Employee Termination and Workplace
Big problem! I'm a supervisor in a small
steel fabrication company. I've been in this job for a little less than
a year and came to this company straight out of college. For several
months, one employee continued to give me problems. He came to work late
at least one day every week, made no effort to meet daily quotas, and
even though we gave him suggestions for improvement in the last
performance evaluation, had done nothing to improve. I had given him
both verbal and written warnings complete with guidance and counseling.
I suggested to my boss that we let him go. He said to go ahead with
Here's where things went terribly wrong. I stopped this fellow on the
floor and informed him that I had to let him go. I explained all of the
reasoning and reviewed all of the disciplinary steps leading to this
termination. I did not raise my voice or criticize him. I simply
explained all of the reasons and then told him that he could finish out
the day and we would have his paycheck at the end of the day.
He was visibly upset. The next thing I new, he was screaming in my face
and threatening violence. I tried to calm him down and even let him know
that I felt badly for having to fire him. I've never had to terminate
anyone before. I hate having to do so but there really wasn't any
He began throwing tools and equipment. One worker tried to calm him down
but in doing so, got punched in the face! This had gone from bad to much
worse. We don't have security. As I said it is a fairly small shop, less
than 20 hourly employees. At this point the other employees steered away
from him. My boss happened to see this and called the police. He then
came out to the floor and told this individual that the police were on
the way. The man turned his anger to my boss. He hit him twice then came
toward me. He said "we aren't done yet! I'm coming for you [name
omitted]". He then left the building. We were all shaken but I figured
the police would find him, take him in, and that eventually he would
calm down. It gets worse though. We filed a report for the police but
somehow the man had avoided the police all day.
When I came home, he was in my driveway. I did call the police again
from my cell but this didn't help much. He came to the car and I cracked
my window to tell him they were on the way. Stupid me had put the car in
park and when I did this the door locks disengaged. He pulled me out of
the car and gave me the beating of my life!
He has done jail time for this and we've done all we can to avoid
getting tons of publicity about this. The owner thought it would reflect
badly on the business. But, how can things like this be avoided?
Security wouldn't have helped much because they can't exactly follow me
home from work! What should I do differently if I find myself in a
position of having to fire someone again?
Submission June, 2006: Posted with
Tactful termination and training
Thank you for submitting
the question. Wow! That's what I call a tough day at the office! But your
story is not a rarity. These things happen more often than many think; maybe
not to this extreme, but it does happen unfortunately.
One thing that I have always found interesting is that college students
studying management and leadership are not provided a course on "terminating
employees". It is not something that universities would like to be
associated with. Therefore, many college graduates are not educated on what
to do when leadership fails, and it is a leadership failing when we lose an
employee. But that is for another article.
I am glad to hear that you did practice progressive discipline (critical in
any organization) and that you provide opportunities for him to correct the
behavior. So, it does sound like termination was justified.
But how do we fire someone when it is the only remaining option? I'd like to
point out a few things that should have been done differently. Never
discipline or fire an employee publicly. Find a private office. This alone
will reduce the chances of such a bad scene. Being humiliated publicly might
have been the reason for the violence. If not the reason, absolutely a
Through experience and also the advice of a professor while I was studying
leadership in college I have learned to use the "bad guy - good guy"
approach. Sit the person down in the private office. Offer them a soda or a
cup of coffee. Then proceed to give them the bad news tactfully and with a
bit of sympathy; not too sympathetic however because they need to know that
the decision is firm. Without hesitation, tell the person that even though
they were not a good fit in this company that you don't want them to be
without means for providing for themselves and their family if applicable.
Offer to make a few calls to help them find work. After all, simply because
they have not worked out in your organization does not necessarily mean the
person is a "bad person" or unworthy of a job. Offer to help them find a new
Also, if at all possible, employees should be given reasonable severance.
Many people live week to week. No one, regardless of performance in your
organization deserves to go without money for the bare necessities. If the
person is nearing retirement age, consider an early retirement package.
As part of your offer to help them find work, ask them to come back in a
couple of days to discuss possible job openings in the area. Make a few
calls for them if they are willing to accept your help.
Allowing them to finish the day is not always a good idea. Even if you have
played the bad guy - good guy routine and the person appears calm, once the
termination really starts to sink in, trouble may ensue.
Termination is not a pleasant experience for anyone, especially the
individual being fired. But there are ways to reduce the chances of
violence. I would also suggest training for all personnel that are
responsible for delivering the bad news to employees. For example, if
supervisors, such as yourself, had gone through formal training that
consisted of numerous role-playing exercises this event may not have
occurred. If you wish, we can discuss the possibility of training with your
management staff. We actually include this as part of our leadership
development training program. Given recent events, your management personnel
might be interested in this type of training. If so, have them contact us.
If they are not interested in training at this point, I do recommend that
you give some serious thought to the bad guy - good guy approach. It can be
Thanks for submitting the question. I feel it is a very important issue that
can even save lives, as people are occasionally shot in the workplace by
disgruntled employees following a badly handled termination.
Please contact us
if you need further assistance.