Scenario: Smack

As an action learning coach, how would you handle the following situation:

A participant ‘playfully’ hits another member on the back of the head.

Tags: Action Leaning, Action Learning, Action Learning Coach, WIAL, WIAL Action Learning, WIAL Talk

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Comments (3)

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    Jonathan Tice

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    As an action learning coach I would be very concerned to observe any physical contact between two members. I would immediately intervene with the observation, and question the group by asking them what was the impact of this behavior on the work of the group. I would then ask what the group could do to prevent this from happening again. It may be difficult to act so quickly, but it is extremely important to stop this behavior before it escalates and completely disrupts the session. Further questions may need to be asked if the member acted in a way that was not welcomed and should be dealt with by querying to the group what action should be taken. However, this behavior was likely innocent and as such should be dealt with an open and nonjudgmental manner.

    The learning of the group is dependent on each group member feeling safe. Therefore this situation could be very serious and proper attention and intervention must take place.

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    Rachel Wang

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    As AL coach, I will observe the reaction of the person being smacked as well other participants. I may leave the situation ongoing for a while to decide whether necessary to intervene. If I decide to intervene, I may consider to do the following: first, to ask the person being smacked about his/her feeling; and then to the person hitting other member on his/her intention. I may also ask a few other team members to share their feeling if they noticed the situation. Usually the answers could well demonstrate the gap between intention and impact.

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    Pascale Brady

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    I feel that by the time I start working with an AL team, I have done enough prep work to have a little bit of a feeling of the culture surrounding this particular team. I believe I would already have a pretty good sense whether this type of behavior would be “natural” in their environment (i.e. they are a pretty informal and casual, friendly, group), or whether this would actually be considered “abnormal” and therefore probably aggressive and inappropriate. In the first case scenario, I would do nothing – trusting that the AL team would voice and take care of whatever issue they might have with this behavior – only intervening if whatever happened did not fit the AL model. In the second case scenario, I would immediately intervene and say: “I just noticed that someone was smacked over the head. What’s the impact of this act on the team and its work?” – and help them keep digging with open ended follow up questions until I’d feel this issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of the team.

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