It is highly probable that community workers will, at times, be confronted with people who exhibit unacceptable behaviour. It is important to keep your own behaviour in check by remaining calm and objective, so that you can assess the situation clearly.
The following self-management strategies can be utilised to help you recognise your emotional reactions in these difficult situations.
When you are confronted with conflict, ask yourself some key questions. These questions are as follows:
Is there any proof of the behaviour or conflict? Is your perception of the situation the same as others around you? Is it possible to ask a colleague their opinion of the situation?
Is it possible that you are misinterpreting the situation? Is there an explanation for the behaviour?
Is there any positive aspect of this situation that can provide some comfort?
Do I have this in perspective? Is it as disastrous as it first seemed? Is anyone in danger of being hurt?
Am I taking this too personally?
Am I panicking? People are less likely to cope if they panic.
What options do I have to control and defuse this situation?
Have I given up too soon on a strategy I was using to change or manage the situation?
Put it aside for a while
Can I stop thinking about this for a while, so that when I return later, I will be calmer and able to deal with it more effectively?
It is important when working with a client’s unacceptable behaviour that workers don’t add to the problem by overreacting or being authoritarian or aggressive in the situation. To prevent escalation of a situation relating to a client’s unacceptable behaviour consider the following:
- Keep calm
- Use active listening to find out what the problem is
- Acknowledge the concerns of the client, whether you agree with them or not
- Use positive language and avoid negative language
- Let them know you have a better chance of helping them if they calm down
- Let them know the consequences of their behaviour if it continues or escalates
- Seek help from your co-workers, or the client’s carers/family/friends.
Note: A person exhibiting challenging behaviour needs to be made aware of the consequences of that behaviour.
If there is an agreed solution with the client, it is important that a commitment is made to follow-up on any agreed actions. However, sometimes it is not possible to reason with a person, especially if there are drugs or alcohol involved. You will need to judge each situation independently to determine what the best course of action is to take. Also, check your organisation’s policies and procedures.
Policies and procedures
If the unacceptable behaviour is creating an emergency or crisis, you need to be very sure of the steps you must take. Every organisation will have policies and procedures in place that will describe techniques to ensure personal safety and the safety of any clients and colleagues caught up in the situation. You need to follow these as much as possible in the moment.
The agency must have an emergency/crisis response plan in place that you as the worker have been trained to apply, so that, if a crisis arises, you are confident of the steps you need to take.
All workers need to be clear about what techniques they can use to ensure their own personal safety and the safety of clients/colleagues if the unacceptable behaviour is one of aggression or violence. We will look at this further in the next section.