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January 7th, 2009

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02:05 am
This here post escaped from a work filter way back from when I actually bothered to put things in work filters. In the interest of seeing how things were four years ago, I've decided to repost it here for those who never got a chance to read it the first time around. I am still marvelling at how SMRT I was back then.

January 24, 2005
In Which Pooh Bear Makes The Training Exercise His Bitch

We had one of those special Training Exercises at work today, where you're supposed to learn an Object Lesson in Cooperation and Teamwork or somesuch froo-frah. You know, the kind that HR people just love to throw at you during Corporate Retreats at the Outly Bound Cooperation Course, only we were inside and didn't have a spare tire to get up on a 20-foot pole.

It started when Dave, our trainer, dragged the heavy conference table into the center of the room. "Okay, everybody," he said, "Gather around the table, it's time for a game!" My first reaction was oh god, please, no, not another freakin' trustfall. There was no way we could do trustfalls. There was no way they'd let the temps in the class do trustfalls. There was no way they could even consider themselves even remotely liable for trustfalls.

It wasn't a trustfall.

Dave had us, as a group of 12, pick the conference table up and hold it up. "Keep the table up, guys!" he said. "Now that the game has started, you can't let the feet touch the floor!"

The premise of the "game" was simple enough. Dave would ask someone in the group a job-related question. If they got it right, they were allowed to let go of the table and sit back down. As you can very well guess, after a few people had gotten right answers and been allowed to split, each person left standing has to take on more and more of the table weight, and we're shifting ourselves around after every correct answer (each correctly answered by a TABLE-SHIRKING BASTARD) so as to make sure the weight is evenly distributed and whatnot. You can pretty much tell the object lessons learned here, about unfairly forcing others to take up the slack when you yourself slack off, about having to shift resources around to carry the entire workload when someone unfairly forces you to take up the slack by slacking off, and to be careful, when putting your hand under a table, to make sure nobody's stuck gum up under there first.

All three of these lessons were learned this evening.

It comes as no surprise that, by the end of the game, the two people left holding the table are me and Reggie. Not only are we the only men in the class, we're also the only people over five-six. Reggie finally gets a question and he gets it right, and it seems pretty clear I'm gonna be the one left holding the, er, table, as it were.

Afterwards, Dave told me he hadn't intended on letting me try to hold the table all by myself. He was going to call everybody back up again to hoist the table so we could all see how triumphant we are as a team or something. But that ending sucks. My ending was much better. Because while Dave is a cool guy and he's smart and all, I am smarter because I am MR CAPTAIN OF THE INTERNET MANS and I also once stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. As Reggie's about to drop his end of the table and run back to his seat, I implore him to just keep holding it a bit longer. He does.

"Dave?" I ask. "We gotta make sure the table feet never touch the ground, right?"

"Yep," Dave says. "That's the rule."

I nod.

"Okay, Reggie, would you help me flip this table over?"

We neatly flip the table over in mid-air and let it land, face-down. All four feet of the table stick straight up in the air.

The class applauds. I take my seat, smiling smugly in the face of all teamwork exercise thinker-uppers everywhere.

Life is good.

(13 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2009 07:49 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2009 09:12 am (UTC)

Documented evidence that you were made of awesome at least as far back as 2005. (Remember, I'm a fairly new recruit to the Loyal Order of Spatch. I'm sure the lodge brothers in better standing know of earlier moments of awesome-ocity.)
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
Oh, a few.

A few.

[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)
Now, a good teamwork type bullshit trainer would use that as a demonstration of "thinking outside the box", "creative thinking", "problem solving", "most effective use of resources" & other such crap as if that was what they wanted you to do in the first place. That too many people just blindly follow the road they've always followed, because that's what they've always done, and it takes someone questioning that instruction to simplify the process & make it easier for everyone.

I should get out of this job, shouldn't I?
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Actually, Dave was a cool guy, and said afterwards he was impressed with the solution (that's when he told me what the original way to end the thing was.) I never got in any kind of smartass trouble for it, which makes me happy. On the other hand, that job found other fun ways to KILL MY SOUL, so perhaps it all evened out karmically.
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
We neatly flip the table over in mid-air and let it land, face-down. All four feet of the table stick straight up in the air.

ANd then mysterious corporate ninjas carried me off to my doom the next dayyyy!

Now, the difference between a good company, and the company I used to work for (JPMorganChase).

Management would look at this and go "Wow. This guy is smart. He's clever, he can think outside of the box. We should keep an eye on him and utilize him effectively, and keep him happy."

In the real world, however, the manager is already coming up with a plan to force you out for showing them up...

[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
(nods) Good for you! I was wondering why y'all didn't do that to start with.

Years ago, at one of these shindigs, the speaker asked everyone to stand with one foot off the ground, so we did. He then asked everyone to stand with both feet off the ground, so I got up on my chair... to find myself the only one up there. Turns out the speaker was trying to make some goofy point about the way impossible requests generate stress. I countered with an equally goofy point about requests seeming impossible because we insist on adding constraints that needn't be there.
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2009 05:12 pm (UTC)
One time, one day, at a previous job I held, they made us do a domino-toppling exercise, where we got into small groups and spent FORTY-SEVEN YEARS setting up dominoes across a gym floor, and glaring at our group members when they accidentally knocked the shit over, causing us to have to start over. It was stoopid.

("Oh yes. We surely do love one another now. HOORAYS!")

(The whole thing would have been improved if we could have done a trustfall and let the event organizer fall onto a bunch of dominoes. On the pointy corner parts.)
[User Picture]
Date:January 7th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
You do the working world proud. I was just thinking about this here post of yours after my boss mentioned the possibility of an "offsite." Mercifully the threat has dissipated and we're just going to have a normal meeting sans shenanigans.
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
I luff you, Mr. SpatchyPants.
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)

An awesome is you!
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2009 04:47 am (UTC)
I am an HR professional and a friend of gee_tar's. I wanted to let you know that I shared this story with my whole HR team. I haven't received responses on it yet, but they're going to blow a gasket laughing.

I think the lesson here is that employees are much too clever for games, and that we do them a disservice by playing them. I'm soooo glad that you found a satisfying work around.
[User Picture]
Date:January 8th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
Because holding up a table will definitely make people who would screw you on a busy work day suddenly realize the error of their ways!


Kudos to you sir, for turning it all around on them! (The moral of your story: the same people will always end up fixing your stupid petty problems after the usual suspects have pissed off.)

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