Your career dilemmas answered by experts
Q. One of my employees was recently punched and shouted at abusively by a client. He has been off sick for a week as a result but is keen to get back to work in the next couple of days. He won’t work with this particular client again and is anxious about his safety when working with other difficult clients. What can we do to address this?
A: I think your employee may want to come back to work too fast, given that he suffered quite a serious attack, replies Yvette Adams, head of human resources for social services at Hamersmith and Fulham Council in London. People often want to return to work quickly to take their minds off of the incident and to get back into a routine. However a bad experience doesn’t disappear from memory easily.
I would suggest your staff member takes some time out to seek support from friends and family and, if necessary, his GP.
When he returns you could increase his supervision, so he can keep you updated on how he is doing. There are courses on dealing with aggression and violence at work, if he is interested. You could refer him to a counsellor.
If at all possible, and only if he wishes it, try and arrange his home visits and client interviews with one other person in attendance.
A referral to occupational health might be appropriate if his confidence and health don’t improve. You can also consider removing him temporarily from his duties and identifying other areas of work, reintroducing him gradually to client contact.
Apart from the practicalities of filling in accident forms, following the appropriate health and safety procedures, and raising the issue with your own line manager and health and safety officer, your organisation should have a policy on dealing with violence against staff.
If so, make sure procedures are followed and that clients realise violence, both physical and verbal, will not be tolerated.
You could also review security for staff in and out the office including developing a database on potentially violent clients; installing panic alarms; recording staff movements in a diary; and encouraging team members to put emergency numbers on mobiles.