Reality Check – German AAA partners seek exchange

We wanted to know: After the many intensive discussions about how to deal with aggressive hate speech in the everyday life of our target groups during the AAA kick-off, we sought a discussion with our target group/public administration representatives, namely Roman Gebhardt (head of the municipal Job Center of the Darmstadt-Dieburg district) and Birgit Müller, his deputy.

They reported unanimously that they are repeatedly exposed to aggressive behaviour, including insults and personal threats from job seekers who are placed in work at the Job Center. “Particularly in telephone contact, conversational situations repeatedly arise that make it necessary to point out boundaries,” says Birgit Müller. There are again and again verbal border crossings, report both in agreement, it seems as if the inhibition threshold becomes lower. It goes up to criminal offences, which are punished with respective juridical instruments.

But how to deal with aggressive behaviour appropriately? According to Roman Gebhardt, on the one hand, the organisation of the public authority must be adapted to the challenges. He has prompted all employees to jointly develop a mission statement in which they have formulated the self-image of their work, their goals and the values for their own actions. This agreement helps to ensure that they achieve their goals even in difficult situations and to maintain their ability to communicate with customers.

On the other hand it takes professional experience and life experience to react quickly and unambiguously, and young colleagues in particular often find this difficult. “The ability to argue is very important in order to show limits – and this is anything but easy if you want to deal with such situations in a professional, solution-oriented and objective manner.” Because: “We don’t want to lose contact with our customers”.

So what is their recommendation to deal with hate speech and aggressive behaviour? How to train staff at public authorities in the correct handling of aggressive language attacks? Both experts are convinced that long-term prevention projects and permanent communication work. They consider the “Arguments Against Aggression” project to be a very sensible approach, and they are especially excited about the app it develops with quick access to facts and figures to counteract aggressive speech and hate spech.

Many thanks to both experts for the interview!

(Our picture shows from left to right: Ingrid Zimmermann and Karin Drda-Kühn from media k GmbH, Birgit Müller and Roman Gebhardt from the Job Center)

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