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Angry Britain

Assaults on customer-facing staff have rocketed in the last two years, as angry Britons vent their anger and frustration, it is claimed.

Struggling to cope with the pressures of everyday life, more people than ever are resorting to physical and verbal attacks on others, with ticket inspectors, paramedics, nurses, hospitality, security and other customer-facing staff taking the brunt. Research carried out by qualifications body City & Guilds to support the demand for conflict management training as part of a long term solution to workplace conflict, reveals that more than a third (37 per cent) of Britons have been verbally abused whilst at work. One in six (16 per cent) have been threatened and a further seven per cent have been physically abused by a member of the public. And this abusive behaviour appears to be on the increase, with nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of those questioned believing that incidents of abuse have escalated over the last two years. Rob Roseveare, conflict management specialist, City & Guilds warns that time pressures, unmet expectations and poor customer service are now taking their toll on the British.

What they say

As a nation, we are becoming increasingly aggressive, more impatient and less aware of the effect of our behaviour on others. Ultimately, no matter how busy or rushed life is, it simply isn’t acceptable to shout, swear or become aggressive to someone who is just doing their job.”

Young adults (25-34 year olds) are the most likely perpetrators of this misdirected aggression – a third (33 per cent) of this age group have admitted losing their temper with a call centre worker, a shop worker or a bus driver, compared to 25 per cent of those over 55. The hectic pace of modern life is often blamed for such outbursts. More than three quarters (77 per cent) say they feel under pressure and that there aren’t enough hours in the day, with 28 per cent admitting they vent their frustration on individual workers, despite knowing it is their organisation that is to blame. One in seven (14 per cent) don’t regret their actions afterwards, claiming that the customer-facing worker ‘deserved it’.

Escalating violence against customer facing staff has prompted City & Guilds in partnership with Maybo, the UK leader in conflict management training, to devise the first government accredited qualification in Conflict Management and is urging organisations to develop long-term strategies to protect their staff against workplace conflict. According to Roseveare: "The results of this research demonstrate how abuse in the workplace has become a significant problem. Almost half of those questioned admit to being abusive to call centre staff at one time or other. The rising number of assaults has sparked concern among employers who are now increasingly adopting a zero-tolerance stance to abuse towards their staff. It is important that people feel safe at work and that they are empowered with the right skills to be able to do their jobs. Conflict management has become a vital life skill in many sectors and employers are now realising the value of conflict management training, as part as their overall strategy to address the issue of violence at work.”

About City & Guilds

The awards body adds that its Level 2 Certificate in Conflict Management has been developed for roles that are at risk of verbal abuse and will provide employees with the ability to:
assess and reduce the risk of violence at work; identify behavior that indicates an escalation towards violence and take appropriate measures to avoid or calm and defuse a situation; identify post incident support and report the circumstances to provide information for personal and organisation learning. A Level 3 Certificate in Conflict Management is aimed at the higher risk role and helps employees manage and reduce the risk of physical assault. They will learn about all aspects of physical intervention through to safe and appropriate restraint. The practical element will focus on areas such as breakaway skills and guiding and escorting.


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