People identify with their jobs. Ask someone what they do and they’ll just assume you’re asking what their job is. They may spend more time sleeping than working. They may even spend work time sleeping. But no one ever responds to “What do you do?” with “I sleep.”
So it’s no surprise that some people react poorly to being terminated. However, the recently fired head of the Pacifica Foundation, which runs several radio stations (including public radio station KPFA in Berkeley) is not going away peacefully. In fact, as reported in the Mercury News, she cut the locks and barricaded herself in her old office. This occurred on March 17, 2014, four days after the foundation’s board voted to fire Summer Reese. At that point, she was one month into her tenure as Executive Director (although she’d previously held the position on an interim basis.) She is joined by her mother and other supporters and, as far as I can tell, they’re still there.
There are important lessons here for people who have to inform employees that they’re being terminated. You really can’t predict how they’re going to react, but you should expect them to be emotional. Emotional people don’t always think clearly. That means you may have to explain things more than once. You don’t want them leaving without a clear understanding of the basis for the decision. (At the same time, you don’t want to say something to make the situation worse.)
You also need to stay calm yourself and be prepared to diffuse tense situations. Or if you can’t diffuse the situation, you need to remove yourself and get assistance, which may be someone from security, human resources, or, if storming the barricades is necessary, the military.