Dedication to Yourself
I’m not good at training people. I know it.
I have the patience of Job (whoever that aptly named fellow was) but when it comes to dealing with trainees, gods help me. I’d rather just slit my wrists and call it a day.
It’s not that the trainees are all terrible; some are downright gifted individuals...okay, maybe a few are downright gifted. But at least most are well meaning.
The problem is my own gravitation towards intense foci of stress.
I’ve lived in high stress environments most of my life. It’s a bit like living in deep water, where the pressure is so great you have to acclimate slowly before you can surface. Or like living on a high gravity planet, and suddenly shifting to a lower gravity and reminding yourself not to punch things too hard.
Then somebody hands me these poor little low gravity surface dwellers and it’s like trying not to squish the stress toy to where its eyes bulge out.
I do try - I don’t yell, scold, scream, or pressure them. I go over the tasks, show them what I do (that’s usually where eyes start to bulge, so I try to go slow), and then show them what they should focus on. I offer criticism as constructively as possible and use lots of calming, positive reinforcement verbage to try and coax them along.
I keep my interior monologue to myself. I don’t choke anybody. I don’t rip out my hair or scream at people. I may go punch a bag really hard at the end of the day.
Because it’s so very, very hard to watch someone go through tasks you could do faster yourself. But you can’t do it yourself, because they need to learn and eventually you can’t run the office alone. You have to recognize this and repeat this mantra a lot. Any help is better than none. If you can’t get a full time hero take a part time side kick. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Which becomes the biggest obstacle of all: Telling them it’s OK when they can see they’re not doing the best.
I’ve worked mainly in shipping and construction - shit goes wrong. A lot. Sometimes it’s avoidable, other times it’s just what happens. Mistakes are made, accidents happen, deadlines are shot. Upper management of course hates it all, and there will always be ample customer screaming to the point where both sides conspire to roast you on a spit. There’s rarely a moment where you can do everything right and the world appreciates you. There’s always a dozen more moments where it’s wrong and it’s all your fault.
It’s these moments that threaten to kill fresh new recruits, particularly the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed ones that spent all their years overachieving in school. Managers love to hire these types because they’ll work their guts out and probably take the place of two less motivated workers. In school effort generally pays off; in the workplace, it’s not the same guarantee. Your best effort can still result in failure and reprisal, and the reward for hard work is usually just more work. That’s the way it goes.
I know, because I died this way a lot. I am essentially a revenant of the overachieving child I once was. Part of the pain in training is seeing the ghost of yourself in the untested eyes of those you’re about to send to slaughter. In these moments, it’s actually the slacker trainees that drive people nuts that I am the most thankful for - because honestly, they’re the ones who have it right. I don’t worry that they’ll go home torn up about what happened, because they’re so distracted they won’t remember or care. I don’t worry that they’ll develop ulcers, or lose sleep, or gain thirty stress pounds. The air in their heads provides the perfect insulation against the frigid reality of the workplace.
God bless these idiots.
Honestly if I could teach anything to school-aged kids it would be that dedication only to the task at hand doesn’t matter. Be dedicated to yourself. When you recognize that regardless of effort the same result comes about then it makes more sense to pull back from throwing in your all to throwing in enough to get it done. Don’t put the vehicle in its top gear when you’re doomed to grind uphill.
And remember - it’s OK. Always. The shipment can get lost, the install can go wrong, the customer can throw a hissyfit and never come back. The world will go on. Honest. There will be other customers to piss off another day. The boss could fire you but again they’ll just have to train up another fool who will likely do the same thing.
If you can handle that, then I can handle showing you the ropes because I know you won’t hang yourself on them.