03 Oct What to do when employees turn violent?
How would you handle it if an employee threatens to do something violent, or worse, acts out their violent threats?
Imagine this scenario. You are at the tail end of a disciplinary process and you have deliberated that the employee’s violation indeed merits termination. So you prepare the notice of termination complete with citations and you serve it. You’re a bit nervous because the employee has a history of violence.
In fact, the violation which broke the camel’s back was when he challenged his supervisor to a fight in the company parking lot. You’re worried how he would react to you serving the Notice of Termination.
You’re a bit nervous because the employee has a history of violence. In fact, the violation which broke the camel’s back was when he challenged his supervisor to a fight in the company parking lot. You’re worried how he would react to you serving the Notice of Termination.
So the following day, you feel that you have to confront him at some point. You summon him to your office and hand him the letter. Upon reading the letter, his face turns red, crumples the paper in his hands, and throws it across the table back to you. He then storms out your office and slams the door.
The filing cabinet in your office nearly tips over from the force of the door slamming. “Well, it could have been a lot worse,” you say to yourself. Little did you know that things were about to heat up.
The following day, your floor supervisor rushes in your office and shouts,”Sir, come with me. You have to see this!”
You follow him thru the office hallways into the factory floor. The scene that greets you is the last thing you expected. The terminated employee is sitting in his workstation on the factory floor. He is surrounded by his immediate supervisor and security personnel.
“What happened here? Didn’t I tell you guys that he was terminated yesterday? Why is he on the work floor?” Sheepishly, the security guard nearest you comes forward and starts explaining. “The security at the front door was informed that he is prohibited from entering the premises, but since the employee was a huge fellow, he overpowered the guards who tried to stop him.
He then proceeded to his table. His supervisor has been trying to talk him into leaving peacefully, but nothing’s happening.”
You ask them, “What did he say when his supervisor asked him to leave?” The security guard says, “The employee said there will be trouble if we force him out. He said that since he did not accept the termination letter yesterday, that means he is still employed and that’s why he is at work right now.”
Of course, you know that mere refusal to receive the Notice of Termination does not invalidate it legally, but you see that there is a real danger here if the employee decides to lash out. It would take more security guards to take him down, and there is sensitive equipment on the factory floor which can be damaged in the process.
You’re now at a stand-off. What do you do?
Crossing the line
There comes a point where the matter transforms from a mere labor and employment matter into a potential criminal matter. The employee was free to interpret the service of the Notice of Termination any way he wanted. That was his right. However, I have a problem with how that belief was acted out in the real world.
The moment he sought to stay in the premises where he wasn’t welcome, he crossed the line from things being a mere labor and employment matter into a possible illegal trespassing charge (depending on the situation). Legally speaking, from the time the rightful representatives of the company asked him to leave the premises, he was in breach of the ownership rights of the company. He was committing a crime.
Take the lesson from this situation. Learn to recognize when a matter has transgressed from a mere labor issue into a criminal matter. Here are some possible combinations which may occur.
- Are you being threatened? – This could fall under Grave Threats (Article 282, Revised Penal Code).
- Is bodily harm or damage to property imminent or committed against you? This could be Grave Threats (see above) or Physical Injuries (Article 263, 265 or 266, Revised Penal Code, depending on the extent of the injuries).
- Are people staying in places where they are not supposed to be? This could be trespassing (Article 280, Revised Penal Code).
As you can see, the kind of criminal case depends on what happened. Each case has to be judged based on their respective circumstances.
So what do you do?
Once there is the possibility of a criminal matter within the workplace, the prudent thing to do is to call in people who are specifically tasked with stopping criminal behavior. Yes, that’s right, you call for law enforcement. That could be the Police or the Barangay (whichever you feel more comfortable calling).
In the situation presented, the fact that there is a difference in the interpretation of whether the employee was already terminated is not the point. The point is that he is forcing himself into the premises in which he is no longer welcome and he is disrupting your operations. That is a possible case for trespassing or unjust vexation, and it is a matter for the police to handle.
What’s the lesson here? Learn to distinguish when the matter is still employment or HR based or whether it has graduated into a criminal case so you can act accordingly.
But can’t I just kick him out myself?
I would advise against forcing the employee out at this point. What if the situation erupts into violence and you end up injuring the employee? The tables might be turned against you and you may be charged with Physical Injuries. Compare this with the situation where the Police themselves will serve as witnesses for you because they are on the scene.
Isn’t calling the police a little excessive? What if they say I’m O.A. (overacting)?
Would you rather risk being called O.A. or be branded as the manager who beat up an employee to kick him out? Or if you fail to make him leave, would you prefer to be known as the spineless manager who can’t even enforce the rules in your own backyard?
The truth of the matter is that this isn’t a situation that you have full control over, and therefore, you may need support. After you’ve tried diplomacy and talking it out, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There are 2 takeaways from this post:
First, be wise enough to recognize when a situation has crossed the line from a mere administrative or employment-related matter into a possible criminal matter.
Second, err on the side of caution. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from the relevant officials. Better to be safe than sorry.
Hope this post gives you an idea of how to deal with employees who turn violent. Be sure to spread this among your team so they know how to prevent potentially violent situations from escalating.