Safety in Terminations: Minimize the Risks

When preparing to conduct a termination meeting, the most dangerous thing you as an employer could do, is to underestimate the possibility of a violent incident occurring. The nature of the meeting requires a level of heightened alert during the termination discussion, because despite your research, you never know how the departing employee may react.

Here are some tips to help you minimize the risks associated with conducting a termination meeting:

  • Read the employee file thoroughly, review any coaching notes or employee relation files; does he/she have a history of aggressive or unpredictable behavior?


  • Conduct the termination in a meeting room in the vicinity of the rest of your HR team or at least where there is some foot traffic. Ensure that a trusted member of the HR team is aware that you will be conducting a termination, along with the location and time it is planned to commence.  Have someone from the HR team walk past the meeting room periodically. Plan your exit strategically if the meeting escalates to a critical nature.


  • Plan where everyone—the HR manager, you, and the departing employee—is going to sit. Ensure that the departing employee is not positioned in a way that blocks your exit. Sit across from the employee, in close proximity to the door.


  • Choose chairs with safety in mind. Consider having you and the HR manager sitting on swivel chairs with wheels, and the employee on a stationary chair, so that you can quickly push away from the table and depart from the room if needed.


  • Help defuse negative emotions by extending an offer in helping the employee figure out how to communicate the news to his/her family.


After the termination meeting, document any notable aspects of the meeting. Lastly, remember to stay alert when entering and leaving the building at work.