Negative feelings can take over when employees lose their positions through a firing or unavoidable layoff, including anger. Even if your management team took extra care when terminating employment, a former worker may become disgruntled and lash out publicly on social media, television or radio interviews, and other outlets to make their voice heard. 

What can you do to protect your company and diffuse these volatile situations? Read on to learn more about the damage your brand could suffer and some helpful strategies to mitigate this risk.

The Toll That Disgruntled Ex-Employees Can Take

If you have ever had to terminate an employee, you are well aware of how emotionally charged the situation can be. Social media and online review sites have given workers a sounding board to share their employment experiences and even harass former employers. 

The impact on your reputation and brand image can be devastating when angry individuals complain about your services or products. When you receive disparaging media coverage of employment practices, this can deter customers and significantly narrow your talent pool. 

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As a business owner trying to run a thriving company in an already competitive marketplace, what options do you have? Fortunately, several approaches can reduce an ex-employee’s impact on your business and potentially resolve their ill feelings.

Tips For Handling a Disgruntled Ex-Employee

Have you found your company name mentioned on several websites giving angry opinions about how you treat your staff? Or have you been accused of unfairly firing an employee? Here are five ways you can take control of the situation and mitigate damage to your company’s good name.

Be Empathetic and Discreet 

Many employees who get fired or laid off from a career they worked hard to get initially suffer from a state of shock. This is often quickly followed by anger and shame, so try to take a sensitive approach when making adverse employment decisions. 

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Privacy is important to prevent your staffer from suffering humiliation or embarrassment in front of their colleagues. Be sympathetic to the uncertainty they will face because they no longer work for your company. By avoiding public embarrassment and keeping the details of their termination private, you will also protect your reputation for being a considerate employer.

Also, reconsider having ex-employees escorted out of the building as a standard policy. Doing so adds further insult to injury and gives the impression of wrongdoing when it may just be a matter of work style or personality. Only take this step if a legitimate threat exists to the calm and safety of your office.

Keep Detailed Documentation

There are several ways that an ex-employee could bring a lawsuit against your company for letting them go. Accusations of employment discrimination, unlawful firing, workplace harassment, and labor law violations are just a few that businesses face. In the court of public opinion, just an allegation of these unfair workplace practices could permanently damage your brand’s reputation. 

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This is why detailed employment documentation is crucial from the moment workers apply to join your organization to the day they depart. Meeting records, any warnings, filed grievances, on-the-job injuries, and other significant events in their career should be kept on file. Doing so makes it easier to quash accusations fueled by emotion and not facts. 

Often, when confronted with this evidence, lawsuits get withdrawn or dismissed, though you still may have some reputational damage to mitigate. 

Carry Adequate Business Insurance

Sometimes, going to court is unavoidable when an ex-employee has the determination to drag out their dispute with your company. Unfortunately, your business owner’s policy (BOP) typically doesn’t cover situations involving discrimination or workplace injury claims. This means you are the one shouldering the entire cost of defending your good name. 

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Having the right coverage can prevent wasting thousands of hard-earned dollars fighting false allegations and harassment by a former team member. For example, if an ex-employee claims they were hurt on the job and your company won’t pay for their injuries, your worker’s comp policy can address this. 

This insurance is required by most states in the U.S. and covers a wide range of costs related to workplace accidents, including:

  • Accident-related medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Accidental death
  • Dismemberment 
  • Defense costs against negligence claims

As you can see, workers’ compensation insurance costs are well worth the investment. However, if an angry former employee is slandering your company, a defamation policy can cover the cost of bringing a suit for damages against them. 

Keep Tabs On Social Media and Reviews

The anonymity of the internet is one of its most valuable and frustrating features. When an angry employee leaves negative reviews about your company on social media and review sites like Glassdoor or Indeed, it can hurt your talent pool and hurt networking opportunities. Fortunately, you can contest untrue, harmful feedback on most sites, though it can take a few days to complete. 

Have a Conversation with Your Disgruntled Ex-Employee

A simple acknowledgment and listening ear can go a long way to diffuse a contentious situation with angry ex-employees. Avoid having the manager who fired or laid the worker off be the person making that call, though. Instead, leave this to HR leadership or upper management to reach out and discuss the grievances that need airing out with the upset individual. 

Showing empathy for the hurt and anxiety caused by their lack of employment can help avoid further outbursts and protect your company’s public image. Of course, some employees won’t be affected by this effort, but it’s an important step before pursuing legal action to make them stop their abusive behavior.