16 thoughts on “Scenario: Refusal to Participate

  1. Val Blanco

    My first thought was that he/she is free to choose since this should be a voluntary process. Then, it came to me that sometimes participants are indicated by their leaders or bosses, so it is not as simple as I first thought.
    If the refusal to participate happens prior to the meeting, it is a problem to discuss with the sponsor and the champion to decide the pros and cons of forcing someone to participate. However, if it happens during the meeting by any reason, in my vision, the best way to deal with it is with a learning intervention. Saying that I have noticed that someone in the group is not willing to participate and asking how this affects the group and the process. Then, asking: “What can we do to deal with it?” After the team finds its own way to deal with the situation, it is time to ask them how to make sure we will follow what was decided.
    As an action learning coach we must guarantee that we let the group find their own ways to solve any problem that comes along by asking questions that stimulate reflection, learning and action. It is not our job to define what needs to be done. It is the team’s job to do that.

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  2. Maro Chan

    I would take this scenario as a learning opportunity to the group. Let the group to deal with it, and to implement it to to evaluate on it. At the learning questions near the end of the session, I would ask questions to the group to let them think what they learn from the process of notifying, dealing and implementing this situation. Finally I’ll ask questions to let them reflect on applying this learning in daily work and live situations.

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    1. Dr Yvonne Sum

      Maro’s choice to leave the learning opportunity till the end of the session is my preference too. I particularly like the nuance of directing their attention to this learning in their daily work and life situations.

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  3. Jill Bayly

    I resonated with both of the comments above. Checking in with the questions, ”how are we doing as a group in sharing today?” and “ what could we do better’ are standard ways to draw attention to the fact that someone has not contributed.

    Perhaps inviting the group to think about the importance of everyone’s participation by asking “how might diversity in the group help to support the question today” or ‘what might the group do to include people who have not shared today? and ” Is this important?’

    The group may then self regulate, however I would keep in mind that it may just be me wanting participation from all members in this group.
    Jill

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  4. Ross Rowe

    I endorse earlier comments and offer a couple of thoughts on a scenario where the member has made a more explicit statement about not wanting to participate. Perhaps during a review of the groups current performance or the process of checking to see if there is agreement on the problem they have said ‘I don’t want to do this’.
    Firstly validate the honesty of the person e.g. ‘Thank you (name of person) for your being honest about your reluctance to participate today.’
    Secondly, affirm the team context to the work being done in and by the group, e.g. ‘Your honesty in this situation can help us grow as a team.’
    At this point the coach could assume the person is willing to assist the group work better together by addressing the issue .e.g. ‘what could the group do differently that would enable/inspire you to participate?’ Assumptions are generally best avoided and by ‘leading’ in this way the person may feel coerced and not respected.
    OR, the coach could check if the person is willing to be equally honest about their reluctance/hesitancy to participate, e.g would you be willing to help us understand your reluctance/hesitancy to participate? If yes, ‘Please tell us the key reason for your reluctance to participate (or desire to leave the team)’. Note the coach has authority to intervene whenever there is a learning opportunity so does not need the group’s permission to suspend the current process and deal with this significant learning opportunity. As a courtesy to the team the coach might confirm that the group is also willing to deal with the issue at this immediate point in time, e.g. Can I check that the rest of the team is willing to engage in this learning opportunity at this stage? If the group is proceed, if there is reluctance by one or more members deal with that before asking the person who is reluctant to participate to explain their thinking.
    Having heard the reasons for the person’s reluctance, continue to empower the team to identify its own solutions and explore a way forward, e.g. ‘what options come to your minds for different ways we can work as a team to address (person’s name) concerns?’

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  5. Cleo Wolff

    I assume that the participant is refusing to participate from the early beginning of the session. I would ask: Can I ask you to trust in the process only for this session? Can you do that? If he/she says yes, we start the session. If he/she says no, we can come with the questions to handle difficult situations: What is the impact in the team having someone who doesn’t want to participate? Is there any participant who would doesn’t believe we can improve as a team in our way of work? Is there any participant who wouldn’t like to see better results in an shorter time?If there is agreement, I would ask: Who has the next question?

    If not, I would ask: How the team will handle with this situation?

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  6. ncclimber

    I agree with many of the comments here. My response would depend on when this is happening in the process as my response would differ. If it happens at the beginning of the session, the group may not have congealed enough to self-regulate. Therefore I might have a try to get to the reasons why this person does not want to participate. There may be some reasons that make sense for this person to leave the group, such as personal or work issues preventing concentration on the problem. On the other hand, if we are in the middle of a session and the group is already functioning, I would ask questions to help the group learn about the issues associated with a member who is not participating. In the end, if the person is disruptive to to the group or learning process and refuses to change, it’s probably best to let him or her leave.

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  7. Val Blanco

    Hi Cleo, when I started checking the replies today I thought of this answer and it reminded of what you told us about inviting the participant to give a try first. So when I read your comment I felt like I was there with you in class and that was exactly what I remembered about your lesson. Feels good to be tunned. Thanks for this!

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  8. olusadepaul

    I agree with most of the earlier post. in my opinion, if the delegatereveals his unwillingness to participate in the discussion, i would ask the group” how do we feel about everyone contributing to the discussion” i will allow them to make their comments. then i will also ask how can we encourage everyone to particpate in the discussion or how can we benefit from everyone idea in this discussion” i believe that by so doing, the delegate unwilling to participate in the discussion will be encouraged to do so

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  9. olusadepaul

    In my opinion, if i notice a delegate who is unwilling to participate, i will deem it as a learning opportunity, therefore i will ask “how are we all doing in asking and answering questions?, based on their response i will further ask “what is the quality of solutions we will be able to generate if we all contribute?. i believe that through this, the unwilling participant will realise that his contribution can make a whole lot of difference to the quality of the solutions reached and will be encouraged to do so.

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  10. Tomilayo Esan

    Great comments above. As an Action Learning Coach and with full understanding that it is important to draw everyone into the conversation, my intervention will depend on when the unwillingness is expressed.
    If it is at the beginning of the session, after the problem presenter has presented the problem, I would ask everyone to write out their understanding of the problem and read it out so we have a common ground, that is a first step in getting an unwilling team member to participate. At this stage, if the unwilling team member refuses to state his/her understanding of the problem, it might be best to deal with it and ask why he is unwilling to participate. Asking could give the team an insight into what the issues are and help to get him on board. I could also ask the team “What role do you think ….can play in helping to resolve this problem. (bearing in mind the need not to dwell too much on why he is not participating to focus on the real problem)
    If however it’s at any other stage, I will intervene and ask “How well are we doing as a team?”, and ask each team member to rate team participation. I will also at some point ask the unwilling team member directly “how well do you think you are doing in developing the competencies you had highlighted at the beginning of the session”.

    These kind of questions could help jolt an unwilling team member into participating.

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  11. Tomilayo Esan

    Great comments above. As an Action Learning Coach and with full understanding that it is important to draw everyone into the conversation, my intervention will depend on when the unwillingness is expressed.

    If it is at the beginning of the session, after the problem presenter has presented the problem, I would ask everyone to write out their understanding of the problem and read it out so we have a common ground, that is a first step in getting an unwilling team member to participate. At this stage, if the unwilling team member refuses to state his/her understanding of the problem, it might be best to deal with it and ask why he is unwilling to participate. Asking could give the team an insight into what the issues are and help to get him on board. I could also ask the team “What role do you think ….can play in helping to resolve this problem. (bearing in mind the need not to dwell too much on why he is not participating to focus on the real problem)

    If however it’s at any other stage, I will intervene and ask “How well are we doing as a team?”, and ask each team member to rate team participation. I will also at some point ask the unwilling team member directly “how well do you think you are doing in developing the competencies you had highlighted at the beginning of the session”.

    These kind of questions could help jolt an unwilling team member into participating.

    Reply
  12. Julia Storberg-Walker

    Hello-Like many replies above, my response would be different depending on when and how the person demonstrated that she/he didn’t want to participate. I have experienced very ‘prickly’ situations when doing action learning workshops with engineer types. There was overt hostility to the process that I helped to explore and my strategy was to empower the group to deal with it as best they could. Questions such as “How would the group like to address this challenge?” and “How does this situation impact group performance?” were posed to explore the dynamics and performance/learning implications. I learned a huge lesson myself because I ‘felt’ the group did not do what I thought they should do–and on reflection I learned that groups go through stages of development and sometimes I as an action learning coach have to ‘let’ them experience the consequences of their decisions. I couldn’t fix it for them and they were not in a stage of development where they could fix it for themselves. I look back on this situation often and truly believe it was one of the biggest ‘Ah Ha’ moments in my journey as an action learning coach.

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  13. DrBea Post author

    Typically, this would happen at the beginning of a session. As Cleo mentioned – I would ask – Can I ask you to trust the process just for today? To date I’ve never been refused, and once they experience the process they believe in the power of it.

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  14. Kang

    The AL coach’s interventions will depend on when is the reluctance to participate “communicated” by the participant. If before AL begins, then I wouldd suggest the person revisits reason for why he/she is there, especially if this person is nominated by a superior. If after PP has presented the issue and all participants have expressed what competencies they wish to develop, then I would go around the table to ask “On a scale of 1 to 10, how is each team member progressing to develop their stated competency through participating in the process?”. Depending on the diversity of responses, I might also ask “What can we do to help all team members make progress in their stated compentency?”.

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  15. Vivian Chang

    If it happend before and during the first team reflection session, I could ask the team “how are we all doing in asking and answering questions?”, “how can we do better to enhance our individual and team contribution?”, “What would be the impact to the team if not everyone participates in the discussion?”, and “How can we encourage everyone to more particpate in the discussion?”

    Also, to take this a learning opportunity to the team, during the final team reflection session I could ask the team “How well did you participate in today’s discussion on a scale of 1-10?”, “What would be the result if we all could contribute?”, and “How will the team handle this situation?”

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