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IDear Workforce-I Got Any Creative Training Ideas

How 'bout rap sessions, drawing or role plays?
May 17, 2000
Related Topics: Basic Skills Training, Dear Workforce

Dear Workforce:

My question is in regards to Occupational Health and Safety. I am always on the lookout few new ways to present ideas or tips on health and safety without them being boring or repetitive. As with most workplaces, the employees know the dos and don`ts, but we forget or take short cuts. I feel that "team" competitions could lead to non-reporting of accidents. Has Workforce any strategies in this field or could they suggest where to look?
-- Mike Wilson, Byron Shire Council, Australia


A Dear Mike:

Here are three "multimedia"activities and workshop productions Mark Gorkin, who bills himself as the "Stress Doc," uses in his "Practicing Safe Stress Programs: Managing Stress and Building Team Morale through Humor."

Clearly, these presentations can be part of a workshop; but they also can be employed during brown bag lunches, at "all hands" or department meetings. And you may even create some lasting works of art but I get ahead of myself. So, on with the show:

  1. Slam or Rap Session. One of the most dramatic, amusing and memorable moments in the workshop occurs after presenting some hard-hitting info on the erosive spiral (and four stages) of burnout. With a somewhat heavy tension in the room, Mark suddenly announces having a secret identity. He proceeds to don a Blues Brothers hat, black sunglasses and a tambourine with a sea of incredulous eyes upon him. And then the predictable groans when he declares that as a psychotherapist he's pioneering the field of psychologically humorous rap music, calling it, of course a "Shrink Rap" (TM) Productions!

    Here is "The Stress Doc's (TM) Stress Rap":

    When it comes to feelings do you stuff them inside?
    Is tough John Wayne your emotional guide?
    And it's not just men so proud and tight-lipped.
    For every Rambo there seems to be a Rambette.

    So you give up sleep, become wired and spent
    Escape lonely frustration as a mall-content.
    It's time to look at your style of stress.
    You can't just dress or undress for success.

    Are you grouchy with colleagues or quietly mean?
    Hell, you'd rather talk to your computer machine.
    When the telephone rings, you're under the gun
    Now you could reach out and really crush someone.

    The boss makes demands yet gives little control
    So you prey on chocolate and wish life were dull, but
    Office desk's a mess, often skipping meals
    Inside your car looks like a pocketbook on wheels.

    Those deadlines, deadlines ... all that aggravation
    Whew, you only have time for procrastination.
    Now I made you feel guilty, you want to confess
    Better you should practice "The Art of Safe Stress."

    By the end the participants are cheering heartily. Folks are more open to serious content when the message is gift-rapped with humor.

    So why not a team poetry slam or rap session, with the focus being occupational health and safety issues? Perhaps you can record (or even video) the best efforts and then strategically place the tape around the workspace. Hey, if Superbowl-bound football teams can make their own videos, why not your super employees?!
  2. Discussion and Drawing Exercise. In a two-fold exercise, audience members are divided into groups of four and are asked to grapple with the following: "What are the sources of stress and conflict in your everyday work operations?"

    Why not ask folks to dialogue around the "barriers and bridges" to occupational health and safety. (The groups get ten minutes or so for discussion.) Then the teams are challenged to design a group picture (also in a 10-15 minute period) that pulls together their individual ideas during the collective brainstorm. The picture should be some kind of symbol or tell a story. Mark discourages team members from just doing their own thing in a corner of the paper. The goal is "a whole greater than the sum of its parts." (Large flip chart paper and boxes of magic markers are provided each team.) Mark also lets folks know that he's a graduate from the Institute for the Graphically-Impaired and that stick figures are fine.)

    Being a bit outrageous is also encouraged. Believe me, when doing these programs, for example, with US Navy personnel, Mark sees sinking ships, folks stranded on downsizing rafts, sharks circling the water, etc. As the drawings evolve, the laughter in the room builds and builds. The groups love showing and telling their creative designs. Again, why couldn't some of the better creations be hung up in work or break areas? Your employees will respond to these homemade posters more than to the standard "rah-rah" teamwork poster pattern. (How often do your employees skull together down a river with a deep orange sun setting in the background? Let's get real!)
  3. Role Play. Finally, having groups enact skits depicting workplace safety/stress issues can generate a wonderful learning and sharing forum. (And we know, accidents increase when people are overstressed or exhausted for prolonged periods.) These role plays are especially instructive and effective when the safety concerns involve interpersonal conflict. Role plays are great mediums for acting out frustration and anger (passive or explosive) and generating group problem-solving while modeling good communication and conflict resolution skills.

    The role plays are most valuable when all levels of the organization -- managers, supervisors, types of employees such as workfloor vs. office staff, even customers -- are represented. Again, the listening and learning is only outdone by the audience laughter. This exercise also lends itself to videotaping and workplace distribution. (Though if a particular stress carrier is singled out in the skit, it probably shouldn't leave the editing room.)

    Experimenting with these three media approaches will help folks be more conscious of key health and safety issues. And the group participation, design and play will both build department and company morale and insure that the men and women in your shop Practice Safe Stress!

    To good adventures.

SOURCE: Mark Gorkin, LICSW "The Stress Doc" (TM), Shrink Rap (c) Mark Gorkin 1992 "Shrink Rap" Productions.

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