Reduce the Chances of Workplace Violence With Tactful Disciplinary Actions

Every year a few hundred people are murdered in American workplaces by disgruntled workers or former employees who come back to exact revenge for perceived or real slights, or poor treatment.

And while it’s impossible to tell when and if someone is going to snap, or whether they are carrying a concealed weapon, there are steps employers can take to minimize the chances of someone taking the final step that can lead to violence or the ultimate tragedy.

The law firm of Ohio-based Dunlevey, Mahan and Furry in a recent blog suggested reconsidering how you handle certain confrontations, like disciplining or firing an employee.

Unfortunately, many people are fragile these days and they have stresses both in and outside of the workplace you likely don’t know about. So if you have to discipline someone, you should treat them with dignity.

The key to dealing with disciplinary and termination meetings is planning ahead and not leaving anything to chance.

The law firm recommends:

  • When firing someone, have two employer representatives present in the room.
  • Do not humiliate or embarrass the worker.
  • Avoid escorting the employee out of the office in front of co-workers. Don’t make them do the walk of shame.
  • When disciplining an employee, do so in private and not in front of others. Be compassionate and keep it respectful.
  • If you are genuinely concerned about the possibility of a violent reaction, consider bringing in professional help like security or police.
  • Eliminate the employee’s access to keys and passcodes.
  • Deal with conflicts promptly, and from the moment they begin. Harassment and violence stem from unresolved conflicts that fester. They can degenerate and turn the workplace into a hostile environment and lead to violence.
  • Don’t surprise someone with a termination. They should know in advance that their performance is not up to par and understand that their job is on the line. That means:
    • Explaining, documenting and discussing poor performance.
    • Addressing issues as they arise.
    • Giving everyone a legitimate chance to improve.
    • Confronting an employee if they are failing.
    • Letting someone know their job is on the line due to their performance or other reasons.


Don’t allow managers to give good ratings to poor performers, and ensure that poor performance is documented and discussed as it arises. Don’t wait for annual reviews.