I’ve been sent on two courses at work, lately. One of them was about…actually, I don’t know what it was about. But after the first two hours, I rang my boss and begged her to let me come back. She agreed; but I then had to get permission from one of the lecturers, who kept demanding to know why I had to go back. I was trying not to say “Because this is a pile of s!*t.” At the same time, I felt angry that I had to explain anything to him. It felt like leaving the Unification Church, and when I finally got out of the building I nearly ran down the street in sheer relief.
During my career, I’ve been sent on some unorthodox courses. Stress Management. Creativity. Assertiveness. There’s usually the introductions, where you have to stand up and tell a group of strangers about yourself, which always reminds me of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; and the dreaded role-playing. I like to think I’m reasonably tolerant. And if you knew what I’d normally do to get out of a day’s work- especially with tea and coffee on tap- you’d realize how angry this course made me.
It was something like those team-building courses. That’s the nearest I can get to a description of it. It ran for two days, and there was a glossy, full-colour workbook to go with it. Oh, and everybody was going to be the best of friends by the end of it. There were two speakers, both men, both evangelical. You could not miss a moment of it. They prided themselves in not using Powerpoint, which sounded great until you realized what that meant: every so often, they would get you to stand up and follow them to the far side of the room (“Come walk with me,” one of them said, like Jesus) where they would deliver a speech that they could just as well have delivered back where they were.
I wasn’t in the mood. I might lose my job soon, and if I do keep it, there will be more responsibility and fewer colleagues to help me. And there they were talking about managing the public’s expectations. So when the first tea break came, I went out to the corridor and rang my boss on my mobile phone. Even then, one of them tried to drag me back. They’d begun again, and I’d missed a whole two minutes of their wisdom.
I might still have to go back on this course, if I keep my job. My boss must have told management that I’d had some sort of stress-related panic attack. But I wasn’t the only one there who wasn’t getting into the swing of things. There were some incredulous bin men at another table. And I heard that, on another party, a woman had stood up and announced that this was a waste of time, that she didn’t need to be there, and that it was a pile of s!*t.
Compare that with the second course. The council kindly set up an Interview Training session, the better to help us reapply for our own jobs. But the teacher couldn’t have been more different. He was a softly-spoken Kiwi, who’d been made redundant himself in the past, and knew the score. He made us feel good about ourselves. He said that the thing to do at an interview is not to sell yourself but to tell them about yourself. With honesty and integrity. And that makes a hell of a difference. I left that course (a couple of ours in a morning) with tears of gratitude brimming.
Have a great Christmas, and let’s hope 2017 is a better year than 2016.