Tackling Tough Topics
Some elements of training are difficult, but you’ll get through them because you are a professional. You may be asked to facilitate a subject that is very sensitive, or could find yourself part way through a presentation and learn that you have struck a nerve and will need to adjust your material.
Tough Stuff to Watch Out For
Imagine that you have just been asked to provide health and safety training for your organization. You have never given this kind of training before, and in reality know little about it. However, there was a serious injury at the workplace two weeks ago that left one worker dead and another seriously injured. The difficulty is not just that someone died on the worksite, but also that you, as the in-house trainer, know all of these people very well.
What can you do to identify these difficult situations before training and be prepared for them?
Adjusting Your Material for a Sensitive Issue
Sometimes the unexpected can arise in an otherwise harmless training sessions. People can often be pre-occupied with unfinished tasks at work, family pressures, and many other things. If you are treading close to emotional issues, it is possible that you will strike a nerve with someone. In addition, sometimes we are addressing sensitive issues in training that people may react emotionally to.
The greatest tools for you in adjusting your materials come to light before your actual training takes place. If you have been able to do some pre-training survey work, or even just interviewed a supervisor, then you will uncover the issues before entering the training room, and be able to prepare yourself for what will follow.
If you do not have the luxury of pre-training interviews, then your flexibility at managing a classroom, dealing with change, offering support, and creating a safe learning environment will all contribute to the success of this training endeavor.
Dealing With Sensitive Issues in the Workshop
One way to deal with sensitive issues is to provide an attitude survey before a tough topic is discussed. This allows participants to put their thoughts and reactions on paper, and provides them with some thinking and adjusting time before the topic is discussed aloud among the group, or before other activities get underway.
Here are some tips for using an attitude survey in your training:
- It does not have to be called an attitude survey. Title it as something that makes sense and fits with your training plan. The term “attitude survey” is here for you to see, but might seem intimidating for participants depending on the subject.
- Participants may not want to reveal their answers to one another. Watch closely to ensure that people are not intruding on one another by forcing someone to reveal their thoughts.
- The attitude survey can be a good pre- and post-training activity. Participants can use the tool to monitor their own thinking or shift in perception throughout the training process.
It may seem straightforward to offer an attitude survey, but you need to watch your language. Make sure that statements are not open to interpretation or bias, by using clear and simple language. It also helps in our program design stage to have a colleague review the questions or statements with you so that you can prepare an effective survey.