Q. Unfortunately, part of the RA job is confronting negative behavior. This can be a tough role to take on, especially since the relationships we have with the residents are so important. What are some suggestions you have for these conforntations?

A. Treat residents with respect..but realize that their opinion of you is not a life or death matter. also, know when to walk away and when to get help.
UC Davis

A. One thing I found to be most effective is when a negative situation arises, such as a violation of quiet hours, I ask my residents what they would do if they were in my situation. This way they put themselves in my place and 100% of the time they say that I should document them.
Leigh Ann Lorusso – University of Wisconsin at Whitewater

A. Go in with a positive attitude. Be sure you remind them that, yeah, you all have fun together sometimes, but rules are rules, and part of your job as an RA is to enforce those rules.
Jennifer Anderson – Southern Methodist University

A. There are several suggestions for confronting negative behavior. One of the most important, I think is to be fair. Don’t let one person get by with a certain behavior and then turn around and document someone else for the same thing. I agree with you when you adressed the fact that this will ruin any respect that a resident might have of you.

Another important suggestion is to address the situation at hand. Don’t bring previous incidents into the confrontation as this will only make the situation worse. For example, if you document a resident for alcohol tonight don’t bring up that you thought you saw him drunk the night before. A third suggestion is to take the person away from other people during the documentation process. For example, if you catch a resident vandalizing and there are five other people around (who are not vandalizing) take the person away to another place when you document.

It is easier to handle the situation if the resident alone challenges the incident, but it is much harder to handle if the resident plus five other people are challenging the incident. One last suggestion that I have is to explain the reasoning behind the policy that the resident has broken. I think that this takes a lot of the pressure off you when the resident realizes why that policy was implemented and that you are just doing your job.
Eric Honeycutt – Northern Carolina State University

A. Confronting negative behavior is never easy, but I have found that it is easiER if you have taken the time in the beginning to set up a good offense. First, work hard early on to establish a mutually respectful relationship between yourself and your residents. I returned to college after taking time off, so I am older than my residents. But I made very plain the fact that we are all adults and are all under the same obligation to treat each other with respect. I respect them (and they know this by the way I treat them), and I expect the same in return. Second, spell out university policies and what they mean VERY clearly, as well as your obligation to report violations and WHY. Make very clear any issues concerning which there can be no gray area and explain WHY. Getting students to follow the rules because “I said so” didn’t work when they were in elementary school and certainly isn’t going to work now. Make sure your residents understand your position and know that if they break the rules, which are in place to keep them safe, you have to report them, and it isn’t personal.
Sara Schaeffner – University of Vermont

A. Personally, I’ve noticed that people react a lot easier to people who confront them on an essentially peer level. While we, as RAs, are in charge of enforcing policy, that doesn’t mean that we have to do it in a way that makes us seem like the police. In the confrontations I’ve had to deal with, generally the people you’re confronting KNOW they’ve been doing something wrong, and they probably feel pretty dumb that they got caught. My first action in confronting a situation is to greet them by name, inform them why I’m there, and specifically what violation has occurred and what’s gonna happen because of it. Of course, then you have to get all their info and all, but I think the MOST important part is following up with those residents afterward, to make sure that they know that even though you have to enforce policy, that your relationship with them hasn’t changed.
Amber Benoit – Colorado State University

A. If at all possible try and be the “good cop” for incidents on your floor. This will keep residents from seeing you frequently in a “bad light.” The most important thing to remember when confronting an incident is you are working to build overall community, not tear it down. The policy you are enforcing exists to make community living more harmonius. Approach incidents with this mindset and you will have a much more positive outcome. Customer service is a key role even when you are confronting an issue. Be as kind as possible throughout…until that’s not an option.
Michael Wilde – Concordia College

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