On The Road With Athos: HR's Perspective On Employee Termination
Jul 19, 2018
Last year, at the ASIS annual conference in Dallas, I presented a training session entitled “Conducting a Safe Employee Termination.”The presentation detailed considerations for conducting all terminations and particularly those deemed to be “high risk.”
I shared several experiences from my years in corporate security for two large, international companies, where HR business partners had either failed to contact me regarding high risk terminations or had contacted me too late to be of any assistance.
As a result of similar stories being shared by participants, I conducted an unscientific survey. I asked for a “show of hands” from the 150 security professionals present by those who had experienced similar problems with HR coordination. Almost every attendee raised a hand.
Although I had been frustrated by HR’s unwillingness to coordinate these events, I had no idea this was so pervasive.
We discussed the matter at length and I offered several possible explanations, including HR’s focus on privacy, their haste to complete these difficult events, and sympathy for the employee they were terminating. While my explanations made sense to me and those present, I left the conference concerned, and curious.
I knew I needed answers, and the only place I could get them was from HR professionals themselves.
I contacted the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 285,000 members,” and arranged to provide a 4-hour workshop at their 2018 conference in Chicago.
At the Saturday afternoon workshop, entitled “Workplace Violence Prevention: Conducting a Safe Employee Termination,” as we discussed in great detail the planning and advisement of employee terminations, I told the participants about my survey at ASIS.
Despite their obvious interest in the topic and attentiveness, none of the participants expressed surprise that the HR-Security gap was so common.
But why do they fail to include corporate security resources in an event that can go so wrong?
They politely affirmed my “Privacy-Haste-Sympathy” hypothesis but struggled to identify others.
During discussion, the participants offered comments such as: “HR has to do it all and may not have security resources on hand;” “We have never had anything go wrong during terminations;” and “We don’t typically consider the worst-case scenario.”
The group seemed unanimously unaware of the role played by security professionals and the potential risk of involuntary terminations.
In fact, none were aware that ASIS and SHRM had issued a joint standard on workplace violence that also addressed employee termination.
I believed that by speaking at SHRM I could reduce the likelihood of workplace violence resulting from involuntary terminations by providing useful prevention and response strategies to the HR professionals present. Using these newfound tools, my hope was that HR professionals would include professional security personnel in their terminations.
If I could give them security’s perspective, they will become more collaborative and cooperative, and less likely to “go it alone.”
The group was professional, affirming, and asked relevant questions throughout the afternoon. I believe they left the session with useful information on the safest way to plan and conduct terminations.
But did they leave the conference committed to changing how they conduct them? I don’t know, but I don’t think so.
I suspect that many, if not most, will continue to do things the same way, relying on “hope” as their security strategy.
The gap between HR and Security is wider than I had suspected.
Security professionals will have to continue to vigorously seek cooperative relationships and processes. Unfortunately, significant behavior change may require more tragedy.
At Athos, we are committed to continuing the discussion and providing security solutions to clients on both sides of the divide.