Show Notes: Involuntary Employment Separation / Termination Strategies with Sean A. Ahrens | Episode #21


In this next episode I was honored to be joined by Sean A. Ahrens MA, CPP, CSC, BSCP, FSyl. He’s a leader in physical security consulting who has tremendous experience supporting clients across all major industries, when it comes to workplace violence, security technology, CPTED, expert witness consulting, and much more.

He’s earned his master’s in organizational security management from Webster University, and overall, he’s just a wealth of knowledge.

Today’s podcast focuses on one topic in particular: involuntary separations in the workplace (also known as involuntary terminations). Sean worked with a team of his peers in threat assessment and HR to create an informative, peer reviewed, 25-page document to educate organizations and business leaders about how to approach the complexities of these events.



Big Ideas from This Episode

  1. Treat the separated employee with dignity. Put yourself in their shoes.
  2. Consider proactive strategies that can help you prevent the threat from ever stepping foot into the building. (e.g. employee vetting)
  3. Take a step back and analyze the root cause of the point of contention with the employee. What solutions exist that can create the safest work environment and meet the needs of the business?
  4. Train your staff in how to conduct separations — every aspect of the process.


Use CONTROL + F to search the transcript below if you want to learn more!

Transcript from this episode

*Note: this transcript was generated using automated software, and my not be a perfect transcription. But I hope you find it useful.

Travis  1:35  
Sean, you've been working on a project to educate people about involuntary employment termination strategies, which I'm really excited to hear about. And before that, I was curious, could you share a little bit about yourself and what you do and the types of projects that you work on in the security industry? Absolutely. F

Sean 2:30
First, thank you very much for having me on the call. Today, I think it's really important that we talk about this topic, and you giving us an opportunity to to present this information is tremendous. So I've been doing security, probably roughly 2324 years now, everything from design to consulting, to assessments to policy procedure development, the full gambit, if you will, but I do have an affinity or an interest in workplace violence. I've been following it, you know, for better part of 17 years when OSHA first started classifying it, you know, the type one through four incidences that can erupt in in a in a workplace. And subsequent to that I've kind of built on my own observations. And this involuntary separation guide is an outcome of one of those discussion points that I've had, and have observed in my dealings with clients as well as the story I'm going to tell you about it. It just really just emphasizes why I did this. And I've read your full guide. There's awesome content in here. What was it that inspired you to get started with the guidance to collaborate with your peers to create it? So it was a it's a sad story. In February 2019, there was a shooting in Illinois. And in that shooting, five people were killed. One was an intern from Northern Illinois, an HR intern on his first day. And then there were also brought proximately, five or six officers that were wounded. And it's just you know, when, as I tell the story, I just think of how easily preventable it was.

So this individual, he's 45 years old. He's been with the company approximately a decade. He comes in to the workplace, early morning around 6am. And he has a disagreement with his supervisor. And the disagreement was a result of him being written up by the supervisor for a infraction. What is unfortunate is the organization communicated to him that if he had any more issues, that he was going to be fired, they gave him for warning that he was going to be fired. So he came in at 6am had this disagreement with his supervisor, with the realization that he was going to be fired. And he continued through his day until approximately 1pm 130 ish when they called him up for the meeting. And he went up to the meeting. And he walked into a room and he saw this young student there as well as other people in the room. He brandished a weapon and killed all five of them. He then went out and killed a supervisor. And he wounded one other individual. And it was told to me by the chief of police, Kristen's Denman, who was making a presentation at a tap, I just struggled to understand why this person would do this. And as I went through this discovery, she continued, and we learn more about, you know, that this individual barricaded himself in he wanted to die by cop, and he essentially wound up taking out injuring five other officers. So I dug deeper into learning more about this incident, many individuals in consulting, do a reviewing a lot of these after action reports on what can we do to prevent these types of occurrences? It became apparent that he had a grievance, which is, you know, similar to most workplace violence, incidences, and we saw an expression of leakage. He told people that if I'm fired, I'm going to come back and I'm going to blow this place up the work. The organization didn't really do anything about that. What is most concerning about this entire event was Travis, why do you think he was being terminated?

Travis  6:18  
Yeah, that's an excellent question. I wonder what the disagreement was.

Sean  6:23  
He refused to wear his safety glasses.

Travis  6:27  
That's crazy. Six, seven lives lost and people injured.

Sean  6:32  
So what's even worse than that was, he was not going to be terminated that day. But he had the perception he was because the employer told him. So I took this information. And as I did assessments, I was working with a municipality, I was asking for their processes and procedures on how to deal with involuntary separation guide. And they didn't have any. And they wrote me back. And they said, Well, can you give us some, and I struggled to find a good document to support involuntary separation. So I reached out to the association Threat Assessment Professionals, and I put together a group of peer individuals to put this guide out pretty rapidly in version one was born. And then subsequent the year subsequent to that I read, I got another peer panel, and we went through another revision process. And now we've got version two, which is a pretty solid document. And there was a lot of things that came out of this, this document, and this guide, that I think would help us avoid another Aurora Illinois shooting, especially when we see the callous nature towards some how some employers separate from with their employees. I've been in instances where I've seen employers say, Well, hey, there's a list. And unfortunately, you're on it. Or we've seen in the news, where individuals are terminating people via zoom call, the goal is for an individual that might have to make a separation discussion, and they don't know what to do, and they've got, you know, they're kind of thinking, I don't know how to handle this, I'm really concerned and nervous to put this guide out. So they would least have some resource that they could look at. And hopefully either trigger the organization threat assessment team or ask, have them ask for help, and or provide some good practical guidance on preventing something from escalating when it doesn't need to escalate.

Travis  8:41  
And for the organizations that you've worked with over the years, are there any particular areas where you find that they tend to be weak in some of these areas? Is it just that many of them have not really thought through the entire process from, you know, interviewing an employee all the way through terminate terminating an employee, like where do they tend to be weak? Are there any particular places that stand out to you?

Sean  9:08  
So certainly, the onboarding of an employee, you know, obtaining getting the best employee for the organization is a shortcoming. Especially now when we are trying to find people to fill these types of positions, specifically as it relates in the blue collar environment, right, the background investigation, they're not looking at that they're somewhat No, I can't do any background investigations because they don't allow us to do any backroom face investigations or pre employment, which is not necessarily true. We're not saying that you are going to exclude because of a criminal background. We're just saying that as a result of all the applicants you have, you're going to look at the full background. You're going to do the reference checks and what have you and you're going to choose the right applicant. that meets both of your criteria, and has the least potential of acting out. That doesn't mean the person that committed a felony when they were 17. And they're now 45, and never had an issue between, we're looking for pattern activity, which would lead to the possibility of violence within the workplace. The other issue is that individuals, more and more I see, HR is not involved in the separation discussions. And in some instances, the manager is conducting the separation. And sometimes it's too much of a business decision. And they don't really realize what that person's going through what their stressors are, for instance, if you have an individual that has financial problems, and you fire them, or you separate them from the the employer, is that going to not create a grievance? Is that more likely for that person to have a grievance? Or what if we have an individual who is 60 years old, and we separate him from the organization, and that's the only thing he knew the organization was his family, he had no support group, he had no other reason to go on. So I think the other failure is just being aware of what individuals may be going through, or things that they're going through that we're not aware

Travis  11:33  
of. Yeah, those are excellent points. And as you're talking about these reminds me of a couple of things. First, when you talk about just being aware of what's going on in the lives of the people that you're managing, I can think back to a job years ago, where I was talking with one of the managers, and they were like, hey, Travis, I think I'm gonna fire so and so. And I was like, you know, he just got engaged, like, literally two days ago. And it probably be pretty devastating if you fired him, right after something like this, like, is there any? Is there any other option? Other than that? Is there any kind of coaching or training or something, something to that degree, that's not going to, you know, up end his whole world? So yeah, I do think that's an excellent point you make when it comes to just knowing your people and their mental state and their mental health and where they're at in life. And then to, it is so important when it comes to employee background checks, and just initial vetting upfront, if you could just keep those people out of the organization altogether, and just prove prevent the risk from walking through the door. I think that's exceptional. And I was doing some research about the topic of employee background checks, just about a year and a half ago. And I talked to a handful of people in HR to learn about their practices. And I did some research about how like the big two are big for, like the big box background check services, like the processes that they do. And there's just so many, there's so many gaps when it comes to our employee background check processes, like for example, when it comes to the big firms, there's there, they're really just checking the boxes. And there's so many places that there's so many things that they're not checking, like they're not checking federal, civil and criminal, and they may not check bankruptcies at the federal level, they probably are not checking county level criminal records, they're probably just pulling a report from tlo, or IRB or one of these big sources. And also, when it comes to just the HR side, like you mentioned, they they are kind of fearful of, hey, we have to operate within these constraints that the general counsel says that we could do. And I feel like a number of people that I've talked to, they were either not allowed to or for essentially, they were not allowed to look at social media, when social media can be so useful when it comes to understanding who this person really is. are they posting? are they posting incredibly racist, controversial material? Are they involved in maybe like, some kind of violent activism that goes against the brand of the business? So I feel like there are definitely a number of gaps when it comes to employee background checks and vetting before before the person ever walks through the door. So I think that's, that's also one big area of improvement.

Sean  14:36  
I mean, I totally agree. I think the challenge that we have is that many people step into these situations. And when they know that there's problem, they don't communicate the problem, and or they don't know what to do to address the problem. So they just kind of work through it the best they can, and in some instances There's some negativity or a grievance that is created. One of the things that came out of this guy that was really interesting is, so when we associate the separation of an employee, what are the what are some terms that we use? We're gonna let them go. We're going to fire them. We're terminating them. And when we think about those, those terms, and it's why we use the word separation, and I am continually trying to use that word separation, not fired them terminated them, or what have you. They're holistically negative words. What do you do when you terminate something? What do you do when you fire someone? I eat like a firing squad.

Travis  15:46  
That's the end. There's nothing that happens after that.

Sean  15:50  
Right? What about letting go? I mean, like, they're on a cliff, they need help. And you're I mean, the terms are just really poor. And in some instances, I think, kind of create that finality, like we're going to terminate you will what what is why, you know, to an employee that's been there for 15 years, it's just seems so final, I embrace one of my peer reviewers that helped me with this guide, and she's in human resources. And just to quote her, she's symbolism Muir. She says, Well, why? Why do we have to terminate? Why do we have like a why can't they, they're still part of the organization. They're just no longer employees. But we still care about you. Almost like an alumni, and people kind of laugh about it. But I think that to some degree, some individuals that are leaving the organization, need to be seen, as, yeah, we're making a business decision, but we still care about you. Right? Even though you made the mistake, even though we don't have the work for you anymore, we still care for you. And there's things that the organization can do to support those individuals. During this time of crisis. When we look at Workplace Violence, incidences as a whole, we recognize and this comes out of the, you know, the Secret Service studies that were done, that majorities people are in crisis prior to the incident. So as an organization, we have a unique opportunity to defuse this situation. And this guide is is kind of a foundation for that. However, the bad side of the guide is you won't know that it was effective, because we'll never see the occurrence. But I still think it's important. It's an important opportunity, important education, that can be used to offset aspects of workplace violence that are associated to employees that have a grievance because they were not treated well, during the separation process.

Travis  17:54  
Yeah, you make a good point when it comes to kind of changing the language that we use. And I think part of that too, is the degree to which HR and organizations educate their managers, like, especially when you mentioned those scenarios, where the manager might be the one that's doing the termination with little or no support from HR. So I do think it's very important when it comes to educating those managers around using the right language using the right process treating. I mean, really just like treating the other person with humanity and kind of putting yourself in their shoes.

Sean  18:32  
You hit it right in the head. When I do my trainings, I tell managers, if you are going to be separated, how would you want to be treated. And it's everything from someone's personal belongings being stuffed in a in a FedEx box and shipped to them like a maraca, as you know, as opposed to having it professionally packed and sent via courier. These are all aspects like, you know, we care about we care about you, we care about our things. It doesn't emphasize that finality. And I think one of the other things that with the background investigations, you know, you mentioned tlo, and what have you and, you know, excellent resources to identify adjudication if there's criminal background, but what about just calling the reference, many entities are not calling references anymore? They see a reference and you know, it's with the company, but they don't call the reference. They don't call the personal reference. And I argue that if you have a really positive reference, you call someone. They'll be like, Oh, hey, yeah. Chris Williams. Oh, really? Well, great guy. Yeah. What kind of role you haven't planned for? It's a very positive discussion. However, if you call that reference, and they say, I have to refer you to HR, or he worked from this dates to these dates. What was said, but not really set,

Travis  19:52  
right? Yeah, they're just giving you like name rank and social security number like there a POW absolute limited information.

Sean  20:00  
Exactly. And you then I would think that might be grounds for a more exploratory analysis, right? Because there's no better predictor of future behavior than looking at past behavior.

Travis  20:13  
Yeah, that's an excellent point, when it comes to reference checks, I feel like people probably look at it as they don't want to have an uncomfortable conversation, or it's something where I don't know, it's just the unknown. But like you mentioned, you have the opportunity to get so much more insight like you make it some glorifying picture of them, or, like you said, it might just be the most limited description of of their job possible. And, Shawn, I wanted to ask you, could you share a little bit? Can you kind of like illustrate a picture for us as far as like the overall process when it comes to involuntary separations, kind of starting with, I guess, like the pre investigative interview through like touch points that happen after a separation, just so people could get a feel for the overall process?

Sean  21:03  
Sure. Sure. So I think the investigation process is very similar to, you know, answering the who, what, why, where, when? And how, right. So why why is the person being separated? Is there is that a riff it? You know, reduction in force is? Are they in a performance plan? Do they violate a policy? Have these other things been investigated? Who, who's the con? Who's the conversation? You know, who's doing this? Who's going to be presenting this information? Is it HR? Is it manager? Does the manager have good relationship with the person that is being separated with? Is there a conflict that is known or otherwise visible to the organization? Is there an expectation that the person will have a grievance against the organization or the individual? What are you going to say, you know, what, when you go to this discussion, and you have, you know, are you going to be letting them know, Hey, are we going to give them, you know, advanced knowledge of, you know, the possibility of a termination, like what happened in Aurora, Illinois? Well, how was it? How's the best way to go about conducting the separation? Should we do it via phone? Should it be done off site? Should it be done in conjunction with security and or other people present in the area? Where are we going? When are we going to have a conversation? We can have the conversation? You know, during the end of the day, are we going to have them come in at 6am and work until mid afternoon? And then let them go? Are we going to let them go the day of the violent the day of the event in terms of you know, the policy infraction? Are we going to if there's an issue, how are we going to address how they leave the work environment? Okay, we're doing an investigation, you are on administrative Lea, which is going to be paid if it found on, you know, unfounded, and or we're going to send you home with pay until the investigation is done, or are we going to send you home without pay? Right? What is the process for addressing that? And then where do you start? How do you start this investigation process? So these are all kinds of items, touch points, if you will, that you should consider but we go further than that. And we identify, essentially, with the immediate policy violations, how do we go about separating the individual? We give you a detailed separation checklist, like things that you want to be concerned about? Do they, you know, do they have support? Do they have family that they can vent to with this issue? You know, are they going to be? Are we taking away their computer? If they're working remotely? Do they and that's something we also have to address is a lot of our workforce is remote now, right? Exactly. Where are they located? Are they in close proximity to the facility? Could they just drive back within 15 minutes? Or are they 3045 minutes away? Have we spoken to other employees about what the grievance was what the concern is? Should we identify who's going to be in this meeting? Is it going to be the manager? Do we want to have an intern from a university attend this for training? But would that not take away from the dignity of that individual? What are their the soft landing opportunities? Like when we start a separation process? Should we say Hey, okay, we've made a business decision. Ultimately, this is gonna be your last day of employment with us. However, we're going to offer you job placement. We're going to extend your benefits. We're going to extend your pay through the end of the month. We're going to support you with counseling if you want it. All these like little additive things that we as an organization are going to do to try to get you through this process that process right. I think those are very important. Many times times when we're going to separate from an employee, we don't consider the planning process, you know, where's it going to happen? Is it going to happen on site? Should I do a pre screen of the room? Funny story. I was working with HR, and we were doing a separation with another individual. I was assisting from a consultative standpoint. And I said, Well, we should do a screening of the room, can we go see the room? She's like, why would we do that? I'm like, Well, you know, just take away any weapons. I want to know the room layout. You know, if there's a reason that we have to escape, you know, just good practical approaches, he's like, Okay, well, we'll go take a look at it. So he walked into the room, and they had a birthday, just before we were going to use this room. What do you think was in the room with the birthday cake? 12 inch butcher knife. Wow. Right. But there's other things that could be used, as, you know, implements someone who's very angry, you could do a lot of damage with a pen or pencil and just being aware of those environmental factors. And the potential for that person to act out would describe what you want to have in that room. There's other aspects, you know, when we're letting them go, are they going back into the building? Are they coming back after hours? Or what are we doing with their belongings? How are we going to coordinate that? What about trespassing? Essentially, the employee manual, or the employee handbook, as well as any policies and procedures would submit that once you're no longer part of the organization, if you don't come back, if you're here, without an appointment, you're considered trespassing. This is a great opportunity for police to be involved. As a first notice that they were notified that it'd be trespassing if they came back to the facility outside of a business purpose, or they were invited the location of the termination room, you know, picking the right, separate excuse and kept using termination, right, it's so easy to do separation, picking the right separation room where that individual, you know, close to the exterior, we don't want to do that in the center of the facility, right? We don't know what's going to happen from there. And then making that process, once it's, you know, quick into the point, exit them out of the facility, not let them we don't take breaks for bathrooms, we don't take let them go back their belongings. We don't let the individual talk with anybody before they're leaving. And what's the best day to you know, consider that separation is it Friday, where they can go home and brood about it all weekend. So there's just all this really good detail, in this document inclusive of a checklist that, you know, one of my peer reviewers put together. And she used the guide to prepare that checklist. And her name is Ashley heaven. And I would like to just shout out to the individuals that really helped me put this guide together. This is not my own perception. This is threat professionals, certified threat managers, some with doctorate degrees, and basically compiling this best practice to prevent an occurrence. And so other individuals are John Friedlaender, John winman, Matthew Spangenberg, Melissa Muir, who I already mentioned, Michelle Calhoun, Patrick Murphy, and Scott Morrow. We're really really great content here. For any organization, any manager or human resources, individual that is looking for guidance on how to prevent someone who may have a grievance acting on that grievance.

Travis  28:41  
Yeah, recognize a lot of the names that you mentioned. And I think for listeners, it's easy to understand as you talk about it, that there's so many small nuances from everything from the way that you're the way that you're talking to the person that separated to the room that you use, what's the size of the room? Where's the door? Where's the person going to sit? How are they going to feel when you invite them into this room? Are they going to feel like they're being interrogated, like they can't leave because the door is on the opposite side of the room. There's just so many small nuances. And I feel like that's why you need these types of checklists. Like for example, for anyone that ever flies aircraft, you have an entire checklist to go to before while you're on the outside of the plane. Another checklist once you get in another checklist for when you actually turn the plane on. I feel like these checklists for situations like this where you know, the consequences can literally be life and death. It's so important to use a checklist to guide you through the process, especially when it's these tasks that we do. Not very often. I mean, maybe in the current climate people will get more repetition so to speak, but really for the average manager, how many times are they letting someone go over the course of a year so I feel like guides like this and having a checklist to follow and as sequence to reference is just so helpful for walking you through the process mentally, before you even jump into it.

Sean  30:07  
I think the other thing that we talked about is scripting this. So don't really consider it but right, when you're presenting this information to an individual, if you're not comfortable doing so, and or you have a concern, script it, this is how I'm going to have the discussion go. I mean, you could even do a tabletop with individual and say, I want you to be aggressive towards me, so I'm prepared for this. Right. And, and using empathy, like, you know, I understand, you know, many people go through these types of issues in their careers, and I, myself have have had this happen to me, and I understand your, your concerns, and we're here to support you. But, you know, having a focus on the future, you know, these changes are part of professional life. And, you know, we experience them from time to time, and this shouldn't set you back, and we know that you're going to do really well in the future. And, and just don't consider this something that is is going to be a setback in your life, these kinds of things that are just they make a lot of sense. In many times when I'm dealing with managers, or HR professionals that want to terminate individuals, well, one, we don't like talking to people that are angry, right, we want to avoid it, too. We don't like uncomfortable conversations, and we want to get through them as quickly as possible. And it's these instances, we need to really spend the time and make sure that we're prepared to present this information. I'm not suggesting to you, you have a very elongated separation meeting that should be very short and to the point. But we need to be prepared for individuals that are trying to elongate the conversation or trying to say, Hey, this is, you know, is there anything I can do? The other aspect that I find is a failure in the separation Meetings is the point that they make a person a target. So for instance, in a termination or in separation meeting, you'd have an individual that says, you know, what's going on? Well, you know, what's going on, you harass Sally, and because of that Sally made a complaint. And, and because Sally identified this to us, we're acting on it. What does that do to Sally? Sally got a big target on it right now. Right? Everything should be focused on the policy, you have a policy and procedure. And it's almost like, I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do. My hands are tied, you violated this policy. And as a result of that policy infringement, we have to have this discussion. And unfortunately, today's your last day of employment, it's the policy, take the policy home, put it up on a wall, burn it, shoot it, whatever you want to do, but it's an inanimate object. And in some instances, when we're not prepared to have those discussions, we make we indirectly place targets on people's backs. I one story I did this workplace violence training for Human Resources Group. And, and we talked about in the guide. Also, we talked about some things that you can do after separation is specifically as it relates to someone who has exhibited anger in the meeting, or what have you have concerns. Many times, we don't do anything with this. And this is a perfect example of it. So this woman comes up to me afterwards. And she says, I enjoyed your presentation. I'm actually I actually have a current issue. I was wondering if I could discuss with you, certainly. And she says to me, she says, Well, I've this gentleman has called me and he's left multiple voicemails, and he's very angry on those voicemails. I don't know what to do. So why have you called them back? No. Why haven't you called me back? Because he's angry. Oh, I understand that. But we need to have he thinks you're kind of blown him off. Can you see his perception? Like, yeah, I could see that. And so I said to her, I said, Well, let's use a de escalation approach. I want you to call him back, I want you to tell him that, you know, I'm so sorry, couldn't get back to you. But my dog fluffy, she just died. And it's been really rough. It's been with me for my whole life. Right? So we put that perception, we take that psychological aspect, and there's nothing that doesn't say we can't lie to individuals, right to de escalate them. In this particular instance, she did what I told her to do. And she came back to me on the second day, and she said, I just want to let you know that I called him and I said, Well, how did it go? And she said, we had a really, really good conversation. And I said, Oh, great, what was what was the grievance about his Cobra benefits?

Travis  34:41  
Seems like an easy solution.

Sean  34:43  
This Aurora, Illinois shooting did not have to happen. What caused this if he was going to be separated? Why did we have individuals in this meeting that weren't part of the process? And we talked about that in the guide as well. Why did we call him in The day letting them know he's going to be terminated him work a full half day before we decide to have a discussion with him. Right? So it's those kinds of instances and what's the the issue about the safety glasses? What was his concern? Can we buy a different kind of say, get your head goggles? What can we do? How can we work with you? Because we want to maintain a safe environment, you got to wear the glasses, how do we go about doing this? Right? It was just very, you will do what I tell you to do. Right. And we just in that instance, in my opinion, we didn't maintain the dignity of that individual. I am, I certainly don't condone what this individual did. But I could see how these stressors created a scenario that did not have to be there.

Travis  35:47  
Right, it could have been such an easy fix with just addressing the issue at the root of the problem with the safety glasses. That's

Sean  35:54  
what determined with the separation process to we also discussed in the guide, which is just, you know, calling the person back. I mean, some of these organizations hire private investigators, and they try to find out what's going on with the individual or they come into the workplace, whatever, when you were literally just a phone call away from that individual. And what is that saying the individual, when you call up, hey, this is you know, human resources, the manager, I just wanna see how you're doing, how they're things going, is there anything I can do to help you? You know, apologize about what had happened in the policy infraction, but want to make sure you okay, what are we doing from that, as opposed to no communication? And moreover, when that person picks up the phone, if they're like, Yeah, what do you want, we kind of know what his mindset is, don't we. So there's no better way to identify if an individual is still got issues than to continue to reach out and communicate with that individual to ascertain their state of mind. And if the threat still is there,

Travis  36:54  
like both of these different actions paint such a different picture where one if the HR manager or whoever they are reaches out to you, and you're someone who's been involuntary, involuntarily separated, you almost feel like, oh, this person cares, this person has a sincere interest in seeing how I'm doing, compared to like, what could be at the other end of the spectrum, which is maybe the company hires a private investigator, because they're worried the person is going to act out violently. So now there's someone conducting surveillance on them for 24 hours a day. And I've I've worked in GE socks, where, like, these types of things are happening. And there are definitely instances where the person being surveilled, they like get the perception that they might be being followed, or surveilled. And then how do you think that makes them feel versus if the HR manager calls them and has a sincere interest in how they're doing versus now they're treating them? Like they're a criminal, essentially.

Sean  37:53  
And, and you get it right? We as security professionals get it when we see these things like you did? What? You, you fired everybody by zoom? Oh, well, that was great. Right? Again, these people want to get through these discussions very rapidly. They don't want to prolong this discussion, and ultimately, create some of these challenges that we see. And it's just, if you just think about it a little bit, you can see, oh, I could see how that would be beneficial. And that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to educate the masses to address these types of issues, and use proactive things that you may not have thought about, I mean, some really great minds that came together on this guide with all these different ideas and thoughts and what have you. And they're things that you don't have to think about. You have them you just read it like, Well, I'm gonna definitely use that I'm gonna use that. We got a little checklist in the back of it. This guide is one, if you download the guide, it's got a Word document, so you can adapt it to your own processes and procedures, how you see fit. We're just trying to put as much information as many tools, if you will, to help someone understand the potential for concern and or address that potential concern by maintaining the dignity of that individual to the greatest degree possible.

Travis  39:13  
Yeah, and it's not just tools. It's some of these other big ideas that could kind of help guide us like I think, I think you already mentioned it, but it's like, during those difficult conversations, just to keep the conversation future focused. It's not about rehashing what happened in the past or what happened previously. It's more like continuing to always bring the conversation back to this is what happened and we want to help you with the next steps going forward. So it's a lot of these like just big principles that can kind of guide you generally, even if you don't follow every step, every step that's outlined in the document.

Sean  39:49  
And I think that that scripting is also and just kind of doing a tabletop, you know, with your colleagues or whatever, helps you prepare for that. So you're more willing to take that and put the effort into it. And also, from a standpoint, when you do have that incident, like one of the issues that we found quite often is, they don't have a good way to stop the meeting, because they feel like they would be taking away the dignity of the individual that they don't care about it. And certainly, by doing that scripting and or just kind of walking through a table top on it, you can prepare yourself on what to do with a conversation that is taking too long, right, the separation meeting really should not be it should be very short and to the point. And then if you get tied up into this this time, you know, certainly they're crying and whatever say, Listen, I understand. Why don't you take some time, compose all your questions that you have, this doesn't need to be our final discussion. We're here for you. Please just compose your questions, you call me, I will clear my schedule to take a call with you. Or if you need to come back, happy to do that as well. But whenever you're ready to continue this conversation and answer those questions, I'll be here for you, right. But at this time, we're going to ask you to leave and then we'll we will re circle with you, at a later date. So much more positive than Hey, well, you need to get going now. Right? Because I don't know how to handle this situation, you won't leave. And I don't know what else to do another way be like, I am so sorry. I only have this room booked for 30 minutes, I didn't know this conversation was going to take so long. And I want to I want to give you that time. How about we recycle on this, you know, tomorrow at 2pm? or what have you. Right? So there's different ways to spin it. But while you're in the heat of the moment, sometimes if you don't have that a foreknowledge, it can be seen as negative.

Travis  42:00  
Yeah, if you don't have that plan ahead of time, it's easy for really, for things to just kind of get out of control and be completely unstructured. And you alluded to it a little bit already when it comes to remote and hybrid work. But can you give us some maybe some insights about involuntary separations when it comes to remote and hybrid workforces?

Sean  42:28  
So this guide doesn't necessarily touch on that I do have a little tiny paper that I put on LinkedIn that talks about, you know, best practices around remote termination, I think one of the big items is is that work computers are used for personal use as well. And how some of these organizations have been addressing this is that, you know, once the, the separation has occurred via video conference to, you know, up to 1000s of other individuals, we shut the computer off immediately. And that may not be the right approach. I mean, you have to kind of weigh that with some of your cyber and, you know, other policies and procedures that are out there. But we send the wrong message, you know, an individual can't get to their computer can't get access, can't communicate and can't talk to anybody. There might be instances where it might be beneficial for someone to call and be like, you know, as a support group, right? Oh, that happened to you, too. I happen to me, they just let me go to. Beyond that. I mean, when you do these mass riffs, these, you know, reductions in forces via Zoom is fairly callous, right? What have we done, we just created a threat assessment of not one or two individuals, but maybe hundreds 1000s. So I think that when organizations consider this when they're thinking they're going to do a reduction in force, they should be cognizant of, again, what that person is going through what they know, and what they don't know, as well as maintaining the dignity of that individual. Maybe there's a way to control access to specific systems, but still give them access to the hard drive the computer, you know, maybe you can lock the computer off the network, but they still can access the computer, they can access their personal files. I mean, it's a discussion that needs to be had because we're moving more and more to work at home conditions. But I think that there are certainly opportunities to minimize grievances by again, maintaining the dignity of an individual when they work work remotely. I mean, it should be said that, you know, when we see you know, workplace violence is predominantly you know, active shooter armed assailant or whatever is produced Just in the news in the media that happens around schools and universities and what have you. And that's not necessarily the case, the data showcases that many of these instances are occurring with those that are in a blue collar function, right? So this is really this guide is really tailored towards those types of environments where we might have one HR person that addresses 10, or 12 business units across multiple states, and managers are being, you know, tasked with making these this these separation decisions and actions. The need, don't necessarily even consider what's going on. I mean, still to this day, I've had instances where people are making faces, you know, threats, veiled threats by just staring someone down and manager say, What am I supposed to do tell them not to stare at them, like they blow it off, I think it's just a result, because they don't realize because it didn't happen to them. And because of that, we're just not prepared. So that's what we're hoping we're hoping to prepare. So we can help organizations understand, you know, the potential image and impact of this. You know, they say that, you know, workplace violence is much like a fire that the business will go, the business goes out the they go out of business within two years. And that's absolutely factual about what happened in Aurora, Illinois, two years later, that business folded. So there's more at stake than, you know, just an individual, the image and branding, exposure is so significant, and the costs for workplace violence and are so significant, that they just can't be calculated, it's worse than a fire. Because you don't know what happens to productivity, you don't know what happens, you know, insurance and, you know, direct and indirect costs. And I think organizations will be in a better place, having good formalized workplace violence policies. And I submit that involuntary separation should be one of those components.

Travis  47:15  
Oh, definitely, especially when there's so many aspects about what we talked about today, that are all proactive, everything from pre employment background screening, to the conversations that you have, with people that might be terminated, especially when you might be able to address some of these issues way before it gets the point of termination. And another thing that stands out, as you're talking about this, is that essentially, all the same principles that are here in this document, they all translate directly, whether whether it's remote work and hybrid work, essentially, it boils down to a lot of the same principles around treating people with dignity. And it really just putting yourself in their shoes and being as sincere as possible. And then before we wrap things up today, Shawn, are there any other ideas or thoughts that you wanted to share,

Sean  48:12  
I'm just going to leave your audience with some cliff notes that are from from our guide. And this is for the meeting. So when you're attending a separation meeting, you want to basically identify who's going to be part of that. Only related staff, and only staff that are supportive in the discussion. If you have a staff member or a manager that doesn't get along with the employee that has to be separated, it's probably not a good idea to have him in that meeting to create a trigger point. We want to avoid making it personal we don't want to mention other people in the decision process this is solely on based on an inanimate object, a policy and procedure, however, that suggests that an organization should have those policies and procedures. You want to refer to the reason for the separation and do not do not engage in attempts to make it personal, right? Don't let them say hey, how are you doing this to me what have you you want to stay positive. You want to maintain eye contact with them. But you want to do so you so you're not staring them down or making them feel uncomfortable? We want it body language is so very important. When we go into these meetings, we have to put ourselves in the mindset that we're going to be in constant check with our body as well as these unconscious facial expressions. Laughter smirks and then also be aware and cognizant of the other individuals body motions, grinding teeth, flush face throbbing arteries, clenched hands, these nonverbal cues are good indicators that At something he's very angry, or they're very angry, we should offer, you know, you have, you know, some water there and or some Kleenex. So if it becomes emotional, that you know that you've got those resources to, you know, support that the, when you're delivering the news, they should have everything you should have complete packet of information that identifies, you know, their Cobra benefits, you know, what you're going to do for them their policy procedure, the termination process, all those good stuff. And then certainly, we want to have, we want to follow our termination or separation checklists where, you know, collecting parking keys, tools, any computers, cards, or anything along those lines, right. And when we're doing involuntary separation, maybe we don't get the computer back. Maybe we just say, Hey, we're gonna send a refresh command, we're going to reset the computer, and it's our parting gift to you, you know, what have you. So you blow all the information off of it. And they can use that computer for their personal use after that, maybe that's an opportunity. Make sure they have access to EAP. Many people don't use the EAP program, employee assistance. So that's counseling and services and what have you, and determine if there is going to be an escort, how you're going to escort that individual out to the parking lot, or to the facility and try to do it under the auspices that you're helping them like, Let me carry your box. Let me let me help you with that, you know, make it look like they're not being escorted. But rather, you're being supportive in that discussion. Then finally, let's communicate. Let's tell people, let's tell other managers and what have you that hey, listen, you know, this individual is has left the organization we you know, we're parting were parting ways with them, and we wish them success. We don't want to get into gossip and conjecture where he might the person that's being separated, hears it from another Oh, yeah. Well, I heard you got separated because you yelled at blah, blah, blah, right? So give them that dignity. And then if you know, a manager is approached, and well, why would why is he like, oh, you know, there was a, there was a matter, he decided to move on to greener pastures. And maybe he took another job, we don't want it to be negative again, right? So we identify with the person that is being separated from the organization, how do you want us to communicate this that you decided to leave and you're going to a new company? Or do you want us to say that you were separated for a policy help Let them guide how it is portrayed. And the real reason only needs to be maintained by human resources and the managers, the other individuals don't need to know that. So some just quick tidbits for, you know, people that were listening and looking for, you know, I'm gonna get this meeting or what have you, but it's on the guide. And again, Travis, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to vocalize the importance. And my hope is that this can be a resource that is used more than not in the future. 

Travis 00:00
Of course, Shawn, I appreciate you sharing your time with me today. And this is such such an important topic because it really is life or death, how some organizations carry out their involuntary separations, and you touched on a lot of really good insights today to kind of give a snapshot of the overall document that you and the team created. So I highly encourage people to check it out. I'll have a link in the show notes, to read the full document. And I think, I think listeners will find it to be an excellent framework that gives them really like the process and the guiding principles that they need when it comes to involuntary terminations. And there's so many nuances that we don't necessarily think about if we're not like if we're not entrenched in like researching and studying this topic. So I think listeners will get a great deal of information out of it, and it'll be incredibly helpful. So, Shawn, I really do appreciate you sharing your time with me today and really walking us through walking us through this process. 

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