How to Use “Reverse Learning” to Make the Best of a Bad Situation

Continuing from my last post with Disney housekeeping, there’s much to gain from something I like to call reverse learning- when someone shows you how not to do something.

Humans learn by example. Which means when we’re given bad examples sometimes we pick-up bad practices. Reverse learning is a tool you can use to help grow despite bad leadership/teaching/parenting you receive.

I’m thankful for that terrible month working in housekeeping. It taught me more about business management than the rest of my entire internship.

I saw, first-hand, how ill-informed policy at the top trickled down to disasters at the bottom.

The managers were ruthless because the GM constantly yelled at them. The GM was ruthless because she had a tight budget with limited labor hours. If all her employees didn’t clean 17 rooms a day in 7 hours she got hounded by the people above her.

She was afraid of getting fired. They were all afraid of getting fired. The toxicity of the place was rooted in fear and frustration. Employees were treated likes cogs, not people.

Reverse learning in this situation keyed me in to some great insights in management (that work in the classroom as well).

  1. A manager can drastically affect the mental health of their employees.
  2. It is important to use words of encouragement often.
  3. If an employee is doing something wrong, never yell or criticize them. Show them how to do things correctly.
  4. If you see an employee struggling, don’t tell them to do better. Offer to help however you can. Teach them.
  5. Ask how you can better support your team, especially if you’re the leader.
  6. Make sure your employees know that your job is to help them succeed, and that you care about them as people.
  7. When an employee decides to leave your team, don’t alienate them or retaliate. Use it as a chance for honest feedback and offer to help with the transfer.
  8. Never burn a bridge you don’t need to. You might regret it later.

These aren’t lessons from a textbook. They’re real. I lived what it’s like to be part of a team without those practices. It was awful. I never want to be responsible for making others feel that way.

To reverse learn in a bad situation is simple. Ask yourself two questions. How do I wish they would respond? What needs of mine are not being met, that could help me succeed if they were?

Then apply those lessons to other people.

tl:dr If your situations bad, there is no need to feel sad. You can still learn, have no fear. Get ready to reverse engineer.

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