This article is designed as a brief guideline to assist you in creating greater awareness of workplace violence issues. This information will help in preventing workplace violence and provides a brief review for post-employment termination.
This article is not intended to be comprehensive and is not a training manual. There are myriad issues involved in workplace-related violence. We strongly recommend that you consult with professional security experts that are capable of performing threat risk assessments any time that you become aware of someone exhibiting threatening, bizarre or hostile behavior.
We see an increased frequency in all types of gun-related crimes, including school and college campus violence, active shooters at large public events, hate-related crimes, company downsizing and layoffs or Reductions In Force (RIF’s), and many other situations. There are numerous types of scenarios in workplace violence and active shooter situations, the following are tips to help determine some options to consider when considering workplace violence prevention strategies. This is not intended to be a guide to protect employees; only a limited summary of preventative options.
Individual employees are generally more stressed, and all types of people including managers, clients and spouses or life partners may have greater difficulty coping with life and their personal situations. Increased stresses also happen more frequently close to tax season and major holidays.
If your company is planning a layoff or terminating an individual employee’s relationship with your company; you may need a refresher on ways to prevent, reduce or diffuse potential violence.
The following 25 tips are not a comprehensive list of actions, but a general overall reminder of things to be aware of. Always work with experienced security professionals who understand and have worked with many workplace violence issues before proceeding on your own; it pays to be safe.
Keep the exit interview brief
Review the purpose of the meeting with the employee and what has led to the termination (poor performance, intimidating or threatening behavior, etc).
If the employee was given opportunities to improve this can be briefly re-stated (be polite but clear)
Schedule the exit interview with the subject employee a short time in advance of the weekend where possible; this may allow the employee time to discuss with family or friends, reduce some of the stress they may feel, and allows the employee to save face with family and friends
Avoid complete surprises if possible
Exit interviewer should sit near the exit (never across a table opposite the door!)
Employee should not be allowed to bring a purse or briefcase into the exit interview. If they insist, the item should be briefly searched for possible weapons
Check that the exit room is cleared of items that can be used as weapons such as scissors, letter openers, glass vases, etc.
Always collect or immediately deactivate employee’s keys and security access card(s)
Change access codes (non-card key systems) to all areas Subject had access to
Advise receptionist and security guards that employee is no longer granted access to your building and provide a photo and physical description of the subject and their vehicle
Allow your employee to save face and maintain their sense of dignity during and following the termination process
Allow employee to say what is on their mind briefly and the opportunity to say what they would like to have happen next. Sometimes the employee has a request that can be accommodated, and some things can be done to diffuse potentially violent issues
Avoid putting the person down: do not allow disparaging remarks or attacking the person verbally
Offer retraining or outplacement assistance to the employee, if possible
If the person needs medical support or is worried about their medical insurance expiring quickly some options can be offered (if the company agrees; even if it is not normally company policy to do so; a little expense here may save a lot of problems later)
Review the person’s severance package and last paycheck with them, if possible, to avoid misunderstandings and fueling anger
Gauge the employee’s responses to their exit package. Determine whether additional concerns or additional options may be available
Review the company’s concern for the employees’ future and provide a contact person if there are any problems—you do not want the employee blaming their co-workers if they become frustrated later; this may further complicate the situation
If you are aware of other serious issues that the person is facing such as a sick or elderly family member, bitter divorce, child custody battle, impending bankruptcy or financial pressures, these should be discussed with your legal department and head of human resources, prior to the exit interview
Ask the person what they are thinking of doing next and wherever possible have them focus on the next step being a positive move forward; possible new opportunities, a chance to take time for themselves or do something new and more enjoyable.
Extend employee assistance plans and medical coverage for an extra month or two wherever possible.
Listen carefully for threatening or unusual comments: do not return threats, instead offer support. Your responses and actions can often help to diffuse threatening situations.
Make a note of the person’s responses (verbatim; the actual words used are important in threat risk assessment) and any unusual behavior or language in order to evaluate whether the level of risk has been raised or lowered
Review all changes in the employee’s actions or reactions with trained security professionals specializing in threat risk assessment.
In some serious threat cases, a Clinical Psychologist should be called in to evaluate the
seriousness of a current or impending threat at the time of the exit interview. This involves a
psychologist experienced in workplace violence & trauma threats, and preferably with hostage
These evaluations are needed only for certain types of situation, not for all threat cases. In particular cases where the employee is exhibiting symptoms of mental illness and may harm themselves or others imminently.
In such cases the psychologist will make an evaluation of the person’s current propensity for violence; if serious enough, an involuntary psychiatric evaluation can be made; this requires the recommendation of a health professional to the local police who can initiate an arrest based on a medical evaluation.
Often an employee, who may be on prescription medications for personality and other disorders, may be off their normal medications (either because they chose to or under medical supervision) that allow the person to function well when the medications are taken regularly. As their behavior degrades, they begin acting out in ways that may be considered hostile, intimidating or threatening to most people. It is important to note that in cases like this, the subject may not be thinking normally or rationally and the actions that they would normally take are not feasible for the person. This requires experienced medical psychological evaluation by a licensed practicing professional or admittance to a hospital for psychiatric medical evaluation.
Again, this is only a limited summary of points to consider which may help to prevent or diffuse some cases of workplace violence and should not be considered legal advice. Professional threat risk assessment are extremely important in these types of cases.