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Handling Disgruntled Employees and Keeping The Workplace Safe

Just like any relationship, the employer – employee relationship is delicate and has the potential of ending badly; it requires the soft touch and a stroke of genius to manage these separations gracefully. It is easy for an ex-employee to create a ruckus when they are laid off. It can be a PR nightmare when a former employee starts bad-mouthing the business online or offline, calling the office repeatedly, or even showing up in-person to cause issues. It demeans the company, its management, and its employees. Terminating or letting the employees go is really stressful and might require some skillful hands.

The first line of defense to manage or avoid such scenarios is the Human Resources department. Proactive assessment of future troubles is hard to ascertain but HR should always perform detailed background checks of their potential employee’s past jobs, their behavior both while on the job and after leaving the organization. These checks can last for almost three to six weeks but play a major role in identifying potential threats before they become a direct concern.

Even though the reason might be right enough to let an employee go and the company might have valid arguments to prove the case in the court of law, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a clean image for the company in the public’s eye, once a conflict arises. The actions may be conceived by the public in different dimensions and hence, it is necessary to have a clear and concise strategy to implement the action safely. Preventive measures are always advised.

Data leakage by disgruntled employees is also a very real problem. Employees, while leaving, often try to take confidential and highly valuable data for malicious intent or financial gain. A study conducted by Ipswitch, a Massachusetts based provider of file transfer solutions, showed that:

  • Forty percent of employees admit to using personal email to send sensitive information to themselves secretively.
  • More than 25% send proprietary data to their personal email accounts so that they can use that information at their next place of employment.
  • Nearly 50% of employees send classified information via standard email weekly, putting payroll info, social security numbers, and financial data at risk.
  • Forty-one percent of IT executives use their personal external storage devices to make copies of data.

It is critical that employees only have access to what they should have access to; an ex-employee’s orphaned account should not remain open and accessible after they leave the organization.

How to handle disgruntled employees, here are some Do’s and Don’ts that can be helpful:

Don’t Drop Everything for One Ex-Employee

Don’t let their claims take all your energy, efforts, and your management’s attention. Assign a person to handle the situation, so others can continue with their work.

Keep Calm and Stay Professional

Discrediting the ex-employee or sharing juicy stories seems like a viable retaliation, but it could indeed prove to be bad; studies have shown badmouthing someone has a boomerang effect making the tale-teller look bad. Thus, it’s important to maintain your cool and stay professional.

Bullying for Submission May Have Severe Consequences

Just because he/she is an individual against the might of a company, bullying them into submission can have repercussions. Let’s take the case of an Ex-Tesla employee Martin who claims the company intimidated and harassed him after he was fired, under allegations that he is a hacker and has transferred secret information to third parties. This has caused company goodwill, forming some negative perception among its employees that the company harasses its ex-employees.

Just Being Legally Right Is Not Enough

Last month Home Depot fired their staff member Maurice Rucker, a 60-year-old black man after he reacted to an irate customer who hurled racist expletives at him. He was fired because he failed to follow the protocol “disengage and alert management about a customer confrontation”. It doesn’t matter if the company had proper grounds for his termination, the truth is that Home Depot has been facing serious boycott issues from the thousands of angry supporters of Maurice Rucker. Your bylaws and legal arguments may be enough for the court of security law, but it is not necessarily enough when it comes to public opinion.

A Small Gesture Goes a Long Way

A slight concession makes you look empathetic and generous. Loose some battles to win the war, let them win something in a small way, it makes the situation deescalate faster.

Be Quick to Respond to Rumors and Keep Moving Ahead:

Rumors have a way of feeding the frenzy, slurs should be pacified with an accurate and persuasive response. The response should be able to explain the counter-narrative without repeating the insult. It is also important to keep moving ahead – don’t let this clog your wheels, it becomes more essential to keep them turning. Make announcements and plans for the future, restoring the status quo and bringing back things to normal.

And finally, Learn, Adapt and Overcome. Facing such scenarios are inevitable for any business – some terminations will be sour – it comes to learning what needs to be learned and fixing what needs to be fixed, to avoid any problems in the future of similar nature.

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