Faculty often encounter a troubled student when they have arranged a meeting with that student, but staff are more often on the front lines and may not be expecting to encounter an angry or hostile student. Therefore, it is essential that faculty and staff develop a strategy or "plan" for times when difficult students are encountered.
Precautions to take include:
- Consider establishing a code word or phrase to be used within your department. That word would serve as a signal to others to call for help outside your office. Example: "Can you please hold all my calls?" "My next appointment is with President Shelton, can you call him to let him know I will be late?"
- Consider installing a panic button
- Terminate any conversation immediately if you feel something is wrong
- Leave your door open during any meeting with a student
- Avoid body language that appears challenging such as placing your hands on your hips, moving into the student's territory, or using aggressive facial expressions
- Slow your rate of speech down and use a low pitch and volume to reduce the momentum of the situation
- Ask to consult your supervisor, a department head, or the Dean of Students Office to help satisfy the agitated person's need to feel heard
- Listen carefully by really paying attention to what is said. Let the student know you will help within your ability to do so and within reason.
- Ask questions to regain control of the conversation and to understand the situation
- Never agree with distorted statements nor attempt to argue. Avoid defensiveness.