Disturbing reminder for HR

Now matter how well you prepare, bad things can happen to good organizations
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/06/2014

Shockwaves are still rippling through the human resources community in the wake of the stabbing of four workers — three of them apparently HR professionals — at a Ceridian office in Toronto last month.

The April 9 attack happened as the accused, 47-year-old Chuang Li, was being terminated from his job at Ceridian, according to Toronto police.

“He was being fired and I guess then he proceeded to get involved in stabbing some of his bosses and some other employees,” said Det. Daniel Darnbrough.

Li is facing three counts of attempted murder, four counts of aggravated assault and four counts of assault with a weapon.

Thankfully, it looks like all of the victims will recover, so that’s one thing we can be grateful for as we keep our colleagues and friends at Ceridian in our thoughts.

In the wake of the attack, the editorial team gathered here at Canadian HR Reporter to discuss how to cover this story. Two questions came immediately to my mind:

Question 1: Does the process for handling terminations need a rethink?

Question 2: What are the warning signs employers should look for that an individual may become enraged or even violent during the termination meeting?

Liz Bernier, our news editor, tackled those questions in her cover story. See “Termination nightmare: Stabbing rampage raises unsettling questions,” page 1. Another key question surrounding this story — how to return to normal in the wake of a violent workplace incident — was tackled in the April 7 issue in a story we did on the aftermath of a double murder at a Loblaw grocery warehouse in Edmonton. (You can read that story on www.hrreporter.com.)

Lauren Chesney, an HR professional at OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) in Toronto — who used to work with us here at Canadian HR Reporter — was, like many professionals, taken aback by the violence. She offered to write a commentary for us and you can read her take on page 22. It’s an excellent rundown that she put together in conjunction with her father, a police officer in Scotland.

From what details we know to date, it appears as if the termination of Li was following a pretty standard HR script used by countless organizations and professionals.

The worker was separated from his co-workers and called into a meeting. The meeting may have even been held in the HR department, which puts it on neutral ground — always a good move in my books.

There were multiple people present, including HR professionals who are well-versed in employee terminations and more likely to “stick to the script,” so to speak — avoiding inflammatory language, pointing fingers and other antics that can stir tempers.

Of course, we don’t yet know what actually happened in that room — other than things went horribly wrong. Those details will likely come out at trial.

We don’t have a lot of answers yet, just a lot of questions and a disturbing reminder that no matter how prepared you are or how strong a practice might be, bad things sometimes happen and there is almost nothing you can do to completely eliminate the risk.

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On a happier note, Canadian HR Reporter has set up its own Linked-In Group. This will be a forum for our readers to discuss articles in the publication, challenges they are facing in their own organizations and a place to share best practice advice.

If you’re on LinkedIn — and, really, every HR professional should be — please take a moment to join our group. We’d love to have you join the conversation. The awkward direct link iswww.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=7495430 or you can simply search for “Canadian HR Reporter.” See you on LinkedIn!

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