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The importance of Emotional Control in the Workplace for Executive Protection Operatives

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 info@athenaworldwide.com

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

http://www.athenaworldwide.com

http://www.nannyguards.com

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

Anne-Marie Murphy Case (1986), A must read Case of Terroristic Attack for Security Operatives:

As posted on Israel Security Agency website: (http://www.shabak.gov.il/english/history/affairs/pages/anne-mariemurphycase.aspx)

On Thursday, April 17, 1986, at the Heathrow International Airport in London, El Al security agents thwarted an attempt to blow up an El Al plane in mid-air. The plane, a Boeing 747, flight no. 016 on the New York – London – Tel Aviv route, was preparing to depart with 395 passengers and crew

The plan was to plant explosives in the belly of the plane; the explosives were to be transported by a duped and innocent passenger entirely unaware of their existence.
El Al security agents at the London stop uncovered the explosives and prevented the terror attack. After the discovery of the explosives, local authorities took over and arrested the passenger; later also arresting the man who sent her, a Jordanian Arab named Nizar Hindawi.

The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.
Examination of the bomb by the local police revealed a detonator in the Commodore calculator coated with plastic Simtex explosives, connected to an electronic timing device which was set to activate the major explosives cache hidden inside the bag.
An examination of the timer mechanism, once it was disconnected from the explosives, revealed that the jet was intended to explode about two and a quarter hours after its takeoff for Israel, at a height of 39,000 feet, when it would have been airborne between Italy and Greece.

Hindawi’s Syrian connection
Anne-Marie Murphy’s interrogation revealed that she had met a Jordanian named Nizar Hindawi about two years earlier. He presented himself as a journalist, and a relationship developed between the two. The relationship was on and off, given that Hindawi was not permanently resident in the UK. In April 1986, when they met again, he discovered that she was in advanced stages of pregnancy as a result of their relationship. He suggested that they marry, and spend their honeymoon in Israel. He gave her a sum of money for buying clothes, acquiring a passport, and purchasing a plane ticket to Israel. He further told her that as a Jordanian, he was unable to travel together with her, but would travel to Jordan and from there he would travel by land to Israel in order to meet her at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

On the night before her flight, Hindawi arrived at her house with a large bag and helped her to pack her belongings. During the drive to the airport, she noticed that he was fumbling in her bag: later on it was revealed that this was in order to connect a battery to the Commodore computer and to attach it to the bottom of the bag, close to the principal explosives cache.

The interrogation of the terrorist Hindawi as well as other individuals arrested in the case, revealed that the Syrians were behind the plan, through members of their embassy in London. Syrian air force intelligence men brought the bag, which was later equipped with explosives, from Syria to the UK, via Syrian Airlines. These Syrians also prepared an operational infrastructure in London, including a safe apartment used for briefings, preparation and escape following the attack. Hindawi’s interrogation revealed that he had been linked with the Syrian intelligence since the 80’s, as well as with two senior officers in the security administration of the Syrian air force.

In February 1986, one of the two, Haytham Sa’id, proposed to Hindawi that he plant a bomb in an El Al jet. Hindawi received detailed instructions from Sa’id regarding how to plant the bomb. Sa’id further advised Hindawi to use a woman to plant the bomb in the jet, explaining that a woman would arouse less suspicion. Hindawi was promised $250,000 for carrying out the mission.

Hindawi decided to make use of his girlfriend, Anne-Marie, to plant the bag in the El Al plane. He proposed to her on April 7, 1986, and suggested that they hold the wedding in Israel, as well as the honeymoon. On the 16th of April, Hindawi helped his girlfriend pack her bags, in the bag he brought her specially for this purpose. The next day, he accompanied her to the airport. On the way, he activated the explosive mechanism of the bomb.

Hindawi returned to his hotel after bidding farewell to Murphy, and waited for the Syrian Airlines crew car which would take him to the airport, where he would depart for Syria. When the car arrived, one of the crew members informed him that Anne-Marie Murphy had been arrested at the airport. He instructed Hindawi to hail a taxi and to go immediately to the Syrian embassy. The man gave Hindawi a sealed envelope, and instructed him to hand it to the Syrian ambassador personally.

When the ambassador read the missive, he instructed Hindawi to travel, with two Syrians, to the safe apartment in London. Hindawi was held in the apartment until the next morning, when the two Syrians again arrived to accompany him back to the embassy. Hindawi suspected that they were about to kill him. He fled and called his brother, who called the police. Hindawi was arrested. At the time of his arrest he was in possession of a Syrian passport.

The apartment in which Hindawi had been held was that of a guard in the Syrian embassy, and the Syrians guarding him were embassy guards. The three were expelled from the UK. A British police search of the apartment revealed Hindawi’s false documents as well as official Syrian embassy documents.

The trial and the consequences
Anne-Marie Murphy was not tried. Nizar Hindawi was sentenced on October 25, 1986, to 45 years imprisonment. During the trial, his defense attorney attempted to claim that the affair was a Mossad provocation, and that the Mossad had planted the bomb in order to “uncover” it and thus gain political capital against Syria. The security officer who testified in the trial under the name Mr. A, hidden from the audience and reporters by a curtain, was forced to deny that he was a Mossad agent as well as that he himself had hidden the bomb in Anne-Marie Murphy’s belongings during the security check…

As a result of the affair, Britain cut its ties with Syria. The exposure of the explosives in London foiled the terror attack, and saved the lives of 395 passengers and crew. The Israeli prime minister at the time, Shimon Peres, later stated that if the attack had been successfully carried out, the state of Israel would have been forced to go to war with Syria as a result of the Syrian role in the attack.

A rare coincidence
This incident occurred in London less than six months after El Al’s security apparatus had been put to the test: on the 27th December, 1985, two groups of terrorists simultaneously attacked groups of El Al passengers in the Rome and Vienna airports.

The attacks were thwarted, leading to the deaths of three terrorists in Rome, and the arrest of the fourth, who was wounded. In Vienna, one terrorist was killed and two were caught. During the Vienna incident, El Al security officers and guards led a hot pursuit of the terrorists’ car, together with the local police. In the two incidents together, sixteen civilians were killed, including an El Al passenger, and 120 were wounded, including 7 El Al employees, 4 deputy security officers, and one security guard.

It turned out that the “Abu Nidal” organization was behind the planning and execution of the two attacks; and furthermore, the terrorists departed from Damascus, the “Abu Nidal” faction headquarters, for both Rome and Vienna. There was a rare and coincidental connection between these two incidents and the London incident: the security officer of the London flight was involved in the Vienna incident as well, where he had been serving as a backup security officer at the local El Al station.

These two incidents reflect some degree of the great complexity in the field of security, and the high level of expertise required to provide a response to a variety of threats: the preparedness and the quick reactions needed for an immediate response to an attack initiated by the opponent; as well as the “mind war” between the security apparatus and the terrorist organizations eager to find gaps in security which can be used to infiltrate explosive devices to explode planes in midair, even with the unwitting aid of duped passengers.


An examination of the timer mechanism, once it was disconnected from the explosives, revealed that the jet was intended to explode about two and a quarter hours after its takeoff for Israel, at a height of 39,000 feet”