I'm currently training in Washington, DC and one of the grants my organization has involves training individuals with non-violent criminal backgrounds recently released from incarceration in the trade of weatherization to put them back in the work force. A handful of students over the classes have had a hard time working with the other students and I'm still trying to finesse my conflict resolution capacity. I'm wondering what other trainers have done in similar situations?
When I was a remodeling contractor I hired a lot of mugs, thugs & rogues that I trained to work for me. The majority of them were African American & so am I. People come from front different economic back grounds, home training & life experiences in general. I explained to the guys that I hired in the business world no one cares how hard you are, no one cares how many women you have, how much you can drink or how high you can get. Those are not marketable skills that you can get paid for in the real world. I also gave them some examples that they could relate. The guys that sold dope were business men whether they realized it or not. You have supply & demand for your product. So you have to keep track of your inventory so that you knew when you needed to re-order. I also taught them to smile instead of (scowling) also known as mean mugging. I also taught them about the appropriate business language or what is also known as "white speak". So you are always going to be you & have your slang & so on, but when you are on my clock you will smile when talking to people. Do not use any street slang & be business professional. Acquire the language needed to pull off the business professional end. Study other people that are doing what you want to do & emulate their behavior. Like I said you are always going to be you but the you on the streets should not be the you in the business world. For the record all of these mugs, thugs and rogues are all doing something related to the construction field, carpenters, electricians plumbers & a number of them are running their own businesses. I hope this helps.
Thank you for the response! Yes, you make some great points that I will be sure to consider if or when this comes up again. In this case, I thought it had cooled off but it did come to head and a hostile dispute did come up between the two students I was originally concerned about. They kept bringing up that one was disrespecting the other back and forth. This pushed me to my limit and I told them they were both disrespecting the rest of the class, myself, and program they are taking advantage of. I also told them if an employer comes looking for potential candidates and asks me for recommendations that it doesn't matter how knowledgeable they are with this material or how capable they are with the tools and equipment if they cannot control themselves - because you're not always going to work with guys you necessarily get along with, that's life! That seemed to diffuse the situation, and I spoke to each one individually afterwards, but I'd still like to be more proactive and prevent this from occurring in the future.
Another trainer, offline, suggested plugging in ice breaker style activities during trainings to get and keep everyone on the same page. They also suggested pairing the conflicting students up with the leader of the cohort at different times and let the leader try to coax them all into the same group. I will definitely put these and your experience to use and I hope others find this useful too if they ever come up against something similar. Thanks again!
Chase, It's tough but I have trained BS and EE retrofit in correctional settings here in NY and I have found that right off at the start of the class I inform the students "that we're all adults and I expect all students to act approriately or their out of the class". It appears to work so far I've had few issues. Lay out the class ground rules and stick to them.....If they can't handle the training enviroment, they won't be able to handle the work enviroment.
One thing that I learned recently that might help is at the beginning of class pull out a flip chart and have the students define the "class rules"...these may simply be, no talking on cell phone, respect others... etc. Then after they have had a chance to "buy into" the rules and regs and all agree, have them come up front and intitial the chart. This allows you to draw back on this chart when there is an issue... "remember you agreed to ..."
I agree with some of the other posts. However, something that is missing is the behavior of the other students. Are they fully invested in the success of the class cumulatively? Do they respect the presence of the program originated students? And other points can be questioned as well.
I spent fifteen years as a tech for one of the BabyBells, and we had the same issues. I met the Secretary General of Interpol recently, and he said that some folks' nature is 'to find reasons to separate' themselves from other groups based on anything!
This occurs all over the world! The US, and your program in Washington, DC are simply a micro chasm. Ponder over this...
Thank you all for your recommendations and philosophies! This has definitely been helpful. I have only one cohort of trainees for 4-6 weeks at a time and this latest group has had no problems. I'll try some of these techniques on future cohorts and post the results. Thanks again!
All the best with it!