Supervisory Expectations – Volatile Situations

TO: All University Supervisors

FROM: Keith Hood, Manager of Labor Relations

DATE: December 1, 2008

The basic premise is that it is all of our responsibility to create a responsive and helpful environment.  It is a manager’s responsibility to intervene and manage a potentially volatile situation.  If it escalates too quickly for effective intervention, staff should call 911.

In addition:

  1. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to prepare all assigned staff for periods of increased public contact.  This includes ensuring that all are knowledgeable of the issues that might be raised and specifying a way to resolve such problems as may arise.
    Hints: fact sheets for all, numbers and contacts for special issues, an internal verbal signal that requests assistance similar to codes in hospitals.
  2. The supervisor should continually evaluate staff members’ interpersonal skills so that individuals can be assigned for public contact with maximum effectiveness.  Supervisors and managers are expected to model effective interaction and to provide training as appropriate for staff.
    Hints: special greeter at the entrance to “triage” folks, provide written material for those who wait in line
  3. Specific guidance should be provided to all front-line personnel about when to ask for assistance and the manager should be prepared and available to provide that help when it is requested.
    Hints: relocate to the immediate vicinity during peak times, ensure maximum coverage when most patrons are seeking assistance
  4. During both “routine” and special periods, the manager and his/her deputy should be attentive to potential or developing problems and should intervene immediately.  As a first response it is the supervisor’s responsibility to provide a meeting place away from the public arena so that the problem can be addressed and they should move the patron to that area for discussion.
    Hints: have a room with a door and a clearly defined path to it that won’t be impeded by crowded conditions in the main area.  So other patrons won’t think this is preferential treatment, you may need to say “I have some information you need in the next room” or words to that effect
  5. Managers/Supervisors should ensure that there are adequate breaks and rotations so that no single staffer spends extended periods in stressful situations.
    Hints: rather than having predefined break times, evaluate how folks are doing and give breaks on an “as needed” basis
  6. Provide a mechanism for registering of compliments and complaints and their resolution as necessary.
    Hints: at the entrance post “comment cards”, have a sign indicating that you’re interested in feedback about services, walk the waiting line and ask for suggestions about how the process could be more efficient.