After the Webinar: High Risk Terminations. Q&A with Nick Spencer

Webinar presenter Nick Spencer answered a number of your questions after his presentation, High-Risk Terminations: Policies, Procedures, and Planning. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: How do you mitigate a threat posed by someone who has remaining ties to the organization, such as a spouse that still works there? 

Nick Spencer: That’s a great question and oftentimes, when we see these workplace violence situations happen, they are directly related to domestic violence spillover. Maybe they’re either ——- spouse or potentially, we see it oftentimes where they maybe were actually co-workers and one individual has been removed. And so, that really gets kind of difficult and some tough decisions had to be made at that point. So, one of the big key indicators is, we’re really going to make sure that our controlled access and systems like that are in place that help to prevent unauthorized access to the building. But sometimes we’re going to have to have some very personal conversations with those individuals that are still associated with it. It would be unfair, obviously, to fire someone because of those decisions that their spouse has made. But we may have to look at getting a third-party vendor in to provide security solutions until that situation is resolved itself. Nothing that we can teach or share with you is going to give a lifetime of security, you always have to constantly re-evaluate that. But from an organization, that would be a very difficult thing to try to mitigate. And so specifically looking at what resources could we provide to that employee or that former employee to get them some help. But it may come down to the fact that we have to separate ways with both employees just to reduce that risk on our properties or campuses.


Audience Question: Nick, your strategy seems primarily directed to an individual being terminated. How should an organization plan if they anticipate layoffs of multiple personnel?

Nick Spencer: So, post-COVID, obviously, with some of the substantial change in the Economic outlook of our Nation. We’ve actually participated in multiple reductions of force where they’re either have been significant layoffs or terminations for a wide variety. And we really have partnered with some organizations to help them do this. The best option for this is, is going to be some sort of third-party security to come in and help facilitate that. Generally, it’s predictable, in the fact that we can set the time and date when that notifications happen. But we want to be very strategic in how this information is delivered to the company, in general, and then what the next steps of the process are going to be. So, if you were going to lay off 10, 15, or 20% of your workforce, then there needs to be some corporate parameters that are established around there. What is going to be the compensation package, if any? How is the message going to be delivered? It’s going to be scripted. One organization brought in multiple HR professionals from across the entire company and basically did groups of terminations that day, where they took in people that maybe fall into different categories. From executive leadership down to frontline workers and their termination wasn’t all the exact same look and feel, so they had to deliver that in groups of information. So, it is difficult. Oftentimes, whenever you have that large reduction of force, we highly recommend that you keep some sort of security force on for the next couple of weeks. I know ———- a very substantial financial investment, or just, obviously, for reducing our force, there’s probably a financial crunch anyway. Now, we have this additional expense of security. But it’s more difficult to forecast when you’re laying off or firing, terminating multiple people at the same time versus that one-on-one where we can judge each person’s history. So, you definitely want to get some services wrapped around that situation to help facilitate it.


Audience Question: I’m guessing it’s probably a probation officer or someone in community corrections. Their question is what is the best way to approach a client that is illegally armed and is uncooperative, not seeming like they are a threat. 

Nick Spencer: Absolutely. So, we and a lot of our church trainings, we have this situation where someone potentially is it expressing their constitutional right or as the question stated maybe potentially could be illegally armed or maybe it’s just against the policy and that they’re not supposed to be armed in those areas. Traditionally, you kind of have to judge this situation for itself. If we feel like this person is non-threatening, what we say is a reasonable person will give a reasonable response. So, if I go up to someone and say, “Hey, listen, I’m not trying to violate your Constitutional right to carry. Not trying to cause any trouble or gets you any criminal action against you. However, I have to educate you that this is a place where it’s against the law or it’s against our policies and procedures to be armed. I’m going to have to ask you to either leave the property or return that firearm to your vehicle, and then you’d be allowed to reenter.” Again, this is kind of when the situations where you’re really, potentially putting yourself at risk, because you don’t know exactly how they’re going to respond. So, unless you are properly trained and capable, it may be a situation where you want to notify law enforcement to have them have that conversation, on your behalf. Now, each situation is going to be different. So, we don’t ever say always never. There’s not just one solution to this situation, but you have to take the totality of the circumstances into effect. Identify what that desired outcome is. Is it just I want the person to leave? Or is it letting them know, “Hey, next time, don’t bring it back.” So, we really have to kind of define that first, and then set a course of action on the expected result.


Audience Question: What are the best ways to handle someone when they’re getting aggressive in the workplace? 

Nick Spencer: There’s a lot of variables there that you have to consider. What’s the level of aggressiveness? What level of aggressiveness are you capable and trained to handle? If you don’t have a law enforcement and military background or training that allows you to mitigate that situation. Sometimes the best action is just to call the police. First of all, get them en route to that situation. The other side of it is if you’ve been properly trained, try to de-escalate that situation. And there’s very specific de-escalation training that exists on how to take that situation down a few notches and we can really get into the psychology of that as well but really we want to try to de-escalate it verbally if possible. Make sure that you’re listening, sometimes it’s okay just to let that person kind of event and have that verbal outburst. But you have to be continuously re-evaluating the situation and saying, hey, when is it time for me to leave? When is it time for me to notify other employees that this is getting out of hand? And when is it time for me to potentially go into, what we consider our three out policy – lockout, get out, takeout? When am I going to escape the situation? When am I going to go into a lockdown? Or when, unfortunately, do I have to physically defend myself against someone that’s now become an attacker? So, there’s definitely not a one size fits all on this one. And that’s going to take some additional training to know how to properly defuse that situation.


Audience Question: Can an organization issue a former employee a criminal trespass warning to keep them off the property? And does this apply to government employees as well? 

Nick Spencer: So, definitely, from on the corporate side, you absolutely can do that, and typically in our high-risk terminations, we will issue that trespassed warning on behalf of our client. And we usually communicate that before it’s given to the client to make sure that that’s what they want. But we tell the person, “You’re no longer an employee here, so you no longer have any rights to this facility. If you are seen back on the property, it will be considered a trespass and the police will be notified.” People ask, “Couldn’t that escalate the situation? You just fire the guy. And I told him you’re going to call the police.” It could potentially escalate it. But it could also be as a warning to make sure that they understand that they are no longer associated with that organization And that if they continue down this path, it’s going to result in legal reprimands, and oftentimes, as a police officer, when I would arrive on the scene. And I said, “Did you tell the person that if they came back it was a trespass?” And they said, “Well, no.” Well, now I have to warn them again in that police capacity so, they really get kind of a free opportunity to trespass the first time, anyway. Each jurisdiction is going to be different, and each court is going to look at it differently. Now, in regard to Federal property, I can’t say with 100% certainty that there’s any federal statute that says that. But I would, I believe it would fall under the exact same legality, that it would be if someone is told that they can’t be there, that they would be trespassed. But I’ve never been responsible for a federal building to be able to make that determination.


Audience Question: What if an employee is displaying aggressive behavior but is actively involved in self-growth activities? 

Nick Spencer: Yeah. We’re big on redemption, right? We want people to kind of be that overcomer story. And we absolutely want to set an environment that facilitates that and gives people every area and every opportunity to improve themselves, to heal, and to get better. However, I can’t sacrifice the well-being of other employees for the individual growth of a single employee. So, maybe while they’re in this process of getting better, maybe we put them on some sort of paid or unpaid leave. Maybe we help as an organization to facilitate that, give them the time that they need to get to that point where they’re restored. But maybe we say this can’t happen during work hours. It just can’t happen here. This is not the place for your recovery or healing. We want to champion and partner with that so, we’re going to have to make some exceptions and say, when you’re better, you can come back. I mean, that’s an organization’s duty to decide that. But it’s also an organization’s duty to protect the people of the left and right of that individual. Because what if that growth track gets derailed and now they become violent again? Is that fair to the other employees that we allowed this person to work on themself and potentially jeopardize someone who’s not in that situation?


Audience Question: Why would you do a termination late in the day? Wouldn’t that potentially just escalate things? 

Nick Spencer: Well, sometimes they’re outside of our control. So, late in the day, maybe we don’t have that third-party vendor, that security element on there, maybe we’re waiting because we do think that there’s a potential of violence. So, if we do it at the very end of the day, all of our employees get to be off-site or leave. So, in certain instances, we’ve said, “Okay, we close at five. We’re going to bring this person in at 4:50.” This conversation is going to go longer than 5 o’clock so that all of our employees can have the opportunity to leave the area during this termination. So that we are reducing our risk to our other employees during that. People are like, “Well, it isn’t that bad. Because now they’ve worked a full day just to get fired.” Well, you can also look at it as if they’re also giving another full day of earning opportunity as well. So, there’s no 100% always do it this way template that you can put on everyone in these situations. There are always going to be mitigating circumstances that say we have to adjust our approach to fit certain criteria.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of High-Risk Terminations: Policies, Procedures, and Planning



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