Unfortunately, no matter how good an organisation’s safety policies and procedures are, staff members can still find themselves in threatening situations. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, there are around 700,000 incidents of violence at work every year.
Violence and abuse should not be accepted as ‘part of the job’. Employers must fulfil their duty of care by taking all reasonable steps to protect employees, and staff members should be trained on how to diffuse aggression and contain difficult situations.
Making future visits safer
If a violent or threatening incident does occur towards a member of staff, it’s vital to take appropriate steps to prevent this from happening again.
As an employer, you should focus on supporting the employee who has been a victim as a priority. This may involve offering a counselling service, ensuring they don’t visit this same customer again or showing them what is being done to prevent future incidents from occurring.
In more extreme cases, the employee may take some time off work as a result of the incident. In this case, you should offer support and encouragement when easing this employee back into work. Extra steps may be needed to make them feel safe completing their duties again. This could include partnering them up with a colleague so they are not conducting home visits alone or providing them with a personal safety device to provide a means to access help in an emergency.
Aggressive customers should also be marked as a risk on all reporting systems, making this information easily accessible to relevant employees who may conduct future visits. Warnings should include information such as any threatening pets, known triggers and how the customer has been aggressive in the past.
While wider business steps should be in place to prevent incidents, they may still occur. To best protect staff, they should be trained on effective ways to resolve conflicts and deescalate potentially dangerous situations.
Conflict Resolution Tips
The overall goal should always be to keep your employees safe. There is no “one size fits all” approach for managing aggressive customers. Here are our recommended steps to neutralise aggression and avoid it escalating any further:
- Start by explaining that you want to help resolve the issues.
- Listen carefully to the person without making judgement. Ask constructive questions to gain as much information as possible and identify the cause of the problem.
- Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Empathy is important in developing an open conversation.
- Give the other person a choice and utilise breaks of silence. This encourages the other party to think, which can help to calm them down.
- Look for solutions. Try to find something you can do straight away or put a plan of action in place for the next steps that need to happen.
- Shift the conversation to the future. Say things like “we will…” to demonstrate that you are involving the other party in resolving the issue.
- Be aware of your surroundings and have a plan for if things escalate. Be conscious of any nearby objects that could be used as weapons, such as chairs and make a mental note of a clear path that could be used to escape if you must.