I’m accustomed to angry or frustrated groups of training participants but sometimes they are truly a challenge. A recent group of federal agency employees was so stressed about being reorganized and so angry at the lack of information regarding the purpose and vision for the reorg that it was hard to get them focused on the class material. It was a team building class, and their perception was that someone was trying to slap a quick fix on them for a recent employee survey that revealed poor morale. They wanted to know why their supervisors weren’t in the class with them (they had had their own session for supervisors earlier in the week) and they wanted me to tell management how lame their efforts were.
At the same time, in another agency which is also being reorganized, participants have been complaining repeatedly about being put in the same classes with their bosses. They say it causes honest discussion to be stunted by fear and by people playing politics.
It seems you can’t win, no matter how you do it. The dialogue may be more open and candid without direct reports in the same room, but there is also a lack of accountability to those discussions; no one has to accept feedback, defend their position, or be responsible for briefing the people who can make change happen. On the other hand, if you put everyone together in the same session there may be that same lack of accountability because no one brings up any of the “elephant in the room” topics in the first place.
But the real message, for me, is that when you have an organization full of unhappy people who are tired of being reorganized and downsized and redirected and criticized by the public, who can’t stand the lack of information and direction anymore, and who are just plain sick and tired, then it doesn’t matter what you do. They will find something to complain about, and rightfully so. All we can do as trainers is offer our empathy and support.