Violence and Agression

by Darren Good and Liz Hudson

Environmental calming and control

If you give some thought to your environment, you may find there are lots things you can do to reduce anger and bad feelings before you even come into contact with clients.

Let’s have a look at some of the environmental factors that you can utilise...

Do you have a waiting room?

If your clients have to wait before they see you, it is clearly a good idea to give careful consideration to the area that you leave them waiting in.

You may want to give some thought to the colour of your waiting room: a bright red, for example, might be more likely to put clients in an aggressive mood than a pastel blue.

Do you have distraction tactics in place? Waiting is a huge factor in the provocation of conflict, so you might want to have a range of up-to-date magazines for your clients to amuse themselves with, toys for children to play with, goldfish to look at or colourful, interesting posters on the walls. Perhaps you could play calming or cheerful music or have television screens?

Here are some other things to take into consideration:

  • Is your waiting room clean and tidy?
  • Have your clients got access to a toilet? Is it well signposted?
  • Is the temperature controlled or does your waiting room get too hot or too cold?
  • Have you got sufficient seating or will your clients feel cramped or have to stand?
  • Have you got someone for your clients to consult over their queries?
  • Might it be beneficial to have a crèche?

Do you have a secretary or receptionist?

If your clients see a secretary or receptionist before they see you, then you should make sure that they too are trained in conflict handling and rapport building. Your receptionist is your first line of defence; they will have the first opportunity to defuse aggressive behaviour and build rapport, which will ultimately benefit you and make your job easier and more productive.

You should also make sure that your receptionist is approachable and is able to answer any questions your client might have.

It will be beneficial to have a system in place that allows your clients/patients to find out how long they have to wait or where they are in the queue. Waiting clients like to be kept informed as it gives them back a sense of control.

Do you have security measures?

There are a lot of things that you can do with the environment that might discourage a client from becoming violent. Often, the fear of being caught and its consequences will stop an aggressive client from attacking you or your staff. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Security cameras
  • A security guard
  • Posters and signs telling your clients that CCTV is in operation, violence, aggression and abuse will not be tolerated, and offenders will be prosecuted
  • Visible personal panic alarms for you and your staff.

Do you have a consultation room?

If you see your clients in a consultation room, you might want to give some thought to how you arrange and decorate the room.

As well as having a calming, cheerful environment, you may wish to consider how your furniture is arranged:

  • Are you able to leave the room quickly and easily?
  • Is your client able to leave the room quickly and easily? This may help them relax and feel more comfortable.
  • Do you have too many distractions in the room? You want to keep your clients’ attention on you.
  • Is your room cluttered or untidy?
  • Do you have a window to bring natural light and fresh air into the room?

Even if you must conform to a dress code, there are still some aspects of your attire that you can control: for example, shaded reading glasses might prevent you from building rapport by making eye contact difficult.