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The dangerous side of termination meetings

Ceridian attacker found not criminally responsible for his actions

By Todd Humber

Mental health in the workplace is not only a complicated and costly problem for employers, it also has the potential to be a dangerous one.

We got a grim reminder of that in April 2014 when Chuang Li, an employee at Ceridian, went on a stabbing rampage during a termination meeting. In a Canadian Press article posted on Canadian HR Reporter’s website this week, the disturbing events of the day are outlined.

“Ceridian decided to end Li's employment on April 9, 2014, and he was called into the office of (a) human resources manager …  where (a senior manager) began reviewing Li's performance issues.

“Li began to hurl expletives and then pulled out his pocket knife, court heard.

“His trial heard he began to stab (the senior manager and the HR manager). When (the HR manager)  was cornered in a hallway, Li slashed her face and hands and stabbed her in the stomach, and then went after (the senior manager), court heard.

Another manager… who tried to intervene, received a stab wound on his head.

Another worker saw the commotion and kicked Li, who charged at him, stabbing him in the arm.

Li eventually ended up standing over (the senior manager), who he continued to stab, before an employee who spoke Mandarin convinced Li to surrender his knife, court heard.”

That’s a real nightmare scenario for HR.

The court ruled Li was not criminally responsible for his actions, and testimony described how he had difficulty maintaining stable employment (12 jobs in a six year span). His wife said Li said “very funny things” about the people he worked with and said an “organization” was trying to “set him up.”

Fortunately, violent incidents like this remain rare — mental health problems do not usually morph into violence. But it serves as a reminder that managers, HR professionals and front-line employees need to be vigilant. If there are warning signs, they need to be reported and followed up on with a view to helping the individual in crisis.

It also serves as a reminder just how difficult termination meetings can be. One of the most interesting articles we ran in the aftermath of this violent incident was written by Lauren Chesney, a former Canadian HR Reporter staffer and an HR professional, who offered her advice on best practices during termination meetings — such as ensuring the employee isn’t between you and the door, and that you sit in a chair with wheels so you can push yourself quickly away in case something bad happens.

You can read her advice here, titled “Consider your safety in terminations.”


© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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