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Dealing with distress

In dealing with complaints of discrimination and harassment it is usual for people to be angry, hurt or upset.

It is important for you to know how to deal with distressed staff.

If they are showing signs of distress: 

  • reassure them that it is okay to feel miserable or angry
  • affirm their right to complain and your willingness to listen
  • give clear messages about your role, what you can do, what you expect, what they can expect
  • establish appropriate boundaries, structural, physical and emotional – for example, be clear about your role's limitations, don't invade their space or talk about your own problems
  • respect their expertise and knowledge about themselves and their circumstances
  • ask for information - this helps them move from distress to problem solving
  • offer empathy, not sympathy
  • offer resources to help rather than rescue.

Before staff leave a meeting in which they have been distressed, change the subject and talk to them about ordinary things. This can help calm them down.

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