Workplace 101: Dilemmas and Solutions

Situation #1: Students arguing that getting a job isn�t a problem

When initially considering seeking employment, some of the adults immediately throw up a roadblock. They�re sure that it�s no problem to get a job.

Something to try: Agree with these adults that they�re right - that right now it really is not too difficult to get a job. At the same time, try to encourage them to see a bigger picture. Look at what the labor market was like two years ago and what it might be like two years from now. Rather than just talking about this, use the information to develop some math problems for the adult to consider. In addition to simply focusing on getting an entry-level job, discuss the importance of getting a job that has a career path, a quality job that will provide a better quality of life.

Situation #2: Students arguing in favor of negative employee characteristics

When given a problem-solving situation focusing on determining which employee, because of his positive characteristics, is likely to be promoted, the adults see the employee with the negative characteristics as the better employee.

Something to try: Start with what these adults already know. Though they may not realize it, these adults have often been employers. They have hired someone to babysit for their kids. They�ve hired someone to fix something for them. Have them share with you other times when they might have been the "employer," even if they weren�t paying money to the person. Perhaps have them role-play being the night manager at the local McDonalds. Brainstorm with them the kinds of behaviors they like to see in the people who work for them. Such ideas as being prompt, doing what was asked, being cheerful and courteous, and solving problems that come up are points likely to be made. Then bring out the exercise regarding workplace employment. If students are still having difficulty seeing the employer�s perspective of good employee characteristics, you might tell the adults which of two employees is likely to be promoted and have the adults find support for why this one is the more likely candidate. They�ll be focusing on good employee attributes rather than perhaps trying to justify negative ones.

Situation #3: Students arguing that an employee is right to walk off the job

When given a problem-solving situation involving an employee who gets mad and walks off the job, the adults argue that the employee was right, that if his boss made him mad, he shouldn�t stick around.

Something to try: Address what "good" will come of this action. It may help the adult feel good about himself - not letting others walk all over him. But ask the adults to try looking at the problem from a financial point of view. Rather than focusing on the emotional aspects of the situation, focus on more objective ones. What happens if a worker stays in one job for six months as opposed to having four jobs in six months?

    • Contrast their total pay. How much down time with no job is typical of the worker who moves from job to job?
    • Be realistic. Are they really going to get vacation days and sick days?

Something to try: Have a person with an entry level job that he�s held for six months talk with the class.

Something to try: Build a notebook of success stories of students who have been in your program and who have advanced in their jobs.

Situation #4: Students only seeing the employee�s perspective

When participating in problem-solving situations that focus on seeing various points of view, the adults can only identify with the employee, often an employee who feels he or she has been wronged.

Something to try: Recognize that people�s past experiences shape how they view new experiences. Seeing a personal perspective is human nature. Until we walk in another�s shoes, it�s very difficult to see another person�s perspective. Talk about the general concept of viewing something from more than one perspective. A book that students will enjoy as well as learn from is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, a book written from the perspective of Alexander T. Wolf (Scziecka, 1989). Although this book is found in the children�s section of the library, adults enjoy it more than children do. Multiple perspectives can also be explored more generally in terms of parent-child, spouse-spouse, and friend-friend relationships. Have students brainstorm other stories, family situations, or happenings in the news that might be viewed from more than one situation. With the students construct a workplace situation, an employer-employee problem that has come up. Have four persons in the group draw a card indicating whose perspective they are going to present to the rest of the group - the employee�s perspective, the employer�s perspective, the friend�s perspective, and the wife�s (husband�s) perspective. Each explains what happened and how s/he feels about it.

Situation #5: Students never having held a job

These adults have difficulty participating in various problem-solving situations because of lack of experience. They don�t know how to interview for a job or how to keep a job.

Something to try: These persons will be less savvy and less defensive. Job shadowing so that they can see what a worker�s day is like is a good activity.

Something to try: Simulate the work environment in the classroom. Have "work dress" day on Friday. You might even get them used to punching a time clock by having "time clock" Wednesdays.

Something to try: Run the class like a job, e.g., having company policies rather than classroom rules.