In volume 7, Issue 30 of Aviation human factors news, Gordon Dupont of System Safety Services, talks about managing difficult workshop participants undergoing Human performance in maintenance (HPIM) training:
“I have witnessed many student reactions but none matched ‘Jim’ who, sat in the front row with his arms crossed, began the class by defiantly announcing to me and the entire class, “I ain’t gonna do this stuff.””
The training course focuses on understanding and managing human error during maintenance; however, Gordon finds that people can be reluctant to participate, often because they misunderstand the intention of the training – and of human factors. They may believe that human factors is simply providing an excuse for ‘bad behaviour’, like maintenance errors. They may at first feel that this sort of training simply exonerates people who have made errors during maintenance (possibly resulting in a loss of lives), who may ordinarily be vilified by their co-workers.
But the real intention of human factors training is to understand why error happens and to prevent it from happening again. This often involves challenging people’s beliefs about human behaviour and about who makes errors.
To do this, Gordon suggests three things:
– The facilitator needs to firmly believe in what they are teaching. (The EI’s Hearts and Minds toolkit suggests much the same thing – the people running workshops should be ‘believers’ in what they are teaching.)
– A person can’t be forced into participating – they need to come around on their own – but they can be encouraged by exerting gentle peer pressure. Help people realise that by not participating they are letting their team down – after all, by not participating they may be endangering their co-workers.
– Lastly, Gordon suggests using simplified psychology concepts to help people understand why they behave as they do and to help them think about managing behaviour in a positive way.
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