The Integrity News
Vol. XIII No. 2
January 26, 2004
"Violence can erupt unexpectedly, even at
work. But sometimes, our personal behavior
can help to minimize or de-escalate potentially
violent situations. Here are a few suggestions
of ways we can decrease the likelihood of a
co-worker or customer becoming violent.
Remember, if at any time a person's behavior
starts to escalate beyond your comfort zone,
Project calmness -- move and speak slowly, quietly, and
Be an empathetic listener -- encourage the person to talk,
and listen patiently.
Focus your attention on the other person to let him/her
know that you are interested in what he/she has to say.
Maintain a relaxed yet attentive posture and position
yourself at a "right angle" rather than than directly
in front of the other person.
Acknowledge the person's feelings. Indicate that you see
he or she is quite upset.
Ask for small, specific favors, such as asking the person
to move to a quieter area.
Establish ground rules if unreasonable behavior persists.
Calmly describe the consequences of any violent behavior.
Use delay tactics, which will give the person time to calm
down. For example, offer a drink of water (in a disposable
cup, as a glass could be used as a weapon).
Accept criticism in a positive way. When complaints might
be true, use statements like, "You're probably right," or
"That was my fault." If the criticism seems unwarranted,
ask clarifying questions.
Ask for his or her recommendations. Repeat back to
him/her what you think he/she is requesting of you.
Arrange yourself so a visitor cannot block your access
to an exit. If possible, also try to arrange yourself
so that the agitated person has an "out" as well.
Be reassuring and point out choices. Break big problems
into smaller, more manageable ones.
Arrange your desk and work area so that objects such as
pens, staplers, paperweights, envelope openers, etc.,
cannot be used as weapons against you.
Use styles of communication that generate hostility such
as apathy, a "brush off", coldness, strictly going
"by the rules", condescension, or giving someone the
Reject all of the complainant's demands from the start.
Pose in challenging stances such as standing directly
opposite someone, hands on hips or crossing your arms.
Make any physical contact with the complainant, or
engage in activities such as finger-pointing or long
periods of fixed eye contact.
Make sudden movements that can be seen as threatening.
Notice the tone, volume, and rate of your own speech.
Challenge, threaten, or dare the individual, belittle the
person, or attempt to make him/her look foolish.
Criticize or act impatiently toward the agitated individual.
Attempt to bargain with a threatening individual.
Try to make the situation seem less serious than it is
(e.g., "Hey Joe, nothing's really that bad -- why are
you so upset about such a small thing?").
Make false statements or promises you cannot keep.
Try to impart a lot of technical or complicated information
when emotions are high.
Take sides or agree with distortions.
Invade the individual's personal space. Make sure there
is a space of 3' to 6' between you and the other person.
The above Dos & Don'ts speak to physical security.
In past issues of The Integrity News, we have covered
the topics of interviewing, de-briefing, and other related
areas. Feel free to call The Integrity Center, Inc. at
to discuss any of these topics.