Thiagi Group

Participants from Hell

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20 - 453 - 60 Low
This is a structured sharing activity that enables us to explore techniques for handling participants who disrupt interactive training sessions. 

Different teams receive envelopes labeled with different types of disruptive participants. Participants brainstorm guidelines for handling disruptive behaviours, record the guidelines on a card, and place the card inside the envelope. 

Teams rotate the envelopes and generate guideline cards for handling other types of disruptive participants. During the evaluation round, team members review the guideline cards generated by other teams and identify the top five suggestions.



To handle different types of disruptive behaviours from people participating in an interactive exercise.





    1. Brief the participants. Ask participants to think about interactive training activities that they had conducted or participated in. Ask them to recall different types of participants who disrupted the activity. Tell participants that they will have to figure out how to handle different types of disruptive participants in the activity that you are going to conduct.
    2. Organize the participants. Divide the participants into four teams of fewer than seven members. Teams should be approximately the same size. Seat the teams in a circular configuration to facilitate the exchange of envelopes.
    3. Distribute the supplies. Give one disruptive participant envelope to each team. Also give each team three index cards.
    4. Conduct the first round. Ask team members to discuss guidelines for handling the disruptive behaviors associated with the type of participant identified on the envelope they received. Tell them to write these guidelines in short sentences on an index card. Announce a time limit of 3 minutes for this activity and encourage the teams to work rapidly. Explain that the teams' guideline cards will be eventually evaluated in terms of both the number and the quality of the items.
    5. Conclude the first round. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle to announce the end of the first round. Explain that each team should place its guideline card (the index card with suggestions for handling disruptive participants) inside the envelope and pass the envelope, unsealed, to the next team. (The last team gives its envelope to the first team.) Ask the teams not to open the envelope they receive.
    6. Conduct the second round. Ask the teams to think about the type of disruptive participants labeled on the envelope they received, but not to look at the guidelines on the card inside. Tell the teams to repeat the previous procedure and to list (on a new guideline card) practical suggestions for handling disruptive behaviours of this type of participants. After 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask the teams to place the guideline card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.
    7. Conduct the third round. Conduct one more round of the game, using the same procedure.
    8. Conduct the evaluation round. Start this round just as you did the previous rounds. However, explain to the teams that they do not have to write any more guidelines on new cards. Instead, the teams must evaluate the guideline cards inside the envelope. They do this by reviewing each guideline on each card and then comparing the guidelines among all cards. The teams have 3 minutes to select the top five guidelines from all the cards.
    9. Present the results. At the end of the time limit, check on the teams to ensure they have completed their task and have identified the top five guidelines. Select a team at random to present its results. Ask the team to announce the type of disruptive participants specified on the envelope and to read the top five guidelines. After reading the top guidelines, the team should explain what criteria they used for selecting them.
    10. Debrief the participants. After all teams have presented their selected guidelines, briefly comment on the interesting patterns among the guidelines. Also comment on the similarities among the guidelines for handling different types of disruptive participants. Ask the participants to identify the type of disruptive participants for whom it was the most difficult to come up with suitable guidelines. Invite the participants to offer their comments and to ask questions about the activity.


    Not enough time? Announce tight time limits. For example, allow only two minutes for each round. Play only two rounds of the game before conducting the evaluation round. Eliminate the evaluation round.

    Too few players? Conduct the game among individual players. All you need is a group of three participants. Play the game twice, using two different sets of envelopes.

    Too many players? Divide the large group of participants into three or more subgroups. Have each subgroup divide itself into teams and play the game in a parallel fashion.

    Complaints about subjective evaluation? Prepare and distribute a rating scale for evaluating the quality of the guidelines. Or skip the evaluation.

    Disruptive participant categories

    (Select four types from the list below and write each of these selected types on the front side of an envelope)

    • Domineering participants who talk too much.
    • Withdrawn participants who talk too little and do not contribute to the discussion.
    • Hyperactive participants who hold side conversations.
    • Cynical participants who act as if they know everything.
    • Unprepared participants who have not done their homework.
    • Impatient participants who consider interaction and discussions to be a waste of time.
    • Meandering participants who take off on tangents.
    • Schedule ignoring participants who arrive late and leave early.
    • Egoistic participants who constantly seek everyone's attention.
    • Multitasking participants who keep checking their emails and sending instant messages.
    • Hostages who have been forced to attend the session against their wishes.
    • Resistive participants who challenge the facilitator and other participants.
    • Insensitive participants who make offensive, derogatory, and impolite remarks.


    Source: Thiagi Group

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