If you are familiar with our conflict management training blog, you will be aware that we discuss in detail how to communicate with clients to manage conflict and influence their behaviour. A keyword is an influence. There is no behaviour you could employ that would guarantee that a client would calm down and behave appropriately.
If a client decides to become aggressive or attempt to physically harm you, that is their choice. You might be able to avoid the blow, but you cannot prevent their intention. In other words, if your role involves working with potentially aggressive clients there is a limit to what you can achieve on your own. You need help!
When the risk of aggression or violence exists, employers have a duty to assess those risks and make situations safe for staff to work in. Employers are usually clear they have to create a safe working environment for their employees – e.g., equipment is safe to use, electrical safety checks up to date, slips and trips are avoided, etc.
However, often they are less aware of the need to ensure they actively manage aggressive clients. In our experience from running thousands of Conflict Management Training Courses and consulting with many different organisations, management are:
- Sometimes unaware of their legal obligations in this subject area because they are less obvious than, for example, ensuring all electrical appliances are checked once a year.
- Aware of their legal requirements but their plans and actions are too general to deal with specific risks at an individual client or situation level or let G.D.P.R. requirements mistakenly override staff safety.
- Aware of their legal obligations but let G.D.P.R. requirements override Health and Safety (G.D.P.R requirements play an important role but the legislation surrounding the safety of staff supersedes it).
Some examples we have encountered lately are:
- The management of a GP Practice not realising they had to actively manage the risks from an extremely aggressive client who attends their surgery.
- A manager of a parking enforcement team not realising they had to plan and manage the risks for their officers patrolling in a particular street, where several aggressive incidents have taken place.
Shortfalls in how organisations manage aggressive clients often only come to light after a serious incident has taken place. This can then be a costly and unnecessary occurrence for the organisation and potentially traumatic for the staff member.
For example, if an enforcement officer is attacked patrolling a street where aggressive incidents have been known to happen, the Health and Safety Executive will expect to see the existing plan to manage the safety of the team, who patrol that street. A general plan covering the role of an enforcement officer would probably not be specific enough to manage risks in a particular street. The Health and Safety Executive is the body responsible for all Health and Safety matters in the UK.
How to manage aggressive and potentially violent clients? Ensure risks are reported and develop an action plan focused on controlling those risks. Then monitor the plan over time to ensure staff safety.
If you would like any guidance on managing risks for aggressive clients or our Conflict Management Training Courses or Personal Safety Courses, please do get in touch.
We have recently introduced our Online Conflict Courses, which are suitable to be completed at the comfort of your home.
Thank you for reading.