Information about identifying and managing problem behaviour , and creating a safe work environment. 

Identifying Problem Behaviour

Individuals have a right to be left alone... persistent unwanted behaviour is often stalking and illegal in all jurisdictions...
Organisational values and code of conduct are the first point for guiding acceptable behaviour...but it has to be implemented once the behaviour first emerges to be effective...
What is Problem Behaviour?

Problem behaviour is that which causes the reasonable person to experience:

  • Offence: conduct calculated to wound feelings, arouse anger, disgust or outrage the reasonable person,

  • Fear: conduct that causes reasonable person to doubt their personal safety

  • Trauma: physical or psychological injury caused by the conduct of a person.

​Four Paradigms of Problem Behaviour

Problem behaviours clusters in five paradigms. The paradigms have been well researched with learnings to support active and strategic management. The five clusters are:

  1. Aggression: The deliberate or reckless use of force that harms self and/or others. All acts of violence are aggressive but not all acts of aggression are violent.

  2. Sexual harm: Engaging in any sexualised behaviour (including gender based sexual harassment) without consent

  3. Repeated Harms: Bullying and Stalking -  Repeated, unwanted intrusions that causes aggravation, distress or fear. Persistent complainers sees the pursuit of a grievance or complaint beyond what is reasonable and resulting in harms to the complainer, targets and organisations ​

  4. Social Media Abuse: The perpetration of problem behaviour in this highly public domain to cause humiliation as well as offence, fear or trauma

The aggression continuum by Code Black is a useful tool to visualise behaviour...


Skilled interactions see's colleagues discussing a work task using respect and courtesy, valuing others opinions.


At times though we can all become frustrated, this can be seen in behaviours such as rudeness, refusing to accept the information provided and the use of intimidation and rigid demands. For example, comments that are designed to be intimidating, "this will go further I promise you". Body language can also play a major part of safe or aggressive communication. These behaviours, although seen in everyday life, are the use of aggression and can cause offence or fear in those on the receiving end. Psychological injuries can occur where the behaviour is ongoing, extreme cases can result in PTSD in over a third of cases where people are 'harassed' in person or online.

Behaviour soon moves into more concerning aggression. The lower part of the continuum, illustrates property misuse which can be from slamming objects, doors, chairs or coffee cups. Non-injurious assault, such as bumping into someone in a deliberate way such as pushing past them or pushing. Then assault with injury, sexual assault and in the worse cases homicide. In some ways this last group of behaviours is easier to classify and manage, call emergency services.

Managing Problem Behaviour

Responding to Problem Behaviour

Three core elements are advocated to manage those who use problem behaviour. De-escalation, the setting of boundaries and education. These strategies can be used together or separately but never attempted when there seems to be an immediate risk to personal safety. In this circumstance security and police are required. ​​

  • De-escalate the person. Call security / police if the person escalates

  • Set boundaries around problem behaviour as soon as it occurs

  • Educate the person of concern about how to conduct themselves,

    • model the behaviour that is expected,

    • practice being able to self-regulate when faced with problem behaviour.

Be clear that personal safety will always be the top priority, if in doubt see advice from police, your lawyer or Code Black Threat Management.


De-escalation is about taking the lead in an emotionally charged situation to try and soothe the aggressor and bring things to a peaceful resolution. To do this a calm manner is needed that includes slow movements, simple instructions, a calm voice and willingness to actively listen to a person who cannot regulate themselves in that moment. 

The Risk Paradigm of Behavioural Aggression

Behavioural Risk Management as an Organisational Approach

Addressing how behavioural aggression can be framed within the organisation is vital to identifying how the organisation responds.

The risk framework is a logical place to tie together the policies, teams and departments to address the risk of behavioural aggression in the workplace. The challenge is many organisations do not understand the nature of behavioural aggression risk and how to embed this in your framework for risk management.

The controls and treatments for managing the risk of behavioural aggression are the key to framing your organisational response. A threat assessment and management team (TAM Team) is only one element of managing the behavioural threats identified within an organisation.


Supporting a Safe Work Environment

The philosophy of our approach is built upon positive intervention in the case of behavioural threats to your organisation and staff. Our methodology is straight forward, the organisation ensures they adequately assess and develop a risk framework that addresses the dimension of behavioural threat management.

This framework outlines the controls and treatments that the organisation has in place to address the risk of behavioural aggression. Targeted skills training prepares teams and individual staff to identify and respond to behavioural threats that once identified can be effectively assessed for risk and a response designed to address the risk of behavioural aggression to your organisation. Further planning see’s reactive responses developed to assist in containing and recovering from adverse events.

Understanding and applying a paradigm specifically for risk of behavioural aggression allows the organisation to take a measured approach to assess the potential risk and consequences this type of risk poses to an organisation. As seen internationally the potential harm caused by aggression can have severe impacts on both individuals and organisations. The organisation therefore must prepare both proactive measures and reactive measures to this category of risk. Behavioural risk, in our experience, needs to be viewed as an inherent part of your organisation’s place within the community as you cannot potentially anticipate or eliminate all behavioural risk. Therefore, the organisation needs active processes in place to manage the risk of aggression to your organisation, staff and students.

Clearly defining the terminology associated with behavioural risk is the starting point. Risk and threat are terms used carelessly, out of context and interchangeably in this field. This causes confusion and muddies the path forward.


Code Black offer bespoke training, workshops and modules on topics to meet your needs. Contact us for more information.