One of the most stressful actions at any company can be the dismissal of an employee. They are not easy and are uncomfortable for everyone involved. It is often emotional and distracting, even when they are well-planned and carried out following every tip in the HR handbook. Following a recent termination at a manufacturing facility, the dismissed employee walked to the company’s parking lot, started slashing car tires with a knife he had concealed in his pocket, went to his car to get a weapon and began randomly shooting in the area. Security officers on site expertly executed active shooter training protocol, instructing all personnel to immediately seek safe cover, while notifying local law enforcement. Notified by security officers that police officers were on their way, the dismissed employee ran to a nearby field, where he was arrested.
One-hundred and twenty rounds were discharged, and no one was hurt. The benefit of well-trained security officers who can detect and react to situations cannot be overstated. They saved lives in this situation, which is an important step beyond the solitary capabilities of cameras and remote monitoring.
We have learned a lot in our time providing security for companies around the world, both big and small. Here are six steps that will help achieve the best result possible with an employee dismissal:
1. Make sure security is involved in the planning and walkout. Most of the time dismissals are known well in advance and can be carefully planned. Workplace risk and active shooter site assessments can help you build that plan. Active shooter training is effective as well. There are a number of people who should be included in that planning. It is important that one of those in the group is a Specialized Tactical Response Officer or leader on the security team. Research has proven the first seconds and minutes before law enforcement arrives on scene are the most critical.
2. “The walk” doesn’t stop at the front door of the building. Many times the danger comes from what is in the employee’s car. Sometimes the car itself can be dangerous. Factor that into your planning.
3. Constantly assess emotional state. This person has been an employee at your company. You have knowledge of his or her past history. Constantly assess the person’s emotional status throughout the process. Are there changes? Are there signs? Who else in this employee’s circle may be able to provide insight?
4. Don’t rush, but don’t dawdle either. The tendency is to hurry the process along because you want the discomfort to end quickly. Rushing can lead to bad decisions. Taking more time gives you a chance to properly evaluate emotional states and make the arrangements that changes may dictate. But you also want to keep things moving. Time under stress can lead to a bad result. A short, efficient process that is well planned is the most effective.
5. Safety outweighs embarrassment. You may feel it is embarrassing to have security watching while an employee packs up their desk, but safety is paramount. Take the steps necessary to keep people safe.
6. Safety outweighs convenience. Letting the employee walk to the car to go home is the easiest. But, if there are worries, call a cab. The former employee can make arrangements to pick the car up later. Packing personal items can be done by co-workers and sent to the dismissed employee later. First thing in the morning is generally the best time. Again, safety is paramount.