Dealing with conflict and aggression

by ltconsulting on December 31, 2011

Our dealing with difficult people courses are one of our popular courses as it effectively demonstrates how to neutralise problem situations in the workplace. It covers a wide range of scenarios that occur in the workplace such as; working with aggressive people, disagreeing with others, handling bullies at work, dealing with ignorant people at work and working with unreasonable people. This course will cover mediation and will show delegates how valuable managing and mediating conflict is when managing or handling difficult staff/employee(s). The dealing with difficult people at work course also provides useful information for working with a difficult boss/manager and guidance on how to deal with bullying in the workplace.

Dealing with conflict and aggression

There are some things which we can do in such situations, so that we are more likely to handle them successfully:

Be Prepared

You may know a situation is likely to arise from information you already have available. If this is the case, it is important to use this information to anticipate what is likely to happen and how you are going to handle it. Other preparation you can carry out, where you have no prior knowledge of a situation, is to be sure of your facts and policies, e.g. complaints’ procedure.

Keep the Situation Calm

By being careful not to overreact to initial comments, you are more likely to understand the problem. It is important you show customers that you understand the problem, and how they feel. Let them know that you can help them and that you want to help them. Focus on the issues concerned and not the personalities as this will help maintain the customer’s self-esteem. Above all, be positive in your handling of the situation.

Look For Solutions

Even if a solution is not apparent, keep calm and aim to be positive. Explore possible options, as very often, giving people a choice and getting them to think, will help to calm them down. Encourage the customer’s help in finding an acceptable solution. Try to view each problem as an opportunity.

Show You Care

Customers with a difficult situation can be frustrated when faced by an organisation. By responding with empathy and showing you understand, you can demonstrate that you do care about their situation, and that you do want to find a solution. Your aim should be not only to resolve the problems but to make customers feel they have been treated fairly. By staying calm and being professional, you can often resolve such situations. By listening and showing understanding, you will find it much easier to resolve difficult problems.

Three Key Principles

There are three key principles it is important to consider in dealing with difficult situations:

  1. Maintain or improve the other person’s self-esteem.
  2. Listen and show you understand the problem.
  3. Involve the customer in solving any problems.

In dealing with such situations, it is useful to have some sort of a framework to follow. This will help you ensure that you cover everything that you need to, and it will provide you with a means of making sure you resolve the problem.

Greet the Customer in a Friendly Manner – The way you address a customer can greatly affect your success in dealing with both difficult and routine situations. A friendly manner can gain quick co-operation and lets customers know that you are interested in their needs. In addition, you are setting a positive tone for the rest of the conversation. If you start out on the wrong foot, it will be even harder to win the situation around.

Ask For Details of the Customer’s Enquiry – Find out as much as possible about the apparent problem from all available sources. This is an information gathering stage where you need to gain information from the customer through effective questioning. Let the customer understand the relevance of the questions you ask. You cannot help with a situation until you know all the details. Customers who have lost confidence in the organisation may be reluctant to discuss details with you and they may need to be encouraged by your assurances that you can help. Listen and respond with empathy to their situation, and let them know that you want to help.

State the apparent problem – If you are giving bad news, or the problem has been brought to your attention by a colleague, you should state the apparent problem. Tip: try to state it from the customer’s point of view. This gives you a starting point and gives the customer a chance to say whether you have understood the problem correctly. It is important to understand exactly what the problem is before you can solve it.

Check and indicate you understand the situation – This is an opportunity for you to summarise the situation as you understand it. It will demonstrate to customers that you have been listening, and that you do understand the situation. It will also give customers a chance to add anything that has been missed. A genuine effort on your part to understand their position will enhance their self- esteem.

Identify the real problem (if different from the apparent problem) – When you know all the facts, you may feel the apparent problem is not the real one. For instance a spate of customer complaints (the apparent problem) may be caused by a lack of training given to a newly appointed staff member (the real problem).

Openly express your position – Let them know that your objective is to satisfy them. At the same time tactfully tell them what you can, and cannot, do. Be careful not to imply that their point of view is wrong. Tactful honesty will give them a clear understanding of what you can do to resolve the situation.

Assess the alternatives – Try to identify all the possible solutions. At this stage do not worry too much about how practical the solutions are, it is important to generate as many possible solutions as you can.

Select the best solution – This can be the most complex stage. Very few changes can be made in isolation, and therefore a solution which seems beneficial to you, may have a detrimental effect on someone else in the organisation. Each alternative solution therefore must be carefully weighed against the benefits and possible drawbacks each would provide.

Reach agreement on specific actions – There is no point in solving problems unless action is taken to implement the chosen solution. If possible, reach agreement on a final solution. If it’s a problem that cannot be resolved immediately, establish an action plan for solving it, explaining what you propose to do. Where the solution is complex, the action plan is essential, spelling out what is to be done, by whom, and when. Ask for the customers’ ideas, or offer suggestions. By including them you will enhance their self-esteem. Make sure that you both know what will happen next.

Thank Customers for Their Co-operation – Let them know that you appreciate their help and co-operation in resolving the situation. Complete the conversation by sincerely thanking them as this will enhance their self-esteem and their satisfaction with the organisation.

Such situations may result in a customer wishing to take up the complaint with a manager or even to make a formal complaint. Most organisations will have a complaints’ procedure. In these cases, it is important not to pass any judgement on the situation, but to fully inform the customers of their rights under the complaints’ procedure and of the action they need to take.

Delegates who attend our Dealing With Difficult People training courses will:

Other related courses include assertiveness skills, mediation skills, negotiation skills and communication skills for managers. Click here if you need more information regarding Dealing With Difficult People training courses or contact Total Success who will be delighted to talk to you via e-mail.

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