The Problem Trainee: How To Tackle Disruptive Behaviour During The Training Phase?

The Problem Trainee: How To Tackle Disruptive Behaviour During The Training Phase?

Training a new employee can be akin to opening a Pandora’s box – you never know the challenges you’ll be dealing with! One of them could be when trainees decide to disrupt the process. And you never know the card you’ll be dealt –  a trainee who does not listen, one who is either talkative or too silent, afraid to speak up, one who thinks they know it all or the one who just doesn’t care.

Fortunately, a difficult trainee is bound to emerge only occasionally, but there is no one-size-fits-all response every time. At times it is not their fault that they become difficult. If you don’t keep them engaged enough, they could begin exhibiting disruptive behavior!

Therefore, whatever the cause, it is important to first accept the problem, establish its probable causes and then take preventive measures to tackle them. 

How to Deal With Difficult Trainees?

Dealing with unpleasantness in a training room is not something you want. Starting off on a bad note can put your employees at grave risk of being disengaged. So, for most part of it, show respect to the participants and give them time to adjust to the new environment.

Also, be reassuring to your trainees and mentor them in a positive manner. Many employees who attend training programs tend to come across as negative just because they were not given enough coaching and like things to be explained in fine detail.

On the other hand, trainees can also display disruptive behaviour when they are simply not interested and have been coerced to take part in the learning process.

Here are some ways you can ease the tension and tackle difficult trainees:

Remove Resistance To Change

1. Be Open

As soon as you start your training session, ask your trainees “what they seek to learn from the training session and why they are there”. This will serve as an ice breaker to reduce the tension and make people open up.

By taking this open approach you can add value and also seek ways to change their perception from Day 1.

The same approach was taken by a consulting group who had to conduct a training session on presentation skills with eight senior executives. The executives were of the opinion that they did not really need the training and were being coerced. 

Once a general, open discussion was started, it gave vent to their feelings and they began to cool off. The trainer emphasised to make the training meaningful and business-oriented. Soon enough, they started to participate and involve themselves in the training process.

2. One to One Conversation

When you observe that an individual doesn’t seem to participate or is expressing disruptive behaviour, a more discreet approach will come to your rescue. Ask them confidentially about their problems and address them right away.

Acknowledge if you have done something to upset them and put an end to their disruptive behaviour. This will do the trick to show them in a nice way that you care and want the best for your trainees.

3. Remove the Resistance to Change

People are naturally resistant to any change for the fear of uncertainty and doubt. If you are perceived as a change agent because your training involves the use of new technology or process, chances are that people will resist your training.

A good solution would be to clearly delineate the benefits of the change and the reasons behind the change. This will grab the learner’s attention and improve the chances of acceptance and engagement.

4. Handle the Group Dynamics

If you come across a disruptive trainee, make an effort to change their group dynamics. For example, you can tactfully move them near to someone enthusiastic who might be able to mentor them along the process.

In order to get the right trainees in a group, have the participants call out numbers 1 to 5. Then you can group 1s, 2s, 3s, and so on to get the right mix of people in a group.

Leverage the power of peer pressure to your advantage and play safe. Pair up a difficult trainee with a mentor to influence them in the right way.

If nothing else works in spite of your efforts to tackle disruptive behaviour, you can give your trainee an option to leave. This is the last and final option you can try.

Sometimes this strategy can actually turn things around. However, be careful not to criticise the trainee and tactfully tell them to leave.

For example, when a trainee was asked to leave, the trainer told them “you are signed in and hypothetically present all day, so you can leave if you want.” But, this changed the behaviour of the trainee. They decided to stay back and stopped fooling around.

Types of Difficult Trainees and Tips to Tackle Them

There is no such thing as an ‘ideal or perfect’ trainee. There are different types of trainees and it all depends on their persona. Let’s look at different types of trainees and a few tips to handle them without hurting anyone’s sentiments:

Types Of Difficult Trainees

1. The Chatterbox

This type of trainee as implied by the name talks incessantly. They can also talk irrelevantly and tend to drag the conversation, going off the track. It is very easy to identify the constant chatter and handle them without creating a backlog in your session.

If they ask too many questions, you can ask the trainee to take the discussion offline after the class so that there is no deviation. 

2. Introverts

On the contrary, these trainees are quiet and participate minimally. Start with an icebreaker to break the silence. You can also pair them up with the chatterbox trainees to influence each other and serve your purpose. In addition, you can make them  leader in groups and give them more responsibility to open up.

3. Know-it-All

This type of trainee is aggressive and possesses over-confidence. They genuinely believe that they are champions of everything and don’t require training. Make them realise the benefits of the training and bounce their questions back to the group.

4. Slow Learners

These trainees take more time to grasp a topic and need more attention. This can be due to their age, learning abilities, technology needs, and/or reluctance.

Tackle these trainees by devoting more time for them and put in extra hours if you can after the class to explain them better. Use analogies to get your point across and pair them with smart learners.

5. Cynics

This individual is pessimistic and may have been let down too many times before. They need a bit more reassurance and evidence.  After that, they might change their perception and turn around like the person who asks the most critical questions or become engaged.

No matter how well you are prepared for a session, always expect the unexpected. Handle the various tough situations and try to strike the right chord with the participants. Whatever solutions you have, don’t get into an argument because no good can come out of it. 

Become an inspiring trainer that caters to all the needs of the participants efficiently.


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