JS Tip 72: From the Training the Workforce Workshops: Dealing with a Disruptive Participant

Last week’s tip on engaging the learners drew a great response. Debra Doerfler of the City of Carlsbad asked, “Have you ever asked someone to leave while you were training?”

The short answer’s “No,” but let’s explore some ways to deal with disruptive participants.

Engage the Disruptive Participant. Ask questions. “Marty, what do you think?” “What’s been your experience?” Participation leads to ownership. The individual becomes part of the workshop with a stake in its success.

Close the Distance between You and the Participant. Stand near the individual (or individuals). Distance gives the unruly a sense of freedom. Proximity lessens that sense.

Talk to the Individual One-on-one During the Break. “Could I talk with you a minute?” “I need your help. I want the workshop to succeed. Could I get your help?”

In thirty years of training, I’ve gotten to the third step once. The individual apologized and explained he didn’t realize he’d been so disruptive. After that, everything was smooth sailing. (In fact, if anything, the individual tried to be more supportive to make up for his bad behavior.)

What’s been your experience? Have you ever asked someone to leave while you were training? What prompted your decision? What happened afterwards? We’d like your opinion. Share it with us.