Preparing for Bad Behavior


By Cindy Campbell

Hostility. Aggression. Belligerence. Incivility. Rudeness.

All these words describe bad human behavior. Again this week, an over-the-top outburst was caught on video and went viral. Maybe you’ve seen it: A female would-be airline passenger went ballistic at the gate, reportedly because her flight was delayed.

It’s disheartening to think these scenarios don’t surprise us anymore. We have grown to expect bad behavior and at some level, tolerate it. Having said that, there is a significant difference between expecting bad behavior and being trained and prepared to encounter and effectively deal with it. We see emotional, anger-filled outbursts and disrespectful behavior everywhere. As our agencies’ representatives, frontline staff must be well prepared to handle these encounters.

It’s important to recognize that within our industry, customers are frequently hostile, even aggressive, and often have difficulty hearing and understanding our intended message. You have likely experienced scenarios where citizens see themselves as victims rather than customers. The skillset to capably provide helpful service within a public service agency requires the ability to quickly sort information and apply an appropriate response. Frontline staff typically perform their duties independently and therefore must be resourceful and aware that their words affect how they are perceived. The goal must be to quickly decipher what we hear while keeping our emotions under control so we are prepared to calmly and effectively address the situation.

What steps will you take to promote this concept within your agency in 2019?

Cindy Campbell is IPMI’s senior training and development specialist. She is available for onsite trainings; visit

1 comment



01-11-2019 12:20

Cindy: Well said - it's tough to take these calls on a routine basis and I tell our CSRs every day how much I appreciate their mettle and that being yelled at by customers is no fun.  Our call center leadership team has done an awesome job underscoring that the person is upset with the situation and not our CSR, but  most importantly that our CSR has control over themselves ONLY.  By having control, they can take control of the call and own the outcome, which is to say that we evaluate their reaction and handling of the call, therefore they are doing their jobs well by remaining calm and resolving the situation to the best of their ability.  BTW - if they have a call that was particularly difficult, they can put a "star" on the "It's My Call" board and all entries are put into a basket for a drawing at the end of the month.  Small reward for a job well done, under challenging circumstances.  Thank you for the post and getting the discussion started!