Most companies, especially smaller ones, don’t generally have any policies or procedures on how to terminate an employee. They have the necessary policies and procedures that inform them why and when to terminate an employee, but none that say how or how to keep themselves safe from workplace violence (WPV) during the process.
Just as unlikely is that the policies and procedures are up-to-date. If they are not up-to-date then they probably aren’t very effective or efficient either. The old days of the personnel department is long gone and likewise the policies for hiring and terminations must also go, or at the very least be updated for a new world and reality.
When I started in security, there wasn’t the need to have termination procedures written down. At least not in the detail they have to be now. If you determined that there was a need to terminate someone, you ensured that there was proper documentation, especially if they were unionized, and then you called them into the office.
It could have been the Personnel Manager’s office or a conference room, and in some cases a deserted lunch room. At that point, you told them the whys and wherefores’ and that was it, they left. Occasionally someone had to be escorted out of the building, but those instances were rare.
Times have changed a great deal. The world is much more dangerous place than it was 20 and more years ago. There are as many if not more threats from your own employees than could have been thought of back then. You never worried about them coming back to injure other employees, with whatever they could bring inside.
So when formulating a termination policy and procedure what do you need to look for? I will refer to the old journalism phrase I learned in high school, the 5 W’s and H. If you can answer in concise and complete form those questions, then you should have a policy/procedure that will be effective and safe for you and your employees. The 5 W’s and H are the 6 items you need to answer when writing your story/article. They are, in correct form:
If you can answer these questions than you have the basis for a sound termination and a safe one free from the possibility of WPV at that moment.
If you write it properly and without the legalese of lawyers, then it will be at a 6th grade level. And unfortunately, some people will be offended by that, but for everyone to understand it you have to write down’ to everyone’s level to make it easy for them to understand.
So utilizing these 6 thoughts will allow you to stay out of trouble, hopefully, in a myriad of issues. Let’s go thru them;
Who – You should already know who we’re firing. But who else will be in the room with you or as a back-up if you need it. An idea is to call in extra security if necessary. Another thing to think about with who is who will actually conduct the firing? And that brings up a whole other set of questions.
What – Equally as simple. You’re terminating someone; there is nothing harder to do as a HR person or manager
When – When are you going to terminate them? Will you wait until they arrive for work or call them and tell them to come to the main office at a certain time? Or possibly after their shift is over?
Where – I’ve seen people fired in every sort of place you can imagine. From one end of an open break room to a personnel office to a large conference room. I’ve also terminated people outside while having a cigarette. If there is the possibility of them turning violent or getting upset…do it in a controlled area such as an office
Why – This should already be known, in totality. Have your documentation in hand and ready to show them if necessary. Never just tell them you’re fired and tell them to leave the property
How – Are you going to be blunt and direct? Possibly apologetic and empathetic? This depends a lot on your corporate culture and how upset you are as well as the emotions of the employee being terminated
Lastly, one thing about your company’s legal department, if you’re large enough to have one for yourself, or an on retainer attorney; most attorneys are there to keep you from being sued or other such liability. They are only concerned with ensuring that the I’s have been dotted and t’s crossed. They aren’t normally concerned with WPV and its effects on the company or employee.
In this context You have to make them understand that WPV is a constant threat to the business and employee, several former employees have come back as many as 2 years after the fact (Motra Transmission in Phoenix 2005 and Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York in 2017),even after the termination.
If they are prone to violence of any kind, former employees will return generally within 6 months to commit their revenge.
Despite the lack of time, seemingly constantly, and no one to help you absolutely must do your due diligence or risk being caught flat footed and out of step. If that happens then you could be cleaning up a headline grabbing incident of WPV and facing long litigation and the loss of millions.
Robert D. Sollars assists businesses and their employees to lessen their risk of WPV as well as other security/customer service related issues. You can follow him on his Facebook page, facebook.com/oneistooomany, or twitter@robertsollars2.
I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear