Tip #970:  How to Handle Negative Participant Attitudes- Part Two

Two addition reasons why participants have a negative attitude when they come to a training session include the fact that the training program is either: (1) inconvenient or (2) controversial.

When participants’ concerns are justified, the trainer should acknowledge their concerns and then refocus them on something more constructive.

  1. Inconvenient Training. When training is scheduled during the busiest work season or when the participants have pressing deadlines, the stress of spending time away from the office even for valued training can generate grudging negativity.

In this case, the trainer can acknowledge the validity of the participants’ concerns, clarify that they were not involved in the scheduling decision, offer to make the day as pleasant and useful as possible, ask for the participants’ cooperation, and have them brainstorm why the training is important for them at that time.

  1. Controversial Training. When training is part of a change implementation strategy, it will often be controversial.

In this case, the participants may need time to vent their concerns and frustrations.  Here are three different activities that can provide structure to the venting process and limit the time it takes.

(a)     Sealed Concerns.  Give the participants five minutes to individually write down their concerns and place them into an envelope. Have them seal the envelope and put it away. In this manner, they can retain their concerns, but they won’t have to focus on them during the training.

(b)    Flipchart Recommendations.  Have small groups brainstorm recommendations to address their concerns and post them. The trainer can offer to collect and collate their recommendations and bring them back to management. This will give the participants a sense of control.

(c)     Oral Relay.  Ask half of the group to list negatives about the change and the other half to list positives about the change. Have them stand in parallel lines facing each other. Go down the line, with each facing pair stating a negative and a positive. Plan this oral relay so that the very last person who speaks will identify a positive and close the relay on a constructive note.

It is helpful for trainers to know what learning activities they can use to minimize or possibly even avoid the adverse impact of participants’ negative attitudes on a training program.

Question:  How do you handle participants’ valid negativity in these situations?

May your learning be sweet- and safe,


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