I’ve ranted and railed at length about the seemingly endless trail of mandatory training “experiences” my employer requires each and every year. Some of those trainings are online modules that literally have not changed since I started way back in 2003. I’m looking at you here Constitution Day Training. Having studied history and political science, there are very few documents written in the English language that I prize more highly than the Constitution. Clicking through a few pages of how a bill becomes a law or which powers reside in the Executive and which in the Legislative just doesn’t fill me with an augmented sense of awe and wonder. The fact that so much of this training is stale, though, misses the broader point.
Regardless of how stale or dated the training, it’s mandatory. Beyond it being mandatory, eventually I know I’m going to catch hell if all those little boxes are not check off next to my name before the clock runs out on the end of September. What everything finally translates to is I’m going to suck it up and wade through hours of pointless training not because it’s teaching me something new, but because I want to keep myself out of trouble. I’m sure that’s some kind of pedagogical construct, but it’s not one I learned about a hundred years ago when I was learning to be a teacher and design instruction. Again, however, even that misses the big point here.
The really important thing I have to say about the mind numbing volume of mandatory training is that unlike previous years where I come sliding in sideways and waving one last certificate on September 30th, I’m finished early. Very early. I’m fairly sure that the first time in my career that’s ever happened. It feels vaguely unnatural. Fortunately I know that feeling can’t possibly last long before someone slams a new “must do” training requirement into the system so we can piss away more time on activities that mostly teach you how to sleep with your eyes open.
I’m not a procrastinator by nature. I tend to want to jump in and get shit done just as soon as possible. The grand exception to this rule is the laundry list of online annual mandatory training opportunities that Uncle has decided are important. Many of them don’t change from year to year. The old ones never drop off and new ones are always being added by some good idea fairy lurking in the depths of the five sided lunatic asylum on the banks of the Potomac.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve put off doing this online training hell right up until the last possible minute. Usually that means sequestering myself for a few days before the end of the year to click through everything just before the end of the fiscal year and clear my name off the training officer’s naughty list.
I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and using part of my telework days to plow through these interminable classes two at a time. I don’t have a rhyme or reason for which ones I take other than working the list from top to bottom… but today turned out to be “drug and alcohol awareness day” at the online training farm.
After two hours of checking this particular box, I’m left to wonder how these dumbass training requirements don’t send us all down the path of reckless drug and alcohol use.
As anyone who reads regularly will know by now, I’m employed by a large, mostly faceless bureaucracy. It’s an organization that seemingly runs on creating vast new (mandatory) training programs that suck up massive amounts of time without delivering much return on the investment. In my experience, it’s all just another box to be checked to satisfy some arcane requirement of law, regulation, or policy.
Coming soon to an auditorium near us is a new one hour feature focused on Mandatory Training on Big Faceless Bureaucracy Policy on Service of Transgender Persons. Look, I get that it’s the current trendy topic for those fighting the culture wars. There are whole offices in the bureaucracy dedicated to taking such things very, very seriously.
I think I’ve been clear and consistent in my message that I don’t personally care who you sleep with, what you wear, or even what restroom you use (as long as you conform to the gentleman’s agreement that urinals are a no talking zone). I don’t want to have a long, meaningful discussion about how you “self-identify.” Frankly I’m just not interested enough to spend any more than a passing moment thinking about it at all.
I was born in the late 1970s and got my raising in a small Appalachian coal town. I have no doubt that most of my foundational beliefs were built right there along the banks of George’s Creek. Saying that was a simpler time and place doesn’t do it justice. Despite those core beliefs, the ones I live by personally, I’ve never found myself one to believe that my way has to be the only way.
With that said, I’m still a little sad that I’m going to be a part of the last generation who remembers when two genders defined by your junk was enough for just about everyone. If things were still so simple, it would get me out of about 20 hours of mandatory training over the last half of my career… because at this point, minimizing the amount of time I have to spend checking boxes is kind of a career priority of mine.
I got my annual reminder today that I had successfully completed almost none of my mandatory online training for 2016. Training is important, or so we’ve been told. It’s so important that in at least one instance I successfully completed the exact same training module once a year from 2007-2016. Yay Constitution Day Training!
I spent two years earning a teaching degree and another two and a half years actually doing it. I’m a voracious reader and self-educate on any number of topics. You don’t need to convince me of the importance of training or education. With that being said, if you want me to think of it as a priority, perhaps you might consider changing up your program of instruction once or twice in a decade. No matter how fine a narrative I consider a book like Team of Rivals, it ceases to become informative if I read it every year and can predict with near 100% accuracy what’s going to appear on the next page.
On the other hand, if the intent is to simply make sure that one of the multitude of annual training requirement boxes is checked off before time expires, well the powers that be are doing a fine job of course development and instruction. When I know that’s the goal, I can box check with the best of them.
1. Your iPad is not a video camera. Just because it has that capability doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to whip out your tablet computer and start swinging it around trying to catch the perfect shot. They make small hand held devices specifically for that purpose. In a pinch, catching a quick video clip with your phone is even a perfectly acceptable solution in most cases. The only things that really happen when you hoist your iPad over your head to catch that unmissable moment are: 1) You get bad quality video and audio recording of an event that’s allegedly important to you; 2) People behind you can’t see what’s going on; and 3 (and I can’t stress this one enough) You look like a total douchenozzle. It’s still a relatively free country and I can’t stop you from doing it, but you just shouldn’t want to.
2. I’m not a wizard. As I’ve stated previously and often, I can do it all, but I cannot do it all at once. I like to think that’s more a simple function of the linear nature of time rather than a personal failing on my part. You, of course, are free to disagree with that assessment. With that being said, one of the things you need to know is if you give me something to do, then tell me that I am required to go sit in a four hour long meeting, the thing you wanted me to get done will not be complete 30 minutes after the end of that meeting. I’m many things, but a wizard is not one of them. That’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s unfortunately true. I would love to be all things to all people, but so long as I continue to be given the opportunity to spend half the day in meetings that preclude doing any actual productive work, I’m afraid that’s just not going to be possible. The decisions about where I go or what I’m focused on are largely out of my own control, so sorry I’m not sorry.
3. Climbing over people in the middle of a ceremony is not acceptable. If you arrive late to a ceremony or event and things are already underway when you wander in, there really are only two acceptable courses of action: 1) Stand quietly in the back and wait for an intermission or other pause in the action to take your seat; 2) Find an open seat somewhere on the periphery and put your ass in it. What you shouldn’t do is show up two thirds the way through the event and climb over top of people who have been sitting respectfully like decent fucking human beings to get to a spot “your people” have been “saving” for you since twenty minutes before things started. What you really, really shouldn’t do is then climb back out over top of these same people after your special snowflake has been recognized and interrupt everyone within earshot for the second time in ten minutes. You my dear, inconsiderate woman, like your friend with the iPad, are a total douchenozzle.
I’d hate to calculate how many hours of training I’ve sat through over the last thirteen years. Only occasionally, when it was hosted in such exotic locations as Tampa or Dallas, have I ever voluntarily inflicted such opportunities on myself. Far more often it’s a statutory or regulatory requirement or worse drawing the short straw as a seat filler. Occasionally you can draw off some nugget of useful information, but more often it’s a study in watching the clock creep from one hour to the next.
Like so many other meetings, the first question asked by the would-be trainer should be “Can I convey this information in an email?” If the answer to that question is in the affirmative, you should write the email and forget about the training. If the answer is no, you may proceed with your planned training, but understand that anything of value or importance should be covered before 11AM, by which time all but a handful of the most dedicated and/or fanatical people will have stopped paying attention anyway.
Trainers tend to take this disinterest personally. They shouldn’t, because it has almost nothing to do with them or even with their content. You could be talking to me about the next sure fire way to make a million in the market and if you haven’t gotten to your point in the first three hours I’m going to lose interest. That’s just the way it is. I’ll most likely be polite and not focus all my attention on my phone. I’ll probably even nod at appropriate intervals and because of my years of practice I can probably even materially contribute to the conversation just based on whatever I’ve managed to overhear while most of my brain was otherwise occupied. It’s a skill, but not one anyone ever talks about.
But there it is. I’ve done my duty. Attended the training. Checked off another box. And as a reward, I don’t get any new knowledge, but I do get to look forward to trying to cram two days worth of work into a Tuesday and who doesn’t like that?
1. Denali. Humans have been changing the names of places basically forever. In parts of the world that have been continuously populated for thousands of years it’s happened a lot. That’s why there isn’t currently a Sumerian city-state called Ur in southern Mesopotamia. That place is now called Tell el-Muqayyar and is located in southern Iraq. Five thousand years from now it seems pretty unlikely that it’s going to matter whether in 2015 there was a mountain in Alaska called Denali or Mt. McKinley. It seems to me that both sides are wasting a good deal of breath on something that just doesn’t really matter all that much.
2. Annual Training. Every new fiscal year starts the clock on the approximately 47,632 annual mandatory training requirements I’m supposed to take. Every year, I’m determined not to procrastinate in taking them. Every year I somehow find myself well into September and realizing that I’ve done none of them. Yes, it’s my fault that I procrastinated on checking those boxes… but perhaps if there weren’t quite so many that need checked I wouldn’t feel the need to avoid them for as long as humanly possible.
3. Do your damned job. If you’re hired to do a job and find that the requirements of the position demand something that that violates your moral or ethical code, honor demands that you resign from that position. Honor doesn’t demand that you make a spectacle of yourself by simply not doing the job (while continuing to draw salary). If your moral sensibilities aren’t troubled enough that you need to resign in protest, then they aren’t really troubled and all you’re trying to do is get your face on television. At that point you’re not a martyr to the cause, you’re a self-aggrandizing douchecanoe.