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Seb Anthony

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How can i stop innapropriate role-playing


I run regular courses with middle to lower management staff, most of them are mature.

Opening course exercises normally involve splitting into two teams & completing tasks in a competitive way (beat the opposition). Then review their performance and feedback to their team members on the task. Sometimes this is on video.

These are great active exercises, get people thinking and working hard. It is not in any way role play, the teams normally drive themselves to complete the exercises using all of their skill and experience they've gained in their normal working life.

Yet unless I emphasise, repeat and keep nagging, the managers slip into role playing mode as soon as the feedback sessions start.

In all fairness most of them have been with the company 15+ years, with regular support and training and I suppose in the past this has been role play biased.

Has anyone got any tips on how I can effectively knock the role playing out of them at feedback sessions?

It isn't a really big issue because all the courses still deliver great results, but I must admit it bugs me personally when I do course reviews and can't seem to improve this one issue.
Neil Hodges

3 Responses

  1. please explain further
    Sorry to be thick but what way do they slip into role playing when doing feedback sessions?

    Do they do it to other trainers?

    Also is it possible that they sense your discomfort and this is their way of getting back at you…even mature people sometimes get a laugh out of making others squirm, especially if they feel that as the trainer you have the easier job whilst they are all doing the task!

    If they get a lot out of the event is it worth changing this element…or could that actually upset the value?

    Is it a problem for them or just for you?

    You didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition did you?

  2. Good Feedback
    Thanks Russell you’re right to dig into it. It’s always good to get feedback from someone looking in from outside.

    The managers do it with all trainers, but i don’t suppose it bothers them as me.

    And as far as the bothering is concerned i got a fairly good poker face so they don’t know what i am subconsciously thinking.

    It’s quite strange how the role play works. For example one opening exercise has the losing team leader transfer his weakest team member. It’s not traumatic, the icebreaker is good fun and active and a fairly simple task that any person / team could attempt. Also both winning and losing teams are laughing and joking at the end.

    But the feedback sessions slide rapidly into things like: well i don’t want to transfer you but the personnel director says i should and … well if i had adequate training to complete the task / well i’ve got problems at home etc etc

    Which is Role play and nothing to do with the actual exercise.

    Perhaps i should just let them get on with it and not worry!

  3. here is a ploy to try
    Sorry I didn’t get back sooner..

    I have had a couple of occasions where I’ve seen similar “role playing” and I’ve seen/found a couple of interesting ploys;
    The first is to role play the role play…if they come out with the line that “I don’t want to transfer you but the PD says…” actually run with that by asking them why they won’t stand up to the PD, or what does it say about their management style that they won’t go with their own principles. Alternatively you could try the internal/external locus of control approach. that will probably stop them from pursuing that particular line.


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