Problematic participants as a risk that needs to be identified and addressed
While most participants are cooperative and manageable, at times you will encounter a few problematic types. This is a tool that aims to introduce you with the popular theory that there are certain personality types or certain behaviours that can be addressed using concrete strategies.
Why did I choose this tool? There are several approaches to the behavior of the participants that are not convenient for the trainer/facilitator and might become annoying for the group of learners. I chose this tool to introduce one of the approaches – connecting difficult behaviour with the types of personalities and having a prepared list of strategies that can be effective when dealing with these types. This tool should be used alongside with the tool ‘Dealing with problematic behavior’.
How does this apply to being a trainer? While there are plenty of risks that you can face while running a training programme, many of them can be prevented. Having problematic participants can also be prevented to a certain point, but more likely, you’ll have to deal with them on the go. Knowing the most typical “Problems” in the group and having some tips and tricks in your sleeve on how to address them, can be useful for everyone.
- Read through these documents that list types of “problematic participants” and ways how to deal with them:
- The managing difficult participants pocket book https://www.pocketbook.co.uk/media_mp/preview/9781906610296(Preview).pdf
- How to handle difficult participants: http://laurelandassociates.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/DifficultParticipants.pdf
- Be prepared for difficult participants: http://moodle.kpsahs.edu/pluginfile.php/41142/mod_resource/content/0/HowToTeachEffectively_Difficult_Part.pdf
- Problem Participants: Common Training Session Obstacles: https://humaniqasolutionscentre.com/blogs/humaniqa-hr-blog/35701060-problem-participants-common-training-session-obstacles
- How to gracefully deal with the “problematic” participant: http://www.masterfacilitatorjournal.com/archives/skill223.html
- If you can get access, Julius E. Eitington has written quite a few pages (p. 36-44) on different types of “problematic participants” and dealing strategies in his book “The winning trainer” (2002). Eitington lists the following:
- The Hesitant One
- The Monopolizer
- The Voice of Experience
- The Arguer
- The Non-Listener
- The Idea Zapper
- The Complainer
- The Rigid One
- The Hostile One
- The Angry One
- The Negative One
- The Dominator
- The Clown
- The Show Off
- The Tangent Taker
- The Unwilling Participant
- Rank the Top 5 of the most problematic participants from your perspective.
- Based on the chosen Top 5, make (write down) strategies that you would be comfortable to use with a group.
- Which ones of the “problematic participants” do you meet more often than others in your professional life?
- Which ones are the easiest for you to deal with? Which strategies do you use?
- Which ones are the most difficult for you to deal with? Why do you think that is?
- Which strategy for dealing with difficult participants do you disagree with? Why?
- Which strategies you have employed yourself?
- Do you ever become a problematic participant yourself? Which one? How do educators deal with you?
- Start scanning the participants from their application/participant information forms and communication through e-mails, upon arrival during sessions and outside of them;
- Discuss the possible “challenging participants” with your colleague or team of trainers.
- Identify the behaviour and prepare several strategies that you would be comfortable to use with this group and this participant.
- Apply them when/if needed.
Closing: Problematic participants are a fact of training work. The texts try to suggest some ways of coping with them. Basically, you will be ahead of the game if you regard the problematic participant as a challenge rather than a headache. This means that you must show patience and avoid arguments and putdowns. Try to deal politely with the problematic participants’ behavior by using some of the suggestions made from above. Also, whenever possible, let the group deal with such participants. The group will probably do it more effectively than you can.
Coping with “problematic participants” is an important aspect during the training programme. Also, it’s important to be true to yourself. Are they really “problematic participants” or they are somehow inconvenient for you because of personal or other reasons. Labeling can be done easily and saves you a lot of time, but might not be the best tactic to follow. What can also help you is understanding where the participants are coming from, choosing the right approach (supporting, encouraging, confronting) and contributing to their personal development. A different approach of dealing with problematic behaviour is presented in the tool “Addressing problematic behavior”.