Monday, August 9, 2010

Training At a New Job

Orientation training that is... I was in D.C. for a four day orientation course this week. A very interesting exercise. What was interesting? Not the content certainly, it wasn't anything that I haven't heard before. What was interesting is that the company that now owns me puts every new hire, from the graduate coming in to their first job, to the new senior vice president, through the exact same course. This being a large company there were nearly 200 new hires, from all over the country, so the depth of the diversity was very fun.

I sat at tables with guys with 25 years of experience, along with the summer school graduate pooping himself trying not to show how nervous and green he was. It was a lot of fun. About the second day I was sitting at a table with three new graduates entering their first job out of school, one 25 year veteran of the Marines entering his first civilian job, and two other refugees from the corporate civilian world like myself. We were shown a sexual harassment video and asked to discuss what we saw with our table. The corporate civilian guys looked at each other and gave each other knowing smiles... This was not our first rodeo and knew better than to say what we were really thinking. It was at that point that we realized that the Marine was furiously taking notes and asking us situational questions about what jokes he could say, and if people really did get fired for saying the things shown in the "joke" portion of the video. Two of the three graduates were young women clearly distressed in what they saw in the video and were asking if situations like what we saw in the video happened very often. It was surreal.

It is a fact of human nature that if you are exposed long enough to a certain culture or behavior, it not only becomes normal, you believe that all people everywhere do or participate in the said culture or behavior. I have made fun of this on many occasions having to do with religion, and ignorant people's exposure to new cultures. However, I found that I had fallen in to the same trap when it came to work life, as had the other corporate civilians at the table. We were quite surprised to see the looks of fear and horror on the graduate's faces. Coming from the sheltered world of college, and their parent's houses, they had no frame of reference, no experience, to tell them that the behavior that they saw on screen was so outside the norm that it bordered on the absurd. We were also startled at the flip side of the coin, the military man who had been immersed in crude language and off color stories for much of his adult career. He was equally worried that he would be fired very quickly for simply being himself.

The three corporate schmucks then had to console the graduates by saying that the stuff on the screen was very rare, and that we had never seen a case of quid pro quo in our lives. We then had to sternly warn the Marine that he very much had to watch what he said, because we had all witnessed, on many occasions, individuals get in to trouble for saying or doing off color things in the workplace.

Me being me, told him that if he looked at no one and said nothing he would be just fine. I thought it was an obvious joke, but when he started writing what I had said down I had to make sure he knew the spirit of what I was talking about.

All in all an interesting, fun experience, simply from the human condition aspect. Most of what was presented was corporate Kool Aid, but from a people watching perspective a most interesting 4 days.

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