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Another Portland Blog

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Class time!

Every once and a while, my corporate superiors hunt me down and tear me out of my cubicle like a claw looming over a pit of lobster-shaped harmonicas. The reason? Afternoon training seminars.

Many of my coworkers enjoy these occasional "breaks." They also haven't quite figured out this whole "enter-net" thing. Each of these seminars is held in a window-less in the basement of the building. Last week, we were treated to "Exploring Social Styles and Motivators."

I kept my pamphlet so I could quote from it verbatim. According to it, "goals are what we are willing to accomplish in our lives." A well-rounded goal should be:


S: Specific
M: Measurable
A: Attainable
R: Relevant
T: Time trackable

I've always been skeptical of the intentions behind these seminars. Are these patronizing, feel-good notions supposed to improve employee morale? To make us more motivated? If so, what's with cryptic clip-art of a man's head juxtaposed between two yin and yang symbols?

"How can our company and my experience here help me to achieve some of my personal goals?"

Below this question was a page of empty lines. We were given five minutes to come up with a detailed response. In the past, the instructors at these seminars allow volunteers to read aloud from their packets afterwards. As such, I usually fill in smart-ass retorts or doodles of Garfield riding a hovercraft. My answer:

"I like waffles. Without a job, I would not be able to afford waffles. Experience tells me that if I diligently come work each day, I will receive monetary compensation for my efforts. This is how our company can help me quell my insatiable hunger for said waffles."

Did my personal goal adhere to the dictates of SMART? Definitely. So far, so good. When the fives minutes were up, I realized something had gone array. The instructor wasn't taking volunteers. Beginning with a coworker on the other side of a large conference table, we were all going to read our answers.

Yikes! There wasn't enough time to come up with a "safe" response. When the circle came around to me, all I could do was mutter, "Ummm....errr....uh....I'd rather not share."

The instructor wasn't insulted. In fact, she seemed elated. Since I was reluctant to share my answer, this must have meant my personal goal was altogether too personal to share with the rest of the group. I was obviously taking this lesson much more seriously than everyone else. I'd dodged a bullet.

Moving on to page 8, the platinum rule was revealed to us. Apparently, it's the new staple of training sessions in many Fortune 500 companies (*cough*).


Treat others the way *they* wish to be treated.

Ugggh. Would this rule be passed along to management and our customers? Would *they* treat us like we wish to be treated? Did this mean my manager would finally sign off on my beer bar/ping pong table/cubicle proposal? Doubtful.

Moving along to page 9, we began a "social style inventory" of the personalities of our heroes. I chose Muhammed Ali and Optimus Prime . Both came up as "do-ers." Later, we evaluated ourselves.

Was I a speaker? A listener? A do-er? Or a thinker?

I received ten points in the thinker category. I'm evidentially "industrious, persistent, serious and exacting." On the other side, I'm also "critical, indecisive, stuffy and moralistic." According to the packet, I'm best paired with a do-er; someone like Optimus.

At the end of seminar, we were asked "What did you learn today that you will later apply to your work?" We were given two spaces. I wrote "the platinum rule" twice. The instructor liked that. I was hoping to score a gold star or some candy for my efforts. Alas, I went back to my work station with neither.

What did I actually learn? If I had a robot that can turn into a truck at my disposal, I'd get a lot more accomplished.

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