As part of Property Manager Mental Health Week, we’re looking into personal safety in the workplace for property managers.
Women make up the vast majority of employees within the property management field, and quite often go about their daily tasks out of the office alone, often dealing with individuals who would rather they weren’t inspecting their personal space.
This raises the issues of risk within the role, and the stress it can place on an employee, especially when tempers flare.
We spoke with an expert on the topic of personal safety, John Wayne Legg, Founder and Chief Instructor of Urban Personal Safety, whose tagline is: “BE AWARE BE PREPARED BE SAFE”.
It’s worth noting that John highlights several times in our conversation that Urban Personal Safety is not a self-defence school, but Personal Safety Training. Personal Safety Training is a blend of physical and psychological principles, all focused on avoidance and prevention of violent assault.
Tell us about Urban Personal Safety and what it is you do?
I started Urban Personal Safety in 2015 to provide consulting and training specific to helping business owners and their staff stay safe from violence & aggression on the job. We provide customised personal safety training via way of live workshops and online training courses.
All instruction is practical and down-to-earth, focusing on prevention and avoidance, with efficient physical self-protection skills as a contingency plan. All strategies and tactics that we provide to your team have been proven in real world settings, rather than theoretical or textbook knowledge.
The mission of Urban Personal Safety is simple; Empower you and your staff to stay safe, or how to avoid a situation and get to safety, as quickly as possible so you can continue to be productive and profitable.
What is the relevance of your business to the real estate industry?
Whilst real estate is a reasonably safe job, your everyday activities can put you in a medium to high-risk work environment. From irate clients or tenants yelling in your office, vacant home inspections, and attending properties alone; there are many situations where having personal safety training under your belt can be the literal difference between life and serious injury or even death.
Do you have stats on injuries caused by assaults, threats and any other dangers that property managers face?
I wish I did. Stats for the USA real estate industry are super easy to find (via a quick Google search) and seem reasonably well kept. When it comes to Australia, as hard as I’ve looked I haven’t found any definitive statistics on violent crimes (physical or verbal) against property managers or agents in Australia.
Due to the myriad of stories I get told in my travels, I do have a ton of anecdotal evidence. Without fail, every agency I do training for has staff members with stories… Let me give you two very different stories that have been told to me by the victims (names left out for privacy):
X was always cautious of dogs, so as she entered the home for a routine inspection she asked the tenant to put their dog outside. The tenant complied, but for some strange reason decided to let the dog back in the house before X was finished. She didn’t even see it coming, she just felt the first bite of her calf. She tried to fight the dog off and the owner eventually grabbed it and put it back outside, but that damage had been done. As a result, X took almost 3 months off work due to the extensive injury to her leg and occompanying trauma.
Y had just gotten out of her car and about to walk down the drive for a routine inspection when her phone rang. “Do not go in the house!” yelled the office receptionist over the phone. “Why not?” asked the PM. “I’ll tell you later, but just get out of there NOW.” Y quickly got back in her car and drove off, but she could clearly see a car following her and the driver looked incredibly angry. After what could only be described as a mini car chase, the car stopped following as Y drove past the local police station. It turns out that the tenant was angry regarding an issue at the property and had just been in the office, screaming at staff and using abusive language. If the police station hadn’t of been so close, who knows what might have happened!
We know about the extreme incidents that happen in the real estate industry, such as murders (roughly every 7 years in Australia). What about all the ones that don’t make the news? In my experience, these issues are under reported (to police and agency management) and almost accepted as part of the job (similar to the health industry).
What does your physical safety have to do with mental health and why should this be a part of a business owner’s conversations during Property Manager Mental Health Week?
Gosh, I need a whole separate article to answer this properly. For time sake, let’s focus on these three:
1. Prevention and reduction of anxiety
2. Prevention and reduction of trauma
3. Building resilience:
Anxiety is an issue for many people and manifests in a variety of forms, and can stem from many incidents such as a violent incident or verbal abuse.
Psychological trauma is probably the most overlooked aspect of personal safety. In my experience of personal safety training to the real estate industry, people have told me all sorts of horrible encounters they’ve gone through first hand or that occured to a work colleague. Experiences which may or may not have left a permanent physical injury but have left mental trauma to deal with.
Having resilient team members is a hot topic in business culture these days. The benefit of having resilient staff (able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions) should be obvious. As should the benefit of resilience to violence and aggression.
The relationship of your physical safety to mental health could be summed up in one word – Preparedness (the state of being prepared for a particular situation). The best way to cope with any adversity is to understand the specifics of what might occur in that situation and have a plan before it happens.
What we do is help property managers to understand how real world violence actually works (including how to manage fear), how it’s likely to play out and put them through realistic scenarios to familiarise and make them ready… It’s a kind of exposure therapy; we expose you to violence in a safe environment so if (God forbid) you were attacked, in a sense you’ve “been there and done that.” Obviously, the more prepared and experienced you are for violence the less chance of a negative outcome; physically or mentally.
What easy and quick steps can PMs take to greatly increase their everyday safety on the job?
This is a question I get asked a lot; it’s always frustrating and one I’m hesitant to answer. Human nature has a tendency to look for quick and easy solutions. Especially with something like personal safety on the job, which let’s face it, the majority of property managers would rather not have to think about (and they shouldn’t have to); their job is busy and stressful enough as it is. So I do understand… but I also know the danger.
We’ve all heard the saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and nowhere is this more relevant than with personal safety. Let me explain; if you look at a list of tips on how to be happier or more successful at work, the downside is you might not be as happy or as successful. The downside of relying on a list of personal safety tips is, you can be severely injured or killed.
Having said all that, I’m going to give you a list of 5 Big Concepts That Will Help You Stay Safe. Before we get into it, let me add this caveat; quick tips or steps can be great as an initial awakening or base to build upon. They should serve to spark your desire to dig further, not as a final solution.
- It’s NOT about self defence: Know that it’s not about learning fancy self defence moves or techniques to get out of various grabs/holds. Yes, you do need some physical skills as a contingency plan, but it’s a small part of complete personal safety plan.
- Awareness is THE key: Always practice deliberate awareness of what’s going on around you. Get your eyes off your phone and look around – not just at work; make it a habit.
- Be a student of human behaviour: The more you understand body language and general communication, the better you’ll be at recognising warning signs or what I call Pre Violence Cues.
- Learn to use your words more effectively: Learn to be clear and effective in in what you want to say. This is vital in projecting your intent or de-escalating an aggression.
- Understand that real world violence is chaotic: If you are ever unfortunate enough to be attacked, it will be messy, brutal and unfair. Accept this in advance and prepare your mind to respond in kind – there are no rules when it comes to surviving violence!
What would be the benefit to a business from training with you?
We do actually survey all attendees on what they got from the experience. Typical responses include, “realistic skills to protect myself, more confidence, stronger mindset, feel safer.”
I also personally do a debrief with each business owner or manager and then follow up 6 months, on how they feel they’ve benefited and/or what are the projected benefits. The feedback that comes from these discussions covers two areas and typically includes answers like (but not limited to) the following:
For The Staff
- Increased confidence
- Increased levels of morale
- Happier/More productive staff
- Increased resilience
- Stronger resolve
- An overall sense that it has helped their people to grow and make better team members.
For The Business (direct and indirect)
- Sense from staff that management genuinely care
- Reduction in staff turnover
- Increased staff productivity and performance
- Increased revenues and/or decreased expenses
Have you got testimonials you can share with us?
“We had the pleasure of running a Real Estate safety course and had John Wayne Legg present on the day. He was very knowledgeable and engaging and got excellent feedback from the attendees. I have no hesitation in recommending John for these sessions.” Hayley Mitchell – Mitchell Property Training
“Absolutely invest in this safety course, we all walked away with so many realistic tips and felt a lot more at ease. Such purposeful training, highly recommended!” Bec Kinross – Department Manager (Elders Real Estate-Wodonga & Albury)
“I thought it would be what I’ve done at other self defense classes for women. This was better and I enjoyed the written content too. Overall the course was excellent. Everyone should be doing this. Especially with the increasing use of ice.” Jenny Jensen – Property Manager
“A lot better than I expected! It was great fun and very helpful and easy to apply to real-life situations.” Patricia Bou Khalil – Property Manager
“Very worthwhile, especially because of the role us property managers are in. I loved the interactive part. Very powerful knowledge to take with me in my career and personal life.” Laura Scott – Property Manager
“You will love it and you will leave feeling more confident.” Jenna Peerman – Property Manager
“Urban Personal Safety has enabled me to be more aware in a life or death situation due to the strategies learnt and naturally I feel more confident, should I ever come into an intense situation. I highly recommend the program, thank you.” Caitlin Brenna – Property Manager
“Such a great experience! Lots of quality information and hands on activities!” Remm Evens – Property Manager