www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/termination-and-layoffs-2

Termination and layoffs

July 1, 2009

One of the most difficult decisions an employer has to make is whether to terminate an employee. This also is one of the most potentially volatile situations in terms of violence. Nicholas Dillon, director of education and risk services for Brookfield, WI-based Aegis Corp., said a number of factors come into play when determining how an employee termination should be handled. These include the reason for termination, the workplace culture and the level of security in the workplace.

The biggest variable, however, is the employee. Human resources or the worker’s supervisor should help gauge his or her reaction to being terminated. If necessary, have someone box the terminated employee’s things or have security escort him or her from the building. “It all depends on the employer’s comfort level with the person they’re letting go,” Dillon said.

This determination is made more difficult in today’s environment of mass layoffs. In those cases, Dillon noted, the timing of the layoffs becomes more critical, as does workplace security. Security should be considered well in advance of layoff decisions.

One vital component of workplace security is informing co-workers of the situation. Let employees know when people have been terminated so they know who should and should not have access to the building.

“Many people assume they are past danger if nothing happens for two to three days following the termination,” said Ray Pettit, security consultant. “However, incidents of retribution in which lives were lost have occurred several months following the termination of an angry employee.”

To reduce the volatility of the termination process, termination of an employee should be handled with respect. If the individual is being terminated because of behavior or performance issues, all interventions, discipline and prior warnings should be fully and clearly documented. “The very last straw which seems to push an angry, threatening, disgruntled employee over the edge is a complete loss of self-respect,” Pettit said. “It is critical that the organization do everything possible when terminating an employee to ensure that the employee leaves the termination interview with at least some of his or her self-respect in place.”