What can I do about angry and abusive calls?

You don't have to put up with them.

The Helplines Partnership provides training for not-for-profit call centres and helplines, and says that employers should give call handlers the discretion to end an abusive call. This is defined as one involving sexist, racist or homophobic language, direct threats, or swearing down the phone.

Your employer should:

  • set out clear guidelines;
  • tell staff they will get back-up if a call is terminated;
  • provide training in handling an angry call. Techniques include not being defensive, acknowledging the anger felt by the caller, and trying to encourage the caller to move on to the service issue involved;
  • the Helplines Partnership believes that you can generally work with an angry caller, although inevitably, some cases progress to abuse, and may need to be terminated, using the agreed guidelines; and
  • provide time away from the phones, and other support, after an abusive call. Depending on the emotions involved in an angry or abusive call, staff may need time away from the phone to recover. In certain cases, e.g. with a particularly distressing call, counselling may be appropriate, or a debriefing conversation with a colleague or supervisor.
Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.