Consequences – A Deeper Look

In a recent Tao of The Velvet Rope podcast, I discussed the potential consequences of action or inaction by you or your Security Staff. And in a recent blogpost, we saw the predictable outcome of bad action on the part of some Security Staffers.

It is human nature for individuals to react to the stimuli around them. In stressful, unexpected, or confusing situations we humans tend to have three basic responses: Fight, Flight, or Freeze. In order to streamline this discussion and perhaps add a touch of clarity, I would like to rename these responses Action, Escape, and Inaction. And while these new names are exact in their nomenclature, they’ll work for our purposes.

Think about the following Bar/Nightclub scenarios:

  1. You witness two Patrons yelling and shoving each other. Due to your distance from the two of them, it is hard to tell what initiated the physicality or how serious it is.
  2. A couple is standing across the room from you. The woman is petite and her boyfriend is a tall, well-built athletic type. They start to argue loudly, the woman poking her boyfriend in the chest.
  3. A young man and woman walk past you, towards the exit door. The woman is heavily intoxicated and the man is holding her up to keep her from falling over. You did not see them enter the bar together.

Each of these scenarios offers a myriad of potential responses. In Scenarios 1 and 2, you could call for back up and dive in fists swinging or brusquely ask what the problem is (Action), wait and see how things play out (Inaction), or you could leave the room and ignore the issue (Escape). In Scenario 3, you could step in to offer assistance (Action), stand and watch (Inaction), or turn a walk away (Escape).

What is important to understand about each of these situations and what makes the job of the Security Staffer so unpredictable and potentially dangerous is that if you don’t carefully consider the consequences of your Action, Inaction, or Escape, you can find yourself in deep, deep trouble. Very, very quickly.

Take Scenario 1, for example. Many bouncers would rush through the crowd in order to break up the fight and end up fighting or forcefully ejecting one of the Patrons involved. Let’s say that you do this and in the course of your Action, you punch the Patron. He falls down, cracks his head on the pavement, is knocked unconscious, and is taken away in an ambulance. What are the potential consequences?

1) Legal – You get sued by the Patron, the bar gets sued by the Patron, and the Patron presses criminal/civil charges against you.

Well, the bar has insurance to cover them. You don’t. Which means…

2) Financial – You need to cover the cost of your lawyer and potentially the cost of the Patron’s lawyer and doctor’s bills. You could also lose your job, have your wages garnished, or be unable to find further employment due to your new criminal record, which imposes a further financial burden on you.

3) Physical – What if you don’t win the fight? That means injury. And potentially serious injury at that. Maybe you lose the use of a hand or a leg or suffer from headaches due to a concussion. And let’s circle back to the doctor’s visits, doctor’s bills, loss of work, and again…loss of income.

4) Emotional toll – How about the stress of dealing with all of the above? And what if the Patron – or you – is permanently injured due to your actions or – heaven forbid – is killed. What is that weight going to be like to carry? And what about the toll all of this may take on your family or significant others? And that’s not to mention the possibility of you, your staff, and your establishment now carrying a negative reputation.

Inaction and Escape carry the same set of possible outcomes. If you ignore the issue or walk away and someone is hurt or killed, the list of potential negatives grows longer due to your negligent behavior. You were hired to keep people safe…and you failed to do that.

Scenarios 2 and 3 carry the potential for serious negatives. Full disclosure: Scenario 2 happened one night when I was working. The woman smashed a glass on her boyfriend’s head, nearly severed his carotid artery, and had to be hogtied and carried away by Law Enforcement. All this because everyone took the situation lightly and ignored it…until it was too late. Ignoring Scenario 3 might end up with a woman being sexually assaulted by an individual she doesn’t know or the woman driving away and crashing her vehicle.

“What the hell!? I’m screwed no matter what I do…or don’t do!” is the response I can already hear from some of you. No, no you are not. The key to avoiding negative consequences is simple:

THINK

Take a moment to survey the situation. Does something feel wrong and if it does, why? What is going on that is making your hackles rise? Or is it the case that upon a moment’s examination, you realize that the situation you are witnessing is not a serious as you considered. Say, for example, that the Patrons yelling and pushing each other are best friends just goofing around? Once you’ve surveyed the situation and made a decision, how is it that you should approach the situation at hand? Do you jump in? Do you yell? Are you humorous in your approach?

In the second and third Scenarios, taking a moment to assess the situation and ask if everything is ok takes just that…a moment. A moment that can keep things from escalating, can help to defuse tension or gain some reassurance that the couple heading out the door is actually together and fine.

I had mentioned in an earlier podcast that you should always ACT when you are uncertain of what do. And people tend to misinterpret that as jumping into the fray or immediately springing into “hero mode” No. Thinking is an action as wellTaking a moment to consider the possibilities is an action. Calling for backup is an action. Taking a deep breath and taking in your surroundings is an action.

Keep in mind that YOU are making the decisions. And YOU will have to deal with the consequences of YOUR actions. Impulsive behaviors in a high-stress, alcohol-soaked environment very rarely work out for the best. I would use the example of the last few blog post’s bouncers as a perfect example. Punching or beating up intoxicated individuals NEVER works in your favor, even if you are exonerated.

Always consider the consequences that may result from what you may or may not do in a given situation. The few moments you take to scan, assess, and strategize can make the difference between injury, financial ruin, and loss of reputation. Your action doesn’t need to be immediately physical but it should always be thoughtful. Need to figure out a way to get this point across to your Staff? Think about Scenario training and always debrief at the end of the night to go over any incidents or questions they may have.

Until next time…

Justified?

This video has been making the rounds this week and I think it is important to examine it for a number of reasons. First off, it is a perfect example of improper Use of Force. Second, it is another example (of which there are many in society nowadays) of how Bad Action + Caught on Tap = Bad Publicity/Liability.

When if comes to security – especially in an environment full of intoxicated individuals -Use of Force is one of the largest “gray” areas that a staffer will need to wade into. To fight or not to fight? To use a chokehold or go for the bearhug? To duck the punch and punch back or just smother the assailant? Besides the internal debate over whether or not to resort to the physical response, there are also the often intangible ideas of how drunk is your assailant, how will your actions be perceived, and so many others.

I tell the bouncers and security staffers that I work with to enter EVERY questionable incident with open eyes, ears, and minds. And to ALWAYS be prepared for the incident to take an unexpected turn. All options are on the table, so stay AWARE. Just because the woman in front of you is drunk and weighs 90 pounds does not mean that she can’t grab a glass off the bar and smash it across your face. I’ve seen it happen. Ditto the 300-pound linebacker looking to start a fight who breaks down in tears because his girlfriend left him and that’s the real problem. I’ve seen that too.

In addition, you shouldn’t enter into ANY situation without a backup of some kind. If you are working solo, this can be difficult if not impossible. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn to the bartender and say, “Hey, watch my back for a second.” If you have a team, you want a sidekick with you…ALWAYS. Just the simple acts of being aware and utilizing backup can save your behind.

But back to the matter at hand…

This bouncer ducks a punch from an obviously intoxicated individual and returns a punch in kind. So let’s break that down:

The law says “…[a] person is privileged to use such force as reasonably appears necessary to defend him or herself against an apparent threat of unlawful and immediate violence from another.” In cases involving non-deadly force, this means that the person must reasonably believe that their use of force was necessary to prevent imminent, unlawful physical harm. So, at face value, one could say that he was within his rights to return a punch…sort of.

The word “reasonably “serves a purpose in that paragraph. In my opinion, it is to prevent just what we see in this video! A careful examination of your surroundings, the situation at hand, and your “opponent” should give you a pretty good idea of the Use of Force necessary to deal with the problem. No weapon? Unable to stand? Probably won’t take a lot of force to unbalance or move this individual. Or is the Patron highly agitated and holding a bar stool? You may want to think about the tactics necessary to resolve the situation!

“But,” you say, “didn’t you just say that ANYTHING is possible? What if she was armed?” Well, first off, she wasn’t. Second, based on what I see in this video, the response by the bouncer is disproportionate. I’m not saying don’t defend yourself. I’m saying to be smart about it. Not only can the bouncer here see that the Patron is heavily intoxicated and having difficulty maintaining her balance, but he sees the punch coming from a mile away AND is able to bob and weave under it. In my opinion, his return punch is not only unnecessary but completely unreasonable. And that’s just from a Use of Force standpoint.

From a moral standpoint – and again, this is my opinion – the punch is completely out of line. Regardless of the sex of the aggressor, an individual this intoxicated can be dealt with in any number of ways that do not include physical violence. Whether it be quiet talking, walking away, reasoned conversation, or even completely ignoring the individual, there are plenty of other options available to this Doorman.

Finally, there is the issue of PERCEPTION. How does this look to the general public? Are they going to see a bouncer trying to calmly deal with a heavily intoxicated individual or one who swiftly threw an unnecessary punch? I’m going to venture a guess that most people on a jury would look at this and say, “Why the hell did he hit her?” While the possibility of “pre-video” threats of violence towards the Staffer is possible, the only thing that people are going to see – and probably consider – is the PUNCH. Perception is a VERY important part of the equation when it comes to Use of Force. Which is why maintaining a clear head and considering all of you options is so important. Create space from the problem, reason with the individual, call for backup, and if necessary: PROTECT YOURSELF.

But for the sake of potential lack of freedom and an empty wallet (in the case of criminal or civil charges being pressed), the bar’s sake, and – I would argue – for the sake of the general public, don’t go hauling off and smacking people because you think they deserve it. The repercussions extend far beyond you maintaining your dignity and well into the realm of you gaining a reputation as a violent hothead. Keep your cool, keep your job, and stay out of jail.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

Trust issues…

“I’m having this recurring issue and I was wondering if you could help me out?”

The person asking the question was the Director of Security – in charge of a number of nightclubs – and one of his Heads of Security (HOS) had been approaching him with a fairly regular complaint.

“This HOS is telling me that his Manager often overrides his decisions.”

“Uh-oh,” I said, “Let me guess, the Manager is actually deciding who gets let in the door…or who gets kicked out?”

The Directory of Security laughed, “Yeah, pretty much hits it on the head.” I took him by the arm and we proceeded to have a fairly lengthy discussion about trust and ownership of one’s position.

Believe it or not, this is a fairly common issue in many work environments. Managers and Owners are often hesitant to either cede control or to allow their workers to make final decisions. On the one hand, I can understand where they are coming from. After all, you are the boss and the ultimate outcome will fall on your shoulders whether it is good or bad. So taking the chance that one of your minions will mess things up can be a daunting proposition! On the other hand, you hired them for a reason…right? You hired them to do the work that you don’t, won’t, or many times can’t do so that you can focus on other things.

TRUST

How many Owners/Managers/HOS would put someone with zero experience at the Front Door? I’m guessing not many. Why? Because you want to make sure that the person acting as the gatekeeper to your facility is competent, wise, and knowledgeable. If you wouldn’t dare to put an inexperienced person at the Front Door, then why wouldn’t you trust an experienced person to make the correct decisions in that position?

Many times, this lack of trust comes from not being around enough to see this individual work on a regular basis. If you only pop in to check on your Staff once a night or only watch them work for 15 minutes or so, you will never get a full picture of what they are capable of. So show up, watch them in action, and ask questions of your Staff. Everything from “How is your night?” to questions about capacity and the general state of Patrons that evening. Not only will this show that you are engaged and know what you are doing, it will give you an understanding of your Staff’s knowledge about their position.

If you see a Staffer making a decision that you don’t understand, ask them about it. DO NOT accuse them of screwing up – unless it is something blatant – but instead, ask them to explain to you why they made the decision and then EXPLAIN to them what they did wrong if you see an issue. One of the biggest failures of Managers is not explaining the who, what, why, when, where, and how of mistakes their employees make. Take the time to have those discussions. And don’t forget to praise them when they make the correct decisions. Show your Staff that you are interested in enough in their decision-making process to have trust in their decision-making process.

OWNERSHIP OF POSITION

A big part of gaining trust is proving that you yourself are responsible. If you are going to be responsible, you have to take ownership of your position. And that means if something goes wrong, it’s your problem. This applies to both employees and even more so to Managers. I’ve seen employees walk away from issues and say, “That’s not my problem.” and I’ve seen Managers do the very same thing. What many Managers don’t understand is that all mistakes will eventually come back to them, so they have to take ownership of those mistakes…just as they would expect their workers to do.

As a Manager a big part of “owning” your position is not only admitting to mistakes you made but also attempting to rectify those mistakes on your own. If you tell something to do something and it works out poorly because the decision was a bad one: OWN IT! “Yeah, that was my bad. I’ll sort it out” DO NOT try and pass it off on other people. All this will do is lose you respect and maybe even have your Staff questioning your decision-making process. One of the worst things you can do is walk away from a problem that YOU created. By rectifying mistakes that you make, your Staff will see that you are mature and willing enough to admit your shortcomings. Lead by example. Don’t fail by ego.

As an employee it is just as important that you assert yourself and “own” what you do. If you are watching the patio, make that your domain! Know the ins and outs of every nook and cranny; down to when the 3rd porta-pottie line tends to get crowded. If you are a Doorman, know your IDs, your signs of over-intoxication, and how to greet people. If you are a Roamer, know your routes, your best spots to watch the action, and how to easily navigate the crowd! Why? For one, it’s your job. But it is also the sign of a person who takes pride in the work that they do. When your boss – or a Patron – comes up to ask a question, you’ll know the answer! And this brings us back to the idea of building TRUST. If you can demonstrate that you know your job, your boss will trust you to do it.

THE CONVERSATION

But what if you do your job well, you fix your (minimal) mistakes, and the boss still steps in, on, or over you? My suggestion is to make some time – NOT at the moment the issue occurs – to meet with them and hash some things out.

First off, refresh their memory of the incident and ask if there was a reason they acted in a particular way. You may be surprised that a) they don’t even remember the event or b) they saw things in a completely different light. Once you gain an understanding as to their perspective you can then present your side of the equation.

“I appreciate that you felt this way about XYX, but let me explain how it looked from my perspective”

Then calmly walk your way through your concerns and the solution that you would have proposed. This might help give a little clarity and hopefully provide your boss with the information needed for him or her to see your side of the story. Should the boss continue to step on your toes, it may be necessary to have an additional conversation addressing your concerns about their ability to trust you to do your job.

“Just so you know, every time you step into a situation, it diminishes my ability to handle the problem. I know you want to help out and I truly appreciate your input. And the team and I want to be able to provide you and the Patrons with the best service possible. But if you continue to interject, it sends mixed messages to the Patrons and Staff. They’re not sure who to turn to for guidance and direction, which in turn causes a lot of confusion.”

If this is a conversation you are going to have, make sure that you can provide several concrete examples of issues that you have faced due to “interference” by the boss. This is especially important if the issues then turned into liabilities.

Remember, you want your Owner/Manager/HOS to trust you to make the right decisions. But the only way that will happen is if you own your position and show them that they can trust you to make the right calls. And for you Owners/Managers/HOS out there: trust your Staff. They’re the reason you stay liability free.

Until next time…
 

 

Violent incidents in Nightclub settings

This video was posted in a forum that I belong to and I thought it would be a great tool for examining violent incidents. I hate to armchair quarterback these situations, especially when all of the information is not readily available – or in this case – visible. But I think that there are basic rules in this situation that have either been broken or at the very least, ignored.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

1) Lack of access/traffic flow control – Hard to tell which part of the club this occurs in, but it seems to be either a side room or an entry foyer. Either way there is far too much foot traffic for there NOT to be a Security Staffer posted either in the room itself or in the doorway (at the right). This would alleviate bunching, overcrowding, and facilitate quick access to any trouble that occurs within the space. Control the space and you can control the issues within it or keep them from occurring. Bathrooms and hallways should always have a staffer positioned within or nearby.

2) Lack of definable uniforms – Who is security? Who is not security? Any person on staff should be in a clearly marked shirt (SECURITY) or wearing some type of uniform to designate their standing as a Staffer. Otherwise, you are just another big guy jumping into the melee.

RESPONSE

The Plus 1 Rule – Always have ONE more Staffer involve in any type of disturbance than the number of individuals involved. 1 patron ejection = 2 Security Staff, 2 people fighing = 3 Staffers, etc. There is not much manpower response to a brewing brawl in this situation. By my count, there are 2 security staffers and 6 people in a small room. Not good odds.

The initial response by the bouncer to grab the person with the bottle is technically correct, but not in this situation. Jumping into the fray without backup and without a cursory glance as to what is going on is a recipe for disaster. Once the backup arrives, the two Staffers start to remove the “aggressor” which is again technically the correct thing to do..but they do it while completely ignoring the building fight behind them. This is where things get progressively more questionable. It is hard to tell if they can’t get out the door and why they have stopped. Is there no room to move the man out the left door? Why not eject out the right door? Not enough info to work on here. At the very least, they should be removing themselves from the room until they have the manpower to take on the people fighting.

When it becomes obvious that a weapon is involved, this should (and it looks like it does) become an “All Hands” situation: every available Staffer heads to the incident area, Front Door goes into lockdown, LEOs are contacted, and the area is cleared of bystanders if possible. I work under the philosophy that if you have “lost the floor” i.e. mass brawl, jumping in actually does more damage than good. Let them fight it out while you protect any bystanders that may be in the way until things gets to a manageable point.
POST INCIDENT

Again, it is hard to tell the size and layout of this establishment, but at the very least the Bar and room where the stabbing occurred should be cleared and locked down. First Aid should be rendered immediately to the stabbing victim while other Staffers detain anyone directly involved in the fight (especially the individual with the weapon) and try to find witnesses. Then write up an Incident Report to make sure things are still fresh in your mind. Should this incident carry forward to a trial, that Incident Report will be VERY important.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Controlling access to entry/watching the line – No more that 3-5 individuals should be allowed in the door at a time, hopefully spaced out to prevent bunching. What is the demeanor of the people in the line? Intoxicated? Aggressive? There should be a Staffer monitoring the line and the sidewalk. Doorman has ultimate say in who comes in and should not – with very few exceptions – be overridden by Management or Head of Security. He/She is the keeper of your door for a reason. And yes, they have the right to refuse service. Many clubs will not let in groups of 4+ men unless they are interspersed with women.

Weapons checks – Every individual entering should be searched for weapons, either by pat down or wand. Dress code can facilitate this: no untucked shirts or overly baggy clothing that can hide knives, guns, blackjacks, etc. This goes for women as well via bag checks.

Gear – Flashlights, radios, stab vests (depending on establishment), and uniforms should be MANDATORY for EACH member of your Security Staff. If your Staff are missing one or more of these items they are a liability and a potential target.

Communication – Does your team talk throughout the night? If there is an issue, do you communicate it to your entire staff? Is everyone on the same radio channel or do different zones have different channels? Does your team know how to properly use their radios?

Training – Do you have set policies and procedures for incidents or situations that may occur? Does your staff know these policies and procedures? Does your staff know how to handle ejections? Intoxicated or aggressive individuals? Fights? Melees? Do you train your staff in ejection, escort, and self protection techniques?

Your team should be holding end of shift debriefs that cover any incidents and individuals that caused problems. This way, you are all on the same page and know what happened throughout the night, throughout the establishment. Training and communication go a long way to keeping your Staffers from becoming statistics. Stay smart and stay SAFE.

When things go wrong…

“In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test.

In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

Since the beginning, the goal of this blog has been to inform and educate. Every post – even the humorous ones – seeks to shed a little light on the mindset and planning that go into working as a Security Staffer, Security Manager, or Bar/Nightclub/Restaurant Owner. To that end, the majority of the posts have dealt with the positives or at least prepping for the negatives in order to prevent or avoid them. This time around, the approach is a little different. We’re going to tackle – in a manner of speaking – the negatives. Those nights on which NOTHING seems to go right.

No matter what your line of work, you will experience a bad day. It may be an angry patron or manager or a disgruntled co-worker that just made things unbearable. Maybe all the credit card machines die right in the middle of a huge holiday season shopping rush. Maybe a bus full of tourists stops in front of your ice cream stand at the very moment your co-worker is at lunch, the manager is out sick, and you are the only one behind the counter. You get the idea: work days aren’t always picture perfect. 

BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER

Most people would approach bad days in this manner: What went wrong and how do we fix it? It is a great approach but I believe that the rectification of any problem needs to start before the problem occurs. Actually, I would suggest that problem days should be approached BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER they occur. I’m sure that some of you are scratching your heads and thinking, “How the heck do I solve a problem BEFORE it occurs!?” Bear with me for a second.

PPPPPPP

The letters above are not a typo. They are an acronym known as “the 7 Ps”, and they stand for “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. In other words, preparing for the worst will help you deal with the worst when it occurs. In most cases, poor planning and poor preparation will directly result in “a bad day at the office.” Did you only schedule four Staffers on a three day weekend when your club is historically known to be over capacity? Did you place an inexperienced ID checker at the door during College Night? The reason that you should use Checklists, run Scenarios, discuss Ejections, and double check your Scheduling is to MINIMIZE the potential for things to go wrong.

That is not to say that planning in advance will prevent problems from occurring. German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke stated, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” and he was pretty much spot on. Because no matter how well you plan, something can always go wrong. Fully staffed on a holiday weekend? Guess what, your Head of Security just got food poisoning. About to eject a Patron? Oh, you didn’t realize that he and his friends are UFC fighters? Have the Front Door under control? Wait, where did those 3 party buses full of drunken football fans come from? What to do, what to do?

STOP

If you do find yourself in the middle of a no good, very bad day….STOP. That’s right. STOP. Stop what you are doing and take a deep breath. As an old instructor of mine said, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Don’t run around in a panic. Don’t start screaming at the Staff. Definitely don’t starting swinging at the UFC guys. STOP. Evaluate the situation. Decide on a plan of attack. Rushing to fix a problem may in many cases make things WORSE. A pause in the action to regroup, rethink, and then approach the problem with a fresh head will very rarely make things worse. Try the new approach and see what happens, you might be surprised at how well it works.

Just remember that sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how well you’ve planned, no matter how patiently you’ve reassessed your position, the problem can’t, won’t, or doesn’t resolve itself. You know what? THAT’S ALRIGHT. It is not going to be fun dealing with the ongoing problem or the aftermath, but that is part of working any job. Just as long as you have put your best foot forward and at least attempted to resolve the issue! Sometimes that horse is too far down the road to stop. Wait for it to come back and deal with it on the back end.

LESSON LEARNED?

If something has gone wrong in spite of your planning, you’ve approached the fix calmly and patiently, and things still completely collapsed – or resolved themselves – sit back over the next few days and process it all. First off, it is alright to be disappointed in yourself, your staff, the computers, whatever. Things happen and not always good things. You can’t win every battle. Remember, if challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be challenges. It is how you approach your mistakes and your failures that will help to define you and make you a better employee, manager, owner, and yes…a better person. 

Think back on your planning. Is there something you would have changed with the benefit of hindsight? Ask your manager if they have suggestions. Get together with your Staffers and discuss the problems and how they could have been either anticipated or dealt with in a more efficient manner. Part of being a great boss is being a great mentor. Let your employees know where they (or you!) have failed and what they (or you!) can do to improve the next time around. When life give you a test and you fail – or barely pass – don’t fixate on the outcome, focus on the solution and move forward. 

Until next time….