Hello everyone. This is Ed Holpfer with Verbal Defense & Influence.

Money and finances are a big concern for most people. It is no surprise then that when people go to the bank and don’t hear what they want to, conflict is highly likely. I witnessed such an event this past Saturday morning.

I was already at the counter being helped by a teller when a man walked up to the window next to me and asked the teller to fill out a cashier’s check for a large withdrawal. The teller took the man’s information and then asked if he would like to pay the $2 administrative fee in cash or have it withdrawn from his account.

How quickly things can changeSometimes the source of conflict is a simple lack of understanding by one or both parties.

Immediately the man becomes agitated and demanded to know why he should have to pay to take out his own money. The teller simply responded with a nervous chuckle. The man again demanded an answer. Now the teller clearly looking shell-shocked tries to back track and explain that it is the bank’s policy to charge an administrative fee on cashier’s checks, but it was too late.

The man first threatened, then demanded the teller close his entire account and that their bank just lost a $200,000 account over a $2 fee. As the teller stepped away from the window to close his account, the man began muttering out loud how he felt the fee was “outrageous,” “ridiculous” and “stupid” – clearly trying to get other patrons to back him up. Luckily for the employees, no one else spoke out about it.

How it could have gone better

As he left the bank, check in hand, I couldn’t believe that the tellers never seemed to get any conflict resolution training. First, to mitigate the chance of a conflict to start with, the teller should have explained why there was a fee before asking how the man would like to pay. Sometimes the source of conflict is a simple lack of understanding by one or both parties. Explaining a situation at the outset is much easier when the other person may still be listening and before your credibility is shot. Laughing at the man’s demand for an explanation was also an unfortunate reflex.

Lastly, when the other workers heard the man trying to rally other customers they should have tried redirecting his behavior. If more people joined in the man’s anger, the situation could have quickly de-escalated much further.

While conflict can happen anywhere, it seems hard to believe that those in professions with a greater than average chance of an encounter with an upset individual still aren’t receiving the conflict resolution training they need. Hopefully the teller can learn from this incident and be better prepared for future conflicts.

If you were the teller, what would you have done differently?

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