Is that bomb inside your business set to explode?-Part 2
Attempt to have a strategically placed third person around
This person shouldn’t be a friend or family member of the upset employee/customer. This person doesn’t have to be in the room with you, just in a place to observe any improprieties or threat. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a member of the opposite sex, some company’s require a third person when dealing with this type of situation.
This disinterested party is not there to take sides and shouldn’t. This doesn’t mean they can’t empathize. However they will provide documentation if any claims of harassment or intimidation is made later and ideally they should be a member of the same sex as the employee/customer. They can also act as back-up should it become necessary.
Use physical space as much as possible
No matter where this is taking place you want to stay at least an arm’s length away, preferably 2. This also applies to the initial counter person if it’s a customer. First it allows for an extra split second to react and secondly it doesn’t allow them to simply reach out and grab your clothes, facial hair, or throat. As with the front counter width, try to keep something between you and them, anything that can afford you a few extra milliseconds should it threaten to turn violent.
Another aspect of this is to always leave yourself with an escape route. While assaults are rare in this instance, you never know when you may need it. Try to always have your back to the door and/or hallway. And ensure that no sharp objects are within easy reach. Even pens and pencils should be avoided if possible.
Establish verbal boundaries by sticking to the issue.
As we spoke about earlier, don’t let this angry person goad you into losing your calm attitude by escalating the situation by swearing or questioning your parentage. Always speak authoritatively, softly, clearly, and slowly. While the individual be maligning your morals, character, and values, you must show that the issue can be resolved without resorting to verbal sparring.
Continue to ask questions that move the conversation along without too many track changes or distractions. But try to keep the focus on the issue at hand. Gauge the individual as best as you can and if appropriate, crack a few jokes and lighten the atmosphere.
If you feel the situation slipping out of control, step away.
You are not a verbal punching bag and it is natural for us to get upset and angry at someone when they are angry or upset and screaming at you. But, again, you must focus on the issue at hand and force yourself to keep a calm and cool exterior. Remember, that it’s not necessarily you they are mad at, you just happen to be the most convenient target at the moment they are upset.
However, if you feel the bile rising and your veins popping out of you neck, then excuse yourself and step outside. If you lose your cool, then they have won control of the situation. Walk about and count to 10. Do what you have to do to keep your cool. You may have to pull the third person out to consult with them or just get a drink (remember to offer something to the individual, even buying them a soda. Just don’t stay away for too long. The person will become angrier by the minute and that’s not something you need.
The key to these tips is let the antagonist believe that they are in control at all times. In reality you are in control and manipulating the situation to the advantage for both of you (possibly just the company). However, don’t let the individual feel like they are being patronized or misled – never lie. And above all any time that they display a weapon – of any type – or makes threats, do not hesitate to call either security or the police. Specifically a statement such as ‘I’ve got a gun at home and I know how to use it’ could and should be considered a threat, remember Vester Flanagan in Roanoke Virginia on the 26th.
Another item you may wish to implement in these situations is a distress code. This code can be either a word or phrase to let others know that something is wrong and back up may be required. Just ensure that the code chosen is nothing used in every day conversations around the building. Make it simple to remember and unsubtle so the employee/customer doesn’t know what’s happened – but another staff member knows to call help ASAP.
As I have repeatedly said, WPV is a threat in any business anywhere, at any time, to anyone, for any reason. It has struck in businesses with as few as 5 employees and with multi-national corporations employing hundreds of thousands of people. But if you know the warning signs, know how to defuse these ticking bombs, train your security and line employees, and have a plan in place you can minimize the impact on the bottom lines for everyone concerned.
Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 32 years in the security field. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many. Here you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or you can follow him on twitter at @robertsollars2