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Sometimes, for various reasons, we’re not always the right person to support an individual, especially if they’re in crisis. We may know ourselves that we’re not the right person to be involved, or it takes a colleague to recognise it and help to take us out of a situation. In Team Teach, the term ‘Change of Face’ refers to the support of an individual transferring to somebody else. The change is in the best interests of the individual, those around them, and ourselves, and aims to redirect and defuse behaviours.
When to use Change of Face
We all have some behaviours that personally challenge us and push our buttons more than others. This can lead to us reacting to situations rather than responding to them. Change of Face is a useful strategy when we feel overwhelmed or frustrated, or can see a colleague in need of our support.
Recognising you need to use Change of Face
Previous personal experiences and our current state of mind can influence how we respond and support situations in the workplace. It’s important to understand what we’re bringing to a situation, both mentally and physically. We can remember to have emotional check ins with ourselves so we’re aware of anything that may influence our response to a situation. Small things like a dreadful night’s sleep or a hard journey to work can significantly affect how we respond to something in the workplace. And we all have bigger pressures on us, both professionally and personally, that affect how we’re feeling.
As professionals, we can develop intense bonds with those we care for. Along with the highs, we’re likely to have situations that make us feel frustrated or angry. We all have our buttons pressed by different things. It takes professional strength to recognise that we need to take a step back in the interest of ourself and the individual in our care.
Recognising when a colleague needs to use Change of Face
Not only are we reading the behaviours and body language of the individuals we support but also those that we work alongside. It’s important to know what pushes the buttons of our colleagues and what they may bring to a situation. In a positive, supportive culture, colleagues can act as critical friends to make the best choices for the individual in our care.
Sometimes it’s easier to see from afar when a situation is escalating and when Change of Face is necessary. For example, a colleague is supporting a child who you know struggles with lengthy demands and loud noises. You can see that your colleague is using excessive verbal communication to list a series of instructions. When the individual doesn’t respond, your colleague repeats the instruction in a louder voice and moves closer. Your experiences tell you that your colleague’s actions are causing increased stress and anxiety behaviours are escalating. To bring the situation back under control and reduce conflict, you use Change of Face to offer a dignified exit for your colleague. Previous experiences and knowledge of those in your care guides every situation; accepting help isn’t a personal criticism or a sign of weakness.
What does Change of Face look like in practice?
Change of face relies on clear and accurate communication as scripts and signals. It allows simple messages to be passed on without misunderstanding or the risk of provoking an argument. Individual help scripts can be developed and adapted collaboratively to meet the needs of a setting, but should be simple to remember and used consistently across the team.
Having a help script makes it simple to offer assistance to a colleague or to receive it from them:
- Offer: “Help is available…”
- Response: “You can help by …”
But there are also occasions when the individual involved is not best placed to make the decision. Other things may be happening that they are not aware of. Alternatively, they may be getting upset or tired without realising it. This is where the ‘more help’ script is important.
With ‘more help’ it becomes the responsibility of the person offering help to make the decision, not the colleague already involved in the incident. This should trigger an automatic response:
- Offer: “More help is available.”
- Response: “What do you suggest?”
With ‘more’ help, it becomes the responsibility of the professional helping to decide what to do next, not the colleague already involved in the incident. The word ‘more’ should function like a flashcard and trigger an automatic response.
The professional offering help needs to give a simple instruction, ‘I would like you to… let me sit with… I’ll catch up with you later.’
It is a dignified and uncomplicated exit without causing unnecessary stress and disruption for those involved.
Post incident listening and learning
Change of Face is an immediate response to a situation we know has the potential to escalate. It’s important, however, to come back, be reflective, and evaluate what happened. This is a non-blaming process of listening and learning. It serves as an opportunity to share experiences and consider whether we could do things differently in the future.
Depending on the incident, those involved may need time to rebuild relationships and reconnect with the individual. Support may need to be put in place to monitor and promote staff wellbeing. And, as with all strategies, it requires ongoing reflection and evaluation for it to be successful.
Change of Face is the acknowledgement that we need to take a step back and accept the help that’s being offered. It allows the professional to walk away from the situation in a planned and safe manner, while keeping their dignity intact. By introducing a fresh face, conflict can often be reduced.