18 Ways to Prevent Workplace Violence During Employee Terminations

by on June 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

The key to uneventful employee terminations is planning.

Whether laying off one person or a hundred, don’t leave anything to chance. Large layoffs tend to be more unwieldy, therefore more dangerous. They require extra planning. Here are ways to fine tune your outplacement program:

  1. Employment is a two-way street, and when an employee fails, the company is usually partly responsible. Either they recruited the wrong person, or they didn’t train or manage them well. Managers should repeatedly ask themselves, “Have I done all I can to help this employee grow and change? Have I caused this person to be ineffective? If so, what can I do differently?”
  2. Use honest performance measurements at all levels of your company, from entry-level workers to the CEO. Everyone deserves to know how they’re doing– senior executives. Employee terminations at high levels tend to be especially brutal, so make sure even high-level managers are measured.
  3. Explain, document, and discuss poor performance; and give everyone a legitimate chance to improve before moving to employee terminations. Initiate training to strengthen problem areas.
  4. The worst mistake in employee terminations is surprise. If someone is failing, confront them. If their job is on the line, tell them so.
  5. Don’t lay people off unexpectedly when they’ve had good performance appraisals, or when they haven’t had any warning. Doing so hits hard and creates anger. A glowing appraisal followed shortly by employee terminations for poor performance doesn’t make sense to anybody.
  6. Usually there is some element of unfairness about employee terminations. There’s seldom a right time to be let go. So be aware of ERISA and the Family Medical Leave Act, and carefully review the candidate’s personal background.
  7. Use preventive law. If the person is in a protected class (because of age, gender, race, or disability), it’s money well spent to get a legal opinion in advance of employee terminations.
  8. Pre-plan the termination meeting. Ask yourself: Who will conduct the interview? Who should witness the meeting? How will remaining staff be told? What about personal possessions? Who in the company will react emotionally? Who will carry the extra workload?
  9. Don’t wait for days, weeks, or even months to begin outplacement.
  10. Keep the actual termination meeting brief, say ten or fifteen minutes. There’s no good way to say, “Your job is ending,” and usually the less said or written, the better.
  11. Allow departing employees to save face and maintain self esteem.
  12. Collect keys or other access devices to prevent unauthorized access, copying or “lost” security cards.
  13. Be generous with severance pay. Rule of thumb: one month of pay for the first year of service, and either one or two weeks of pay per year of service thereafter.
  14. Continue medical benefits and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) during severance.
  15. Don’t escort anyone from the building with armed guards or make them pack their belongings in front of colleagues
  16. In the weeks that follow employee terminations, answer follow-up questions promptly and thoroughly. Don’t keep people hanging.
  17. Listen for fallout. If you hear, “I’m going to get even,” “You’ll be sorry for this,” or similar comments, take them seriously. If you see disturbed behavior, consult a clinical psychologist immediately.
  18. Last, don’t kill job offers with bad references. Don’t try to ruin someone’s career no matter how angry you are or how poorly he or she performed.. Don’t lie or mislead, but give a balanced opinion.

These basic humanistic steps can greatly reduce the risk of violence in employee terminations. Take the threat of violence seriously, even if you’re an experienced pro. Plan carefully so nothing is left to chance. Treat people fairly, and most of the time they’ll react accordingly. If and when they do get angry or upset, you’ll be well prepared.

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