Dealing with Violence and Aggression in the Workplace

May 28, 2024

What is Violence and Aggression in the Workplace?

Violence within the workplace can come in a variety of forms, these types of incidents can be described as when a person is verbally abused, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances related to their work. This can include verbal assaults or threats as well as being physically attacked.

The most common form of violence and aggression to experience in the workplace is verbal abuse and threats, whereas physical abuse is comparatively rare. It is not only service users who can display violent or aggressive behaviour, it could also be family members, members of the public or colleagues etc.

What can cause this behaviour?

There are several different factors which can lead to a person becoming violent or aggressive, this can include:

  • Illness/infection
  • Confusion
  • Medication side effects
  • A personal response to being frustrated, stressed, scared or a sense of losing control.

Signs to look out for:

Whilst everyone reacts differently, there are some common warning signs which could lead to violent and/or aggressive behavior, these include:

  • Raised voice
  • Agitation
  • Clenched fists
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Threats
  • Pacing up and down
  • Becoming argumentative

How to respond to this behaviour

Before entering your service user’s property, make sure that you have thoroughly read their care plan so that you can understand any history of violent or aggressive behaviour that they may have in advance. Once you are with the service user, watch out for any early signs of aggressive behaviour. This can include anxiousness or agitated behaviour as well as restlessness. Remember to remain calm, composed, and professional when around the service user, ensuring that you are also establishing eye contact. Control the tone of your voice when speaking to the service user and reassure them if necessary.

If a situation begins to escalate between you and the service user, try and defuse it if possible. If another colleague is around, try and involve them to deflect the conversation. Another way to try and defuse the situation is by continuously showing empathy to the service user, listening to them, and reassuring them that you are acknowledging their feelings.

While trying to calm the service user down, remember to keep a safe distance and allow personal space in case the situation escalates. Report all incidents to the office as soon as you have the possibility to, however, in the event of lives being at immediate risk from the behaviour of the Service User, leave the property immediately and call 999 for Police assistance.

What not to do

When a service user is acting in a violent or aggressive manner it is important to act appropriately so that no one ends up hurt and so the service user does not feel more stressed or overwhelmed. Ways of acting inappropriately in this situation include:

  • Try to strike or physically engage with the aggressor
  • Use aggressive behaviour
  • Raise your voice
  • Stand too close, ensuring that you are at a safe distance
  • Try to restrain the person being aggressive or violent
  • Make gestures or point

Acting in the correct manner when working is beneficial as it can help to diffuse an aggressive or violent situation but can also help to prevent them happening in the first place. For more information of violence and aggression in the workplace please visit https://www.hse.gov.uk/violence/.

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