As a business owner, you want all employees to leave your company on good terms. However, this isn’t always the case, and negative emotions can take over when workers lose their jobs if they are made redundant or dismissed for misconduct.

These emotions can manifest as anger, causing ex-employees to lash out at their former employer through unacceptable behaviour such as online reviews or threats. 

Angry ex-employees can negatively impact your workplace productivity and business reputation, but what can you do?

Employers may encounter disgruntled ex-employees at some point in their careers, typically after dismissing a staff member due to poor performance or an incident.

There are various reasons why an employer may need to dismiss an employee, which include:

  • Gross Misconduct
  • Low Productivity
  • Capability
  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Statutory Restrictions,
  • There is some other substantial reason.

It is important to ensure that the reason does not constitute unfair dismissal to avoid facing an employment tribunal. 

Though an employee leaving may seem like the best step for a business, it can lead to problems if not handled correctly Disgruntled employees, both current and former, can cause disruptions that negatively impact business productivity and, in severe cases, may require legal action.

When an employee is terminated, they may feel upset or resentful, leading them to lash out and harm a company’s reputation. In some cases, this may even result in false claims of misconduct, which can be legally classified as defamation. 

What Is Defamation?

Defamation falls into two areas:

  • Libel: This refers to written or recorded statements that have a sense of permanence, such as blog posts, articles, social media posts, videos, or audio recordings.
  • Slander: This refers to spoken forms of defamation. 

For a business to file a defamation lawsuit, they must follow the guidelines outlined in the Defamation Act of 2013. This requires the business to prove that the defamatory statement has caused serious harm to the reputation of the business and may result in a significant financial loss. 

You may not want to take this route but still want them to stop, so what can you do now?

Dealing With Disgruntled Ex-Employees: 

Tips to Protect Your Business: Be aware of the potential harm that ex-employees may cause to your business. They could: Post negative reviews or comments online. Harass current employees or management. Contact clients or customers. Make accusations or spread rumours. Discourage future employees from joining your team. To mitigate the risk of damage to your business, it’s crucial to handle the situation with care. 

Plan Your Offboarding Process for a ‘good leaver’

A well-planned offboarding process is key to ensuring that employees leave on a positive note. Having a clear plan in place ensures consistency and ensures that all necessary procedures are followed. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and hard feelings, leaving the ex-employee with a good impression of your business

Conduct Exit Interviews

Exit interviews are an excellent opportunity for employees to voice their concerns before leaving the company. As an employer, it’s a chance to identify areas of improvement and address any issues that could have led to the employee’s departure. By listening to feedback and making changes where necessary, you can help prevent future issues

Consider Preventative Legal Action

Consider taking preventative Action by adding privacy agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and non-compete agreements to employment contracts. This can help safeguard your business’s confidential information

These agreements can prevent former employees from contacting clients, sharing confidential information, discussing finances, taking a job with a competitor, or making defamatory comments about your business. 

When dealing with situations involving former employees who harbour discontent, believing their termination was unjust or their compensation upon dismissal was inadequate, there are proactive measures that can be employed to mitigate potential legal and reputational risks. Here are effective strategies to enhance the handling of such situations

Respect Confidentiality

It’s important to acknowledge that ex-employees might experience emotions like anger or embarrassment after their termination. To address this, adopt a tactful approach that maintains the privacy of the details surrounding their departure. This not only prevents unnecessary discomfort but also helps uphold their favourable perception of your company, thereby minimising the possibility of negative online reviews emerging

Open Direct Communication 

Rather than dismissing negative feedback or reviews outright, consider initiating direct communication with the former employee. This showcases your company’s dedication to its workforce and offers a platform for them to express their concerns. Engaging in a constructive dialogue can foster improved relations and potentially provide practical assistance, such as guiding them towards resources for emotional support or job opportunities.

Thorough Documentation 

Keeping comprehensive records throughout the termination process is crucial. These records can serve as vital evidence if the situation escalates into a legal dispute. Ensure that your HR team diligently documents factors related to performance, attendance, grievances, and conflicts. If necessary, involve the employee’s immediate supervisor in this documentation process.

Monitoring Online Reputation 

Given the impact of online reviews on a business’s reputation, it’s vital to stay vigilant. Regularly monitor online review platforms for any negative feedback originating from former employees. Respond promptly and professionally to address their concerns, potentially defusing the situation before it gains momentum. Responding calmly helps prevent the escalation of emotions that might lead to more significant issues

Should employers deal with grievances raised by ex-employees?

There are no hard and fast rules on this, but it is often assumed that employers do not have legal duty to investigate grievances raised by ex-employees. However, what employers should bear in mind is that a grievance is a dispute, and a dispute has the potential to turn into a tribunal claim. If an ex-employee raises a grievance after they have left or an employee resigns with immediate effect, citing various grievances as their reason for leaving, it is good practice to try and get to the bottom of the dispute with a view to trying to resolve it. Otherwise, this may be a missed opportunity to avoid a claim, or it may affect your ability to defend a claim at a later stage.

If this happens, seek expert advice and guidance.

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