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Corporate training behavior and future opportunities

Do you want to be the only one who isn’t participating?

What your manager thinks about sending you to a training class

If you work, chances are you were asked to attend corporate training. Today we discuss the opinion that managers form based on your participation level in corporate training. This is the behind the curtain stuff that most employees never hear about. This is why you tune into HRNasty.

How you conduct yourself in a corporate training class can put you on your manager’s radar. The question, are you showing up on the radar as a friend or foe? We have all attended a training of some sort. Here are just a few types of training most of us have attended:

  • Onboarding training
  • Diversity training
  • Management training
  • Proprietary software training

A lack of participation in training is interpreted as a lack of interest

Asking hard questions can be interpreted as being resistant to training

What does “a lack of participation” mean? You showed up to class, you showed up on time and you wrote answers to questions in the workbook. Yes, you participated. Some companies ask you to sign your name at the end of diversity training to prove we were physically present. Both instances qualify as “participation”.

As a prior trainer/facilitator of corporate training, an exec, and HR professional, I am here to provide some advice. Participate, participate, participate.

Everyone has heard the same saying at the beginning of these classes. I have even said this exact phrase when I have facilitated workshops. You hear it because it is true. Put effort into anything and you will get back.  

“You get out of these classes what you put into these classes”

I learned this hard lesson early in my career thought it would be a good one to share.

Personal Background

I was brought up to “not ask questions/not question authority” and to “listen to your elders”. In most American group settings, these three characteristics will be translated to:

  • I don’t care
  • Resting bitch face (I don’t want to be here)
  • Not interested in the subject matter

The facilitator of the class I was attending and my manager assumed I was wasn’t interested in the corporate training. This is the training I am being paid to attend! Because I didn’t participate, manager assumed that I was resistant to change. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. Being Asian, I was brought up to pay attention in class and shoot for the highest marks. I was brought up to be an “A”sian, not a “B”sian.  

A few generations ago, corporate training was a big thing. Companies would pour millions of dollars into corporate training. Back then, these training sessions were relatively one dimensional. The trainer did 90% of the talking and the students took notes and occasionally asked questions. Attentive students sat in the front of the class and the hooligans sat in the back. But little or no interaction between students and teachers was acceptable. Today, it is not.  

Training in the modern world

Modern training classes are different. Trainers are often facilitators and classes are designed to encourage:

  • Discussion
  • Participation
  • Group brainstorms
  • Interaction
  • Sharing of personal stories
  • Roleplaying

The knowledge is in the room

Trainers are often called facilitators because they are facilitating conversation and discussion. There is an expression amongst trainers which is, “the knowledge is in the room”. Meaning, in many teaching moments, the students know what answer is, or are very close to understanding the concepts. The trainer’s job is to coax it out of the students so there is self-learning and self-realization. Learning is more effective when the learners articulate the teachings through group discussion and self-realization.

This is a completely different skill set as opposed to lecturing in a classroom. Of course, there are times when the trainer does need to dictate the learning material and there is little room for discussion. New company policy and safety classes come to mind. This content could save lives and company dollars. This topic isn’t up for discussion.

Show some respect son!

My personal upbringing wasn’t a good primer for the American workplace. I was raised to not ask questions and do not question authority figures. AKA, don’t speak up. Because I didn’t participate, my managers and trainers assumed I:

  • Had no opinions to share
  • Didn’t care (enough to ask clarifying questions)
  • Did not possess a thought that others in class might learn from

I appeared on the radar as the enemy

If you are reading this and thinking, “HRNasty, I don’t want to be the guy that always has something to say in every meeting. I don’t want to be the guy that has to prove he knows everything.” If that guy is one of the first people that comes to your mind, don’t worry, that isn’t you. That guy isn’t worried about talking too much and doesn’t have the awareness to recognize his situation. That guy isn’t thinking the way you are right now.

We have all been to a meeting where someone always has something to say. They talk because they think their voice is beautiful singsong and their ideas are savant level. We are not talking about that person and if you are reading this blog, you probably aren’t so arrogant that you think you know everything. So, don’t worry.

Speak up!

If you have a thought, and you should, don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most likely others in the class have the same question. Trust me, no facilitator wants to stand in front of a class for an hour or eight, and not have any interaction with the participants. Your silence may be intended to be polite, but the teacher is wondering if the microphone is working.

You get out what you put into a class, so participate and give back.


See you at the after-party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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