COVID-19 is a persistent presence that will not be going away anytime soon. With this presence the need for masks will likely remain, even as certain people are tired of them and at times combative over the subject.
During this crisis, security guards often have to step in and assist in situations implementing mask protocols at private and public properties. They have to deal with several people throughout the day who refuse to properly wear a mask. And as we have seen in news stories and social posts, the situation can quickly get out of hand if they are not handled cautiously. For this reason, it is vital to equip businesses and security with the tools they need to learn proper methods on how to safely de-escalate volatile situations.
The Impact of De-Escalation Training
Every few days, a new viral video emerges on social media where customers are fighting with staff at supermarkets, restaurants or retail stores refusing to use a mask. This repetitive aggression may entice guards to lose their cool and fight back. But, as is their job, they need to remain calm during such situations.
Security officers are human too and it’s natural to get angry. De-escalation training can effectively help them keep their wits about them and stay in control. This training assists them with tactics on how to become a better listener. Instead of making the situation worse, they can listen to angry customers and communicate with them in a calming manner. When people are angry and vocalizing that, they are basically saying that they want to be heard. It’s more likely that a customer would listen to guards if they empathize with them and try to listen to “their side”. Unfortunately, sometimes these incidents aren’t always resolved so simply.
How to Deal with Customer Rage
Most businesses have a mandated face mask policy within the premises. When confronted with a non-compliant actor, the first step guards should try to do is politely state the rule to customers and ask them to put on a mask. Under no circumstances should they verbally attack those who refuse to follow the policy. It’s best to restate the rule and briefly try to explain the benefits of this policy. More importantly, explaining that they will not be able to make their purchase unless they comply, and will need to leave the store. If the person still refuses to follow the policy and it escalates and gets verbal, the guard can also try offering alternate options with them. For instance, if they work at a restaurant, they may ask customers to consider a take out option for their own safety. If at a grocery store, perhaps they can offer the curbside pick up or even delivery option.
Should these efforts not work, it is vital to always stay calm and let the customer speak. It may be difficult, but you will only escalate the problem by yelling. Another thing to remember is to not take the situation personal. It’s not about you, and they are not mad at you. Next thing is to not demonstrate threatening body language, i.e. avoid crossing your arms, clenching fists, or touching/pushing the individual. You must maintain a calm and relaxed presence. If at all possible, you can try to move to a more private area where there are less people around, the possibility of cameras filming, and they won’t be embarrassed. This also helps keep customers from engaging in the situation and further provoking the individual. When tempers flare it will only add to the frustration of the incident. Another very simple and often overlooked tip is to not position yourself between the customer and the door. Make sure to give them a clear route to exit. However, if every strategy fails, and they still refuse to comply, calmly ask them to leave.
As the pandemic continues and we must still comply with mask mandates, people tend to get irritated more easily leading to fights or confrontations. Under such circumstances, it’s the responsibility of security officers to ensure that every person follows regulations and limits altercations. De-escalation training has proven to be a valuable asset in managing frustrated customers and helping people stay safe.