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These 3 Social Challenges Mean Proactive Training is Essential

Challenging Scenarios are Normal, Not Rare

There are common challenges your people will face that require certain skills and personal standards if they are to handle those scenarios properly.

The problem is the choice of words and actions must be enacted during a complicated social situation, not in a training room or when answering quiz questions in a click-through module. In a complicated social situation, the human brain is pulled to rationalize less-than-optimal behavior.

Sexual misconduct, discrimination, abusive behaviors, and failure to report or respond appropriately are all serious problems that fall into one of a few categories your people are likely to face.

The reason problematic behavior is not rare is because complicated social situations are not rare. Not everyone can handle these common social scenarios well without highly strategic training to “set” their gut-level standards of behavior at a deeper level.

An organization can recruit an intelligent and talented person who is qualified in several ways, but is not well-prepared to handle one or more of the following challenges without strategic training:


Conflict and Differences

Managing conflict (and even basic differences) takes a combination of personal standards and advanced skills. When conflict occurs in any relationship, it evokes strong emotions within one or both people that make it much more difficult to act as we imagine we would. Even low-level negative responses can be hurtful and create adversarial relationships that are costly.



Managing the social dynamics of attraction toward a co-worker or other peer requires judgment and social skills that are not obvious to everyone. A person could be non-violent and still rationalize violating or inappropriate behavior. This is an area where fearing a lawsuit is only one thing to fear, and often not the biggest problem. Many leaders will never hear about wrong behavior, but costly turnover can occur, and even very serious harm can be committed under your organization's name that may never be reported but will cause horrible ripple effects.


Someone Else's Behavior

Recognizing inappropriate actions by a co-worker or friend is not as simple as a lot of training makes it out to be. Our human brain tends to have blind spots when it comes to people we know and like, and we tend to minimize the seriousness of the words and actions of people in our own social circle. It takes a high level of discernment to recognize less-extreme, but still serious, inappropriate behavior. And it takes another level of skill and a certain mindset to realistically know how to do something to help. Inspiring people to say they would intervene in a horrible situation is easy to accomplish, but realistic preparation for real-world, more nuanced situations requires a more sophisticated approach. Expecting your people to handle complicated social scenarios without proactive, realistic training (and "realistic" must be confirmed by them) is rolling the dice.

Within these three categories, there are countless types of scenarios your people could face.

Insurance companies and legal counsel advise leaders to update their policies and to provide training. But what does “training” mean?

Written policies and traditional training on sexual harassment, discrimination, and abusive behaviors are not very powerful in proactively preparing people for the complexity of interpersonal interactions.

When training is treated as informing, it fails. And training is usually treated as informing.

Informing people about policies, sharing statistics and facts about issues, and reiterating the rules may be an intuitive approach, but it does not account for the complexities of human behavior and decision-making.

The complexity of real-world situations calls for an approach to training that is as sophisticated as the problems are complex.

You can work to optimize the effectiveness of your system of training and messaging on your own, or we can help you. But the motivation and urgency to do so can start with the simple notion that these three areas of challenge are predictable. It is virtually guaranteed that your people will face one or more of them. And we also know that human beings struggle to always handle these challenges appropriately.

People need training that connects, feels relevant, and effectively prepares them for the predictable challenges they will face.

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