Should an Employee Punching Another Employee Always Get Fired?

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Feb 17, 2014

What would it take to get you to punch an employee?

For most HR Pros, the answer might be “Not much!” if they were joking behind the locked doors of their HR department!

This issue came up close and personal recently when a college basketball player from Oklahoma State University, Marcus Smart, fell into the crowd during the game and forcibly shoved a fan that made a comment to him that caused him to react.

When employees say horrible things

It’s the first time anyone can really remember a NCAA athlete leaving the field of play and purposely making contact with a fan in a manner that wasn’t positive. It happened years ago in the NBA with the now infamous, “Malice at the Palace,” where a fight broke out between professional basketball players and fans that got completely out of control.

I’m not here to say Marcus Smart was wrong or right. If the guy said what Marcus said he said, I think the kid should have done more than just shove, and I applaud his restraint. If the guy didn’t say what it is thought he said, but some other dumb thing, well Smart wasn’t living up to his name.

Either way, Marcus understands that leaving the court of play to shove a fan is wrong, and has said so. Being in HR, we know that at well. There is nothing any employee could say to me that would get me to physically assault them.

OK, that’s lie! There are all kinds of things that might happen at work that could justify an employee punching or shoving another employee!

I’ve witnessed employees saying the most outrageous, cruel things to each other. What usually happens?

Well, one or both get fired. It’s pretty easy from the HR side of things. We can’t have this in our workplace, it’s zero tolerance, you’re gone.

Sometimes, they shouldn’t lose their job

It’s the easiest termination in the HR game. In 20 years I’ve never even had anyone come back and try to fight it. You punch an employee – you get fired. Period.

I actually don’t agree with this, but it’s what happens in HR. I think there are times that an employee is completely justified in hitting another employee –and the one who got hit should lose their job!

I had a former employee tell another employee, who was a father and recently had his son die, that “he deserved” to have his son die. That’s beyond cruel. The guy saying it deserved to get hit, and the father deserved to react.

Legal made me fire him. I fought it as far as I could and almost lost my job.

There are times in the workplace that an employee should get punched — just like there are times in an athletic event where a fan should get hit. There are no absolutes in HR or life.

What would it take to get you to punch one of your co-workers?

Check out this video. Even though it’s parents and a school principal, it totally reminds of how employees act when they are in the HR office. Enjoy.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.