Accessibility Links
Quick Send CV
Cookies on our website
By continuing to use this website we will assume you are happy to receive cookies as outlined in our cookie policy
Accept Policy




Whether you work in children’s or adult social services, social work practitioners will be used to dealing with conflict and emotional settings, but how do you react when the line crosses from a stressful to a potential unsafe working environment?

In the forthcoming issue of Social Work News magazine (due out in July), you can read an exclusive article from author Brian Atkins about how social workers can maintain their personal safety at all times, but as a preview, he has kindly shared some practical advice for how you can de-escalate situations which may be displaying warning signs of getting out of hand.

1. Remain calm at all times.


If a situation is getting heated, speak to the person concerned calmly and objectively. Try to encourage them to explain their point of view. You can also use silence when appropriate – not only is this non-threatening, but it will give the person space to think and the ability to calm down

2. Conflict resolution


Think about how the situation can be resolved. Try to offer choices about what can be done to resolve the problem – it may give the person concerned ownership and responsibility. Do share the consequences of what could happen if their behaviour continues, but explain these calmly and logically.

Do not use consequences as a threat when trying to de-escalate the situation.

3. Great social work is about building positive relationships


Social workers are trained to build positive relationships with their clients. Focus your efforts on these strong relationships.

Call people by their name to establish rapport and identification

Use “I” and your own name to help build trust

Remind them of your relationship and your past history of working together.

4. Change the subject where possible


If possibly, try using distractions or diversions to diffuse the situation. If you know the client well, why not try changing the subject to something you know they are interested in?

5. Be clear and assertive to regain control


Try to be clear at all times about what you want from the person.

Don’t be afraid to be assertive – for example, if you want them to stop shouting because it makes you uncomfortable and is getting in the way of being able to resolve the situation, then just say so.

6. Early intervention is key


You also need to be able to recognise when a situation is becoming physically dangerous and you need to leave for your own safety. This unusual situation is dealt with in detail in Brian’s book.

These tips are predominently aimed towards those moment when warning signs are evident of a situation spiraling out of control. It is normally better to intervene as early as possible – ignoring initial behaviour can lead to more extreme behaviour. This is useful advice for all working in social care jobs.

You can read more advice and guidance from Brian in his book, “Personal Safety for Social Care and Health Workers”, which can be purchased online for £19.99
Email a friend

Meet the Head of Sanctuary Executive

Add new comment