So, yeah. I made a vow to update more often, and really work on this website in October. And the very first week… I missed two days. Who could’ve seen it coming? I’m usually so consistent.
But, I have a good excuse. I was in a management training class on Thursday and Friday, which ran from 7:30 a.m. (ugh) to 4:30 p.m. Breakfast and lunch were brought into the meeting room, and we were purposely kept together as a group, as much as possible. It was to promote bonding and camaraderie, and that sort of thing…
I’m old as shit, and have been kicking around middle-management at various corporations for most of my adult life. So, I’m no stranger to these types of sessions. But this one was more intense than most.
There were about 20 of us in the class, including VPs and General Managers. Also, there were three people from a sister company, whom none of us knew. I’m not sure how I ended up in there, but it was a gang of heavyweights — intelligent, driven people. And me.
And they put us through some excruciating stuff. By the end, we actually were bonded. I was cynical, of course, but it sorta worked. We were like an Army unit that faced battles together, or a jury that had been sequestered for a long time.
I’m not going to go so far as to say it was life-altering, but it definitely wasn’t a waste of time. I’d never spoken to some of the participants, had never even met a few of them, and now there’s a relationship there. Plus, my weaknesses were underlined with a fat-ass red Sharpie. There’s no ambiguity, none whatsoever.
So, there was genuine value in the exercise. But that doesn’t mean I enjoyed all of it. Some of it made my butt cheeks clinch like some kind of industrial machine. And there were a fair amount of activities that veered close to kookery.
Please join me now as I describe a few of the high points, and also the awfulness we endured. And once I’m finished, I hope you guys have some similar tales to tell: corporate training sessions that stick out in your minds for some reason. Do we have a deal? Let’s get to it, then.
Early on the first day we were told to arrange our chairs in a circle, and all of us had to introduce ourselves and tell everyone our positions in the company, etc. This is standard stuff, but there was a twist. At the end of our statements we were supposed to talk about an event in our lives that “defined” us. WTF??
If I was sitting at 12 o’clock, they started at 3 o’clock and began going around the horn, away from me. Some people talked about health scares, and bouts with cancer. I had nothing, and sat there stressing as the grim reaper got closer and closer. Beads of sweat were trickling down the center of my back. When it was finally my turn I talked about how I’d never really left West Virginia until I was 23, and then spent the next 15 years bouncing all over the country, suddenly willing to take chances.
It wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t cringe-worthy, either. I’d pulled it off, somehow. Holy shit. I needed a beer, at 8:30 in the morning.
I worked Wednesday night, slept for four hours, and went back for the training session on Thursday morning. I was exhausted, and when they were teaching us how to meditate(?!), I kept falling asleep. Not for extended periods, but I’d catch myself drifting off, again and again. At one point I jerked awake, and nearly farted. There was one in the silo, and it almost launched. During a completely-silent meditation session… in a roomful of executives. It was enough to scare me awake for the rest of the day.
On Thursday we had to choose a partner, shake their hand, and say “I appreciate you because…” Then, when you were finished with all the positives, you were made to say, “And I think you could be even more effective if…” And here came the negatives.
I was with some guy I didn’t really know, and we were just bullshitting each other. I mean, what could we say? We’d barely spoken in the past. But the instructor said, “Do it again, with somebody else!” And again.
Eventually I found myself with someone who told me – in a nice way – that my personality needs some work. “You’re intelligent and talented, but you need to be more dynamic. People see you as stand-offish and distant, even weird.”
Weird?! Wow, that stung. Not because it was a surprise, but because it was something I’ve always been concerned about. It was confirmation of a thing I didn’t want to be true. People think I’m a goddamned weirdo freak. Fantastic.
There were dozens of exercises and games, and most were interesting and fun. And, thankfully, nobody was forced to pontificate in front of the group again. It was all voluntary… until the very end.
During the last hour of the second day, we sat in a circle again (gawd, how I hated the circle!), and each of us had to walk out into the middle, one by one. Then, if anyone wanted to publicly tell you why they appreciate you, they’d raise their hand. You’d choose two, and they’d each stand up, join you in the middle, and say, “Jeff, I appreciate you because…” In front of everyone.
As the instructor was describing what was about to happen, I felt like I might pass out. It was an introvert’s worst nightmare. What the hell, man?! What was the meaning of this crap?! All this appreciation?? I wondered if I could somehow sneak out. This promised to be even more painful than the “what defines you” episode. I was genuinely concerned nobody would raise their hand when I walked out into the spotlight. Or worse, they’d feel sorry for me and feed me some charity compliment (“I like your belt.”). My heart was racing with some kind of primal panic from way down deep.
But it was OK. Both people seemed sincere enough, and it wasn’t the debacle I’d feared. But I was spent, and awash in perspiration by the end of that thing. Everybody claimed to have come to some tough realizations during those two days, and I was certainly there with them (weirdo!).
And so, it wasn’t easy and several times I was forced outside my comfort zone. Some of it was ridiculous, like the meditation and breathing exercises. But, I learned a few things, gained a new perspective on stuff, and have some clearly defined areas where I can work to improve. I assume that was the goal, right?
So, there you are. Have you ever gone through anything like that? Do you have any stories to share about especially memorable corporate training classes, or motivational sessions? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section below.
And I’ll see you guys again next time.
Have a great day!
Now playing in the bunker
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what were your weaknesses?
Besides my off-putting personality? Apparently I’m too willing to accept the status quo, and simply react to problems. I need to be better at suggesting improvements, instead of just rolling with it.
I appreciate Lucas’ enthusiasm and an area he could improve in is not typing “first.”
in 11 or 12 years…. I’ve been first 5 times. FUCKYEAH!
I appreciate you for your willingness to comment and an area where you could improve is counting.
jim britton says
Sounds like my idea of hell…
Mine is that I’m definatly NOT a team player. It’s just not who I am. I *TRY* to be, but I fail at it.
There’s no “I” in team – but there’s an “m” and an “e”.
I like that. Consider it stolen from you and going into my rotation.
Not only is there an “m” and an “e” in team, there is “t” & “a”. I love me some T & A.
I’ve been out of the business world for a few years now, so that crap is a distant memory.
But recently I learned through our corporate website that 500 senior and middle managers spent a day doing this kind of crap at a downtown hotel. There were pictures of managers doing yoga in a giant ballroom.
I work in an urban trauma center. We’re under equipped (ICU monitors are from the early 80’s, no shit), under supplied and under staffed. 300 jobs were lost this summer, and we stopped accruing vacation time for a quarter in order to avoid more pay cuts or layoffs.
I can’t imagine what it cost to feed 500 managers at a hotel and pay for the room for a day. The fact that we have enough auditorium seats and teleconferencing equipment to do it all on site apparently wasn’t important.
I’m glad I filled out my employee survey right after I saw those pics.
The same bunch of bastards announced that we were going to be sold to another company shortly. The “good news” was that the new owners were impressed and had decided to keep all the senior management in place.
Well thank Christ, I was worried about those poor mother f’ers and their golden fucking parachutes.
Well, now that I’m all wound up I guess I’ll go to work.
At my last hospital (hospital upper management is their own breed of awful), right after we were told we would not be getting cost of living raises again and there was a hiring freeze there was a huge spread in the local town magazine about the CEO’s beach house. Assholes.
Even though you are standofish and weird, you know how I know your in management? =-)
I suppose if I was the oddball in the group I’d be tagged the abrasive serial killer silently plotting in the back. I hate these sort of things–It’s none of their damn buisness what I did, or do in my personal life.
Seriously, the crap that’s life-changing isn’t usually the stuff you want co-workers or higher-ups to know about. I think I just would’ve walked out and cut my losses.
My skin is crawling just reading this. Everybody is anti-bully, anti-cyberbully, anti-meta-bully, but no one cares about forcing truly introverted people into doing things like this program, all in the name of leadership or team building or somesuch. A pox on all of ’em!
Seconded. Introversion is not always a negative quality, ‘Murica!
Swami Bologna says
My god, your description of those two days in Hell were horrifying. As a fellow introvert (who has actually made great strides to “fit in” to the extrovert word over the past 30 years), I feel your pain.
And don’t forget, it’s the “weirdos” who make the world interesting. I seriously doubt that any of those non-weirdos at the session have ever done anything creative in their lives like publishing a humor novel or maintaining a blog whose updates are eagerly anticipated by hundreds (thousands, perhaps?) of people each day.
Swami Bologna says
“extrovert world’ not “word.” Damn, I hate typos with a passion.
Good fucking god. I’ve only ever had small, brief experiences in the management or big corporate worlds. I’ve supervised a few technicians here and there, and worked for about a year at a company that was a small sucker at the end of one of the tentacles of Northrup Grumman. But I am grateful never to have been subjected to anything like this.
beth heater says
Several years back, the company I worked at took some sales and mgmt staff to a motivational seminar at the civic center. There were some big name speakers like rudy guilani (spelling?) and many others. Zig ziglar was there with his daughter. Apparently he had only long term memory due to a fall. He would launch into his speech, then halfway through, start over. His daughter would then interrupt and prompt him to start back where he was. This happened the whole time he spoke. In the end I just felt really bad for him.
Dirk Diggler is a motivational speaker?
I was in management at a company who did that quarterly. As an example, they hired this guy, to motivate us with his powerful Impossible Dream performance. Here it is, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUAXIn3ZtIQ. I wasn’t able to make eye contact with anyone during the performance. I was afraid I’d lose it if I did.
I found it rather disturbing that Willie Jolley appeared to be missing the top of his head through most of this video. Either that, or he has a flat head.
Phil Jett says
About six years ago we got a new VP for our division who had attended some similar shit and fell in love with it. She then decided all of her underlings, about 200 of us, would also do the same thing in groups of about 10-15. The first step was to complete a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory . I was forced to do one of those earlier in my career as a part of some leadership training. Hated it.
This time I took it and answered all the questions completely opposite of how I would if I thought this was worth a shit. Then when you show up in the class they have all these colored ribbons and tags you are supposed to wear, toys on the desks, pipe cleaners and other bullshit that you can play with during the session. The intro stated the course was going to help you decide what you want to do with your career and how to make your job and the jobs of co-workers better.
I lasted until the first break, told the instructor that I was over 50 and knew what my career was going to be and what I how my job could be better. Pay me more. I walked out and told my boss (probably the best I’ve ever had) I was not going back. He told me to go back to work and that he would handle the issue with his boss.
Never heard another word about it except from my co-workers who bitched about me getting out of attending it.
I’m stand-offish, distant and weird and I think that’s what people like about me the most. They can tell I don’t need their approval nor do I want them for a friend. They’re off the hook for making a judgment call about my shenanigans or think they might have to hang out with me.
I went on one of these that was really good. It was in England, so a big part of the team building was based around getting shitfaced together, but my favorite exercise was 2 teams trying to transmit messages from one hilltop to another about 2 miles apart using bedsheets and binoculars. Do semaphore basically. It was a lot of fun. Half the group was taught to SCUBA and then they had to teach to other half (trust building I guess).
And all the free drink 🙂
Free drink rules. I miss the Extron party at Infocomm. That’s a trade show; Extron is one of the many manufacturers we sell. They used to, and many others still do, throw parties for their dealers at the trade show. Taxicabs rule too.
‘team building’ = two words that make me shudder.
All of it.
I went to one of those team building meetings years ago. One of the excercise’s was passing a ball across the ‘circle’, and say that person’s name as it was passed. The goal was for each person to get the ball only once, and we were timed.
The big big big regional kept passing it to one of my co-workers, but used my name. I felt so sorry for that other gal, cause the regional didn’t know who she was.
It finally dawned on me that she didn’t know who I was either.
Well, that’s my idea of a hell-hole of a day. in my opinion, the winner of the whole thing is the company that orchestrates this bullshit having made a sale to your company. But you say that there were positives, so what do I know?
Some time ago I applied at a company, and the application had on the last page some of those questions that drive me nuts, like “In five years, where do you see yourself?” If I answered honestly, it would be, “Not working for other people”, or, more probably, “Settling for working for your company, in spite of my dis-satisfaction”, or “Who the hell knows?” Thinking my work history could speak for itself, I thought fuck it and left those questions blank. Since I didn’t get a call-back, maybe I should have answered them. Anyone, for next time: What is the response they are looking for?
Joe T. says
Great post! The meditation paragraph had me in tears with laughter. Weirdo.
Holy shit. I feel your pain . I was forced into a new job in July and I’m miserable. The worst part is my manager keeps saying that this is good for me. How the fuck does she know what is good for me? They fired a shitload if people and were up shit creek to fill the spot they shoved me I. Good for me my ass.
Ugh. I’ve ranted about various “experts” telling us to sellout our introverted selves before. Why doesn’t anyone understand that there are different labels of introversion. I’m no hermit, and I can carry on or initiate a conversation with a stranger if needed. Why don’t Americans like quiet people? Why do we all have to be loud ass extroverts? There’s enough of that shit on TV.
As for evaluations, etc., I never got it right. One department said I was too quiet, but did my work extremely well. I was transferred to another department and was told that I was quite the extrovert, but didn’t do my work well at all. I am now apparently an unemployed introverted extrovert. Fuck managers.
The company I’m at had similar stuff during orientation. Not bad, not great. Basically they would go over company policy then each table would be given props to do a skit and demonstrate what we learned. It was ok. I don’t shy away from shit like that.
The best question (Oh there are stupid questions) of the day was when some kid asked how much his salary could eventually be. I wish they would have told him zero, now get the hell out dummy.
OH. And did anyonw think that Miley did a pretty good job on SNL the other night? I thought the whole thing was pretty solid. And there was a midget playing guitar.
John Smith says
I did a thing like that called The Forum, based on the 70’s EST thing. Lot’s more intense though. I got laid so much after that it was unbelievable.
My personality is much like yours Jeff. Fortunately I work in a small company where they know my strengths and ride them. Just slide work and raw meat under the door and I will amaze you. Put me in one of those circles and the thing I would appreciate about someone would be that they were worthless and weak. The area they would need to improve on would be their self image.
I’ve had to go to those things before too. We’ve even done the handshake thing. But they called it the “Elevator Evaluation”. They described it as though you were giving each other an evaluation over the course of a 5 minute elevator ride.
Aside from the fact that we were apparently riding an elevator to Mars, I didn’t really take any issue with the exercise.
People did take the opportunity to tell me that I seemed mean, or condescending, or that people didn’t go to me for help unless they had to. I remember thinking, “Okay, but you are supposed to tell me something I can improve on.”
I’m mean, big fucking deal. Mean people don’t care if they are mean. That’s your problem.
Sort of related to the “mean” part, if you didn’t act like a half retarded 7 year old with no arms below the elbow and needed help with every damn thing that is your job and not mine, I probably wouldn’t talk to you like an idiot.
Now the last one is the one I really don’t see a problem with. People don’t come to me unless they have to. Good. Why else would somebody come to me? Do people usually go to others just for shits and giggles, and to pawn off work on someone else? Of course I don’t want you coming to me if you don’t have to. Do it your own damn self if you can? You don’t see me going to others just because I need some fucking company? Telling me this will only reinforce my behavior of being mean and condescending, you idiot.
If you want to give me a negative then tell me how my schedules are late and the formatting on my spreadsheets slows down the process. If the worst thing you can come up with is my personality, then shut up and go away.
I hate the circles. I much prefer square sitting positions. That way you can hide near a corner. I hate introductions. I know ever person on the installation that I need to know, none of you other bastards matter. I don’t care that your name is Kerri (with a motherfuckin’ “I”) and that your work in personnel. Why are you here instead of at your desk fucking up someone’s pay.
I hate that, even though a lot of these stupid things address the different types of personalities, they do everything they can to appeal to only the most bubbly, bright eyed, outgoing type there is. That’s why stupid people excel at these things; they are being specifically appealed to.
I tell the bosses two levels up of people I appreciate and the boss one level up that the person is fucking up.
If I am your boss, then you know I appreciate you because I keep giving you stuff to do. If you are a fuck up, then I won’t let you touch a damn thing. And I’m probably working on getting you fired. You know what your job is, I told you when you first got here; fucking do it.
I’m curious, Ron Swanson, what is it that you do?
First of all, calling me Ron Swanson is a great compliment.
I work for the government. in fact, I think all you guys just paid me for some vacation last week. I hate the government.
I work in the Commanding General’s senior staff at a major military installation in Arizona. My major responsibilities are saving money and fixing problems.
It was meant as a compliment. I love ron swanson and nick offerman is pretty awesome also.
Classic answer. Q: “What do you do?” A: “I work for the government”.
I went to school with Ron Swanson. Possibly not the same Ron Swanson you’re talking about.
And I’m hear to help.
You can’t spell “team” without “meat”.
MiniPeds in NOLA says
I had one of these little “retreats” at the home of one of our AVPs when I worked in Human Resources. Nothing like opening up to those around you who absolutely have the ability to fire you on the spot. I think I smiled like a chimpanzee all day and drank a fifth of vodka when I got home.
At another one recently they made us do Zumba in a room of over 1,000 people. For easily 5 minutes. I was waiting for one of the 30-year career housekeepers to drop dead of a heart attack.
Ozzie Bucco says
As a corporate drone many years ago, I was subjected to myriad programs like the one Jeff mentioned. We HAD to attend such things as diversity seminars, sexual harassment seminars and the worst was 360 feedback, where you get feedback on your job from those below you, above you and contemporaries. Talk about a major pucker factor. The worst had to be TDF training, a major boondoggle where your mental processing was analyzed by the order in which you Thought, Decided and Felt. A nightmare.