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The New Normal: Workplace Violence
4 Process Tracks on Increasing Employee Safety
As lawmakers continue to battle over gun legislation the rest of society suffer the consequences of gun violence, often times, from individuals that legally should not have a gun in their possession.
The latest workplace violence incident happened at Pratt Industries located in Aurora, Illinois on Friday, February 15 during the afternoon. Unfortunately, due to the sheer frequency of workplace violence episodes by the time you read this article I am sure there will be another tragedy to report.
The difficulty with this form of safely precaution is that most managers and even HR professionals are not psychologists or psychiatrists and may not pick up any red flags from an employee that is going to be terminated.
There is a lot of information around the legalities of terminating an employee but not as much information in terms of how to ensure precautions are taken during and after termination meetings to ensure that it’s done in a way to diffuse a violent situation or at least limit injuries of innocent people if someone has nefarious intentions prior to coming to the meeting.
This tragedy has particularly struck a nerve with human resources professionals around the country because this is part of the job. In addition, to all of the great resources, services and strategies that HR professionals provide to employees this is also a part of the job that no one of enjoys but inevitably has to be done. With this in mind, I have broken down safety precautions into three categories:
Communication: There are several steps that can be taken prior to and during a termination meeting.
Prior to the Meeting:
• Provide a script to the manager communicating the termination. This ensures that the conversation doesn’t drift off topic or turn into a combative argumentative debate. The objective is to communicate the outcome and next steps for the employee.
• Decide on who needs to be in the meeting. Typically, it should be the direct manager and a member of the human resources team. Other individuals in the room can cause angst or even anger in the employee being terminated because they feel everyone is against them.
During the Meeting
• Clearly state what is happening: job elimination, termination (provide the cause)
• Only state limited facts. There is no need at this point to go through an employee’s entire job performance history
• Remain calm throughout the conversation. This is the point, where you have to be the adult in the room, debating with a disgruntled employee has no benefit for the organization or the departing employee
• Thank the employee for their service as this shows gratitude
• The objective of the meeting is to have the employee feel respected and leave with dignity
• Have dates available as to when they will receive any severance pay, last pay check, when their unused accrued PTO will be paid out (if there is a payment for PTO…it varies by state)
• Ensure the employee has a number to call regarding any outstanding questions relative to benefits, payroll, etc.
• Try to conduct the meeting in a neutral place versus an office, if possible. A conference room.
• Have plain clothes security on the premises (they can be hired by the hour)
• Remove all items from the desk that could be harmful
• Always sit nearest to the door in case you need to escape quickly
Observations (things to pay attention to):
• Change in behavior – increasingly agitated, sad or distraught
• Social media post – displacing anger, hatred and/or making threats
• Discord at home – going through a troubling time
• Anti-social behavior – withdrawn, loner, doesn’t like anyone
• Radical views – hatred towards other individuals, religious groups or against certain political views
• Expressing feels of victimization or disenfranchisement in the workplace where the employee is feeling like the cards are stacked against them Clearly, this list isn’t a comprehensive list of everything that can be done to ensure workplace safety, but it’s meant to incite conversation and the discussion of preventative measures.
The number one priority of every leader and human resources professional is to ensure that their employees are safe. It is important to note that with the best safety precautions in place someone that has malice intent will act upon those intentions. No one is blaming any organization or person for someone else’s violent outburst. However, employees count on their leadership and human resources teams to ensure the workplace is as safe as possible.