Tip #77: Handling an authority figure who is distracting others in the group

The Challenge: There is an authority figure in one of the discussion groups who is chatting and distracting others, hiding the fact that s/he doesn’t know the content by choosing not to participate.

Possible Approaches: Recognize that this individual may feel very insecure and concerned about his or her lack of knowledge of the topic, despite the group’s expectations that someone in this position would be knowledgeable. Acknowledge the authority figure’s status by having him or her facilitate the small group discussion and then post their answers on a flip chart; draw the person aside and ask him or her to assist you by encouraging others to speak. Never mention your awareness of the individual’s insecurity or lack of knowledge- either to the authority figure or to anyone else in the group.

In essence, allow the authority figure to maintain status and save face by playing a facilitative role that does not require him or her to divulge a lack of knowledge on the topic. Hopefully, after participating in the session, the authority figure will gain the level of knowledge s/he needs about the topic.

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