There are two types of terminations that should be considered high risk. One is when aggressive behavior by an individual violates workplace violence policies or elevates to an unacceptable level and the person has to be terminated due to that behavior. The other kind can sneak up on you and many workplace violence prevention programs do not address it. In this type, the person has displayed continuously deteriorating work performance, in spite of progressive counseling, and this leads to the termination requirement. What makes this situation high risk is that the underlying cause(s) for the deteriorating work performance can also be hidden contributors towards that person’s potential to react violently during the termination itself. Furthermore, they can feel an extreme sense of desperation in the time after losing that job which can lead to problems as well, just when you thought it was over.
Most good workplace violence prevention programs will have educated the workforce, and supervisors, to recognize the dangerous individual behaviors leading to the first type of high risk termination. The unacceptably aggressive behavior is the reason for the termination. It is therefore reasonable to expect some element of risk with the termination event itself, and precautions are often taken.
The second type may not contain the same aggressive behavioral indicators. However, in some of these cases, there will be indications of stress induced aggressiveness which should then serve as a red flag. Human resource personnel and the corporate security team should work together and involve third party clinical professionals to evaluate the underlying causes for the performance drop in otherwise good employees. Those causes could indicate that if termination becomes necessary, precautions should be taken during the process. They can discuss with the individual what is going on in their life. They can assess how those factors might affect the person’s response to the possible loss of their employment (often the last straw.) These ‘under the radar’ cases are the exception to the rule and that is what makes them so dangerous.
Violence is typically a process, not an isolated event. The violence process usually has behavioral red flags along the way and this is what thorough workplace violence training often outlines. But these ‘under the radar’ cases that I have just described are especially dangerous because they lack those behavioral indicators. Therefore, your termination process protocols should address not only the obvious high risk terminations but they should also account for those where there has been a dramatic drop off in performance so substantial and out of character that it results in the need for termination. Perhaps the real reasons for that performance drop off are so personally severe and so devastating, they could also represent a danger for a violent reaction to the loss of employment. Only realizing the desperation that this person faces at the time of the actual termination may be too little, too late. The job may have been all they had left to depend on! They are now focusing on your company as the evil force that took away that one last thing that was important to them.
For more information regarding safely conducting the termination process for all types of high risk cases, check out the courses at www.imac-training.com.