As HR professionals, we do our very best to screen and hire top talent. We diligently perform background investigations and verify previous employment, degrees attained, etc. Some of us may even check personal references or social media postings.
We usually do a great job on the screening and hiring process. So what can we as a profession do to avoid workplace violence, especially in post-termination situations? After all, once an employee leaves we usually have very limited interactions with them.
There's no simple solution to managing post-termination workplace violence. But here are a few tips t
Work with your managers to build great relationships with employees.
Oftentimes workplace violence manifests as the result of a domestic dispute. Knowing what's going on with your employees can help keep domestic disputes from spilling into the workplace. Support domestic violence survivors. If they tell you they've just had a bad breakup, or were even brave enough to get a restraining order, give them the respect they deserve from breaking away (and possibly even reporting criminal behavior). Take the restraining order seriously and make sure key employees have a physical description — or better yet a picture.
Loss Prevention Plays a Key Role
As a rule, loss prevention does an excellent job of securing a worksite and keeping people out. The problem is that many sources of workplace violence are coworkers. They've already been screened, have access badges, and know the property well. Build a strong relationship with loss prevention when signs of disgruntled employees emerge. These could be the result of a demotion, performance management, or a bad review. Or it could emerge from a personal situation, mental health issues, or other external sources.
For more tips about recognizing potential workplace violence incidents, check out this article by the National Safety Council.
Involve Your Legal Team
As an employer, you have certain rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to monitor employees. You're also in a position to help them with mental health issues by offering a leave of absence, counseling, a referral to a psychiatrist, or resources through an Employee Assistance Program. Again, the key is to have a good enough relationship with the employee so the issue is identified and can be dealt with proactively. It's always an excellent idea to have an attorney manage the action plan so it can remain privileged.
Assess Post-Termination Threats
This is where things get tricky. HR and LP usually partner together well for high risk terminations, and do a great job of managing the person out the door. But what then? Many incidents of workplace violence occur when former employees come back to the workplace. If you've had a high risk situation, it's not a bad idea to monitor the terminated employee's social media posts for a few months. There's no magic number for the timing here, though: some incidents happen shortly after a termination, while others occur months or even years later.
If an employee (terminated or still employed) makes a viable threat, make sure you report it to the police. If the police seemed overwhelmed or unable to address it, consider hiring a private investigator to monitor the situation.
There's no easy answer to minimizing workplace violence, especially with terminated employees. And, this post certainly is not substitute for legal advice. But if LP, HR, and legal work together a company can arrive at the best solution to a threat.