Working with Disruptive People

Find out how to handle disruptive behavior at UMUC.

Disruptive Behavior Defined

Behavior that interferes with other students, faculty, or staff and their access to an appropriate educational or work environment is considered disruptive. These behaviors are usually a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

Examples of Disruptive Behavior

  • Yelling or screaming
  • Persistent and unreasonable demands for time and attention
  • Words or actions that have the effect of intimidating or harassing another
  • Words or actions that cause another to fear for his/her personal safety
  • Threats of physical assault

Dealing with Disruptive Behavior

Remain calm. Many disruptive situations involve anger. Recognize that the period of peak anger usually lasts 20–30 seconds. If the person de-escalates, then you can refer to the Dos and Don'ts listed for further steps to resolve the conflict. If, however, the person does not de-escalate, then you may need to remove yourself from the situation and contact UMUC Security.

Documenting Disruptive Behavior

Disruptive behavior should be documented. Write a factual, detailed account of what occurred. Use concrete terms.

What to Do

  • Allow the person to vent and tell you what is upsetting him/her. Use silence to allow the person to talk it out.
  • Acknowledge the feelings of the individual.
  • Set limits. Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable: "I will be willing to speak with you as soon as you lower your voice."
  • Be firm, consistent, and honest.
  • Focus on what you can do to help resolve the situation.
  • Offer to make referrals. When possible, give the name of an individual who might be able to help.
  • If appropriate, report the behavior to Student Resolution and Judicial Affairs, Employee Relations, and/or UMUC Security.

What Not to Do

  • Interrupt, particularly during the first 20–30 seconds of peak anger.
  • Minimize the situation.
  • Get into an argument or shouting match.
  • Blame, ridicule, or use sarcasm.
  • Touch.
  • Ignore safety issues if the person is becoming more agitated.
  • Assume you can resolve all situations; call for assistance when needed.