There are two types of terminations that should be considered high risk. One is when aggressive behavior by the individual to be terminated has reached an unacceptable level and that behavior is the reason for the termination. The other kind can sneak up on you and many workplace violence prevention policies do not address it. In this type, the person has displayed continuously deteriorating work performance leading to the need for the termination. What makes this situation high risk is that the underlying cause(s) for the deteriorating performance can also be a hidden contributor towards the person’s potential to react violently to the employment termination itself.

Most good workplace violence prevention policies will have educated the workforce and supervisors to recognize dangerous behavior leading to the first type of high risk termination. The unacceptably aggressive behavior is the reason for the termination. It is therefore likely to expect some element of risk with the termination event itself, and precautions are often taken.

The second type may not contain the same aggressive behavioral indicators. In some of these cases, there might be evidence of stress induced aggressiveness which should then serve as a warning. However, in other cases, lacking any aggression indicators, trained case assessment professionals are required to classify the termination as one that would require precautionary measures. Human resource personnel and security need to involve third party clinical professionals to evaluate the underlying causes for the performance drop. They can discuss with the individual what is going on in their life. They can assess how those causes might affect the person’s response to losing their employment (often the last straw.) These specific cases are the exception to the rule and that is what makes them so dangerous. Violence is typically a process, not an isolated event. The violence process usually has behavioral red flags along the way and this is what thorough workplace violence training often outlines. But the cases that I have just described are especially dangerous because they lack those behavioral indicators. Therefore, your termination process protocols should address not only the obvious high risk terminations, they should also account for those with little or no prior indication of violent behavior. Perhaps when there has been a drop off in performance so substantial and prolonged that it results in the need for termination and the real reasons behind it could be so personally severe and devastating that the employee could pose as a possible threat when reacting to the loss of their employment.

This does require some additional effort and cost. However, consider the consequences of not doing this assessment. Realizing the desperation that this person faces when fired may be too little, too late. The job may have been all they had left to depend on!