Dealing with Difficult People
Thanks to Dr. John Nicoletti and
Mr. Don Lyon for use of their
Training for those who deal with
customers who may not always
appreciate your efforts.
Debra Carson, Risk Manager, City of Longmont
Stewart Ellenberg, Risk Manager, City of Boulder
Risk Management Goals
Simply stated, Risk Management
tries to protect the assets of the
How do we do that?
Trying to prevent losses from
Managing the losses that do occur.
Sometimes the risk is easy to spot!
Sometimes the risk isn’t as obvious.
Good Questions to Ask Every Day:
What might go wrong?
What can we do to minimize the
risk of that happening?
Financial Resources (Donors
Difficult People - What’s the problem?
According to a SportingKids
84% have witnessed parents acting
80% believe that bad behavior is
destroying what youth sports is meant
Football Game Incident
Two brothers pleaded no contest to
felony assault of causing great
bodily harm by attacking other
parents and an elderly coach during
a football game. This occurred
during a fight between two dozen
A coach paid a player $25 to injure
an 8 year old teammate so he
couldn’t play in a game. The player
was hit in the head and groin with a
baseball prior to the game.
League officials investigated but
found no wrongdoing. The police
investigated later and charged the
A parent body-slammed a referee
after he ordered the man’s wife out
of the gym for yelling obscenities
during the game.
A Colorado incident…
A 16 year old umpire is attacked by
players and a coach during a 15-18
year old recreational baseball
tournament. The umpire received
stitches in his mouth and bruised
Which of these were effected by these incidents?
Financial Resources (Donors too)
What we do has an impact on people!
Balancing Customer Service and
Personal Duty to Protect Self & Others
The Role of Public Employees to Our
Our Duty is to Provide Excellent Customer
Strive to Understand
Own Up to Mistakes
City Employees Cannot Refuse Service
Balancing Customer Service and Personal
Duty to Protect Self & Others
Public employees ARE NOT expected to
endure Threatening Behavior
You are not Expected to Tolerate Abuse
Public employees ARE EXPECTED to:
The Nature of Violence
There is not a single variable capable of
predicting violence. In the absence of
disconfirming evidence, one can
tentatively assume that the profile
characteristics are additive. That is, the
more traits or behaviors a person has, the
greater the probability that they may act
Violent individuals do not follow the
rules. They behave proactively and
can easily control the situation.
They feel powerful because they do
not abide by any regulations or
METHODS OF GAINING COMPLIANCE
DAMAGE CONTROL/PERSONAL SURVIVAL
PERSONAL SAFETY & SURVIVAL COMPONENTS
STRATEGIC AND PRE-ESTABLISHED
PERMISSION TO RESPOND AND PROTECT
HOW ARE THEY WHAT IS WHAT IS THEIR
TALKING? THEIR VOICE BEHAVIOR
Respectful Normal Compliant
Negative Loud Passive
THERE MAY BE PRACTICE SESSIONS
WHAT ARE PRACTICE SESSIONS?
* Normal Behaviors
* Boundary Probing Behaviors
* Attack Related Behaviors
* Attack Behaviors
PRACTICE SESSIONS INCREASE WHEN
THERE ARE NO TREES (DETERRENTS)
A CLASSIC PRACTICE SESSION
THREATS MAY BE WRITTEN OR VERBAL
behaviors will either
continue and/or increase.
INDIVIDUAL REACTIONS TO TREES
WHEN A TREE IS PLACED AFTER A
PRACTICE SESSION THE INDIVIDUAL
HAS A CHOICE TO EITHER:
•CLIMB OVER IT
INITIATE AN ACTION
HARD STYLE VERBALIZATIONS
ASK FOR COMPLIANCE
SET CONTEXT – RULES & POLICIES
PRESENT OPTIONS – COMPLY OR ELSE
ACT should be used as an option in the
following conditions when either words fail or
you are not given an opportunity to use them.
CONDITION 1: Whenever your personal safety zone has been violated
CONDITION 2: Whenever others are in imminent danger or property
under your control is threatened
CONDITION 3: Whenever the individual engages in active resistance
(i.e., runs past you to another employee’s office)
CONDITION 4: Whenever you have exhausted all of your verbal
options and have not achieved compliance
CONDITION 5: Whenever a matter of higher priority develops and
requires your attention
REMEMBER: ACT With a Plan and ACT Quickly
Unstable Joe – Softball Legend (In his mind)
spouse Fight with
2x last week
Had a couple
“Always Right” Art – Softball Umpire
full ration Fight with
last week MIL
Had a couple to be a cop
So what do we do?
Steps to Take
Raise your hand & say “Stop”.
Don’t react to their anger.
Keep your distance.
Speak slower & lower.
Steps to Take continued…
“What do you need right now?”
Acknowledge that you heard what
Ask a clarifying question.
Keep firm, but not aggressive, eye
Warning Signs – Nonverbal Communication
A Red Face
Clenched Jaws or Fists
Glaring or Avoiding Eye Contact.
Pacing the Floor
Dealing with Angry People –
Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t fight anger with anger.
Don’t touch the person.
Don’t tell them to calm down.
Avoid using humor unless…
Don’t justify their anger
“I would be angry too!”
Don’t turn your back
Don’t make statements that insult
Don’t stick around longer than you
Zero tolerance for alcohol and
Field supervisor awareness
“Bad blood” between teams?
The more the language
deteriorates and becomes
offensive, the greater the risk that
violence may occur!