Main Content

Aggressive Behavior

Threatening situations that are ascribed a level “1” for threats in workplaces open to the public include verbal aggression, inappropriate social behavior and property damage. If conversations with difficult people or those seeking advice can no longer be resolved via communication, these discussions can escalate, and the persons/those seeking advice may react with verbal abuse, insults, rampaging or property damage. The intervention/conflict resolution in such cases is usually carried out by the employees themselves with the support of management.

The risk of physical injury to the employees and/or the assistants requested is usually rather low. The presence of several people during an altercation can actually temporarily result in an escalation. However, it is important to emphasize that the protection of employees in day-to-day operations has absolute priority and that there may be no obligation on the part of employees to provide active physical assistance!

Recommendations for action:

  • De-Escalating Conflict-Laden Situations

    The goal of de-escalation is to prevent or interrupt direct acts of violence in a conflict-laden situation. Due to the wide variety of potential situations, there are no general recommendations for a de-escalation strategy. However, the following behaviors may help in overcoming critical situations:

    • Remain calm and collected in the role of consultant,
    • Avoid personal insults,
    • Avoid intimidating, threatening or making physical contact with the aggressor,
    • Remain in conversation, present the prospect of a solution to the problem (but make no false promises),
    • Provide the possibility for the other person to back down honorably,
    • If people do not leave the office after being asked to, then leave the office yourself.
  • Body Language and Assertiveness

    Maintaining eye contact when responding and listening, keeping an open posture and projecting positive self-confidence help signal authority and security vis-à-vis the other person. When listening, it helps to maintain eye contact as much as possible. When speaking, however, it is recommended to break eye contact repeatedly, so that the persons you are talking to do not feel pressured or irritated. Assertiveness in the form of verbal defense should be viewed critically. While speaking energetically can set limits and help prevent additional violence, this behavior can also provoke customers to deal with the conflict aggressively.

  • Getting Help

    If an upcoming conversation is considered difficult, it is advisable to ask another person to join the conversation in question. In addition, colleagues and supervisors should be informed in advance of the discussion and asked to remain vigilant and stay close by. It may be helpful to offer the person the opportunity to complain to the supervisor.

  • Documenting the Incident

    Threat level “1” incidents should be recorded in an internal, ideally low-threshold (e.g., department-internal), documentation system. This way, on the one hand, the actual number of incidents can be recorded and, on the other, employees can refer back to them in the event of future incidents.

  • Issuing Building Bans

    In certain circumstances, the underlying facts of security level “1” may justify expelling someone from the office of the employed person, and potentially even a building ban. If these measures are not followed, physical violence must be expected in case of compulsory enforcement. In such a case, it is recommended to involve the police.

    In a justified case, a building ban at Philipps-Universität Marburg may be issued by the legal department, among others. In this specific case, please contact the legal department for professional advice.

  • Criminal Complaints in Individual Cases

    Verbal aggressions and insults may constitute criminal offenses. However, there are different “pain thresholds” among employees. Whether, for example, a criminal complaint will be filed due to an insult or defamation depends on the individual assessment of the person in question. This assessment should take place together with the supervisor.

    If you would like to file a criminal complaint, please contact the legal department of Philipps-Universität Marburg for professional advice.

  • Procedure after Property Damage

    If you have noticed property damage, please report this to your supervisor and fill out the “Theft/Burglary/Damage Report” form. Replacement purchases are made in compliance with the Provisions of the Public Procurement Law. Information about property damage compensation can be found on the website of the Human Resources department.