When he was just a flamboyant billionaire business man and had a top ten TV show, Donald Trump made the words “You’re fired “popular and it has left a lasting impression on the country for nearly 20 years. But as an HR person, and subsequently security professional, will those words, or their equivalent, cause you to start pushing up daisies instead of looking down on them?
Terminating someone is never an easy task, no matter what anyone will tell you. If you are a lunatic dictator like Kim Jung Un it doesn’t seem to faze you when you fire/kill someone…even family on a paranoid delusional whim (more than 75 at this point). But to us as civilized humans it takes a part of us with it as well, even if it is our job.
It’s supposed to be cold and impersonal. But I can tell you, unless the person is genuinely an a****** then there is no coldness in it. They could have been your friend or family member. Trust me that is not a good feeling to think you have betrayed them, even if it was your job.
So how do you handle a termination within your business without risking your own life, the lives of co-workers, or ancillary lives like the UPS driver, vending machine operators, or salespeople? There are several steps you must follow in order to be prepared and not allow the risk to overwhelm you or the company. I will attempt to give you a starting point for this distasteful task. If you already have policies & procedures in place for terminations, maybe you should look at them again to look at them in light of the dangers in this world.
The first thing you absolutely must remember, even as cliché as it is, no termination can be handled with a cookie cutter. Each and every one of them is different and have to be treated as such. You never know if the gentlest person on your staff may suddenly go off because of other stresses in their life. Likewise the most violent person on the staff, the reason you may be terminating them, may be as calm as a lamb, just giving up and accepting it.
- Don’t make a hasty decision on firing them. No matter what happened you need to conduct an investigation with no zero tolerance being applied.
During this phase, you need to make a risk assessment and never make accusatory statements or those that aren’t backed up by documentation of witnesses/victims.
- As I have stated for more than 3 decades documentation, documentation, documentation. As I am fond of saying “If it isn’t written down then it didn’t happen”. Ensure that you have every single piece of evidence to support the termination before proceeding.
If your ‘star’ witness is unwilling or unable to provide a statement, for whatever reason, then you may be dead in the water by terminating the person, in today’s world it seems that this is being ignored far too often. If they feel that they have been terminated unfairly they could return or file a lawsuit.
- Whether it is high risk or not, you need to inform your security department of it. This enables them to put into place a plan. It may turn out to be for naught…but why risk it. Lay-offs should also be considered being in this plan
You may want to bring in a consultant to handle the termination depending on how high risk it is perceived to be. Whatever your perception is, raise it a notch, or two. Remember this is a volatile situation and the gentlest person may erupt in anger and frustration.
Also you may want to consider hiring armed security officers or possibly bringing in plain clothed police officers for a short period of time, days or maybe a couple of weeks. You don’t want to alarm anyone, but having them around will relax most employees.
- If the termination is of the highest threat level for violence then you must consider holding the termination meeting off site.
- After the termination, if you have concerns that they may come back, then you need to potentially file a restraining order against them company wide. Some states will allow this type of order for trespass so check with legal counsel. Additionally, if an individual may be at risk you may want to assist them in obtaining one as well if they can’t be covered by the other.
You also need to notify other employees that this person has been terminated so that they don’t let them back into the facility by accident or tail gating. They don’t have to know the whole story but…again better safe than sorry. This is critically true if you have security officers after hours. Unfortunately us rent-a-cops are too often not notified when this happens especially if we have been contracted, yes this happens far too often…just before we get blamed for it) I know because my officers and I have had it happen).
As an HR or security professional it is your responsibility to foresee any potential risk to the company or employees. You must protect the company, its assets, and the lives of employees to the best of your ability. That involves a lot of communication and vigilance. Are you and your officers up to it?
To summarize the three main points with terminating someone;
- Documentation, documentation, documentation
- . Threat assessment, no matter how demure and gentle they appear to be
- . Communication to all levels of supervisory & security staff of the termination…and sometimes regular employees
Robert D. Sollars assists businesses and their employees to lessen their risk of WPV as well as other security/customer service related issues with time tested and proven ideas. You can follow him on his Facebook page, facebook.com/oneistooomany, or twitter@robertsollars2.
I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear