Letting a staff member go is never a happy moment in any manager’s career (depending on who it is being let go of course).

Whether it’s a result of redundancies or dismissal — taking away a person’s ability to feed and shelter themselves and their family is not a decision that can be taken lightly.

It’s therefore important to be prepared for the fact that some staff may choose not to go quietly in a dignified manner.

Here at The W1nners’ club we have first hand experience of trying to eject recently dismissed staff from the building that were less than enthusiastic about being invited to leave — with one freelance web developer eventually taking hostages when we told him he was surplus to requirements. We are therefore well placed to provide you with the following advice on how to deal with a hostage incident in your office.

Let’s just hope you never need it!

1. Get an idea of the ex-staff member’s reason for taking hostages

Different staff members have different reasons for deciding that holding up the office they used to work in is a good idea. Some may just want their old job back and may be prepared to negotiate. Others however — usually people that work in the finance department, tend to have less logical reasons for taking captives and the fact that they are usually known as quiet types often makes it all the more difficult to assess their mental state. The thing to remember is that people who work in the finance department tend to spend their entire day looking at spreadsheets so on that basis anything is possible!

2. Try to negotiate

Hostage taking, kidnapping and hostage barricade situations call for negotiation where possible. Whilst it may be disconcerting to see an ex staff member holding up half the office with nothing more than a steaming kettle and a fountain pen; if they are demanding money, reinstatement, or access to the media, you will be in a position to negotiate with them.

3. Be patient

The first hour of a hostage incident is the most dangerous for hostages as your ex-colleague will be extremely aggressive and nervous. He may have just lost a £45k a year basic salary with gym membership and BUPA cover, so it’s important to treat the situation with kid gloves.

4. Select your negotiator carefully

You may have been out once or twice with the hostage taker and he may recall the time you both ended up at Madame Aphrodite’s massage parlour in Soho one evening after the office Christmas party. If that is the case, you will not be the best person to make strategic decisions as you could be unduly influenced by threats to inform your partner of the real reason you came home at 5am that night. The best thing to do is to get one of the company directors involved so that they have the ultimate say if and when negotiations proceed.

5. Look for key psychological moments to achieve a settlement

The ex-employee may start to discuss things with you that are beyond the actual hostage situation itself. He or she may express regret at their actions or may even ask you if they can still have a reference when the crisis is over. This is the moment when it may be possible to conclude the negotiation.

6. If a settlement looks unlikely, keep them occupied

Unfortunately, it may transpire that (a) there’s no way you would want to rehire someone that has taken hostages in your office and (b) upon offering the hijacker a transfer to another department in the company, his or her response is simply to ask you if you would ever want to work there (usually it’s the warehouse) — your aim is no longer to reach an agreement, but to prepare the ground for an assault by a Special Forces S.W.A.T. team. Your role now is to try to gather as much information as possible to try to exhaust the ex-employee and hopefully get him or her to accept a sandwich from the canteen that has a listening device hidden inside it.

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