I Was Harassed During A Role Play! (An ES@W Classic)

Role PlayDear Evil Skippy:

We had harassment training last month and the instructor had us do a bunch of role plays.  In one,  the instructor asked another employee to say “pretend” mean things to me so I could practice (in front of the class) different ways to respond when someone is rude and obnoxious.  To make a long story short, my partner really got into the role play.  He said a lot of terrible and personal things about me.  Some members of the class laughed at this and others were very uncomfortable.  None of the comments seemed “pretend” to me – he was venting about stuff that he must have been thinking about for a long time.  I was obviously upset (fighting tears) when the exercise ended (other people told me it was obvious), but neither my role play partner nor the instructor apologized.   This is really bugging me.   Two questions:  What should I do now about this (I know it is not something to file a formal harassment claim over, but there must be something I can do) and what would you have done at the time?

–  Still Reeling

Dear Reeling:

At the time, I would have yelled “Switch roles!” and told the guy that he has been putting on weight, smells bad and has the fashion sense of youth who were rejected by the producers of Jersey Shore for being too tacky. 

As for now, I suggest that you stay in bed with the shades drawn until you develop a minimum amount of common sense if you truly do not know what to do.  Tell your supervisor or human resources manager what happened and the effect it had on you.  (You really could not come up with that on your own?)

– Evil Skippy

What happened to you is the reason I never use role plays in harassment prevention classes.  (You can read my past words of wisdom on this topic here and here.)    I can’t think of too many things that are such a recipe for disaster as telling two people to pretend to harass one another.  It might be therapeutic for some employees, but the workplace is not therapy.  (Some workplaces might make people need therapy, but that’s not the same thing.)

I agree that you should report your concerns to your management or human resources representatives. They may or may not agree that there was a problem.  (Don’t be upset that I said that – I do not know you and for all I know you are over-reacting.)

If the trainer is not an employee at your workplace, send him or her an e-mail explaining why you were unhappy with the class.  Be specific and be concise.  If the trainer is also an employee where you work, let management counsel him or her about what took place.

Once you have taken these steps, let it go.  Life is full of disappointments and this was one of yours.

Should I Tell My Boss That A Co-Worker Has Cancer?

CowDear Evil Skippy:

One of my co-workers confided in me that she is really sick (cancer).  She does not want to tell our boss yet.  She is so stressed out about the diagnosis that her work is suffering and she has received some “talks” about her performance.  I think a reprimand is next.  I’d hate to see her get disciplined when she is already going through so much.  I’m tempted to confide in our boss so he will ease up on her.  Do you think this is a good idea?

–  Worried

Dear Worried:

It’s about as good an idea as putting all of your savings into a dot.com in early 2000.  It’s about as good an idea as Mrs. Leary setting a lantern next to her cow.  It’s about as good an idea as challenging Michelle Obama to an arm wrestling contest.  It’s about as good an idea as role plays at harassment training.

Need I go on?

–  Evil Skippy

Your heart is in the right place but your brain needs to take over.  A serious medical condition is a private matter for your co-worker to reveal to whom and when she sees fit.  Go ahead and urge her to talk to your boss – that way she can find out about leave benefits and other resources (such as a reasonable accommodation of any physical problems that are making it difficult to do some part of her job).  Just don’t do the telling for her.

Before any urban legend aficionados attack, I know Mrs. O’Leary and her cow were absolved.  Wikipedea says so.

Readers — what do you think?  When (if ever) should someone tell the boss that a co-worker has a major medical problem?

Top 10 Things I Hate Hearing At Work (An ES@W Classic!)

  1. “Am I interrupting?  This will just take a minute.”
  2. “I brought healthy snacks instead of the usual!”
  3. After a meeting has long been past its expiration date:  “Can we go back to that initial point one more time?”
  4. “How about role plays!”
  5. Ice cream truck music from an actual ice cream truck.  (But I love hearing it anyplace else).
  6. The term “think outside the box”.  Whose box?  Is it a big box?  Why was anyone thinking inside of the box in the first place?  What were they even thinking about — how to get out?   I get so bogged down.
  7. “Do you think I’m getting fat?”
  8. “You’re getting fat.”
  9. “Is anyone else hot/cold in here?”
  10. Flatulence.

I must have forgotten some others.  Feel free to send in comments with things you hate to hear at work.

I Was Harassed During A Role Play

Dear Evil Skippy:

We had harassment training last month and the instructor had us do a bunch of role plays.  In one,  the instructor asked another employee to say “pretend” mean things to me so I could practice (in front of the class) different ways to respond when someone is rude and obnoxious.  To make a long story short, my partner really got into the role play.  He said a lot of terrible and personal things about me.  Some members of the class laughed at this and others were very uncomfortable.  None of the comments seemed “pretend” to me – he was venting about stuff that he must have been thinking about for a long time.  I was obviously upset (fighting tears) when the exercise ended (other people told me it was obvious), but neither my role play partner nor the instructor apologized.   This is really bugging me.   Two questions:  What should I do now about this (I know it is not something to file a formal harassment claim over, but there must be something I can do) and what would you have done at the time?

–  Still Reeling

Dear Reeling:

At the time, I would have yelled “Switch roles!” and told the guy that he has been putting on weight, smells bad and has the fashion sense of youth who were rejected by the producers of Jersey Shore for being too tacky. 

As for now, I suggest that you stay in bed with the shades drawn until you develop a minimum amount of common sense if you truly do not know what to do.  Tell your supervisor or human resources manager what happened and the effect it had on you.  (You really could not come up with that on your own?)

– Evil Skippy

What happened to you is the reason I never use role plays in harassment prevention classes.  (You can read my past words of wisdom on this topic here and here.)    I can’t think of too many things that are such a recipe for disaster as telling two people to pretend to harass one another.  It might be therapeutic for some employees, but the workplace is not therapy.  (Some workplaces might make people need therapy, but that’s not the same thing.)

I agree that you should report your concerns to your management or human resources representatives. They may or may not agree that there was a problem.  (Don’t be upset that I said that – I do not know you and for all I know you are over-reacting.)

If the trainer is not an employee at your workplace, send him or her an e-mail explaining why you were unhappy with the class.  Be specific and be concise.  If the trainer is also an employee where you work, let management counsel him or her about what took place.

Once you have taken these steps, let it go.  Life is full of disappointments and this was one of yours.

An Anniversary Post – “To Role Play Or Not Role Play, That Is The Question”

I feel historical, so here is what we posted one year ago (give or take a day).  Here also are some burning questions on my mind — (1)  Do you or do you not think role plays are effective?  (2) What have been your good or bad experiences with role plays?  (3)  Do you enjoy doing role plays?  (4)  If you don’t enjoy them, why not?

      (5)  If you do enjoy them, who is your therapist?

 

Dear Evil Skippy –

I am the CEO’s assistant at our company.  I have many different administrative duties, including some human resources functions.  One of my H.R. jobs is to coordinate training programs.  We are planning company-wide harassment prevention training and I am having a friendly disagreement with the manager of our largest department.  We have decided to let you resolve the matter.

Here’s the question:  are role plays a good idea or a bad idea?  The manager thinks role plays are essential to the learning process.  I think they make people squirm.  Employees are already groaning about the upcoming training.  If they find out that we will be doing role plays, I am afraid that we will have mass use of sick leave on training day.  What would Evil Skippy do?

-  Depending on You

Dear Depending –

What’s the point of being in charge if you can’t make people squirm?  Go ahead and require role plays.  People who already dreaded the training will be relieved to discover that they were not being paranoid.  Plus, it will be a great opportunity for pay backs.  After no one volunteers to participate in the role plays (and they won’t, trust me), you can draft the employees who have annoyed you in the past.

- Evil Skippy

I can’t think of many things that would be more ridiculous than mandatory role plays during harassment prevention training.  What exactly does your manager have in mind?  Forcing two employees to march to the front of the room and pretend to torment one another?  That could get very ugly very fast.

This is not speculation on my part.  Several years ago, a client insisted on incorporating role plays.  My gut feelings screamed “DON’T DO IT!” but my inner dolt kept repeating that the customer is always right.  I added role plays and it was a disaster, a bigger disaster than the Margarita incident.

   That’s pretty big.

No one volunteered to do the first role play, so I had to pick two employees at random.  As my “volunteers” sadly plodded their ways forward, I sensed trouble.  Other employees were making eye contact and it appeared as if some of them were suppressing smiles.  A few looked nervous.  After it was too late, I found out what everyone else already knew – my two volunteers hated each other.  When I instructed them about the training scenario for their role play, they jumped into their harassment roles with gusto.  It did not take me very long to realize that they were not good actors.  They were serious.

Don’t get me wrong.  Role plays can be an effective training tool for some subjects, just not harassment prevention.  There are too many opportunities for Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome.

So what can you do to make harassment prevention training more meaningful and effective?  I have found that well-planned case studies serve the same purpose as role plays without causing anyone to suffer from stage fright or worse.  Instead of asking employees to act out certain roles, describe a workplace situation and ask employees to discuss (1) Whether or not this situation creates harassment for anyone, and (2) What the employee thinks the people in the scenario should do.  It is simple and it works.

   If we can’t make them squirm with a role play, could we add karaoke?

No.  Unless there is alcohol involved, karaoke is harassment under the terms of the International Alliance for Human Rights.


 

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Comments?  Click the bubble below

10 More Evil Skippy Truths

For your reading enjoyment, here’s a collection of ten Evil Skippy thoughts that were popular on Twitter.

   In other words, we were too lazy to come up with new material for today.  Again.  Just like last month.

Hush. They’ve never appeared in a collection before.  So it’s new.  Again.

10 More Evil Skippy Truths

  1. Being a manager is like wearing Spandex shorts. It’s not for everyone.
  2. It is not a good sign when an investigation witness brings not one but two boxes of tissue to the interview.
  3. Giving feedback is like flossing your teeth. Doing it on a regular basis prevents all sorts of problems from developing.
  4. “The project was not yet overdue, but had about it an air of impending tardiness.” — Alexander McCall Smith
  5. Really Bad Idea: Workplace celebration of International Kissing Day.
  6. Don’t bring snacks for yourself to my training and then be surprised when I swipe some.
  7. When training, a great way to make people laugh is to tell them whoever fails to laugh “gets” to do role plays.
  8. News Flash: “Crossing Your Fingers” is not an effective performance management plan.
  9. Glares and “meaningful looks” do not count as effective management communications.
  10. A manager with no convictions is a manager with good alibis.


 

Ten Things I Hate Hearing At Work

  1. “Am I interrupting?  This will just take a minute.”
  2. “I brought healthy snacks instead of the usual!” (Must be delivered with a perky attitude).
  3. After a meeting has long been past its expiration date:  “Can we go back to that initial point one more time?”
  4. “How about role plays!”
  5. Ice cream truck music from an actual ice cream truck.  (But I love hearing it anyplace else).
  6. The term “think outside the box”.  Whose box?  Is it a big box?  Why was anyone thinking inside of the box in the first place?  What were they even thinking about — how to get out?   I get so bogged down.
  7. “Do you think I’m getting fat?”
  8. “You’re getting fat.”
  9. “Is anyone else hot/cold in here?”
  10. Flatulence.

I must have forgotten some others.  Feel free to send in comments with things you hate to hear at work.

To Role Play, or Not Role Play?

Dear Evil Skippy:

As an experienced trainer, what is your position on role plays?

–  New Trainer

Dear New:

Horizontal.  Role plays make me want to lie down and die.

Before anyone writes to complain, I agree there are some – SOME — training topics that can benefit from a well-designed and relevant role play exercise.  The problems are:

  1. Many role play exercises are not well-designed.
  2. Many role play exercises are not particularly relevant to workplace situations.
  3. Most people who attend training hate doing role plays.
  4. The few people who love to do role plays are kind of scary.

I never make people do role plays in my training sessions.  Instead, I ask them to do case studies.  During some of these case study exercises, which I emphasize are not role plays, I have one class member tell what he or she would say in an actual workplace situation.  I then ask another student how he or she would reply.  Next, I ask them both to continue the dialog for a while.

But I don’t do “role plays.”

– Evil Skippy

To Role Play or Not Role Play, That is the Question

Dear Evil Skippy –

I am the CEO’s assistant at our company.  I have many different administrative duties, including some human resources functions.  One of my H.R. jobs is to coordinate training programs.  We are planning company-wide harassment prevention training and I am having a friendly disagreement with the manager of our largest department.  We have decided to let you resolve the matter.

Here’s the question:  are role plays a good idea or a bad idea?  The manager thinks role plays are essential to the learning process.  I think they make people squirm.  Employees are already groaning about the upcoming training.  If they find out that we will be doing role plays, I am afraid that we will have mass use of sick leave on training day.  What would Evil Skippy do?

-  Depending on You

Dear Depending –

What’s the point of being in charge if you can’t make people squirm?  Go ahead and require role plays.  People who already dreaded the training will be relieved to discover that they were not being paranoid.  Plus, it will be a great opportunity for pay backs.  After no one volunteers to participate in the role plays (and they won’t, trust me), you can draft the employees who have annoyed you in the past.

- Evil Skippy

I can’t think of many things that would be more ridiculous than mandatory role plays during harassment prevention training.  What exactly does your manager have in mind?  Forcing two employees to march to the front of the room and pretend to torment one another?  That could get very ugly very fast.

This is not speculation on my part.  Several years ago, a client insisted on incorporating role plays.  My gut feelings screamed “DON’T DO IT!” but my inner dolt kept repeating that the customer is always right.  I added role plays and it was a disaster, a bigger disaster than the Margarita incident.

That’s pretty big.

No one volunteered to do the first role play, so I had to pick two employees at random.  As my “volunteers” sadly plodded their ways forward, I sensed trouble.  Other employees were making eye contact and it appeared as if some of them were suppressing smiles.  A few looked nervous.  After it was too late, I found out what everyone else already knew – my two volunteers hated each other.  When I instructed them about the training scenario for their role play, they jumped into their harassment roles with gusto.  It did not take me very long to realize that they were not good actors.  They were serious.

Don’t get me wrong.  Role plays can be an effective training tool for some subjects, just not harassment prevention.  There are too many opportunities for Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome.

So what can you do to make harassment prevention training more meaningful and effective?  I have found that well-planned case studies serve the same purpose as role plays without causing anyone to suffer from stage fright or worse.  Instead of asking employees to act out certain roles, describe a workplace situation and ask employees to discuss (1) Whether or not this situation creates harassment for anyone, and (2) What the employee thinks the people in the scenario should do.  It is simple and it works.

If we can’t make them squirm with a role play, could we add karaoke?

No.  Unless there is alcohol involved, karaoke is harassment under the terms of the International Alliance for Human Rights.