should receive as much intelligence regarding the terminated employee as possible, including a recent photograph, what vehicle(s) he/she drives, and what to do if the individual is seen in the area.
Terminating employees is a fact of life. Mitigating the risks when that becomes necessary protects everyone.
For information on how Sunstates Security can support your human resources department and other employees before, during and after terminations, please call 866-710-2019 or email us.