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
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.