Provided by Nancy Fick, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and adapted from materials from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Penn State University, 2007

What is disruptive behavior?

Behavior that interferes with other students, faculty or staff and their access to an appropriate educational or work environment is considered disruptive behavior.

 What are some 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 others
  • Words or actions that cause others to fear for their personal safety
  • Threats of physical assault.

How should I deal with a disruptive person?

  • Disruptive behavior should not be ignored. Remain calm. Remind yourself that it is not about you, it is about the situation. Tell the individual that such behavior is inappropriate.   Inform the individual that there are consequences for failing to improve the disruptive behavior.
  • Many disruptive situations involve anger. Recognize that the period of peak anger usually lasts 20-30 seconds. Although this may feel like an eternity in the throes of the situation, often it is best to “wait it out” before progressing.
  • Remember to keep your supervisor or department chair informed.   
  • Do not hesitate to ask for help.   If you feel threatened or endangered, call the University police at 911 or 335-5022.


Disruptive behavior should be documented.  Write a factual, detailed account of what happened. Use concrete, behavioral terms.  Share the documentation appropriately.

 The “Do’s”

  • Do use active listening to try to understand the individual's concerns.
  • DO acknowledge the feelings of the individual.
  • DO help the person calm down enough to be able to talk about the situation.
  • DO 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.”
  • DO be firm, but sincere and honest. The person will be more likely to trust you if he or she feels you are telling the truth. Don’t make any promises that you cannot keep.
  • DO give the person some choices. The person will feel reassured if he feels that the situation is not hopeless. Try to provide some hope for the person.
  • DO focus on what you can do to help resolve the situation.
  • DO make personal referrals. Give a name of an individual, when possible, and call ahead to brief the person.
  • DO report the behavior to the department administrator and/or department chair.

The “Don’ts”

  • DON’T interrupt, particularly during the first 20-30 seconds of peak anger.
  • DON’T minimize the situation.
  • DON’T get into an argument or shouting match.
  • DON’T blame, ridicule or use sarcasm.
  • DON’T touch the person.
  • DON’T ignore warning signs that the person is about to explode.
  • DON’T ignore your limitations.
  • DON’T try to resolve all of the person’s problems.


  • Emergency 911
  • Public Safety 335-5022
  • Human Resources 353-3558
  • Office of the Ombudsperson 335-3608