« Workplace Violence Prevention

9 tips for defusing potentially violent incidents in the workplace

Nine ways to prevent angry situations from turning violent.
Nine ways to prevent angry situations from turning violent.

The last thing any company wants is for their workplace to turn violent. While there are steps to take to prevent these incidents from occurring, people may still become upset and violent. 

If an employee gets angry and has an outburst, there are steps to take to try and stop the incident from getting worse. Here are nine ways you can try to diffuse the situation:

Respect personal space

The space around an individual allows him or her to feel safe. If that space is infringed upon, that person may feel uncomfortable or worse. For a situation where a person is already upset and could potentially become violent, respecting this space becomes even more important. Stay at least an arm's length from the individual when talking them down, as this will protect you and make it less likely for the other person to become more anxious.

Body language

When speaking with an individual who may become violent, it is important to understand your body position may be perceived as threatening. If your posture or stance appears aggressive to the other person, it may trigger a violent action. Stand away from the person, as mentioned above, and avoid standing directly in front of the person, as these eye-to-eye, toe-to-toe positions can be misread.

It is also important to ensure that other nonverbal cues are non-threatening. Gestures, facial expressions, movements and tone of voice must all be calm and respectful when directed at the other person to avoid misinterpretation.

Empathy

In the moment, if you're trying to diffuse a potentially violent situation, it is important to be empathetic to the other person. Leave any reprimanding to after the incident is resolved. Be understanding of the person's feelings and supportive through your presence. 

Ignore challenges

If a person is upset, he or she may challenge you in an attempt to get you to admit fault on some level, even if you're not the person they're directly angry with. Instead of answering their question, just simply restate your request.

Permit venting

Sometimes people just need to air their frustrations. Either remove others from the area or move to a secluded area and let the person vent. During down moments, enforce company directives when applicable.

Discover the truth

Something had to have caused a person to become angry or violent. During outbursts, if it is safe to do so, listen and try to learn what set them off. Relaying your understanding of their intent may help calm that person down.

Composition

When speaking to someone who is angry, outburst may be directed at you, even if you had nothing to do with the cause of their actions. Don't take this personally. Remain calm and professional during the situation, as overreactions on your part will only make the situation worse.

Seek help

If nothing works and the situation turns violent, avoid physical altercations if at all possible. Make sure your staff is trained so that they know to seek help, such as notifying building security or the police, while you or one of your other employees is attempting to diffuse the situation. 

Not every situation can be diffused, but training can go a long way towards stopping these situations in the moment and preventing them before they even happen. For comprehensive assistance in building a workplace violence prevention plan, consultants can develop a strategy that suits your operations.