Despite the lockdown being over in most states and restrictions being lifted, emotions are still running high. That is why organisations that deal with members of the public need to ensure they have adequate measures in place to keep employees safe.
In this stressful time, it is essential that safety is something staff and employees are proactive about. Being able to recognise flashpoints and knowing what to do to stop them from escalating can be the difference between a violent situation and a calm one.
Being positive and proactive
During this time, colleagues have been looking to their managers to address non-compliance issues and resolve disputes that occur – which is a tough ask.
We need to make sure that we are making things as clear as possible for ourselves, our staff and customers, as ambiguity and conflict often go hand in hand. What is your stance on people not wearing masks? Are you checking vaccine passports? What if someone does not comply? You need to know the answers to these types of questions.
Positive communication and customer service put people at ease and colleagues need to be proactive, positively engaging with customers and visitors at the earliest opportunity to deliver key messages and requests over service and safety.
It is important to refresh and develop the soft skills of colleagues in situation assessment, and positive respectful communication and de-escalation.
Responding to the weaponisation of COVID
In the extremes of behaviour, there have been incidents of the weaponisation of COVID through spitting. Organisations need to be clear on how they will respond and support staff if this occurs.
Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be accessible to help protect our colleagues from infection when we call on them to respond to conflict situations. Body-worn video can be valuable in recording and inhibiting aggressive behaviour, and it is important training covers how to operate as a team and communicate when using body cams.
Face masks are another area of contention, with some people seeing them as a breach of their human rights, while others still want adequate distance and protection measures in place. Masks can also provide anonymity, reducing the wearer’s inhibitions, accountability and traceability which can lead to incidents like shoplifting to occur.
These situations require proactive and confident communicators that can be part of a wider team, building rapport, negotiating and mediating conflict – whilst sometimes under the added pressure of being filmed.
Fostering a supportive staff culture
As we enter into the new ‘normal’, employee to employee conflict could arise, particularly in relation to sharing space. As we go through the transition of bringing people back into the workplace, we also need to look at the wellbeing of the team and individuals.
This requires us to make sure we are supporting and keeping in touch with teams, as well as looking at our organisation’s culture and considering whether it allows people to express concerns, ask questions and provide feedback.
Investment in the training of supervisors and team leaders is critical in this and ensuring frontline colleagues are supported and also operating professionally. This includes monitoring any use of force and ensuring colleagues show respect for the people they interact with, even when they disapprove of their behaviour and need to be firm.
For more advice on dealing with conflict as we come out of lockdown check out our other articles: