Friday, March 4, 2016

Will training employees work if we ignore differences in rank?



Yesterday I did my first live training session since the intensive.  I worked with a group of managers in the morning and a group of their employees in the afternoon.  The managers were eager, fun, and thoughtful.  We discussed and role-played ways to have quality conversations with their teams.  This included talking about team member goals, and offering feedback on the efforts and progress of their employees.

In the afternoon I was contracted to help team members explore how they react when receiving feedback from their managers.  The workshop included lots of ideas on emotional intelligence and our triggers.  The goal was to learn to be more open and less reactive when receiving feedback.  I was the hired facilitator but someone else had sold the client on this class.  Had they considered the impact of this decision on the group?  Would this work?  Sure enough, the afternoon group pushed back.  They said they didn’t have any trouble accepting feedback when it was credible and came from a reliable source.  “If my manager isn’t a dick, I’m happy to receive feedback from him.” 

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Unless corporations address rank (power) issues in the workplace, money spent on training may (will often, always?) miss the mark.  What if yesterday’s company had given their managers a class on how to receive feedback from their employees?  Why are power structures (process workers call these issues of “rank”) so rarely addressed? 

I listened to the afternoon class, working to hear their perspective.  Then I continued to try to offer the material on emotional intelligence I’d be asked to present.  It wasn’t fair to ask only one group at work to get better at managing their emotions, but in the end practicing EI is always helpful.  The afternoon group did agree that they could always benefit from such practice. 

If I am to continue working in corporate training, I will need to bring forward issues of rank at work.  That’s scary. 

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