Usually I write articles based on my experience as a security professional but this one will be addressed from another perspective. That of the person who has a degree in Psychology and has also spent many hours studying behaviours. I would like to combine my two educational backgrounds and discuss how specific behaviours can negatively affect the security industry.
If you are a service provider, you must always have in mind that people you employ and place with clients are the people who represent your brand. Their mistakes will harm you more that it will harm them. Most companies are losing contracts due to toxic or unprofessional behaviour of their operatives. No matter how good a CV looks on paper, attitude and behaviour at work are crucial when you place someone to protect another human being who has his/her own personality traits. Placing the right candidate with any specific client goes much beyond hiring a good HR manager, especially when your company is handling contracts of thousands of dollars and clientele of specific social, financial and celebrity status.
We all are aware of the ongoing news reports and social media posts regarding the complaints of some colleagues about their former clients, claiming how their clients were ‘’rude’’, ‘’cold’’ and ‘’non friendly’’. Now, these people worked for well known companies, so someone obviously thought they would be ok to be hired and placed with specific clients. The fact that they can so easily speak on public forums makes you wonder if NDAs were signed at all before hiring. Again, just one interview and a CV are not enough when you hire someone, especially in this line of work.
While the majority of the industry will say that speaking publicly about your client is unacceptable and unprofessional behaviour and that it also breaks the code of the confidentiality, there seems to be an alarming trend regarding security providers reporting their former clients or talking about them in public.
Now there are many reasons why someone may choose to do so. One, it can be to sell his/her story. Many news media outlets and reporting outlets are paying a lot of money for stories like this. Two, that person found his/her inner writer and are writing a book about that client, again bedtime gossip sells. Three, by going public, they believe they can gain publicity and attention for future employment. Although many serious and high class companies will never hire someone like this, there will always be that one company who will see nothing wrong with it and place this person with another client. Unfortunately, ethics and professionalism in the security industry don’t mean the same for all of us. While at least some positions have the minimum requirements, apparently for others, there don’t seem to be any ethical requirement standards at all…
While specific company or personal ethics seem to vary quite a bit, and discussing the three mentioned reasons above appears to have no worth, there is another valuable and important trait that we can identify with and improve significantly. This is the inability, of some people, to control their emotions in the workplace. These people have a very specific view of how people should treat them, and anything different makes them unable to process their feelings and they cannot control them. They feel hurt, insulted, or perhaps someone was unfair to them and they want to talk about it publicly to gain attention and receive a pat on the back.
As we mentioned earlier, since all of us have different definitions when it comes to ethics and professionalism in security industry, many will see no problem. No issues in posting pictures with their clients (jeopardizing their safety), talking about their private moments, what they saw or heard while working for them or basically breaking every rule of the client’s confidentiality. If the client doesn’t trust you, you will be gone and with you a contract for the company you were working for.
Now let’s focus on our topic: Emotional Control in the Workplace. According to Gross’ definition, (1999), ‘’Emotional control can be thought of as a facet of emotion regulation, but refers primarily to attempts by an individual to manage the generation, experience, or expression of emotion, and/or one’s emotional responses’’. In other words, emotional control is each individual’s ability to manage emotions that may be disturbing, disagreeable, hurtful, insulting, and being able to remain calm and effective at his/her performance. As human beings, we are emotional and we cannot suppress our emotions, but we can learn how and when to manage them. It is ok to be hurt or bothered by specific words or behaviours at work, but how you control your emotional response to a specific trigger is very important for your efficiency and professionalism at work. How many of us, in the course of our day, have been told or asked to do something and we thought…
‘How can he/she talk to me like that?’
‘Who he/she thinks he/she is?’
‘That is not why I was hired!’
And I am sure many of us have been angry, sad, insulted etc.
Someone may ask why it is important to manage our emotions at work. Before answering that, we first must explain how emotions work. Humans are emotional creatures, and our brain was designed for survival and perpetuation of our species. The Amygdala is the portion of the brain that is responsible for our emotions and basically works as our brain’s radar for threat. Now threat can have different meanings, not only physical threat but it can also be when we hear something we don’t like or we don’t agree with, or something that may challenge what we knew and believed up until that moment. When the amygdala detects a ‘’threat’’ we have the so called ‘amygdala hijack’ or ‘emotional hijack’. During this state, we cannot innovate, we cannot learn anything new or process new information, and we rely on old behaviours or patterns. During this hijack, we cannot focus on our professional tasks or duties because our brain will primarily think about what is bothering us at that moment. Also our memory is highly affected, and we will recall only that which is most related to the incident/threat and not other things that may be important for our work. Now, as security professionals, being tasked with someone else’s security, can you see how being able to manage your emotions at work can affect your performance and why it is important? I’m sure you can see it. And keep in mind that many studies performed around the world have proven that being able to manage your emotions competently brings substantially better business outcomes.
As a security professional, you will spend most of your time being the shadow of a person who is paying you. That person has his/her own life beliefs, ethics, attitude, emotions, life worries, etc. How that person addresses you is his/her choice, right or wrong. However, how you react to it and manage the feelings associated with their behaviour is your responsibility. Have in mind that while your job is to protect them, they are not your ‘buddy’. They have their own job/responsibilities of keeping sales and numbers up, creating new products, making sure pay checks to employees are paid at the end of the month, and other important obligations. They have so many issues to deal with and you are not one…You are to be a help, not a hindrance. Professional protection, not a ‘Buddyguard’!
Once, one of our clients used obscenities while speaking to one of our colleagues. While the colleague was literally in tears (Imagine a security professional being in tears in front of the person he is protecting) and decided to quit that day, he failed on several fronts. One, to think that the client may have had a bad day, (Which later on, we found out he had just received the news his ex wife had filed for a divorce) and Two, the client is NOT our friend, and his/her reaction to anything may be, and most likely is, the result of something unrelated to us and not to be misconstrued as such. In this case, the client later apologized, which is rare, but some will not.
No matter what type of client you happen to be providing services for, always keep in mind, the client doesn’t have to be friendly to you, or care how your morning or night has been, doesn’t have to say hello or good morning or even converse with you at all! At the end of the day, it is not personal and it cannot be taken as such. This may very well be how they see social interaction. While it may seem rude for someone not to say hello, for them it may be natural. For them, you are just another employee. Also, have in mind that you will be in contact with many people in their lives of varying backgrounds and levels of power. The client’s wife, PA, butler, nanny or general public all may say something, at some point in time that will upset you. Also, never forget that emotions are highly transferable and someone may have had a fight at home with his/her children or significant other and carried all those emotions to work.
An emotional outburst at work can take your focus from performing your duties best and show you are incapable of controlling your own feelings. Being insulted or feeling you are not treated fairly will probably make you feel angry and anger will increase your heart rate. According to a study done by Prof Cynthia Fisher from Bond University, School of Business in 1997, the most common negative emotions experienced at work are frustration, worry, anger, dislike and unhappiness.
Should we repress or suppress our emotions? No. Can you manage them? Yes, we all are able to minimize those emotional hijacks. Most of us are highly aware of what can trigger our emotions. We know what topics, or events can affect us emotionally. So paying attention and being able to recognize when those signs of destructive emotions are starting to build, we have more chances to stop an emotional hijack. Here are some techniques:
- Know your triggers. This can help you to recognize what upsets you.
- Be respectful. If a person is rude, there is no need to react to it with rudeness and feed it. You can remain firm and professional without being aggressive. Most of the time, those people will calm down once they realize that they are the only one in the room shouting or being rude.
- Use exercise to blast your anger. Hit that treadmill, set some PR’s, roll on the mats… exercise will help to release any physical tension in your body.
- Never bring your negative emotions from home to work and vice versa. What happens at home stays at home and what happens at work stays at work.
- Clarify the situation. Many times it was just a miscommunication or misunderstanding.
- Use the 10-seconds rule. If you feel your temper rising, count to 10 to recompose yourself. If needed and if possible, get some distance and excuse yourself from the situation, reassuring them you will get to this matter as soon as possible.
- If for some reason you had an emotional outburst, apologize to anyone involved with it and take responsibility by recognizing you reacted badly.
- Speak about the incident to your supervisor. If there are behaviours, language or incidents that are irritating you and you are not able to see past them, then you should seek another position with another client. Either way, inform your company regarding any incident. Most of the times companies are not aware of a situation until it becomes unfixable.
- If you are a service provider, make sure you do an internal audit regularly regarding operational effectiveness of your operatives. Ask them, listen to them and also be ready to place them somewhere else if they seem burned out by a specific client/detail.
At the end of the day, keep these in mind, 1) the client is not your buddy, 2) it is not personal, 3) clients need to see that the person assigned to their protection not only is physically trained for the hard task but also he/she is emotionally stable, calm when all else is chaotic and can show restriction and strength when necessary.
If you are interested to learn more about Emotional Control in the Workplace contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org
Denida Zinxhiria Grow
Founder & CEO
At Athena Worldwide we are industry leaders for promoting, training and staffing female bodyguards internationally. With our affiliate offices, we can provide world-wide close protection and executive protection services for entertainment professionals, politicians, CEOs, Royal Families, journalists, clergy and corporate personnel.
Want to find out more about female bodyguards? visit www.athenaworldwide.com
You paid thousands of dollars for training and thousands more on equipment, firearms and clothing. Add in the cost of travel, hotels, meals, time off of work and other expenses and you are finally qualified for work, according to you. But what does the Client value in a protector? It may be no surprise that interpersonal skills top the list. Good manners, eye contact, a firm handshake, a timely smile, and an expansive vocabulary are just the tip of the iceberg. Knowing how to negotiate, and more, knowing when to remain silent are also key to a Client choosing you over an ex-WPPS Private Military Contractor.
After decades in the protection industry, it is continually apparent that while “fieldcraft“ is absolutely valuable and indeed essential to a Client’s required prerequisites, it is the “intellectual” skillset with which the Client has the greatest exposure, (and hardest time finding).
Many laugh when first hearing about interpersonal skills in the personal protection industry. They believe that as long the client is safe, nothing else matters. We all know that we are getting paid for that 0,1% chance that may require us to respond to a threat and “save the client”, but the rest of our time will be spent interacting with the client, their family members, employees, domestic staff, and our own colleagues. And just as important are the paparazzi and the public, both of whom have cameras in hand. One wrong comment or gesture and the Client’s embarrassment results in your termination, and possibly a civil action.
Social interaction requires specific interpersonal skills. Your ability to react or reply appropriately is crucial. Using the wrong words with the wrong person and your years in the sand box or skill with firearms won’t save you. You will be fired within seconds. It happens every day and some of you won’t even know why.
Below we will try to give you some tips from ours as well as our colleagues experience and mistakes and even included some comments from past clients.
Your relationship with the client:
If you have any understanding of the industry at all, you know that you are with a client because someone within the client’s entourage has a fear that you have convinced them you can quash. In a combat zone, there is real fear of capture or death. In a large city in America, spy photos of the client out in public, drinking with friends, and in Mexico, Kidnapping. In many instances, you may be with the client 10 to 16 hours a day. So how do you spend that much time with them or their family, under that kind of stress without getting emotionally connected to them? Stick to the old adage: “Be seen and not heard”.
First of all keep in mind that the client is the one paying you, no matter how unrealistic his requests may be, you must adapt to his ‘’wants’’ and ‘’security needs’’. You may not be allowed to do what the job requires or have the manpower or equipment needed but you will have to adapt and do your job with what you have. You may be asked to be in position X and not Y because the client doesn’t feel comfortable otherwise. Consider too that it is also difficult for someone to get used to the idea of having strangers around them with every step they take and with every person they meet. Consider what you are doing that might be adding to or reducing their tension. Talking, staring, where you are standing, your cologne, or your actions can all add to a client’s frustrations.
The professional is one who can work with the difficult client, not the other way around. If you are lucky enough to work for that easy going client good for you, but most of the time you will have to deal with people that will test your limits. Have you ever had a client ask you to protect him but not to be within sight of him?
New professionals usually ask how they would deal with different challenges, like “what if the client asks me to have a drink with him”? What if the client asks you to do things that are out of your area of responsibility?
If you are a Close Protection Operative of the opposite sex of your client, then be prepared to deal with even more difficult situations. Traditionally mixing stress and fear with the comfort a protector can bring and the power and wealth of a client, (or his wife), and an opportunity……
Every one of us, client or Close Protection Operative (CPO), have different, social backgrounds and if you add to that different cultures then be ready to deal with more difficulties.
For many of us who have spent years in this business, (If we are successful enough to still be in this business), we have learned where our boundaries lie. If you are new in the business consider that boundaries exist for all of us. The client has them and so do you. When we are hired to protect a person, we are actually being allowed to step far inside their boundaries but they should not be allowed to step too far into ours. We will see a client in their most private and vulnerable moments, but what happens to our persona as “protector” if they see our weaknesses and vulnerabilities? And what happens if someone outside the client’s circle identifies our weaknesses or vulnerabilities?
How do we identify a client’s boundaries, and how do we educate them on ours? It’s really very simple; we ask. We should consider their social and moral code, their habits, vices and health issues and their fears. Sitting down with the client and discussing their needs and simply asking them where their boundaries are and letting them know ours is crucial to the success of a long term assignment. It may be no big deal for a client to ask you to enter a room where they are using drugs in a party setting or where he and his wife are in bed, but this may be beyond your comfort zone, (your boundary).
What is the difference between professionalism and friendship? Here is a simple rule: “You can’t buy friendship”. If you are being paid, you can’t be friends. If you want to be friends, stop taking the client’s money. Crossing the boundary between Professional and Friend is never successful.
From my personal experience I have found that when I was acting strictly professional the client was uncomfortable. Our task is to make them feel safe but when we appear ‘’untouchable’’ they believe we don’t understand their fears or what they’re going through. It is very important for them to feel we understand them. It is not easy to be the client….Sometimes they will open up and talk to us and we must show them we are listening. This is not friendship. This is part of our job.
If you get too friendly, then automatically your professionalism will suffer in your client’s eyes. Not because he doesn’t trust you anymore but because your laps in professionalism suggests to him that you won’t be taking your job as serious as is needed.
Consider how Psychologists work. They cannot offer professional counseling to people who are in their family or with whom they are friends. They certainly cannot start dating a client.
It is understood that you may share many hours with the client. Talk to him only when he talks to you or when you have to say something that affects his safety. Avoid starting a conversation but always be friendly if the client decides to speak to you. If you are asked a question, try to answer it with a single sentence.
Your relationship with the client’s family members will have to be the same. Don’t be too friendly with them or other staff or guests. Remember who hired you and why. Remember who cuts your check and who ultimately you serve. You should answer to only one person. If you assist or serve anyone else, it must be with the approval of the client and then only at no cost to them.
If you appear too unapproachable or “hard”, you will intimidate those you are serving. Too approachable and the family and everyone else will feel comfortable approaching you. And it will always happen when you need to be focused. Take a middle position with your client which is addressed with professionalism. Again, prior to accepting your contract you must clarify from whom you will be given orders and directions regarding your work.
As a CPO your job is to protect you client’s life and image. You are not there to carry their briefcase or shopping bags, etc. You also should not be carrying the client’s child on your hip, or holding doors open or performing domestic chores. Remember to keep your hands free.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you are asked to perform duties which are outside of your role. The client is hiring a CPO not a maître ’de or a butler. It is professional to politely refuse to perform a task outside of your agreed responsibilities instead of accepting it and putting in danger a client or your life. He has hired you to provide security services and nothing else.
The client must see you as an educated, well trained, experienced and professional person, and it is up to you alone to earn his respect. If your client respects you then any of your suggestions concerning his safety will be accepted by him positively.
Alcohol? NO, NEVER, EVER…..while working. But……
What if your client calls you for a drink or coffee while you’re not on duty? In this case you have to ask why he is calling you. Does he see you as a friend or do you think he wants something unrelated to work or to talk about your work? First, remain professional. If your client calls, you respond. Then avoid alcohol at all cost. Consider that in many countries and especially in the United States, if you are in possession of a firearm and you are questioned by police with alcohol in your system, you will be arrested.
Sometimes the most dangerous trap a CPO may fall into is to have a physical relationship with his client or the client’s spouse. Remember that movie where the bodyguard was sleeping with his client? Art sometimes copies life. Being emotionally involved with your client, (or anyone in their circle), no matter how unprofessional we see it, has happened with some colleagues. Understand that if this occurs, the CPO is always at fault. Because the client is dependent on you, they may be more likely to share raw emotion with you or let you all the way in to that last boundary, the personal physical boundary. Take advantage of this vulnerability and you are solely to blame. And if you think you found the love of your life, you will be replaced by the next person the client sees power or an emotional investment in. And who is going to write you that professional referral letter then?
Sexual Harassment is rampant in our profession. Male CPOs are approached by everyone who is attracted to the perceived power of the protector or by anyone trying to get to the client or get into the client’s circle. But if you are a female CPO it is much worse. You will get barraged from both males and females, clients, their family members, friends and then your colleagues. Additionally, sometimes due to culture, there are those who believe that because they hired you to protect them you are there also for ‘’extra services’’. There have been cases like these which have been unreported to authorities but are a common problem within the female CPO industry. Again, that sit down meeting with the client prior to taking the job is strongly suggested.
Your relationship with colleagues:
During our career we will have to work along with people who don’t share the same work ethic, qualifications, training and experience, background, morals or values with us. So whether we like or dislike someone, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our professionalism. Our first loyalty is the client’s safety and the study and mastering of the art and skill toward this goal. Our second loyalty is to the industry to which we have dedicated our lives. Loyalty to our colleagues falls within this, not the other way around.
As we all know, Close Protection is a profession that is unfortunately void of professional standards and requirements. Each country, and even each State has its own licensing or training requirements and in many cases no training is required at all. In light of this, you realize that you have to work to solidify a team with people who bring with them different experience, skills, training disciplines, standards, professionalism, culture, and ethics in the same way a sports team or elite military unit has to work through individual differences to become a uniquely cohesive team.
It is very important that each one on the team promote and maintain a strong working relationship with the others as well as the client, and of course other people who we may be in contact with (house personnel, office staff etc).
Some of the people you are working with may have more or less skill and may be younger or older. So in each situation you must address your issues with them with respect. Never offend anyone no matter the reason, never correct someone while anyone else in present. If you believe they made a mistake you can ask if he would mind a tip or advice. Not many people are open to advice from coworkers. If they refuse your help, respect it and leave it alone. If a colleague makes a sexual advance or even a comment that you are not comfortable with, address it quickly.
In our work it is very important when an issue occurs, to take immediate action to address it. Later you can do your research and as a team and correct it. As in any team, constructive criticism is meant to eliminate future problems.
Try to avoid conversations with your colleagues that include topics which trigger emotional responses like sports, religion, sex or politics. No conversation on these topics can contribute to your client’s safety.
Avoid discussion about family and do not share details about your family, spouse, kids or home life. You don’t know how the information may be used against you or your client later. Can you be blackmailed? Could this affect your client or team?
The only conversation you should entertain is the one that adds to your client’s safety.
Your relationship with fellow citizens and Law Enforcement:
In most countries your authority or legal ability to act is no more than any other citizen. Trying to get a free pass at the club or disturbing the peace will give you and your client a bad image. No you can’t stop the traffic, park whenever you want, stop people from entering in public places or ask to search them.
Many of our colleagues come from a Law Enforcement or Military background, they use to have their own language with their former colleagues and may work along with them or ask for their help. Remember that active Law Enforcement personnel have their own agendas. They are not part of our industry any more than we are part of theirs. Do not ask them to help you do your job. Some may abuse their authority and use it to get close to your client, and may even try to replace you. Be respectful and keep your distance.
Your networking activities
It is common and we see it almost every day in online networks or forums, people who hide behind a “screen” or “nickname” and make negative comments about other colleagues. It is seen by most as cowardly at best to make public comments about someone while hiding behind a false identity and further, without allowing the victim or viewing audience to verify the experience or credentials of the accuser.
Industry forums serve a couple of purposes. The first is to inform and the second is to allow comments and feedback for the purpose of informing. Unfortunately, they have become a place for the unimpressive to gain their 15 minutes of fame. These chronic complainers, seemingly have plenty of free time, (possibly due to their unemployment), and repair their egos by blaming or criticizing others. Yes, there are non-professionals and there are professionals, but a forum is not the right place to show who is who.
For those who like to comment on different articles or posts online (…that includes many of us…) before you hit “send” be sure you:
1) Read the article/post carefully. It is very disappointing to see colleagues who post a negative comment on an article when it is clear that they neither completely read nor completely understood it.
2) Offer a solid answer/opinion based on logical thoughts or facts (or evidence/search results). Recently, someone tried to show their disagreement with an author. Their only approach to a counter-point was insulting the author which actually proved the author’s point. Someone else tried to answer him by copying and pasting parts from the article and offering negative comments on the excerpts, which further proved the subject of the article; that some people in our industry can’t adapt their soldier mentality and behavior to the more polished corporate environment.
3) Answer in a manner that does not insult the writer or others.
4) Re-read and understand the article. Stating a disagreement is fine but following up with information that goes off topic and writing anything other than what is pertinent to the subject will only make you look stupid.
5) Read the article again,
6) Read your answer again from the perspective of your colleagues,
7) Read it once again from the perspective of someone who knows you,
8) If it doesn’t look professional/logical/in good taste or relative to the article provided, DO NOT hit that “send” button or “publish now” ….otherwise again, you will only end up looking stupid.
If you think companies and recruiting agents don’t look at a candidate’s networking profiles? Think again!
The bottom line is this:
If you lack professionalism on any level or lack interpersonal skills in dealing with people you work for, with or around, you will not be able to hide behind your experience, education or other skillsets.
Founder & Worldwide Director
I am a graduate student of both CPO level 1in 2011 and CPO level 2 in 2012.
Before enrolling at Athena I had done my research on several personal protection schools. I either found them to be too expensive or only 3 or 4 day course which just isn’t enough time to give someone the knowledge and training one needs to get into this field.
What I like about Athena Academy that really seperates itself from other schools, is that because they have their courses in levels, it makes it affordable. The classes are small enough so each student is given undivided attention from the instructors. The instructors are professional and extremely knowledgeable in the personal protection field. But more importantly they focus on the advantages and importance females have in this type of male dominated industry. I came out of this training with so much knowledge and confidence that I knew I wanted to pursue this type of career.
With the help and resources from Athena Academy and it’s instructors, I have been given job opportunities and am currently licensed and working in Texas. I look forward to pursue more training from Athena Academy including the level 3 CPO course and any other training that is offered.
Stephanie Bausch Athena Academy Graduated CPO Student Level I in 2011 and Level II in 2012.
Mrs. Bausch is licensed and currently working in Texas.
Mr Bob Duggan, founder of Executive Security International (ESI) thoughts over Colorado theater shooting
As many of us, no matter how often we have seen it happening is always shocking us. Reading news and comments over the last attack in Colorado i came through this comment made by one of the top experts in security industry, Mr Bob Duggan who is the founder of ESI, a training institute that offer services and train security personnel for more than 32 years now.
With his permission i am posting and sharing with you his words:
”What happened in the theater here in Colorado is not about guns. You will hear the clarion calls to control assault weapons and high capacity magazines. But take away the carbines, and they will bring shotguns; take away the shotguns, and they will use handguns; take away the handguns, and they will make explosives and knives. Remember Columbine! Those kids intended to do their greatest harm with home made bombs; they planned a spectacular massacre.
The core issue is the culture of violence, starting with a multi billion dollar entertainment industry that thrives on violence. Not so long ago, the center of our culture was literature….poetry, novels, fiction, non-fiction, music and dance. Now it is the silver screen and the transformative personalities that inhabit this ephemeral world of ours.
The overwhelming number of us think of these images that flash before our minds as just entertainment; then we go about our lives as if nothing happened. But those few in our society that suffer from a psychotic disorder, thrive on these action thrillers not as entertainment, but as a form of Personality Channeling. They become the JOKER, who lives for CHAOS and exposure in the 6:00 O’Clock news.
There is no cure for this disorder. It is a permanent aspect of our lives so we now MUST carry a concealed weapon everywhere we go: to church, to school and to the theater. Get ready boys and girls, they are coming at you, at all of us, and your only defense is self-defense.
A departing thought. I found it mildly amusing that when I went to see Batman Rises yesterday in my little town of Rifle, they posted a police officer in the lobby. As I walked out of the theater, I thought, this is how institutions think. After it happens, they will come running, but it will be too late.”