Most community organisations have documented policies and procedures that workers must comply with when faced with actual or potential situations involving anger and/or aggression. According to information in Vandenbos & Bulatao (1996) there are three phases in a response and intervention strategy, and organisations should develop specific policies and procedures (where these do not exist) regarding these practices.
Phase 1: Organisation, evaluation and prevention
Phase one looks at all possible actions to prevent potentially aggressive situations. Organisations have the power to screen clients, investigate whether there is any history of violence, and inform staff of the findings. Information regarding a client may need to be provided from a number of sources. Client confidentiality must be maintained, but staff must also be informed of any potentially aggressive episodes.
The organisation must have a formal method to evaluate situations. If a client makes a threat, the employee or person who has been threatened must report it to management. A meeting should then be held to assess the level of threat the situation poses and the type of action to be taken.
Phase 2: Handling threats and aggressive action
The second phase involves implementing a standard procedure to deal with difficult situations. In response to threats the employer first investigates, documents, and then carries out the prescribed disciplinary actions. The policy must be clear and concise. The organisation should subscribe to a ‘zero tolerance’ procedure for aggressive behaviour.
Phase 3: Debriefing
The third phase designates the action to be undertaken after the threat or aggressive incident. Employees and others involved in an aggressive incident can be affected in differing degrees, and in some cases it can create a traumatic reaction. All victims, affected employees and witnesses should be invited to attend a comprehensive debriefing session. In some cases families of victims and employees who were not directly involved, but nevertheless affected by the incident, may also require debriefing. The earlier the intervention the less likely negative, long lasting psychological effects will occur.
As a community worker it is important to know what to do if you are confronted with an aggressive situation. Does your workplace have documented policies and procedures to follow in cases of potential or actual aggression? You may need to consult your supervisor to locate documents and/ or to discuss the organisation's policies on intervention strategies.