Reducing the risk of violence when terminating employees


Termination meeting with a potentially violent employee is one of the most dangerous things most managers will do. But careful preparation can greatly reduce the risk.

The planning process for all termination meetings should include an assessment of the employee’s potential for violence.

Consider disciplinary history, history of threats, intimidation or acts of aggression, criminal history, mental health or substance abuse problems, and whether the employee has a strong support network – close family and friends.

man being fired

If any of the above give you reason to pause, have security present but out of sight during the meeting. The ideal situation is to have closed-circuit television or a panic button in the room that is monitored by security.

Have two managers present in the meeting – the immediate manager and either that person’s manager or someone from human resources. If there has been a lot of friction between the employee and direct manager, have the other person present the news of the termination.

Following are some guidelines for the meeting:

  • Keep the discussion general and brief. The employee should have received feedback about performance long before now. This meeting is not about teaching or changing the employee’s behavior. It is about ending the relationship. For example, say “We don’t think the job is a good fit for you. We think it would be best all around if you found something that suited you better.”
  • Be respectful, and keep your feelings to yourself. Don’t gloat. Conversely, don’t say how bad you feel or how hard this is for you. This is not about you.
  • Don’t ask employees being terminated how they feel. You don’t want them to focus on their emotions but rather on making plans for getting on with their lives.
  • Tell the employee about any termination benefits and give details in writing. This could include some severance pay and continuation of healthcare benefits so the employee doesn’t end up in crisis before finding another job.
  • At the conclusion of the meeting, both managers should help the employee gather personal belongings, and escort him or her out of the building.

There is no way to prevent an employee from becoming violent during a termination meeting, but steps such as these will reduce the likelihood and will minimize damage if it happens.