The airline industry has reported an increase of violence from passengers towards staff and health-care staff are experiencing the same.
Of nurses polled recently, 61 per cent reported a serious problem with violence in the past year, according to the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
Forms of abuse includes verbal, racial or sexual harassment, and physical assault. It is so bad that 66 per cent of those in health care have considered a different occupation or at least a different employer.
There are a number of possible reasons for this situation. People may be high on drugs and this is influencing behaviour, certain medications can trigger aggression, there are simply more people so the rates are going up, or people are really frustrated.
Perhaps all of the above are playing a part.
The media receives its share of telephone calls from the public who feel they have nowhere to turn for help — a big source of frustration.
If people feel they are being treated unfairly, or they have an issue with the service they are receiving, there seem to be fewer options to be heard in a meaningful way than there were in the past.
Gone are the days when someone at the top of an organization was fully accountable to customers/patients. It is hard to even find the names of upper management on websites of corporations, airlines, hospitals and the like.
If you do find an executive’s name there is invariably no contact information, no telephone number and no email address. We have been reduced to an email form on the website that limits the options and sometimes does not work at all.
Even elected officials, in most cases, don’t see the need to respond to a written letter anymore. It may be acknowledged, if you are lucky, by a member of staff but nobody comments on the issues and whether or not your issue is going to be attended to.
It is not hard to understand the level of frustration someone feels in those circumstances and they do not have a union to poll them and bring about change.
There is no excuse for violence on any level and for health-care staff it must be particularly challenging because there may be all sorts of medical and physiological reasons for violence against them.
Everybody also deserves respect.
As a society we are sophisticated on many levels and yet we are not always skilled at diffusing someone’s frustration. If someone is unhappy with the level of care or service they have received, brushing them off with the telephone number for a customer service representative or asking them to complete and submit a form is not adequate.
The mere fact that, increasingly, every large business or organization has a customer relations department could be an indication of the number of complaints/concerns people are expressing. The sad thing is it does not seem to have addressed the real issue.
Having top managers available to someone who is upset serves two purposes. The manager hears directly from the user of the product/service. They become aware and can see for themselves where changes need to be made. The customer/patient knows they have been heard.
It could be as simple as that as a starting point.