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Front-Of-House Strategies For Dealing With Aggressive Behaviour Post-Lockdown

Front-Of-House Strategies For Dealing With Aggressive Behaviour Post-Lockdown
12 June 2020
 

It’s clear that the role of our front-of-house workforce and security staff is going to change significantly as buildings reopen.

The security guard that greets you as you enter a building, the receptionist who checks you in and the office concierge who’s there to assist you during your visit, will all take on new duties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health and safety will become part of their remit.

We reported recently on the death of Belly Mujinga, a ticket officer with underlying respiratory problems who died from coronavirus. Mujinga was spat and coughed at on the station concourse in an aggressive incident. The man claimed to have coronavirus, and Mujinga died a few days later. Her death has inspired wider questions around how employers can best protect their front-of-house workforce.

As these roles change and this workforce attempts to manage new guidelines, and consequently new behaviour from the people they assist, they may find themselves dealing with other instances of aggressive and abusive behaviour. This could take the form of refusing entry to someone displaying a high temperature, or having to enforce social distancing rules to people who don’t want to comply.

We spoke to a variety of experts from the security and front-of-house sector to gauge how the industry will respond to these new requirements. 

“It’s worth remembering that everyone is a little more on edge than normal. With calm, diplomatic responses, the vast majority of situations can be handled in a way that leads to a positive outcome for all.”

Darren Read

–Managing Director, Amulet

 

Collaboration With The Client And Other Front-Of-House Teams

 

Mike Bluestone, Director of Corps Security highlighted that security staff will essentially mirror what the police are doing in the public domain in terms of managing social distancing rules:

“They may refuse entry to a senior person who is displaying symptoms, or ask someone to leave who was rostered to work at the building on a different day. They may find themselves asking an individual who has breached social distancing rules to modify their behaviour....Any of these could result in a dispute.”

Bluestone also emphasised the importance of communication between the client, security services and other front-of-house teams:

“Security officers need to feel that their client has their back and building users must know that the security officer is simply enforcing the organisation’s rules. At the same time, security officers and other front-of-house staff, including concierge and receptionists, all need to work together to ensure people’s safety and the building’s security.

“There’s little difference between a person entering a facility with COVID symptoms or with a concealed weapon – they both pose a threat to that organisation and its people.”

“They may refuse entry to a senior person who is displaying symptoms, or ask someone to leave who was rostered to work at the building on a different day. They may find themselves asking an individual who has breached social distancing rules to modify their behaviour....Any of these could result in a dispute.”

–Mike Bluestone

Director of Corps Security

From a guest services perspective, representatives at Rapport, an award-winning provider of front-of-house guest services for corporate clients, also agree that collaboration is essential along with adequate training.

Rapport’s team members are usually the first person to welcome a guest into a client’s building and therefore would be occasionally required to handle complex, emotional and sensitive situations.

Cariad Kenan, Head of Learning and Development for Rapport commented that all of their team members are equipped with the skills in how to diffuse difficult situations:

“In order to support our team members in handling these situations professionally and safely, we offer a broad range of dedicated training workshops that include managing stressful situations, managing guest responses, effective communication techniques, emotional intelligence, personal impact, diversity & inclusion and disability protocol & awareness.”

Natasha Whitehurst, Head of HR at Rapport added: “By making this part of our core training we ensure that our teams are in the best possible position to deal with difficult situations.”

 

Senior Leadership Must Be On Board

 

Fawad Ahmad, Director of SmartSec Solutions added that this training is particularly important throughout an organisation and within senior leadership:

“People flouting the rules may be senior people within the organisation or even important clients and need to be treated firmly, but with respect.” 

“Social distancing guidance will change as government advice changes and there will also be company and building-specific rules. But good customer service skills, including the ability to manage difficult and aggressive people, is a constant.”

 

The Issue Of Multi-Tenanted Buildings

 

Ahmad also raised the consideration of managing multi-tenanted buildings, and the challenges that teams may face operating within these:

“Buildings with a single occupier can decide on their policy around social distancing and access control around temperature checks, for example, but that is more of an issue in multi-tenanted facilities,” he said.

“There needs to be consensus between tenants, agreed with the landlord, about social distancing measures. There can’t be a situation where one organisation in a building refuses to use temperature screening, for example, whereas others comply. That’s only going to result in more conflict management for the security officer.”

 

Sensitivity And Understanding

 

Coronavirus and the lockdown have presented challenges for all of us. Everyone has been affected, some more than others, but some people are still fearful, reticent and struggling getting used to “the new normal” and its rules.

Darren Read, Managing Director at Amulet (formerly Churchill Security Solutions), believes that sensitivity of people’s feelings is necessary, and will further help front-of-house teams manage the current unusual situation:

“It is vital that security officers appreciate that many people are not in the habit of maintaining their 2m social distance and on reuniting with colleagues after many months may simply revert to their natural behaviour. New habits take time to form. 

“How many handshakes will be withdrawn over the coming weeks!? Security officers will need to display an understanding of such situations and continue to politely remind everyone of the new measures.

“It’s worth remembering that everyone is a little more on edge than normal. With calm, diplomatic responses, the vast majority of situations can be handled in a way that leads to a positive outcome for all.”

Picture: A photograph of a reception area in an office building

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 12 June 2020

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