Ways to Boost Staff Skills

Lesson 3: Topic 2 of 9

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Stress management is an excellent exercise to incorporate into your employee wellness program, assuming you have one. It doesn’t specifically have to address violence or anger management; just knowing techniques (e.g., breath control, mindful centeredness, etc.) will help anyone in any kind of stressful situation. In case of actual or potential danger, staying level-headed and not losing control of one’s emotions will help people make the best decisions. Practicing stress management techniques may even prevent a nominally unstable person from resorting to violence when stressed. 

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De-escalation is a critical skill. Staying calm and affirming when face to face with a volatile and possibly violent person goes against human nature, but it can be practiced. The ability to de-escalate the situation when confronted can prevent tragedies. 

  • If possible, stand 1 ½ – 3 feet away from a person who’s escalating. Allowing personal space tends to decrease a person’s anxiety and can help prevent acting-out behavior.
  • Speak soothingly to this person and anyone else within earshot.
  • Speak clearly and simply; an emotionally overloaded person will not be able to focus on complex concepts. 
  • Be empathetic and attempt to see their point of view if they complain or rage about the difficulties they’re dealing with. 
  • Avoid turning the encounter into a challenge or power struggle ― this is their fight, not yours. 
  • Ignore rude, profane, or offensive language, but don’t ignore the person.
  • Make sure your body language is non-threatening
  • Avoid crossed arms, making fists, having a hostile facial expression, etc.

Situational Awareness is also a skill that can be taught. It has been defined as “the ability to predict danger to your health or safety based on clues from your environment.” Nor is it mysterious; good drivers do it all the time without even thinking about it. “Head on a swivel” was this author’s soldier father’s admonition ― in other words, always be alert to your surroundings. Some people call this ‘creating a mental map’ of actual or potential challenges in your immediate vicinity. If practiced to the point of being almost unconscious, a person can intuitively pick out ‘red flags,’ like items unusually out of place, vehicles parked where they shouldn’t be, or someone who’s behaving abnormally. Situational awareness is crucial to survival in an emergency; noticing things that just seem ‘off’ or wrong, and saying something about it, may even prevent a tragedy. 

It has been shown that an employee who’s experiencing domestic violence is more likely to confide in a coworker than in a supervisor. Part of your employee training should focus on recognizing signs that domestic abuse is happening, being empathetic, and encouraging the victim to bring this to the attention of management. If you’ve worked at creating a supportive, trusting environment, they hopefully will agree.