Hell on Earth

After a recent week’s worth of company training, I thought I would take a moment and give some feedback. Quite frankly, other than the bagels and donuts that so often accompany these events, work place training sessions are a complete waste of time.  I’m sorry, but it’s true. Games, role-playing, team answers to ridiculous questions, and worst of all … participation is expected.  As a raging introvert, I can think of few other anxiety-inducing events that top a rousing “role playing” or “group participation” session.

Seriously though, I’m hard pressed to say which type of training is the least annoying.

Death by PowerPoint:  This involves a computer and a screen. After the inevitable ten minutes of fumbling, the computer operator will have to go find someone to come “fix” the presentation, so the training can proceed.  All PowerPoint presentations follow the same path: the first slide is supposed to be amusing, but seldom is.  Then, the “class” starts where one person stands robotically reading each slide, point by painful point, sometimes with the help of a laser pointer.  When a break is called, people run to the smoking area even though they weren’t smokers when the class started.

The Professional Speaker:  Sometimes, you get the privilege of having a guest speaker.  This person usually brings their own computer presentation, fumbles with the computer for ten minutes, then goes to find someone to come fix the presentation.  The first slide is supposed to be funny…you get the idea.

New Age Co-Op:  These training sessions bring emotions into the classroom.  You start with trust exercises that involve throwing out your back when your trustworthy coworker gets a text at the same moment they’re supposed to catch you, and end with hugging your coworkers and telling them just what it is about them that is so gosh darned special.  Apparently, “You’re special because you’re sleeping with the boss” is not an acceptable comment; I got sent back to my office (which is where I wanted to be in the first place) and banned from participating next year.

Role-Playing:  This is an offshoot of the New Age Co-Op training.  When you role-play, you may have to play the part of a customer, or maybe a manager if you’re lucky.  You are placed in several unrealistic situations and expected to respond appropriately while your coworkers critique your performance.  Again, I am banned from participation for a year when, as a “customer,” I overturned three tables and dumped water on Joe from accounting after being told by the “waitress” that they didn’t have unsweetened ice-tea.  The people role-playing the police department were very talented… had uniforms, i.d., and everything.

Team Groups:  In this training process, you are split into groups and given tough questions to figure out, most often in a “Jeopardy” or “Family Feud” format, because nothing says “team building” quite like pitting coworkers against each other – especially when a $5.00 gas card is involved.  Your answers are presented by the “team leader” to the rest of the class.  I was in the restroom and came back to find I had been elected team leader in my absence.  My aforementioned ban was solidified when I stood up and told my best joke instead. No-one laughed. And I’m freakin’ hilarious.

Don’t get me wrong; training is a very important part of keeping workers up to date on changes and evolving processes within the company.  The bad part is that these training sessions could be accomplished in an email thereby saving money, time, and reputations.

Every worker in the world follows the exact same pattern when they have a workplace training session.

  • Try to call out sick
  • Charge the phone for Facebook browsing and Words with Friends
  • Pretend to be in the middle of a project and look very busy in the hopes you will be excused
  • Show up as late as you can and take the seat all the way in the back or position yourself nearest the snacks
  • Notify your friends to call you frequently so you can excuse yourself because “This is about that big client.”
  • Appear to be taking extensive notes when in reality you are drawing cartoons (my personal favorite)
  • Nod deeply and agree occasionally so the presenter thinks you are actively engaged

There are, however, a few things that will get you thrown out of work place training.  I have compiled a list of my the most effective ones:

  • Stand up and yell “hallelujah,” “preach,” and “amen” randomly throughout the session.
  • Raise your hand and ask questions about things completely unrelated to your job or the company, such as is the color orange called orange because it’s the color of oranges or are oranges called oranges because they’re orange, OR how do geese know which goose goes first when migrating.
  • Sneeze and cough repeatedly; more effective if you bring some type of slime from your kid’s collection and launch it across the room while coughing.
  • Write your boss’ name on your name tag and be disruptive.
  • Lean back in your chair and toss spitballs at the screen like the moody antagonist in an ’80s John Hughes flick.
  • Lick the donuts in front of everyone and put them back.
  • Answer your phone loudly and declare, “I don’t care how much money you have invested in this company, I can’t help you! I’m in training!”

In all honesty, work training can be a valuable tool if it is approached correctly.  Unfortunately, most companies don’t approach it correctly and the entire process is one that is universally hated.  Can I get an Amen?

Selfish or Self-Care?

It’s Monday yet again. It comes with infuriating regularity. Although Monday and I will never be friends – except perhaps after I win the mega-millions lottery – recently, Mondays, for me, haven’t been so bad.

In life, we have two choices.  We can devote our time to activities we love, surrounding ourselves with, if not exactly low-stress endeavors, at least endeavors that do not prompt the need for an impromptu intervention … or we can devote our time to fighting against things we hate.  Which is better?

Until very recently, I devoted my time, energy, and whole heart into a cause I am passionate about: animal advocacy.  What I’ve learned is that the nightmares never end, figuratively and literally.

I loved what I did, and I’m still active in the animal advocacy world, but I found out that devoting myself to it exclusively led to high stress levels that affected me physically and emotionally.  I stayed with the job, subjecting myself day in and day out to nightmare scenes I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and for a lot less money than I realistically needed to survive.  I was tirelessly devoted to my job out of loyalty and dedication to the cause, letting myself suffer financially and mentally for far longer than I should have.  At last, I had no choice but to change jobs.

Now, I work with food.  Yummy foods.  I work for a food broker, managing a variety of vegetarian and vegan lines.  I find my sleep is a little better; the worst thing in my nightmares about my new job is the rumored Great Carrot Revolt coming in the fall of this year.  My job is interesting, and I am surrounded by what I love, food.  And did I mention, I work with food?

It’s only been a couple of months since I left my animal advocacy job, and while I can sleep a little better now, there are situations and images seared into my brain that I will likely carry with me for the rest of my life; thank the Gods that be that my mental library of horror is no longer being replenished daily. I have no regrets about leaving the job behind, but I do struggle with a little bit of guilt for leaving the cause.

It’s a much better situation that I am in now, of course, and I find myself looking forward to going to work instead of wondering what fresh level of Hell I will be walking into every day.  Discussions about food are, hands down, much more satisfying than discussions about defenseless animals trapped in unthinkable situations.  Still, the guilt is there, an itchy spot in my brain that I can’t quite scratch.

I’m very busy every day, with a different set of jer … ummm, associates to deal with. But the worst abuse I face now is someone trying to launch a new line of snack packs with no understanding whatsoever of their target audience.  No longer do I face veiled, and not-so-veiled, threats from low-lifes who regularly exhibit sociopath and psychopath tendencies. No longer must I explain to a well-meaning donor that the world does not, in fact, rest on my shoulders and no, I cannot control everything and everyone. No longer am I faced with images that could very well be in a Clive Barker film … and not in a good way. 

Oh, the work is challenging, and I am in a management position meaning I have a lot of responsibility and must be on top of my game … BUT our meetings at my new job revolve around food, and who doesn’t love food?  We are all enthusiastic about our jobs, and our days are filled with delicious excitement, not horrible dread.  And still, there it is again; a twinge of guilt.

I no longer argue with the belligerently ignorant in our midst over why leaving an egregiously crippled animal to starve is animal cruelty, and I don’t have to explain, with pictures, video, and tales from the field, for the umpteenth time why horse slaughter is a horrific fate for any horse and should be permanently abolished.  I can go home from work and just “be,” like a normal person, without collapsing into tears on my bathroom floor over what I’ve seen that day.

I will deal with my slight twangs of guilt in favor of a life I can enjoy.  I am proud of my past work in the advocacy group, and I know they will continue to succeed in the fight to protect the helpless … they are an amazing organization doing amazing work.  I still follow news, with a heavy heart, and get involved in ways that do not consume my life and scar my soul.

I know that some would say I abandoned the animal advocacy group, but I look at it as self-preservation.  Sometimes, you need to accept your past accomplishments and opt for taking care of yourself.  It doesn’t mean you stopped caring; if you ask me, it means you care too much.