Could de-escalation skills have made a difference? An employee is fired, argues with the manager, and comes back shooting. People getting fired happens every day around the world, there are hurt feelings, maybe a few cuss words, but for the vast majority of these moments everyone ends up going home in one piece. But it recently went very bad in Coral Gables, FL…
Are you and your staff ready for that one moment, that one incident, that one person, that could turn an already uncomfortable, unfortunate moment into a violent fatal incident? And just like so many incidences before, people are shocked at the suspect’s violent act, saying there were no indications or history of violence. Just seemed to snap.
There is no guarantee, no magic pill when it comes to dealing with people who are angry. There are, however, things you can do to help minimize the chance of a situation becoming a violent encounter. You can be aware of ACE, your Appearance, your Communication, and your Engagement… Basically, be aware of your body language, your tone of voice, and be actively listening to the person.
Often times a person being yelled at will automatically assume a defensive posture, most often crossing the arms across the chest, and maybe standing up taller, trying to make themselves appear larger which is a common basic animal instinct thing to do. Crossed arms also appear closed off. This posture does not make an angry person feel like calming down to discuss the issue, more often times, in my humble opinion and experience, it will agitate the angry person just a bit more. Be aware of your body language, the message you are sending… Your Appearance.
I have seen many situations that were very controllable become very uncontrollable because the person being yelled at started raising their voice too. It is very very rare that a situation with two people yelling at each other calms down on its own in any timely manner. So tone of voice goes out the window, as well as any consideration to what is being said to calm the situation down. A common phrase used- “Calm down”… Yet, how many of us can say that using that phrase has actually EVER worked?!! In fact it is highly encouraged NOT to use that phrase, and I can tell you from experience that using that phrase to get someone to calm down has rarely worked, I usually get someone yelling back at me “I AM calm!”. One of my best friends in the police department uses the phrase- “Simmer down!” … A person really can’t respond “I am simmered down!”. Be aware of your tone of voice, your Communication.
A person who is angry and yelling and so on, often times is just venting. I have seen so many situations work themselves out with an angry person just venting for a few moments. The trick is not to over react and stay calm, let them vent. LISTEN while they are venting, because often times they will say something that will clue you in on what you can say or do that will help de-escalate the situation. I had an incident a few months ago with a person who was upset about a misunderstanding with their adult special needs child. As soon as I commented that I understood the frustration because I have a special needs child too, the person calmed down almost immediately. I had established a rapport, found something in common, which is critical in creating relationship. I was listening to this person, I was Engaged.
I was not there for the incident in Coral Gables, but witnesses say the personal trainer was fired, there were angry words and then the ex-employee came back with a gun and started shooting. Maybe when he was fired he started to get upset and get loud. In response the manager got defensive, maybe some words were said that shouldn’t have been said. Then the other victim stepped in to back up the manager (the manager was a woman), and now three people were being loud and rude. Everyone figured all was going to calm down after the fired employee finally just stormed off.
Studies have shown that workplace violence are most often times issues that finally boiled over, indicators and clues were missed or ignored leading up to the act of violence. In this particular case in Coral Gables one person has told the media that there was nothing odd or peculiar about the ex-employee, no history of violence, seemed quiet. In my humble experience, how I responded to an angry person very often times greatly affected how the situation turned out. But maybe nothing the manager and other victim said or did could have made a difference, sometimes it just ends up bad. I’ve had that happen too.