Yelling, insults, sexist sayings: There are jobs and work environments where this is common. But that doesn't mean you have to endure it. But on the contrary.
In the field service of the public order office in Essen, they are used to personal attacks. The employees not only deal with illegal parkers, but also with people from the drug and alcohol scene. If a situation escalates, aggressive words are often used towards the law enforcement officers.
There is then shouting and insults, often with misogynistic or sexist references in the case of traffic monitoring, says Jasmin Trilling from the press office of the city of Essen. Dealing with it is different. Some take it personally, others can separate their function from their person.
However, it is not only the employees of the public order office who have experienced hatred and insults. Basically, experiences of violence are present in all workplaces with customer contact, says Anne Gehrke from the Institute for Work and Health of the German Statutory Accident Insurance. Health care, local and long-distance public transport, retail and judicial and social authorities are particularly affected.
Verbal violence can also occur within the college. According to Anne Gehrke, this ranges from insults, discriminatory remarks and yelling to inappropriate first names, threats, slander or blackmail. Internal verbal violence in the workplace often manifests itself in the form of bullying.
"Many people think they have to swallow these things," says psychologist Tiana-Christin Schuck from TÜV Nord. That is a mistake. Rather, she suggests reporting it officially, even for the smallest incidents.
It also recommends an accident report. Most of the serious psychological consequences occur with a delay of three to five months. If an incident is documented, this can pave the way to psychotherapy.
The leading prevention director of the professional association for health service and welfare (BGW), Heike Schambortski, knows of "many psychological reactions" that can develop after an event that is perceived as threatening.
Clear signals are "anger, fear, helplessness, irritability and sleep disorders". According to Schambortski, more serious cases are diseases of the skin or the musculoskeletal system, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Heike Schambortski believes that employers have a duty to protect employees from violence and aggression and to look after those affected afterwards. Managers play a key role. They significantly shape the culture of communication.
This influences how sensitive the team is to incidents. "Only when those affected experience and are told that their experiences are being taken seriously and no blame is assigned will they openly address violent incidents," says Schambortski.
A risk assessment of the activity is also important in this regard, says psychologist Tiana-Christin Schuck. It is required by law with the aim of "preventively checking whether work is potentially hazardous to health".
According to Schambortski, another preventive measure is to train employees in de-escalating behavior. This made employees feel safer and less stressed. "Just knowing about the possibilities of de-escalation and good preparation for violent situations mean that violent events can be reduced." However, this only works if aggression and de-escalation management is clearly formulated, applied and widely communicated.
But which rules apply in tricky situations? Anne Gehrke advises: first think about your own security, pay attention to self-confident body language, stay calm. Don't touch the aggressive person. Call for help in an emergency.
The city of Essen offers, among other things, training courses for employees of the public order office on how to deal with difficult situations in the field service, says press spokeswoman Trilling. In addition, verbal attacks are consistently reported.