How to Confuse and Confound Your Trainees in 10 Easy Steps!

Jill Drummond
On-the-job training is usually conducted one-on-one or in small groups so it can be challenging to confuse trainees; but fear not — when employees start a new job, they are usually a little nervous or apprehensive.  They want to make a good impression and they want to be successful in learning their new tasks.  This is when they are most vulnerable and they are easy pickings for total confusion.  Follow these simple steps and you will have your new hires running for the hills and totally flabbergasted and ineffective in their jobs. 

  1. Don’t bother to prepare.   You are an expert so why should you waste time reviewing the training materials and preparing the training area?  If you don’t have enough equipment, the trainees can always double up and reduce their practice time which will be an added bonus towards confounding them.
  2. Ignore the trainees or speak down to them.   Your time is valuable.  Don’t waste time building rapport or putting the trainees at ease by opening with a friendly greeting.    Adults need a supportive training environment to learn best, so being rude and speaking down to them will go a long way in confusing them. 
  3. Don’t let on why people are in your class.  If people understand why the training is important to the job, they might pay more attention.  So don’t connect the dots and explain how what you are teaching them is important or fits into the big picture.  This will only add context and make the training process much smoother. Let them wonder in a fog as to exactly why they are there. 
  4. Demonstrate the process when facing them.   Here is an easy one to try.  Teaching in reverse is a very simple technique for confusing your trainees.  Have your trainees try to follow the demonstration as a mirror image rather than demonstrating the tasks side-by-side.  It will be much more difficult for them to process the steps in reverse. 
  5. Don’t have trainees share personal experiences.  Adults learn effectively from each other and like to share their experiences.  Therefore, maintain your position as the “expert” and don’t encourage trainees to discuss or share during the training.  Besides, one of the best ways for people to retain information is to teach someone else, so be sure not to let that happen in your group. 
  6. Use lots of jargon.  Using lots of jargon in your explanations will make you look smart and will totally make your trainee’s head spin.  They will be so worried about trying to figure out what you just said that they will miss half of what you are instructing. Don’t use clear language and simple terms since those will be easily understood and the trainee may catch on quickly. 
  7. Read to your trainees.  Whether it’s an SOP or bullets directly from a slide, nothing will make your trainees go to sleep faster than you reading what they can read themselves.  This is all about you, why should they be involved in their own learning?  If you allow them time to read themselves, they may start to discuss with each other when they are finished.  This will only enhance their understanding so keep control of your group and read everything to them. 
  8. Let them know how dumb they are.  When you give feedback, don’t be specific, objective, or base your feedback on behavior.  This will only make the trainees more comfortable and cocky.  Positive feedback should be avoided at all costs; but if you absolutely must give positive feedback, make sure it is non-descript.  Tell them they are good, but let them figure why. Let them wonder about which part they did well. 
  9. Steam roll through your session.  Adults learn best when they know the agenda and have periodic breaks.  So cover as many topics as you can in your session. Taking fewer breaks and covering more topics in your session will leave your trainees dumbfounded.   This will also leave little time for practice, reinforcement, and transfer of knowledge. 
  10. Start the training late and end late.  This won’t so much confuse them as it will surely tick them off.  And when trainees are upset or untrusting, it is more difficult for them to stay focused and absorb important information.  Therefore, as a byproduct, they will be confused and angry, which is just a bonus. 
If you master these few tips, you will routinely confuse and confound your trainees.  They will leave your training scratching their heads and probably not come back.  If, on the other hand, you want to be an effective trainer and ensure that your trainees absorb, retain, and can apply their knowledge and skills on the job, then do the opposite!

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of his or her employer, GxP Lifeline, its editor or MasterControl Inc.
Jill Drummond has more than 20 years of experience in GMP regulated industries and currently serves as the Director, Training & Education for Blood Systems, a leading blood banking organization.  Hired into the position to establish a new Training & Education department from the ground up, she directs the Corporate Office Training Department and facilitates field training activities for 18 blood centers. She is also responsible for establishing and maintaining company-wide training strategies and policies that support technical, compliance and continuing education. Reach Jill at (602) 414-3574 or