Tips on Diffusing or Handling Volatile Situations for Front Desk Workers
As service providers, university workers can be faced with stressed or frustrated individuals. From time to time, stress or frustration can escalate to verbal or even physical violence. The following information is provided to help you prepare yourself for dealing with hostile or violent interactions in the workplace.
Be prepared for the likelihood that stressed, frustrated or angry people will want to vent. Allow a set amount of time for the individual to vent. Pay attention and listen to their concerns then provide suggestions or alternate avenues they may pursue. Maintain eye contact throughout the interaction so that the person knows you are listening to them.
While speaking with the individual, make a mental description paying special attention to distinctive details which would make it easier for Campus Security/Police to identify them. Examples include tattoos, piercings, glasses, hair styles, height, clothing, items being carried or vehicle plate if applicable.
Do not allow yourself to be maneuvered into a secluded spot alone with the person. Arrange your office space to provide a route of escape if necessary.
On the Phone:
Do not identify yourself by first and last name. Make it a habit to record incoming call numbers and person's name for each call in the event the call does become escalated. If, after attempting to assist the caller, they become or continue to be aggressive terminate the call as quickly and politely as possible.
If the caller persistently calls back after attempting to assist, either put them on hold and call Security on another line to give a brief update, then advise the caller you are going to transfer the call and transfer the call to Campus Security at 705-748-1333 OR alert a co-worker to call Campus Security and advise of the concern and advise the caller you are going to transfer the call then transfer the call to Campus Security.
Set up a code phrase with your coworkers that will alert others in the office of potentially volatile situations. The phrase needs to be discrete so as not to further escalate/animate the customer yet uncommon enough so the staff will key in to the situation.
Establish a course of action to follow when the code phrase is used and ensure ALL staff members are familiar with the code and the course of action. Immediate action could include:
- advising manager or supervisor who will then attend and assist
- calling Campus Security
- Police involvement (911) based on the level of escalation
If a person of concern is identified ensure all staff members are aware of nature of concern and preferred response if the person attends the office.
Whether over the phone or in person, keep display of your feelings in check. Remain calm and respond in a controlled, confident and professional manner. Don’t get personally drawn into the customer’s situation. Remain conscious of the customer’s verbal and non-verbal cues.
After it is over take a few minutes to de-stress and debrief with your manager.