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Professional Development - Challenging Conversation Topics for Workshops

Here are some ideas for classroom or workplace conversations minds active in the first few minutes of class or for a stimulating discussion at work. 


How do I deal with a difficult colleague?


Questions to pose:

  • What do you do when someone you rely on at work is a “certified jerk”?
  • Are there options for dealing with a bully other than avoiding them or quitting?
  • Is it a good idea to get HR involved? If so, then how?


How do I motivate an idle team member or student?


Questions to pose:

  • What expectations should a manager have for their employees’ self-starting behavior? Or a teacher for their students?
  • Is employee idleness usually derived from routine, or does passivity come with disruptive intent?
  • How can you go beyond “carrots and sticks” when it comes to motivating employees?


How do I manage a direct report with more experience?



Questions to pose:

  • Have you ever been in a situation on a team where you have someone older or more experienced you need to manage? What’s a constructive response to feeling outshone by “star talent”?
  • How can you avoid conflict when a more experienced direct report disagrees with you?
  • How do you overcome insecurity as a manager?


How do I lead with authenticity?



Questions to pose:

  • How can employees bring their whole self to work, especially when pressured to conform?
  • What does “unprofessional” really mean, and how does that reflect the lived experience of employees?
  • You’re angry at work. Now what?


How do I confront gender bias?


In this Ice Breaker, students meet a woman who learned that her facial expressions might have cost her a promotion.


Questions to pose:

  • What responsibility do we have to identify unequal and unfair standards at work?
  • How can issues of gender bias be confronted at work, both on an individual and institutional level?
  • In what ways can a woman overcome gender bias at work without endangering her career?

Supporting Sources: Harvard Business Review



The Memory Town or Memory Home Technique - Test Taking Skills