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Revealed: the hidden training saboteur


The assumptions that humans make impact on the way we behave, which can be a real barrier to effective learning.  

Just as kryptonite possessed the unique ability to render comic book hero Superman pretty much useless, and the Joker’s hard work was always undone by the infallible Batman, the training world too has dark forces at work that threaten the success of every programme and course running today.

But, while Superman has little choice but to accept the inconvenience of a villain occasionally turning up with a piece of his least favourite green rock, the curse inherent in the training arena is slightly easier to deal with.

"Negative assumptions are visible in the language that people use in the workplace, and it is crucial that management can tune in to the types of words that almost certainly dilute the effectiveness of a workplace training programme."

Assumptions that we, as humans, make, both in the workplace and in our personal lives, hold an incredible ability to drive the way we behave and dictate how our actions play out. In truth, assumptions that exist within the minds of individuals will sabotage the potential success of any training programme.

Training at its very core seeks to change and develop, and any factors present that resist that change, will severely limit the training in place – however well it is delivered. And, the worst part is, these assumptions are being played out in offices, factories and other workspaces all across the country, with few senior management teams doing much, if anything, to banish them.

So what do these assumptions look like? Well, if you take a sales environment, for instance, individuals may assume that customers do not have any money to spend on the products they are selling, so they fail to sell as effectively as they could – or worse, miss opportunities to sell because their negative assumption is driving their behaviour.

Importantly, negative assumptions are visible in the language that people use in the workplace, and it is crucial that management can tune in their ears to the types of words and sentences that almost certainly dilute the effectiveness of a workplace training programme. Here are just three reactions to situations at the workplace that indicate negative assumptions:

  1. An employee regularly walks into offices where colleagues or clients are, and introduces his or her arrival by stating: "Only me."
  2. As part of a new work project, a team of employees are split into three sections. Within one group, there is one individual with the most experience, yet when the company director asks who wants to head the group for the project, that person holds back from putting his or her name forward.
  3. During a group meeting, one employee explains the strong results of a recent project, but fails to acknowledge the efforts of a colleague, who, in turn, fails to bring his/her input to the group and subsequently loses out on some well-deserved praise.

In each of these cases, the individual has used language or actions that have indicated a personal negative assumption, whether that is "I don’t have an impact on the business", "I’m not good enough to lead this group", or "No-one wants to hear about my input".

Senior management has a role to play here in identifying the damaging assumptions that exist in the workplace, and then devising a strategy to transforming them into positive ones. Then, and only then, companies will find that training and development will drive real individual change and, perhaps more importantly, organisational change too.

Karen Murphy is the co-founder of training and development company Muika Leadership. The Focussed Thinking training that Muika Leadership deliver help individuals to overcome negative assumptions. Get instant feedback on whether assumptions are sabotaging success levels at your organisation at

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