Welcome to our October newsletter. It's been a busy fall thus far, with a higher than usual number of cases for us. This also seems to correlate with a significant number of news stories about incidents of workplace shootings involving multiple casualties. After the recent shooting in Minnesota that resulted in six deaths, I passed by a newsstand, where I saw a headline that screamed: "Another Day, Another Workplace Shooting in America."
Making Sure Your Terminations End Safely
This will be relatively brief, and on a subject that I have discussed before, but bears revisiting occasionally.
Many of these recent shootings have been committed by a terminated ex-employee. One of them involved an employee who was recently fired, and another involved someone who had been separated long before he decided to return with a weapon. Most of those killed were managers and employees, but the victims also included those who happened to be at the workplace at the wrong time - vendors, delivery people, etc.
While we normally consult with companies before the termination occurs (which is of course ideal), we sometimes get called in when there is a threatening ex-employee. We have had two cases just during the past two weeks alone, that have involved terminated employees - one who was separated 9 months prior, and one who was separated 3 years earlier. In the latter case, the employee had experienced some significant stressors subsequent to his termination, and was acting on a perceived injustice that he believed was not properly addressed at the termination.
There is much that we can do prior to a termination. The options are far too numerous to discuss here, because managing a particular termination to a safe conclusion is always dependent on the assessment of that particular individual and an understanding of the various factors that contribute to its context. No management plan is going to be successful without that assessment.
And as these recent events attest to, it's not about just getting the person out the door safely. This is not just an immediate security issue. Most violence committed by an ex-employee, actually occurs long after the termination. And in our current economic environment, the separated employee may have greater difficulty in finding other work, resulting potentially in a cascade of other consequences.
Much of our work when engaged in terminations is concentrated on not just making sure that the event itself goes safely, but that we have assessed it sufficiently, and have addressed the critical issues sufficiently, such that we have a reasonable understanding of any future risks. And in most all of our cases, we have been able to successfully manage down those risks, and/or put in place controls that can project forward, after the employee leaves.
The #1 rule that we discuss with managers is that whenever a perceived high-risk employee is about to experience a high-risk event, there should be a PAUSE.
There is a tendency to rush through the process, as if the problem is solved if we can just get that person out the door. We want to make sure that we have conducted an adequate and comprehensive assessment, that helps us understand the risks and which in turn allows us to formulate a sound management plan - so that once that individual walks out the door, your other employees are not looking nervously over their shoulders in the employee parking lot every morning.
Marc McElhaney, Ph.D.
Director, Critical Response Associates