Today was my first full day back at work after about ten weeks away with a broken foot and I got to kick it all off with a managers meeting with my boss’s Boss(John) who was in from out of town. One topic that we discussed during the meeting was how to deal with angry customers. we were instructed and discussed how to de-escalate a situation to make finding a resolution easier and possible.
The art of de-escalating a situation or calming things down begins with being calm yourself and through patience and practice guiding the upset individual to join you in a calm state. The approach that we discussed begins with allowing the upset individual to express their concern while being present(mentally in the moment) to listen to what they have to say and acknowledging their grievance. the next step is to express remorse for the fact that they have been upset and/or for the situation without taking responsibility for whatever the issue is. If done correctly the complainant will usually show signs of calming down, these can include but are not limited to: reduction is speed of hand movement, Slowed speech , softened posture and a more relaxed tone.
Once the complainant has moved closer emotionally to your calm state of mind a functional discussion about how to resolve the issue can take place. Without first calming the agitated individual it is near impossible to achieve any kind of amicable resolution.
Not thirty minutes after our meeting a member of our staff (Isaac) entered the office with a question that required only a simple yes/no answer. John (boss’s Boss) decided to show some of us how to escalate a situation (LOL) not only by refusing a direct answer but by challenging Isaac’s reasons for asking in the first place. John is under the impression that the staff feel as though they have a choice of whether to do some of the less favorable tasks around the park and wanted to hammer home the point that its part of the job. On the other side of it Isaac is in a position of some leadership and has been frustrated for quite a while by some issues that have been neglected, also feeling like his valid concerns have been swept aside. So we have two forces each with valid concerns and both wanting the other to acquiesce to their point of view. The passive-aggressive, under-handed weak-minded power struggle ensued for about twenty minutes before John pulled rank and ended it with both parties being quite unhappy.
John, now red faced, then asked me how I thought it went? I told him that he certainly failed to de-escalate the situation, lol. I could see visible that John was flustered and he knew that he had not handled the situation very well. John then had to leave to catch his plane and left me to deal with the agitated employee( first day back YAY)
The conversation that I had with Isaac went extremely well as I was able to remain calm and not take the bait when he tried to suck me into his frame of mind. We discussed each issue that he had and I was also tasked with making it clear to him that his behavior would not be tolerated going further. I was able to calm him down so that he could hear what I was saying and we discussed how in the workplace with a hierarchy that even if he knows a better way that his job requires him to obey the orders given(not unlike living under someone else’s roof). As this is a pill I have had to swallow in the past and teach to my friend Eli I was able to empathize with Isaac easily and express the idea in a simple manner without having to brow-beat him into submission or pull rank.
The hierarchy in the workplace makes for some very interesting dynamics as both Isaac and John were equally to blame for the argument and were both left equally bent out of shape afterwards but John has rank and therefore Isaac will always lose the pissing contest. Pulling rank like this will get you your way but at the expense of your employees respect as they will resent you for the unfairness of the situation. It is best in my opinion to work with my staff to help them do their job so that they can help me do mine as we are all there for the same reason, Paycheck.
Later in the day through facebook messenger I was able to explain to John where he took the bait and escalated the situation instead of calming the situation.The argument did bring to light a pattern of behavior in Isaac that I had not previously born witness too (others had). If my talk with Isaac does not resolve the issue then we can now work to resolve the behavior before it escalates.
In the end I was able to calm down both sides and find a temporary resolution that left both parties feeling better than when they started kind of like if two customers had issue with each other 🙂 ( just like in our meeting) Guess I got to practice the lesson of the day using our own staff.
I can only spread calm if I am calm and if I am angry I can only spread anger.