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Managing Aggression

The table below shows some of the characteristics of three types of behaviour, aggressive, assertive and passive. Ideally you and other members of staff should aim to be assertive when handling an incident. It is easy to recognise that people acting in an angry or violent way are being aggressive, two people, each determined to win an argument, whether or not they obviously become angry, can also be showing aggression. Most people have an aggressive drive. It’s very important that the person dealing with an incident whether it’s you or another member of staff is aware of their own aggression and is able to keep it under control.

What happens when someone gets angry?
As the anger grows, the body starts to react physically. You may feel you’re losing control, and are likely to show signs in the aggressive list in the table; this is mainly due to the drug adrenaline. When you are particularly upset or feel threatened, the body reacts in what is known as the fight or flight response. It’s getting you ready to stay and fight or run away from danger. If you can remain calm and assertive, you can defuse anger and aggression in others.

Do’s
1. Be assertive
2. Be aware of your body language, appear to remain in control
3. Speak slowly and evenly if you appear calm this will have a calming effect
4. Respect personal space
5. Position yourself where you feel safe, i.e. stand slightly to one side and not directly facing the person
6. Make sure you have an exit route to be able to walk away from an aggressive situation you don’t want to be cornered

Don’ts
1. Get angry as this will increase the risk of conflict
2. Shout or point as this can be seen as aggression
3. Show fear or passiveness

Removing Triggers
Good customer service can remove some of the triggers that can lead to frustration and anger. Common examples of poor customer service includes:
• Ignoring customers
• Being rude or unhelpful
• Having dirty or messy premises
• Leaving stuff lying around and not tidied away

The service tends to set the tone. Therefore, if different staff treat customers in different ways, or there seem to be different rules for different people, customers will not know what standards are expected of them. This can lead to arguments and conflict between customers and with staff. Research has found that frustration and aggression is more likely if there are different standards. This applies to the physical surroundings as well as the behaviour of staff.

The frustration caused by poor customer service may build up until the customer eventually ‘explodes. This could lead to a verbal or even physical assault on you, your staff or other customers. It’s better to try to calm people in the early stages. An example of this would be dealing with a customer’s complaint immediately and to their satisfaction. If people get to the top of the escalation phase or into the crisis phase, they are much more difficult to control and trouble is more likely.

People may remain in a ‘heightened’ state for several hours after an aggressive outburst and during this period it is easy to ‘trigger’ them into repeated outbursts. This is something that Door Supervisors who are dealing with customers at the end of the evening need to take into account.

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