Do you deal with confrontation at work (not colleagues) and does it bother you?

Discussion in 'education & employment' started by Poot, May 18, 2018.

  1. Poot

    Poot Everyone's a superhero, everyone's a Captain Kirk

    I sometimes have to deal with unhappy people as part of my job. Not colleagues - I am perfectly capable of pissing them off, too, but I speak to people on the phone and in person as part of my job and sometimes they can be angry or sad or a mixture of both. I am generally sympathetic and can usually find a way of reassuring them and smoothing things over. I am happy to do so.

    My problem is when I encounter somebody who refuses to listen and shouts over me. Because there is NOTHING you can do. I had one today who simply shouted pseudo legal bollocks over me for twenty minutes (it made no sense whatsoever, he clearly has a Bumper Book of Made Up Legal-Sounding Twaddle to Make You Sound Clever and would not let me explain what the Act in question actually says) He shouted every time I went to speak and left almost certainly feeling as though he had the moral high ground. (That was the bit that sucked most!)

    In answer to all of my colleagues' questions of 'Jesus, are you okay?' I responded 'Oh hell yes. After all, one of us still has our dignity intact ha ha!' But in truth I really struggle with it. I've dragged the experience around with me all day and I'm struggling to let go. I would hate to admit that he got me down... But he did.

    Do you meet with confrontation as part of your job and how do you cope with it?
  2. With large amounts of alcohol. Or at least, I used to.

    Sorry you have to put up with that shit. People like that aren't worth fretting about.
  3. Thimble Queen

    Thimble Queen person of tinge

    I had to deal with upset people on the phone in a previous job. If it got too much, I would just say: "sorry, I'm going to end the call now". Sounds like that's not an option for you though. Sorry to hear you are dealing with this :(
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
  4. mx wcfc

    mx wcfc Well-Known Member

    Yes. I am sick of it.
    Last edited: May 19, 2018
    Throbbing Angel likes this.
  5. purenarcotic

    purenarcotic Conveniently Pocket Sized

    Yes, I find the following helps:

    - let them rant it out, at some point they run out of steam
    - acknowledge their feelings and where there is a justification reflect that back
    - it’s not usually personal, it’s the system or the process they’re annoyed about. If it wasn’t you then it’d be someone else in your position they’d be railing against
    - if it becomes personal, make it clear the call will be terminated
    - this might be more specific to my area of work but there is significant trauma and abuse going on, I’d be angry and upset and confused and raging too. Makes dealing with it easy to cope with
  6. Thimble Queen

    Thimble Queen person of tinge

    That sounds like a really good way to deal with it.
  7. Puddy_Tat

    Puddy_Tat meh

    as i've spent most of my working life either in passenger transport or local authority (or local authority passenger transport) i've encountered a certain amount of it, either on the phone or in person.

    would agree with a lot of what purenarcotic says.

    risk of violence / abuse at work is a legitimate health & safety issue.

    HSE stuff here. TUC 'worksmart' here. and a couple of TSSA safety reps' bulletins on this page.

    have your employers offered any guidance / equipment? e.g. techniques for trying to defuse situations, guidance on body language and thinking about means of escape, physical layout of workplace, cctv, personal alarms / panic buttons - and procedures, e.g. lone working. (adapt / delete as appropriate for whatever it is you do)

    when i did housing benefits, there were two or three clients (out of 1/8 of a big london borough's worth) that there was a discreet code on their file that they would never be seen alone in an interview room if they came in to the office - someone else would always sit in to 'supervise' or pretend to be in training.

    and have your employers made it clear what you are / aren't expected to put up with? e.g. has it been made clear in what circumstances you can end a phone call? and do they make it clear to clients that abuse of staff won't be tolerated?

    and it not, why the heck not? may be worth talking to your union...
  8. Gromit

    Gromit International Man of Misery

    I think I've only ever had two jobs where the occasional angry customers didn't come with the territory.

    I generally pity the angry person because they are too dumb to realise that rather than increasing their chances of help from me they are in fact increasing their chances of me not giving a shit about them and me leaving them til last or doing as little as possible within the limits of my responsibility to help.
    It's the nice people I go out of my way to help and maybe bend a rule or two. Horrible people get the letter of the law.

    Dealing with frantic, desperate people threatening to commit suicide (who you sympathise with but can do little to help)... now that's hard. A lot harder than anger. Angry people are a breeze in a park after those.

    (Manning a argicultral help line during the BSE crisis and Foot and Mouth crisis, volunteer basis).
    Last edited: May 19, 2018
  9. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I get a handful of randoms on the phone who have been failed by local government. The organisation I work for doesn’t do that sort of work so I have to explain that we can’t help them and maybe suggest other options.

    Sometimes they insist that we have to help which is where it gets difficult.

    I have so far this year been told that I will be personally responsible for someone’s death by one person and that I should die a horrible death by another.

    It does affect me but I’m mainly glad i’m not having to deal with the issues they are. I do have a supportive workplace and people do respect me for trying my best with people (it’s only me that does this there).

    There has been a lot more of this over the last few years. Lots of desperate people out there not getting the help they need.
    ddraig likes this.
  10. Red Cat

    Red Cat Well-Known Member

    A lot of frontline admin staff are having to deal with desperate people, the admin staff in our place (mental health services) are in bits.

    Anyone dealing with people in distress ought to get some kind of reflective supervision imo but as most people don't even get this is in health care settings, even mental health care settings, there's no chance of that. Important to remember that it's not a personal weakness if it gets to you, it's supposed to get to you, it's a communication.
    AnnO'Neemus, ddraig, Rebelda and 4 others like this.
  11. bellaozzydog

    bellaozzydog rolling turds in glitter

    Sorry long winding post. Basically "how I have developed soft skills the hard way"

    Save time with the me me me and read the practical shit in bold italic

    Bearing in mind I'm not naturally a friendly cuddly social type, I'm more likely to tell someone to fuck off, ignore them or just avoid them

    My last four years has been spent overseeing a national French company (sub contractor) that has a company policy of actively and aggressive opposing the role that I am in. They actually run courses that managers go on to avoid/evade/confound client reps (my role)

    Two to five meeting a day, some they try not to even tell me about. Actively aggressive in meetings from top man down through senior managers.

    I have had a group of ten angry French men shouting at me in a car park surrounded by a 100 labourers.

    They'd do anything to discredit you or get you removed/sacked.

    And I live eat sleep and work with them 24/7 six weeks at a time which is challenging.

    I meditate before meetings, in the conference room, which freaks them out/disables their aggression a bit. I speak slowly and listen slowly which allows me to process the information and puts space in the discussion slows the tempo. Ask loads of clarifying questions to get as much detail about the topic (from their perspective) from as many different people, talk to the room not the angry person only.
    Stay polite, don't bluff, don't promise anything on the spot, don't make any judgement calls without enough time to process the details, give them a timeline for feedback if you have to. Stay polite. Solve their problem/let them solve your problem with their solution, find some humour that actually translates into another language/culture..

    In the end everyone is under pressure, once you've worked out where the emotion is coming from you can set out to reduce it/solve the problem

    They fucking hate it. They want to battle, they have all the information, all the man power and if it "went to the ground" they would win and I would have a nervous fucking breakdown after about three days on rotation.

    The company have removed senior managers and bosses that couldn't tone the aggro down and were getting nowhere with our team because it was causing chaos and they were losing real money.

    I reconcile all the bad feeling I get by actively challenging their workers shit conditions, getting them better facilities, better kit, reducing pointless tasks, getting internet access put in, better food, award schemes and recognition for good stuff and generally trying to empower the workforce to have the confidence to challenge shit flung at them

    The company hierarchy insist no one in the workforce talks to me or gives me information without supervision. They do, actively, with some glee. I see that as the biggest win for me
    Last edited: May 19, 2018
  12. Poot

    Poot Everyone's a superhero, everyone's a Captain Kirk

    Thanks for the support. You lot do some awe-inspiring work. And a lot of the people you deal with are facing traumatic situations that I struggle to even imagine, and that must be very hard indeed. You must struggle to let go.

    To make it clear, my work is very rarely dealing with people in those situations, it is either people who are out of their depths and crap at their jobs and find that shouting over me is the best cover-up (like yer man yesterday) or they're out to make money out of my company any way they can or they try to hold us to ransom to make money out of us (figuratively, although someone did pull a gun on my colleague once).

    I have never been in fear of violence but someone in your face shouting at you, well, it just stays with me. I'm wondering whether I'm cut out for this.
  13. Red Cat

    Red Cat Well-Known Member

    People out of their depth are usually anxious, which is more easily expressed as aggression. And of course aggression stays with you, how couldn't it? Thinking you have it easy and ought to be able to deal with it is no help to you at all.
    ddraig, Looby, Poot and 2 others like this.
  14. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model Every man and every woman is a star

    I used to work in market research so it's water off a duck's back
  15. keithy

    keithy or queefy

    "Sorry, I can't help you any more"
  16. Poot

    Poot Everyone's a superhero, everyone's a Captain Kirk

    I did 'Anyway, I must be on my way. How nice to meet you.' *Smile benignly, shake hands (he had the wettest handshake ever btw), get into car* But the main problem was that it bothered me all day. Even though I totally KNEW that I shouldn't give him headspace. Rest of the day fucked cos I couldn't remove him from my brain. Totally oversensitive. I really need to get a grip.
    keithy likes this.
  17. Looby

    Looby Well-Known Member

    When I was a civil servant all 3 of my jobs involved dealing with angry people. I was pretty good at it and I often used to get given the difficult cases because I was so good on the phone. It was a situation where they had to deal with me and had often been a bit naughty so I had to be quite firm.

    I deal with upset clients in a different job now but this time they are usually scared and frustrated so I handle it in a very different way and it’s harder.

    My next job after I qualify will be the toughest yet. Hope I can do it well.
    Pickman's model likes this.
  18. purenarcotic

    purenarcotic Conveniently Pocket Sized

    It’s not always easy to let go and it’s not a failure of you to find it difficult. Being shouted at is never pleasant. Using similar techniques even if the cause is different can still be effective though. Acknowledging feelings can be very powerful ‘I can hear how frustrated and angry you are’ / ‘that does sound very frustrating, I can see why you are angry. Unfortunately xyz has to happen because of abc but I understand that might be difficult for you. What would make managing that situation easier?’ - puts it back onto them then as well then.
    AnnO'Neemus and Poot like this.
  19. Poot

    Poot Everyone's a superhero, everyone's a Captain Kirk

    It's a good tactic for sure, and it's one that I learnt in a previous job. But it only works if the other person isn't constantly shouting over you and repeatedly saying no and you're under time pressure. He also lied repeatedly about a load of stuff. There was just no reasoning with him. Honestly, I am small and have a quiet voice and open body language and just nothing worked. I tried waiting until the end of the rant but it started getting personal so I decided to cut my losses. Maybe if I'd stuck around a bit longer I might have got a different outcome but he was just utterly determined not to listen to me and I had a million and one other things to do. I regret it now.
    Pickman's model likes this.
  20. keithy

    keithy or queefy

    Whoa whoa whoa. NO. Do you have a supportive line manager? No way should somebody dealing with this kind of thing as part of their work be left to internalise it and feel like a failure for having a natural emotional response.

    You are a human. That is what makes you good at working with humans. Give yourself space to process this shit and move on. Do not beat yourself up!
    ddraig, Rebelda, rubbershoes and 3 others like this.
  21. Red Cat

    Red Cat Well-Known Member

    What bullies do is project their feelings of inadequacy into others in a very powerful way, this can be quite subtle, a sly attack on your work, or shouting in your face, the affect is the same, their feelings of failure and powerlessness end up in you and can be hard to dislodge.
    Poot and Looby like this.
  22. purenarcotic

    purenarcotic Conveniently Pocket Sized

    Maybe he’s just a bellend? :D

    You win some you lose some - it doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is yours or that you have failed in some way. Think you are being rather harsh on yourself there!
    ddraig, Poot and Looby like this.
  23. Looby

    Looby Well-Known Member

    Sometimes you just have to walk away/end the call as people get themselves in such a state they can’t listen to reason or be rational.

    It’s hard not to take it to heart but it really isn’t about you. They’re probably frustrated and pissed off and are taking it out on you.
    AnnO'Neemus likes this.
  24. Red Cat

    Red Cat Well-Known Member

    I think that's the dynamic. It's the same in dv and other forms of abusive interactions/relationships.
    Poot and purenarcotic like this.
  25. komodo

    komodo Well-Known Member

    TBH this does sound scary - someone shouting in your face in a car park. You were in a more vulnerable situation away from your team. No wonder it has upset you. Make sure you get the support of your boss and team.
    Poot likes this.
  26. marty21

    marty21 One on one? You're crazy.

    Fairly common to get yelled at working in Social Housing tbf :hmm:
    Voley, Pickman's model and Poot like this.
  27. Poot

    Poot Everyone's a superhero, everyone's a Captain Kirk

    Is it water off a duck's back Marty or does it tend to stay with you? For me, if someone really is in a desperate situation, I would like to think that's the phone call that would bother me, but tbh I think it would just be anyone who's a bit shouty, of which I expect there are many.
  28. maomao

    maomao 四月她爹

    I'm not customer services but am often first contact for angry customers and I'm not keen on it. Had a prominent Labour MP (progress not momentum) be very very rude to me on Saturday. It can be really unnecessary and wearing. I don't mind it if it's my fault, but it rarely is.
  29. marty21

    marty21 One on one? You're crazy.

    After 20 odd years, it doesn't bother me, they aren't angry with me, angry with the system. It was probably worse when I worked in Housing Benefit.
    Voley, Poot and Pickman's model like this.
  30. Spymaster

    Spymaster Cockney Wanker

    Fortunately the only confrontation that I have to deal with now is chasing overdue invoices and dealing with surly accounts payable types. I actually quite enjoy a bit of legal/business argie-bargie and currently have ongoing disputes with an insurance company (cricket club claim) and Westminster council (parking ticket) which are good fun in my spare time but I wouldn't want to do that every day as part of my job.

    A friend of mine has recently resigned from Paypal. Paypal frequently suspend people's accounts due to money laundering regulations and various other reasons. Obviously as soon as that happens they get an irate phone call from the customers who can't access their money. My mate was CS for them and took the first calls. He has thicker skin than a rhino but it's just worn him down. It's not uncommon for things to get very personal indeed; "you minimum wage cunt" and "what kind of a cunt works on a Sunday?" being two recent gems. I reckon I'd have taken that for a few days before I jacked it in or got fired for responding in kind but he lasted nearly 4 years.

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