The recent workplace shooting at Minneapolis’s Accent Sign highlights a consideration that many businesses, especially small businesses, overlook. The shooter
was fired on Thursday morning and returned later that day apparently knew he was going to be fired and, upon receiving the news, decided to take revenge on staff.
Midweek and early in the day are generally bad times to terminate an employee.
1. If the person is unstable enough to take revenge impulsively, firing someone earlier in the day leaves a window during which the individual may return to seek out those he feels are responsible. If you terminate near the end of the day, when most employees are leaving, so that any of his prior coworkers are gone from the premises.
2. Firing someone on any other day than end of the week, puts the individual in a position where he doesn’t have anywhere to go the next morning. The departure form normality starts right away tomorrow. If instead, you terminate on a Friday afternoon, the person will have the entire weekend to come to terms with what has happened. No work tomorrow, when tomorrow is a typical weekend day doesn’t seem as jarring as it might earlier in the week.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily make sense for businesses running late shifts, round the clock shifts, or where staff regularly works seven days a week. In these cases, timing of terminations should be chosen using the same principles as above.
There can be downsides to this approach, particularly in large companies with high turn over. Some corporations adhere to the above policies reliably and, consequently, have a corporate culture that is very wary about firings on Fridays, demoralizingly so.
There are no guarantees. You may prevent a very impulsive person from returning immediately to work today or tomorrow. But these practices don’t keep them from coming back days later if they are determined to wreak havoc.
There are times when immediate termination is justified and it can’t wait a few more days. So be it.
Businesses large and small, especially small, should factor in all of the following recommendations when performing the unwelcome by inevitable task of firing their employees.
Recommendation 1 – Perform terminations when those upon whom the individual may seek revenge are leaving the premises.
Recommendation 2 – Perform terminations at the end of the individual’s work week.
Recommendation 3 – Perform terminations with professionalism and respect. Be direct. Be final. Dont negotiate and debate details. Be supportive by asking how you want the company to address inquiries from future employers. And don’t act like you expect the person to act irrationally as a danger…this is insulting, especially to the unhinged. *
Recommendation 4 – Prepare for the worse. Have a security plan for if the person returns for revenge…as well as for any other disastrous situations. It won’t matter most of the time if ever. But when it happens to you and you are prepared, it will be worth it.
* You can read more about these termination techniques in Gavin De Becker’s book The Gift of Fear in the chapter titled Occupational Hazards.