I recently worked on an interesting file regarding a potential threat of workplace violence. We were contacted regarding the termination of a male employee. This individual was in the middle of a nasty divorce and his work performance had declined considerably. There were concerns regarding his behaviour. The individual was becoming emotionally unstable and aggressive towards others. Management took these concerns seriously and attempted to provide support and assistance. Unfortunately this fell on deaf ears. A decision was made to exit the employee. I was contacted to develop a strategy to mitigate the risk should the termination not proceed in a positive manner. After gathering the background details the following recommendations were made:
- Protection agent in a break out room who could intervene if required
- Post termination security which would monitor the exterior access points
- Covert surveillance of the employee to monitor movements and activities
The concern was that the employee might attempt to access the facility or seek revenge against managers and coworkers outside of the workplace.
The client reviewed the options and arranged for a call to discuss them and make a final decision on a plan. The client elected to monitor social media for a period of 30 days and engage the recommended security components. They chose not to engage in surveillance unless there was an increase in risk. There was a concern that if the surveillance was detected it would lead to an increased likelihood of legal action. The client’s management team debated the risk posed versus the potential legal implications. These types of debates are common. The challenge is what happens if the employee elects to target coworkers and management and an incident occurred, would manage be found negligent based on the fact they had concerns but elected not to proceed. This is always a difficult question to answer.
We commenced with the plan. Our social monitoring uncovered some open source posts that raised some red flags. Most of the posts touched on the employee’s troubles and how he felt wronged. The tone was of someone who could possibly lash out if a negative event should occur.
The termination proceeded as planned and the protection agent escorted the employee to his vehicle at which point he exited without issue, other then a heated verbal outburst directed at the human resources manager. The employee was told to not return to the facility or have any contact with the staff. Unfortunately two days after his termination, he returned. Security intervened and successfully de-escalated the situation. The employee claimed he had items he needed to return. This was despite the fact the client had provided instruction and prepaid courier pickup for the items belonging to the company. After the termination, outplacement and support services were present to ensure the employee had resources and a safety net.
No one knows what the employee’s intentions were the day when he was intercepted by security. Was this a man down on his luck only seeking to return the company’s belongings or did he have something very different on his mind.
Too many times in the recent past we have read about situations where things have gone horribly wrong.
Social media monitoring has been ongoing for this individual and although his posts were of concern, it appears the individual has come to grips with his situation for the time being. None of the posts warranted police involvement.
We advised the client to pay special attention to key dates, which may trigger future events. These dates include:
- Date of hire
- Date of termination
Workplace violence and managing terminations continues to be a challenge for security and human resources staff. Balancing the risk versus the probability of an incident is never easy. No employer wants to feel heavy handed and disrespectful but you also never want to be without a plan incase you need to respond to a risk.