Dealing with Disgruntled Ex-Employees

  • End of Employment
A woman standing alone while a meeting takes place behind her.
Peninsula Logo

Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll look at how to deal with an angry ex-employee, the problems they can cause and how to protect yourself to avoid the risk.

As a business owner, you want all your employees to leave your company on good terms. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.

Ex-employees can sometimes lash out at their former employer. This can be either through online reviews, threats or other unacceptable behaviour. This can negatively affect your workplace productivity and business reputation.

In this guide, we'll look at how to deal with an angry ex-employee, the problems they can cause and how to protect yourself to avoid the risk.

Who are disgruntled ex-employees?

Most employers will have to deal with upset ex-employees at some point in their careers. This usually happens after a business is forced to dismiss a member of staff following an incident or poor performance.

There are many reasons why an employer would need to dismiss a member of staff. These can include:

As an employer, you must ensure that the reason does not constitute unfair dismissal. Otherwise, you may open yourself up to claims that result in you facing an employment tribunal.

An employee leaving may seem like the best step for your business. But if not handled properly, it can lead to problems.

Disgruntled employees, both current and former, can create challenges for businesses. Their disruption can affect your business productivity and in severe cases require legal action.

What risks come with disgruntled former employees?

The end of a business or employment relationship can be tough for both the worker and the employer. And while you probably want to make sure that things are always left on a positive note, this isn't always the case.

If an employee is fired, they can end up feeling angry or hurt. This can cause them to lash out in an attempt to damage a company and its reputation. If the claims are untrue, this can be classed as defamation.

What is defamation?

By definition, defamation is any false statement that is deemed harmful to a business. Defamation can occur in two forms:

  • Libel: This refers to any form that has a sense of permanence. This could be a blog, article, social media post, video or recorded audio.
  • Slander: This refers to any spoken forms of defamation.

For businesses to bring a defamation claim to court they must follow the Defamation Act 2013. This requires a business to show that the libel or slander has caused serious harm to the reputation of the business and may cause serious financial loss.

How can an ex-employee damage your business?

There are several ways that an ex-employee may try to damage your business. They may:

  • Post negative reviews online.
  • Harass other employees and members of management either online or in person.
  • Contact current business clients.
  • Make accusations and claims to damage the business's reputation.
  • Discourage new employees from joining your business.

Whatever their method of disruption it's important to handle the situation carefully. Otherwise, you risk further damage to your business and its financial future.

How can you prevent disgruntled former employees?

Sometimes it's easy to spot an upset employee. Other times you may be shocked at their sudden angry outbursts.

While you can't fully protect your business from unhappy ex-employees, there are a few ways to minimise the risk.

Let's explore ways to avoid this.

Plan your offboarding process

Your offboarding process is a crucial part of making sure that employees leave on a happy note. As a business owner, you want every employee to leave your workplace with a positive experience and a good reference.

Having a well-thought-out offboarding plan ensures uniformity across your company. Meaning your team knows exactly what is involved in the matter and all procedures are followed.

If soon-to-be ex-employees experience a well-managed exit procedure, they're likely to have a better view of you as an employer and your business as a whole.

Arrange an exit interview

Exit interviews are a great chance for employees to air their grievances before leaving your business. Many employers skip this meeting as they see it as unnecessary. But it's a great opportunity to learn more about how your company is performing and address any issues.

Regardless of their working relationship, it can sometimes be hard for current employees to raise a grievance to their manager or HR department. This may be because they're worried about potential repercussions.

Arranging an interview once the employee has decided to leave gives them a chance to finally share their issues in a safe and secure place. A former worker will likely leave their job in a better mindset once their issue has been resolved. They may then be less likely to speak negatively about the company or post bad reviews.

Plan preventative legal action

When an employee leaves, they take with them a lot of knowledge about your company. This could be everything from business practices to information about their coworkers, customers and clients.

In the wrong hands, this information could create problems. Especially if it's something that employers would rather keep quiet about.

To avoid this, many employers choose to add privacy agreements to their employment contracts. Non-disclosure and Non-compete agreements can prevent former employees from:

  • Contacting current customers or clients. 
  • Sharing confidential information about a company.
  • Discussing money or financial matters.
  • Taking a job with a direct competitor.
  • Making defamatory comments or accusations about their ex-employer or their business.

These actions can help prevent damage to your business in the future.

How to deal with an angry former employee

 They may believe that their dismissal was unfair, or that they didn't receive their full pay after being fired.

If this happens you could find yourself in court trying to explain or prove the claims against your business. And even then a former employee may find it hard to accept a tribunal's decision.

There are a few things businesses can do to try and avoid these claims and defamation cases. Let's explore these below.

Keep things private

Ex-employees can sometimes feel angry or embarrassed following a dismissal. So it can be beneficial for management or company executives to take a more sensitive approach to the issue.

For example, former employees may not want their coworkers to know why they have been let go. By keeping the decision private, employers can prevent former employees from feeling embarrassed or upset.

This will lead to them having a better opinion of their former employer making them less likely to share negative reviews online. This can help businesses protect their brand and reputation.

Reach out to staff

Employers may feel the urge to ignore negative reviews. But this can create new problems, especially if you struggle to stay level-headed. Employers should instead consider reaching out directly to a former employee.

Contacting former employees is a great way to show that your company cares about the people that work for them. This allows them to feel heard and can help improve the relations between the both of you.

You may be able to provide practical support to your former employee. This could be done by directing them to support and manage their feelings. Or even help them to find a new job.

Document everything

As an employer, it's important to keep records of everything that happens leading up to and during a termination. An ex-employee could choose to post a negative online review following their termination. Or they may claim unfair dismissal.

This evidence could help you should you end up in a tribunal. You should ask your HR team to document anything relating to employee performance, attendance, grievances or disputes. If this isn't possible then consider the employee's line manager.

This evidence can help with building a case against an ex-employee, should you ever need one.

Monitor online reviews

It's no surprise that the rise in social media has led to a new form of defamation cases. Ex-employees now have a new way to air their concerns and reach an audience bigger than just your HR team.

Online review sites are growing in popularity, especially among younger employees. While they give new employees a chance to learn more about their new company's culture, negative reviews can discourage applicants and slow down your hiring process.

A strong online presence can help you spot a negative review quickly and efficiently. The sooner you deal with it the better. So, if you see a review from an angry ex-employee, try to respond in a way that resolves the matter. Heightened emotions can escalate the situation and lead to bigger problems down the line.

Get expert advice from Peninsula on dealing with a disgruntled ex-employee

Every business owner wants their ex-employees to leave on good terms. But this isn't always possible. When staff leave on bad terms, it can lead to them posting bad reviews and damaging your business reputation.

This could lead to legal claims of defamation and could affect your business output and overall workplace culture.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts. Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with a HR consultant today.

Try Brainbox for free today

When AI meets 40 years of Peninsula expertise... you get instant, expert answers to your HR and health & safety questions


Got a question? Check whether we’ve already answered it for you…

Related articles

  • man holding his head and leaning on workplace equipment


    Dismissal During Probationary Period

    How do you proceed if your employee doesn't pass their probation? What's the best way to handle a dismissal? Read this guide to find out the steps to follow.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Dismissal
  • Staff Turnover


    Staff Turnover

    Low staff turnover is an essential target for businesses. The lower it is, the better. How do you manage your workforce? We explain the best business practices.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • End of Employment
  • box of belongings


    Redundancy Notice Periods Guide

    Discover what the statutory notice period for redundancy is, employee leave benefits, and redundancy payments you must legally provide.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • End of Employment
Back to resource hub

Try Brainbox for free today

When AI meets 40 years of Peninsula expertise... you get instant, expert answers to your HR and Health & Safety questions

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.