Layoffs and firings can trigger unexpected emotional outbursts, causing apprehension among human resource supervisors any time they’re required to terminate an employee. But when an employee indicates they may respond with violence or has a history of abusive behavior, how can a company protect its personnel?
With workplace violence on the rise, armed security and workplace safety training has become not only acceptable but expected. When an employer anticipates a potentially volatile event, it’s not enough to rely on law enforcement or campus security patrols to respond should a conflict arise. That’s why human resource experts recommend hiring additional armed security to attend high-risk employee terminations.
Qualifying Factors for a High-Risk Employee Termination
According to our research and findings by the National Safety Council, these are some of the signs that suggest an employee may be a potential danger to themself or to others in the workplace, and that measures are likely warranted to prevent violence during and after termination.
- Substance abuse
- Uncharacteristic behavioral changes
- Sudden decline in productivity
- Increased and unexplained absenteeism
- Resistance to changes at work
- Self-victimization (persistent complaining about unfair treatment)
- Open disregard for company policies
- Hostile speech or behavior
- Disproportionate reactions to criticism
- Unpredictable mood swings
- Paranoia or hypervigilance
While most employees who engage in workplace violence have exhibited one or more of these signs, no single behavior indicates a predisposition toward violence, and lack of any of the above “red flags” does not ensure an employee will react appropriately upon separation. That’s why workplace safety authorities recommend emplacing security plans prior to layoffs and firings, and prudent preparations may require hiring armed security professionals.
When Is It Appropriate to Have Armed Security Present at a Termination?
“If you make the investment in security and preparation, your employees will feel safer and respect you for valuing their safety.” Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., President/CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management
When a firm weighs the risks of a potentially volatile firing scenario against the very reasonable cost of hiring armed security, the question becomes more granular: How is it appropriate to use armed security during a high-risk employee termination?
Planning Considerations During an At-Risk Employee Termination
What type of security presence is best suited to your situation? Informed employers take into account as many variables as possible when developing termination best practices. Our seasoned security experts apply situational awareness, de-escalation, and threat assessment principles gained through law enforcement and military experience to anticipate and remove obstacles to positive outcomes. SMART Security Pros will consult with your human resources or executive team and make recommendations based on the following:
- Subject profile: Has the employee exhibited any of the at-risk behaviors listed above? Have they made threats, overt or otherwise? Are they known to have access to weapons? Are they anticipating the termination?
- Setting: Where should the termination take place—in the subject’s office, at their desk in an open-concept environment, or will they be called into the employer’s office?
- Terms: Is the employee expected to leave the premises immediately? Will they have time to collect personal belongings? How will the employer recover company property in the subject’s possession?
- Other considerations: Are multiple employees scheduled for termination? Might the firing cause division among the workforce?
No workplace culture or termination situation is the same, and escalation mitigation requires careful consideration of the appearance and strategic placement of armed security personnel. Uniformed security officers, for example, might increase tension, humiliate the subject, and escalate the risk of violence if they’re present at the actual firing, in which case we can provide plain-clothed armed personnel. On the other hand, the authoritative “show of force” associated with uniformed officers may be the most appropriate choice, reassuring co-workers of their safety and “shutting down” the subject before they have time to react.
Human resources conflict resolution expert Renee’ F. Watkins offers excellent insight: “You may choose to have a uniformed security guard nearby, perhaps in another room, listening to the conversation. This will give you a stronger sense of security without creating additional tension in the room. Another choice would be to have a “plain clothes” authority/security guard either in the room with you as a witness to the termination process or, my recommendation, have him/her close by the actual room where the termination is occurring.”
Preventing Workplace Violence by Disgruntled Former Employees
Once a high-risk employee has been terminated and removed from premises, there is the risk he or she may return to exact revenge. They may take some time to plan and gather resources, according to Watkins, and the risk increases the longer the subject remains unemployed.
We recommend that our clients maintain visible armed security at the workplace to discourage retaliatory violence and to intervene should the former employee return for any reason. If the disgruntled person has made threats to other personnel, you may opt to provide protective security details and mobile surveillance to targeted individuals and their homes. We also suggest heightened monitoring of exterior grounds and parking lots with either or both remote video surveillance or armed, uniformed security patrols.
Achieve the Best Possible Outcome During a High-Risk Employee Termination
It’s impossible to predict with certainty whether or not a termination event will result in violence, and all workplace environments—retail, corporate, service, industrial, institutional, and small business—are vulnerable to the risks associated with firing high-risk personnel.
Your employees trust that you will ensure their safety any time they are on the job, but when there’s a known risk of workplace violence your moral obligation is compounded by legal liability. We can assist you with a comprehensive workplace safety plan for high-risk terminations, and we offer routine workforce training that empowers your staff to help identify and defuse conflict before it reaches a crisis. Trust SMART Security Pros to provide comprehensive security solutions. Our personnel are experienced civic and military law enforcement professionals, and we tailor our services to any security need. Contact us today for a consultation so we can be of assistance when you need us most.