Aggression and violence are everyday realities for some people at work.
Let's look at the facts. In 2014/15, according to HSE statistics:
- 285,000 adults were victims of work-related violence including physical assault and threats
- There were 569,000 incidents of violence at work
- Violence at work affects men and women
- In 54% of cases, strangers were the perpetrators
- It's the third biggest cause of injuries in the health sector
Follow these top tips to tackle aggression and violence at work:
- Be aware of potential flashpoints - which may trigger violence or aggressive outbursts - such as a delay or hold-up, communicating a difficult or negative decision (turning someone's application down), stress (having no choice), frustration (a lack of information), resentment (a perception of no rights), and so on.
- Act quickly to defuse the situation - don't ignore trigger points or things will deteriorate further. Instead, step up - for example, by apologising for any delay or providing information - to calm things down.
- Avoid situations which may make you more vulnerable, if possible - such as travelling alone, carrying cash or medication, handling complaints alone, etc. Follow company rules on accompanied visits or meet in a public place if you visit vulnerable people with a history of violence.
- Familiarise yourself with security systems and measures - including security screens, alarms, emergency codes or codewords, etc - so you know what to do.
- If there's an incident, use de-escalation techniques to stop the situation getting worse - for example, you should talk in a low, calm voice; encourage the aggressor to focus on the facts (being rational stops you being too emotional); use positive body language; and - if it's safe to do so - stop them 'playing to a crowd' by going somewhere more private.
- Use posters to set ground rules - have a zero-tolerance approach and warn people upfront via posters that abusive and violent behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
- If you're a victim of violence of work, tell your manager - it's not usually your fault so don't be embarrassed to speak out. Share your experiences so your colleagues can protect themselves too!
If you think you or your employees could benefit from learning more about how to handle difficult and unpleasant situations in the work place, click on the link below to read more about our e-learning course on how to handle angry customers: