It was 6 years ago that I had a frightening experience in the workplace. I had to terminate an employee for cause. The meeting, conducted with a lady from HR, was quick and to the point. The employee was given a short verbal explanation and a letter outlining the reason for their termination and the consequences. We walked the employee to his locker; he grabbed his personal belongings and left the building without saying much. It looked somewhat uneventful and I went on with my busy day in operations. When I left for the day and walked to my car, it was already dark. Several guys were gathered close to my car and one was sitting on the hood. They were making remarks about the ‘wrongful termination’, my expensive car and murmured words I don’t want to repeat. Although I was afraid, I continued to walk to my car and asked the guy sitting on my hood if he would please step away. He was reluctant but slowly moved. I was really scared and expected to be punched. That didn’t happen and they let me drive away, but I was shaken up for sure.
Of course I should have known better. It would have been easy to put some security in place just in case. In hindsight, I should have known that this was a somewhat high-risk termination. Simply having a couple of security professionals involved, the situation would have been different and more controlled. For example, one guard could have walked me to my car while the other covertly filmed the incident with a video camera. Unfortunately these high-risk events are happening more and more in our society. Last week’s incident in a Toronto office building illustrates what can go wrong. It is important to recognize that and make sure to take measures to mitigate the risks. Employers need to focus on duty of care and having security professionals that are well trained in non-violent crisis intervention and conflict de-escalation. Now when assessing terminations I ensure that all appropriate measures are in place to ensure the safety of others and myself.