As the temperature heats up so do tempers. And when you add to that the increase in drinking during the summer months, security teams need to have a plan on how to diffuse conflict. In addition to how you secure the property, it is key to secure the reputation of the business, so remember that finding a conflict resolution is more important than pointing out that the disruptor is wrong. Here are a few tips we have learned over the years to diffuse a visitor to your store or business who is acting out in anger:
- If either person is being physical, contact authorities first. You may need the backup. Also move everyone else away from the aggression if possible.
- If the person is angry because you or your employee are wrong, quickly admit it. Take responsibility. Ask them what you can do to make up for the error. Even if you’re not wrong, give the person the benefit of the doubt for their misunderstanding. If there is some consideration or way you can improve their experience make it happen.
- Do not allow the person to be verbally abusive to you or your customers. Firmly, but calmly state that “You are very angry and I think you are saying things that you don’t mean and you are disturbing our other visitors with your words”. Then ask them to leave. If they refuse, contact authorities.
- Remain calm and respectful. Don’t meet conflict with conflict. The best way to de-escalate a situation is speak slowly and calmly and ask the question “Can I help?” and then just listen. Be respectful and don’t interrupt. Let them voice their feelings. Then if possible, repeat back to them what you heard them say, not to validate their opinion, but to make sure you understand their point of view.
- Never say “you’re wrong to an angry person.” In fact, imagine yourself in their shoes and give them the same respect you would give a good friend. Try hard to look for areas of agreement and build on them. Remember that agreement, is your objective, not determining wrong and right.
- Ask an objective witness how the conflict began. Ask the question “Do you know why he/she is so upset?”. Many times even the store clerk or bartender can explain the anger, but does not have a solution to the problem. Words like “I understand why you are angry, it sounds like you did not know their closing hours when you ordered”. Then you can help them resolve the conflict by vocalizing both of their concerns and showing that everyone is being reasonable.
- State your policy at the property. There should be a noise or conflict policy that authorizes you enforce conflicts when they threaten the peace and safety of the people on your property. If an employee feels threatened, you have the right to ask the person to leave. Provide them the information to file a complaint putting them back in control and giving them an alternative that they perceive as power.
- If you feel anger is escalating, walk the parties away from any crowds to discuss their needs. The more people that get involved with the conflict the less you will be able to control the situation. If they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs it can get very loud and confrontational so you want to move to a place where there are fewer people should the angry person act out. Remember your first responsibility is to keep the public safe.
- Contact authorities. If the person is just being noisy and refuses to hold it down or be reasonable, let them know you are contacting authorities. Be firm that it is your company’s policy and you must comply. Most people, particularly those that are under the influence want to avoid police contact. If there are two or more of you, that person should let authorities know that you are experiencing a conflict and need their help. Nothing breaks up a conflict faster than the local police.
- Write down the incident and details of what occurred and what was said. Make sure that you document everything in case you are asked to explain it to your employer or a court later.
South Bay Security is the local security authority of the South Bay providing patrolling, security and safety programs for residents and businesses in cities from El Segundo to Long Beach. Their experience has helped their staff diffuse many difficult security situations. They specialize in protecting their clients’ properties, while upholding the respect and dignity of their clients and their employees, as well as the public. For more information on their mobile security or full service, contact them at 310-539-3505 or by email. Set up a time to review your security needs and address concerns. South Bay Security is located in the Rolling Hills Plaza where they also provide the security, as well as at many other South Bay locations. Visit their website at: southbaysecurity.com.