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Workshop – Dealing with Aggression

Dealing with Aggressive Customer Behaviour – Workshop


This workshop will provide participants with the skills to identify and respond to aggression displayed by customers. Participants will be provided with the legal basis for safety in the workplace and the signs to identify aggression. Once the foundation is covered, participants will be presented with typical retail scenarios where their newly acquired skills will be put to the test for the purpose of learning re-enforcement through interactive exercises. This course does not cover self-defence or restraint techniques.


Stephen O’Keefe is a retail consultant with Bottom Line Matters, a company focussed on providing the small to mid-size retailer with the knowledge, best practices,  and programs enjoyed by the large retailers at a fraction of the cost. His background spans over 3 decades with major retailers including Sears, HBC and Walmart Canada. 

While at Walmart Canada, Stephen conducted short-term assignments in Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Brazil, and South Africa. While these projects dealt with market studies, due diligence and integration efforts, Stephen was fortunate to pick up on best practices of some of the most successful foreign retail chains.

Stephen is also a candidate for the Honours Double Major B.A. Degree in Sociology and Psychology at York University. His previous post-secondary education was in Professional Theatre which gave him the skills to conduct compelling presentations and training sessions.


No employee should be put in a position where they are subject to the aggressive nature of a belligerent, hostile, or violent customer, but it happens very often – especially in retail. There are always alternative measures to achieve a safe resolution, it takes understanding what the customer’s state is.

“The customer is always right … until they get aggressive. Then it becomes a matter of safety first.”

Workshop Modules


Module 1 – The Legal Foundation

In this module, the participants will be presented with the various laws that pertain to aggressive interactions with customers. Human Rights Legislation, Occupational Health and Safety Legislation, and the Criminal Code of Canada are all sources that are considered when conveying the legal rights to participants.

Module 2 – Practical Application

Once the legal foundation has been set, the focus will turn to identify the various levels of aggressive attributes and examples of each level of aggression and potential responses. 

In principle, there are 3 levels of aggression (1) emotional, (2) verbal, and (3) physical. For the purpose of training retail employees, however, the levels have been broken down further dealing with 8 levels; (1) annoyance, (2) general aggression, (3) irritation, (4) hostility, (5) violence, (6) mental health complications, (7) substance abuse complications, (8) active shooter. The further breakdown is done to clearly delineate between some of the verbal confrontations to effectively use de-escalation tactics.

Participants will be presented with a list of aggression attributes and called upon to share their thoughts and ideas. They will likely be able to articulate each step of aggression by drawing from their personal experiences working in retail.

Module 3 – Case Studies

In this module, 4-5 actual cases of aggressive customer behaviour will be reviewed and the actions and the responses will be studied to understand what went right or what went wrong.

Module 4 – Tabletop Exercises.

Equipped with the skills to identify behaviour, and apply an appropriate response, participants will be broken into small groups to work through a series of hypothetical scenarios. They will be asked to present to other groups for peer review, the best course of action that they will be recommending. 

Proposed length of the workshop – 4 hours/accelerated (For an extended session of 8 hours, a co-facilitator is required).

The fee to design and deliver content –  Call for a quote – 905 821 4651


About Stephen O'Keefe

As an independent consultant I leverage my experience and knowledge to help a number of companies achieve results. Clients range from non-retailers looking for guidance to serve their retail customer, to retailers looking for quick solutions to unique and costly problems, right to the Industry Association. Bottom line Matters!

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