Handling Complaining Employees

Complaining

Often times when I am delivering soft skills training to employees working at some large organization I find some of them strongly complaining about their work and the difficulties they are facing there. They complain about the workload, the lack of sufficient resources, the bad conduct of customers, their managers and even their own colleagues. Sometimes there is only one or two such complaining employees during training and sometimes there are many. When attempting to develop the skills of employees during the training, the complaining ones start to arise complaining about the difficult conditions they are facing at work.

Drowning

If the trainer gives way to such complaining employees they might turn the whole atmosphere of the training program into a bitter and negative one hindering any positive impact from the training. They would eat up and consume a lot of time from the training program and drain their own energy, the energy of their colleges and perhaps even the energy of the trainer himself. Therefore, the corporate training should prevent by all means such negative behavior from those participants to take over the training program and reduce it into nothing but a large avenue for venting out their frustration about difficulties they are facing at work.

There are several methods by which the corporate trainer can control and limit such negative and harmful behavior. Here is a list of some of those methods.

Release

One way to keep employee complaints in check is to allow participants at the beginning of the training to release the complaints they may have in an organized and controlled manner. This can be done using the think and listen technique. Participants are asked to pair up and express problems or difficulties they are facing at work that are making their work harder or preventing them from providing top performance. Then through a round of go round, the most pressing problems can be gathered from participants and written on the flip chart.

Giving all participants a chance to express their problems to their colleagues then to everyone in the training room and then documenting those problems in written form takes out a lot of steam from the complaining employees and allows them to relax during the rest of the training program. An alternative method for collecting employee problems is through the clustering technique.

Proactivity

In addition to allowing participants to express problems they are facing at work during the beginning of the training program, the trainer may also start by talking about the circle of influence and explain how successful people find solutions within their reach and carry them out while unsuccessful people just keep complaining and blame all their problems on other people or on external factors. Explaining this concept thoroughly by the aid of charting diagrams on the flip chart and giving examples through storytelling results in a total halt of complaints from employees attending the training.

Harsh Conditions

The trainer may also mention that it is the competent person who is able to perform well in difficult conditions and that if conditions were to be ideal then any employee with average skills would be able to perform well. Therefore, difficult conditions are actually a means by which highly competent employees can be distinguished.

Ground Rules

A further method by which a corporate trainer can stem the rush of employee complaints from the start of a training program is to include a slide at the beginning of the PowerPoint presentation in which he writes “We are not here today to complain about our work problems!” This can be considered as part of the ground rules and helps eliminate any such negative talk from participants during the training.

Appreciation

A trainer may also explain that we all as humans seek to gain the respect of and appreciation from others. The competent aim for acquiring that through their distinguished and exceptional performance while the incompetent attempt to gain it through complaining about their difficult conditions.

Conclusion

A competent corporate trainer is able to keep employee complaints about their work under control during the training by completely eliminating such complaints or by allowing participants to vent out such complaints in a controlled manner. This helps in maintaining a healthy positive atmosphere throughout the training program.

How else can you handle complaints from employees about their work during a training session?

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Developing Training Objectives

Training needs analysis (TNA) is a formal method for gathering the training needs of employees at a company in order to design a training program for them to cater for such needs.

Identify Problems

A similar, yet less formal, approach to designing training programs for the corporate and non-corporate worlds is to start by identifying a problem that people are greatly suffering from then attempt to design a training program that would help in solving such problem. The beauty of such approach is that it guards against creating and delivering a training course that is not needed by people and does not actually have any practical benefit for them in real life save only perhaps for their enjoyment as they have fun during the time of the training program.

After identifying a strong problem that people are suffering from, on an individual level, on the company level or on the community, level the training program designer then sets about to list a number of training objectives for the training program that would help in remedying the identified problems. The set of training objectives can be listed under the following three categories: knowledge; skills and behavior.

Knowledge

Most traditional training courses have been focusing more heavily on knowledge objectives. Such programs intend to cram as much information as possible about the subject matter in the minds of attendees and aims at having them memorize such information and ultimately understand it.

Skills

More advanced training programs shift the focus from knowledge objectives to skills objectives. The main focus of the training program thus becomes to equip trainees with the necessary skills to perform various activities in the real world. Minimal focus may be given to the amount of information transferred directly in such a training program. Such highly interactive and practical training courses overcome the problems faced by knowledge focused programs which produce a trainee that has a lot of knowledge yet lacks the abilities of putting such knowledge into practice in the real world.

Behavior

A trainee who has gained specific skills may still suffer from the lack of desire to actually apply such gained skills. Here comes the role of the third and final element in the 3 groups of training objectives which is behavior. Some like to call it attitude rather than behavior. Some even go a step further and refer to the third element as beliefs. The reasoning behind this being that beliefs directly influence behavior. Behavior and beliefs can be considered as actually two sides of the same coin. Training programs that focus on shifting beliefs and influencing behavior are the most effective and long lasting. They can make enormous change in a trainee in a very short period of time.

Conclusion

No matter what the focus of a training program is be it on knowledge, skills or behavior, objectives of an effective training program should be based on the actual needs of the people and should help solve a real problem that people are actually suffering from.

Which courses do you think will benefit more form a knowledge-centered training program rather than one centered on changing attitude or developing skills?