A few months ago, I got a promotion at work. It was great for a while, but eventually these things catch up to you, and a couple of weeks ago, I got an email that said I was registered to take a two-day course off-site on Management. And I was like, “How the hell did they know? I have done NOTHING to deserve this.” I mean, it’s not like I’m not interested in being a good manager, but I’ve done courses like this before—this isn’t my first time around the management block. So I asked my Director if I really had to go, and she laughed and said, “Yep. Everyone who’s new has to take it.” When I reminded her that I was only an interim manager, she said, “Well, it’s tied to your merit pay. It won’t be that bad.” MERIT PAY? I didn’t even know I got that, let alone that I would be exploited into taking a two-day course to earn it. I’d already taken a bunch of other on-line courses on topics like “The Union Is Your Friend” (untrue), “Workplace Violence and Harassment” (I’m already an expert—see below), and “Hazardous Chemicals and How To Avoid Them” (if only the stench of egg salad was considered hazardous, my life would be SO much better). Online courses are great, once you figure out that the “quiz” you have to take at the end is a huge lie. Which is to say, the first time, I listened SUPER-carefully, and then when the video was done, I was all prepared with my notes so I could pass the test. The “test” consisted of 1 question: “Did you watch the entire video?” I answered yes, and a screen popped up that said “Congratulations! You have completed this course and it will be entered into your record.” And I was like, “WTF kind of quiz was that?! I STUDIED! If I’d known I didn’t have to pay attention to what my union dues were used for, I could have been watching Rick and Morty on Youtube.”
At any rate, I had merit pay hanging over my head, so on the Wednesday morning, I got up bright and early to get there on time, since the email notification had stated very ominously that the course started at 8:30 SHARP. After a tussle with the door (turns out it was a push, not a pull), I flew into the room and got a seat in plenty of time, next to a colleague of mine who was in the same boat so at least I had someone I knew to talk to. At exactly 8:30, the instructor, Donna, started the course. At exactly 8:31, someone started jiggling the door handle. I can forgive someone for being, like, one minute late, but this went on for the next half hour, with people arriving and struggling with the door, and the instructor stopping to go over and open it until I wanted to yell two things: a) What don’t you understand about 8:30 sharp?! and b) Jesus, Donna, can you just leave the goddamned door open?!
We finally all got settled and underway, and the first thing Donna asked was, “So how are you finding being a manager?” One woman immediately put up her hand and said, “Well, the person who was in the Acting position didn’t get the job and I did, so things have been a little uncomfortable. She won’t really talk to me.” Then Donna asked the rest of the room if anyone else had had experience being treated badly by a colleague that you supervised, and I was like, “Won’t really talk to you?! Hold my f*cking beer” because, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I left my previous position because of Bob, the nutcase who wanted my job and would harass me by text, email and even call me at night:
Bob: Why won’t you answer my emails?!
Me: What? It’s 10 o’clock at night! Why are you calling my house?
Bob: I’ve sent you 6 emails. I know you’re online because at 8:47 you liked something your mom posted on Facebook. Why are you ignoring me??!!
Me: You got me out of bed. Can we discuss this tomorrow?
Bob: You’re so mean! (click)
I would have loved it if the worst thing that dude had done was “not really talk to me” instead of dragging me to the union for taking him off Facebook. Anyway, we got all the triggering stuff out of the way, and got down to the meat of management, which is of course, dealing with unions. Then the worst thing happened—Donna decided that, instead of discussing things with our table groups, with whom we had grown comfortable, we should “find someone in the room that you haven’t spoken to yet”. This, of course, is my own personal vision of hell, where you wander around, being forced to meet new people and then converse with them. I stood up—there was a rather pleasant-looking tall guy coming towards me, and he pointed, smiled and mouthed “You and me?” I nodded enthusiastically, relieved at how easy that was. Then his face fell, and I realized that he was talking to the young, beautiful blonde behind me, who had just been swooped up by the guy who worked in a prison and who had endless (I mean ENDLESS) stories about testifying at grievance hearings.
Me: Oh, is it OK if we—
Tall Guy: Actually, I was wanting to talk to HER, but…
Me: Oh. (pause) Well, I guess you can talk to me if you want to…
Tall Guy: Sigh. I suppose.
Thanks, Tall Guy. Also, nice wedding ring you’re wearing.
Overall, the course was pretty good, and I think I learned a lot about “supporting my team”, but there were a couple of things that befuddled me:
1) We were given plenty of time for breaks and lunch. On both days, the person sitting on the other side of me brought in full tubs of very spicy, pungent food, which he insisted on eating by hiding it under the table, then quickly shoveling it into his mouth when he thought no one was looking. He would have been successful if first, the food hadn’t smelled so strong, and second, if he hadn’t made really loud squeaking and squelching sounds the whole time he was chowing down. I don’t usually notice people chewing, but the noises coming out of him were bizarre.
2) Why do people use the term “buckets” to refer to categories of things, as in “I’ve put all the soft skills into the Management Bucket on the slide deck.” As a visual metaphor, “bucket” doesn’t work for me, because I always think of a mop bucket. Also, the word “bucket” is just plain silly, like “smock”. Listen: bucket, bucket, bucket, bucket, smock, smock, smock. If you didn’t laugh at that, I don’t know why. Here’s a limerick about a bucket (mostly because all the limericks I know are about a man from Nantucket and bucket rhymes with Nantucket):
There once was a man with a bucket,
Who lived in a town called Nantucket.
He wore a white smock,
And he fell off the dock,
And he dented his bucket, so f*ck it.
I never said it would be a GOOD limerick.
Another piece of “manager-speak” that always confuses me is when things get a little heated or complex, and someone says, “Let’s take this off-line.” In a face to face meeting. Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to yell, “You’re not ON-line! How can you take it OFF-line?!” Seriously people, be precise—just say “let’s speak privately about this”.
3) We were given the following scenario: You wake up late, you’re racing around to get to work, and you finally make it to your office. You’re in the elevator and someone jostles you, and you spill your coffee all over yourself. So now you’re in a terrible mood, and Marcia chooses that moment to come into your office and tell you how WELL her initiative went the day before. This is a tough situation, and it will be hard to be happy for her. How do you react?
People were answering things like, “Hey Marcia, can you come back later?” or “Jesus, Marcia, can’t you see I’m covered in coffee?” or “I’m having a bad morning, Marcia, so I’m having trouble caring about your sh*t” and so on. I was confused by all of this, and finally put up my hand and said, “I guess maybe I’m just easily distracted, but being happy for Marcia would make me forget about being late for work. Also, coffee is Satan’s brew. We should all drink wine in the morning, just like Jesus.” Ok, I didn’t say that last part, but coffee IS gross. And I don’t know if Jesus really drank wine in the morning, but if HE had to sit through two days of “Disciples Management 101”, I’ll bet he would have.
I’m superproud of you, Marcia.
Friday: Titus and I make fun of the National Dog Show 2015
Titus: Watcha doin’?
Me: Watching the National Dog Show.
Titus: Cool. (jumps up on bed) So what’s going on?
Me: It’s the Working Dogs right now.
Titus: (snorts derisively) Right.
Titus: That dog never worked a day in his life. His paws look all soft.
Me: And you’re Mr. Blue Collar? When was the last time YOU did any work?
Titus: Excuse me? Just yesterday, you were all like, “Where’s the Piggy, Titus? Can you find your Piggy?” And I DID. I AM a Retriever, you know. It was hard work. That pig was like all the way upstairs in the guest room.
Me: Maybe because that’s where you left it. Now be quiet so I can watch this. It’s the –
Titus: Holy sh*t, that dog has dreadlocks! WTF?!! Is that even REAL?
Me: Yes, Titus, it’s a Komondor, a real dog.
Titus: A “Commodore”? What, like Lionel Ritchie’s dog or something?
Me: Yeah, that dog belongs to Lionel Ritchie. Obviously. Now stop talking—it’s the Toy category now.
Titus: I can see why they call them “Toys”. None of those dogs are real either. That one looks like a cotton ball blew up in the microwave, that one looks like Raven coughed it up, and that one is like something out of a Japanese anime cartoon. You want to see a real dog? THIS is what a real dog looks like. Check me out.
Me: Good god.