I wrote this a long, long time ago in another lifetime when I was working in a British university. Training days are now a thing of the past.
So, great. Another Training Day for the office. A day, when, according to the Office Administrator, we can get together and learn to be a team. This is despite the fact that I hardly see any of my colleagues, imprisoned as I am, in the ex photocopier room, in a sort of salaried solitary confinement situation.
We all have to clear our diaries and decamp to hotel out of town where we will be trained to be a team as if we were a bunch of performing seals or monkey’s or poodles or something more demeaning. And of course the ringmaster in all of this is an Australian. Well, it had to be, didn’t it? I mean who else would charge 500 quid a day to get out of their Combi and stand in front of 15 or so bored individuals all looking out at the golf course wishing they were somewhere else – even work. I guess, for the Ozzie, it’s better than serving drinks behind the bar.
First it’s coffee and Danish with everybody standing around trying to make small talk, trying to find a common theme that’s not bitching about being here because the boss is here too. He's trying to be friendly and make friends. Jovially moving around each group, staying for just long enough with each group so that we all feel touched by his presence and joviality.
In an attempt to give us something in common, apart from bitching about the job, the last training day was Bracken Bashing. No, this wasn’t torturing little bunnies last seen in the Duncton Wood novels, but a ‘fun’ day out ‘volunteering’ on Dartmoor. The fact that none of us were asked if we wanted to volunteer is beside the point. What Bracken Bashing is, is going up onto the Moor, with some worthy preservation organisation, and with a big bamboo stick bashing bracken, it does what it says on the can. Apparently this is the only way to control bracken, but for the life of me I can’t see why a helicopter and a supply of selective weed killer wouldn’t do as well.
We spent a few hours bashing bracken which is meant to engender a team spirit whereas all it seemed to do was engender blisters on the hand. I did notice that the preservation guys all had thick leather gloves, so they didn’t get blisters – I guess they thought that by comparing the size and the severity of the blisters with each other it would be a bonding exercise for us.
So back to the training day.
For the 500 quid fee Ozzie, got us to pick postcards out a pile that most resembled how we felt about the work we were doing. Unfortunately for me they had none of Alcatraz, or Colditz, or Eeyore. Then he made us shuffle about and get in groups to draw a shield to represent the strengths of the department, all of this peppered by pseudo-psychobabble of the most inane sort.
In the afternoon we did the fun stuff – building models out of office rubbish – I mean, what? Then we had to come up with an explanation that suggested that our place of work was GREAT! And we all worked as a TEAM! And in the future we were all going to be more TEAMY! By discussing our work day problems with each other and sharing work across the department – yeah right.
I guess the day was successful as most of us (higher echelons precluded) were united in our scorn and disbelief (obvious only done in whispers in corners and not being overheard) of the whole damn thing.
But what wimps are we. At the end of the day Ozzie gets a vote of thanks, the boss praises all our good work. We give a round of applause, all smiley, smiley. How spineless hey – but at last we were united as a team in our hatred of the boss and the trainer from that land down under.
At least it was a day out and we got lunch.