The most common types of negative mindsets found in group sessions and what to do about them

Having run dozens of workshops over the past decade, I’ve come to realise that there are three mindsets that people often bring to workshops that can prove a real challenge to the facilitator and the flow of the day. In fact, I’d say that at least one of these mindsets shows up at every workshop. If you can develop an understanding of what they are, how to spot them and how to help people move out of them, you’ll be better able to plan and run a productive, positive experience for all participants rather than feeling frustrated and ending up wasting time.

Understanding negative workshop mindsets

is key to making them successful


These people have had to attend so many workshops that weren’t particularly relevant or well run that they’ve become very jaded and frustrated with how much of their time is being taken up. As a result, they see the workshop as a chance to catch up on emails or simply zone out. That’s because they’re convinced that workshops don’t produce results, and they probably have good reason to think that.

How to spot them:

  • They’re on their phone/laptop constantly
  • They’re dozing off (!) If this sounds implausible to you, I’ve seen it happen in two poorly run workshops (not, I hasten to add, workshops that we were running.)
  • They slouch in their seat and their body language is closed off, completely disengaged

What to do about it:

  • Ask yourself if they really need to be there! Our blog post about choosing attendees might help
  • Implement our tech-free rules so they engage
  • Infuse energy and positivity into the room


This angry soul turns up to a workshop with their own agenda, tends to be very closed to the whole process and unwilling to listen to others. As a general rule they’ll be quite senior, but perhaps in a department that isn’t central to the issue your particular session is addressing. 

How to spot them:

  • They interrupt others frequently and derail conversations
  • Their body language is aggressive and on edge – sitting forward, arms crossed
  • They dominate breakout groups

What to do about it:

  • Make them feel heard and firmly move on
  • Bring the energy down if things get heated (this is where breathwork can really help)
  • Guide them in blowing off steam in a controlled way


This person has perfectionist tendencies and is probably a key stakeholder in the session. There’s a lot riding on it for them and they feel that if the group doesn’t reach the perfect solution there and then, the whole project will be derailed. As a result, they’re very invested in the day but simultaneously don’t really trust it.

How to spot them:

  • They’re taking copious notes
  • They raise minute details and jump straight to logistics 
  • They’re reluctant to move on from any exercise (they may become obsessed with perfecting wording)

What to do about it:

  • Set clear ground rules and expectations at the start
  • Create a clear sense of progress in the room
  • Work with them beforehand (it’s often easy to predict who they’ll be) to ensure they understand the plan for the output

To sum up; running a workshop, with all the different personalities and motivations, as well as baggage from all the workshops participants have been to before, can be challenging enough as it is. Indeed there are a lot of mistakes that people commonly make! When you add in one or more of these negative workshop mindsets, things can go downhill very quickly.  That’s why our expertise in managing the energy, dealing with conflict and engaging participants is often crucial to a successful outcome. So feel free to Book a free initial consultation if you could use our support.