Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

A few years back, I had the pleasure of meeting Eugene Rugala, who at the time was the Supervisory Special Agent for the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime for the FBI. Gene and I worked on a number of projects together and also analyzed domestic violence homicides. Gene’s division went on to do a formalized study. The results were fairly predictable and solidified what we thought to be true…The homicide generally occurred directly AFTER separating from the abuser. Thus, we know that during the separation the victim enters a dangerous zone.

The first question that should be asked in a preliminary risk assessment is “Have you told the abuser that you intend to leave this relationship or have you already curtailed it”? It is a well-known fact that in most domestic violence homicides the victim had either recently communicated to the perpetrator that the relationship was at an end or had already terminated the relationship. If the answer to this question is “yes,” the employer will know that the victim will be entering (or already has entered) a potentially very dangerous situation. It is imperative that the employer work with the victim to devise a safety plan for home and for work while looking for ways to adjust the victim’s work schedule and/or workload to ensure that the individual is protected arriving to and leaving from work, as well as during work hours.

We often try to encourage individuals who are in abusive relationships to leave. However, we know that when they do leave, they may be placing themselves at great risk. Thus, it is imperative that they consult with a domestic violence advocate to obtain professional counseling, support, and guidance through the break up period.

Do these same principles apply for “breaking up with an employee” (i.e. termination)? Stay tuned for a future blog on safe and thoughtful ways to terminate employees.