Emotions are at its worst within the first few hours of receiving the news of a layoff or on the news of being fired. It is at this point that some violent or self-destructive emotions can arise in a person.
Many people are highly stressed in the current economic turmoil; financial tensions, losing their houses already puts enough mental pressure on many in the world these days and when the brutal strike comes if this person loses his/her job – there is a high probability that such tremendous mental and financial tension could result in a negative outburst and violence. Not that most of us react in similar way but sure enough the instances are increasing.

  • In September this year fired Indian workers lynched CEO. Corporate India is in shock after a mob of workers bludgeoned to death the chief executive who sacked them from a factory in a suburb of Delhi.
  • Another recent tragic and shocking killing at SiPort by an employee fired the same day of the killing brings forth some frightful workplace scenarios, especially when the world economy takes on a nosedive every other week and the layoffs are on the rise.
  • In April 2007, a gunman shot a hostage and himself at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the reason was stated to be a bad performance review that may have sparked the shooting.

While these are some highly publicized incidents, I was indeed surprised to read a report at the ABC 7 online where Garry Mathiason is a senior partner with Littler Mendalson, the nation’s leading labor law firm, says that there are about 700 workplace homicides each year.

Some serious training must go in for the HR and upper management personnel to carefully analyze how employees must be notified of layoffs and firing. The financial tensions are high everywhere and the best bet would be to use your best people’s skills to empathize with those being terminated from the company and also do their best to protect those in such a decision-making process.
Management must display emotional intelligence in handling such situations (layoffs, downsizing, firing) which they are facing and would be facing over the next year or more. It could be a tough year for most companies who have to layoff the workforce due to the economic downturn and in their list of things to do to maintain stability of their shares and meeting expectations, another item must be added: how to handle emotional situations at the workplace and pay special attention in managing those in the layoff – paying more emphasis being compassionate and coming up with a well-managed post-layoff package/assistance.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a some very informative documents and fact sheets available on their website, of the many there is a Workplace Violence fact sheet which talks about how employees can protect themselves from workplace violence and what the employers must do in case of one.

Train your Brain Against Violent Actions
If you are someone who has a history of violent or aggressive behavior when a tense situation confronts you then perhaps these tips can help you train your brain. If you prepare yourself (train your brain) to react in certain ways to any particular situation, chances are your brain will recall and act accordingly.

  • You will not take any immediate actions, such as shouting back, throwing things or hurting yourself or others if you feel a surge in negative emotions right after hearing news of either layoff, firing or accusations. According to Charminghealth.com one can easily recognize any of the warning signs for violent behavior; however violence is not the answer; by hurting others one have to live with the guilt, sadness and frustration throughout the life. Before getting violent, everyone feels anger in his or her own way. When one feels he or she is angry, they probably feel:
    — Muscle tension
    — Accelerated heartbeat
    — A “knot” or “butterflies” in stomach
    — Changes in breathing
    — Trembling
    — Clenching fists
    — Goose bumps
    — Voice sounds louder
    — Flushed in the face


  • Do not go firing off an email to all colleagues or staff venting off negative thoughts for someone or the company. It can only harm your career and relations with the management. Remember that it is a small world and often references are taken before you are offered a new job. Do not jeopardize your career by reacting through any unethical actions.
  • Now what you must do could vary from one person to another but I would suggest that just take in the situation calmly, and give yourself a few minutes or hours before you react in any way – it could be just getting ready to say goodbye to work, or trying to set up a meeting with the HR/Management to discuss your layoff package (if not already presented to you) or writing your goodbye email. You may or may not want to discuss this with your friends or family and that is perfectly alright, all you must train your brain is not to react in haste when feeling a surge of negative emotion. Give yourself time to calm off before doing anything. Count to 100, drink a glass of cold water, walk outside or breathe deeply for 5 minutes…. Whatever that helps you. And train yourself to such reactions now and you will be surprised your brain will do accordingly under those circumstances. There are some other tips on How to Deal with a Layoff which you may find helpful.

You must try your best to say goodbye to work in a decent way. Don’t let the ghosts of ill-behavior at the signing-off time haunt your career in future.