Trainers Don't Take Orders

By Dr. Geri McArdle

When I first thought about this topic six months ago, I was going to write about how the only dilemma I  faced working 25-years in management was the occasional disagreement that occurred when a supervisor wanted the training department to “drop everything,” design a course, and insert the course topic in an already published annual training calendar.

Then I stumbled on a learner issue with a course participant who refused to participate in a team learning event. After some brief conversation I discovered that the participant had her own agenda – she wanted to use the class and resources to create a course that she needed in two days.

The resolution to this “participant stand down” was that she agreed to work on the team project, and I agreed to work with her on her own project.   The participant was still not happy she only wanted to work on her own course.  She constantly complained about not getting what she needed.  This type of behavior is contagious.  After upsetting most participants during the first two days of class, she decided not to come back for the final day.   That was unfortunate for her because the class decided that they were all willing to help her.  Here’s the question for you, should we take orders from participants who have their own agenda?   

Participants Give Orders

Was the action I applied in this situation fair to the other participants?  In retrospect I think not.   What I should have done was to call someone in management and discuss the situation.  After a discussion with management and the organization’s marketing group, a policy was created to make sure appropriate participants were registered for the course. The lesson that I learned speak up and ask for help. We trainers think we can handle everything well, we can’t.  We need support and we need feedback. 

If a participant isn’t well-suited for your training or has a bad attitude, you should remember that the time they spend not participating and contributing could significantly impact the other members of the team.  That’s why it’s so important that you, the trainer, be included in decisions about class enrollment to ensure that the qualifications and mindset are acceptable before one is registered for a course.

Learn from my experience and don’t beat yourself up.  As an instructor, you have a personal investment to ensure that each session is a success and that each participant has an opportunity to achieve their stated goal for the course.

Today, replaying this whole situation, what I should have done was to give the woman space, set her up in the back and let her work on her project and be available to me and the class, when she wanted something.  Today, I remember that this situation ended as a “no win” solution. Here is a list of things that I want to share with you so that you can reflect on my situation if you face a similar situation. 

Classroom Management Tips: 

  • Do your best to meet participant learning needs
  • Follow the instructor guide. That’s why it’s there
  • Begin and end every session on time
  • Use effective facilitator tools: be organized, be real and enjoy

About the Author

Geri McArdle has been a practitioner in the human resource field for 25 years. She has published nine books on human productivity and numerous juried research articles in professional journals... a founding member of our Chapter, an international trainer and consultant, she now spends her time in Fort Myers. 


You can read more by Dr. McArdle in our monthly chapter newsletters.


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