When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Moment of Humility

There's nothing quite like a moment when you realize you were wrong--either saying something incorrectly, or socially stepping out of bounds--to bring about a sense of humility. I realized this today after an disturbing day at work. It wasn't disturbing because things were horrific, but I did get my eyes opened up quite a bit as to my own behavior. I found that I was spending too much time judging others and complaining about things that didn't go my way than I should have spent minding my own Ps & Qs. Perhaps a little background is in order.

I got a job (finally!), but it's a temporary contract (of course!) with a consulting company. I thought I was hired as a classroom trainer to teach a software program to the employees at the client company. There are 3 companies involved in the mix: my company (the trainers), the software company that built the system, and the client (a large hospital system that has their own MIS department who seems to have a hand in building the system as well). I went into the project assuming that I would have to answer to my company, as they are the ones paying me. So far, the software company has had very little interaction with my team (the trainers and our coordinators, who are all paid by the same consulting company). However, there is a lot of conflicting information coming down to us as we teach the classes. Our manager sends down information, sometimes to all of us, sometimes just to our coordinators. On top of that, the manager of the project at the hospital is giving us directives. On top of THAT, the MIS team at the hospital feels the need to dictate things to us about how we teach the classes. My biggest problem is that I can honestly see the world through all of these different lenses. I understand why they are all involved in telling us what to do. I even understand why they feel the need to tell us what they do (when they feel like telling us directly instead of expecting us to read their minds). Unfortunately, this doesn't make it any more palatable. It's a little disquieting when we are told to teach the classes in our own personal style on one hand, and then told to not make any improvisations or adjustments to the classes on the other hand. I can adapt to either demand, but not at the same time. I'm feeling like a chameleon being asked to match a plaid pattern. Maybe I'm missing something in the instructions.

When I joined I was afraid that I would be the baby on the project. On my first day, which was one to two weeks after the rest of the team started, we introduced ourselves and stated our experiences. In the whole room, I felt that I was the only one for whom this was "my first rodeo" because, though my education in I/O psychology trained me in the science and theory of corporate training (among other things in the workforce), I never actually had a job to do any consulting or corporate training. I also have no experience working with hospitals. The training team consists of people who have trained professionally in software, law enforcement, and/or clinical electronic systems. The team also had many people who had experience with this hospital system directly or who had clinical backgrounds themselves. I truly felt that I would have to fight to prove myself in the arena. I was worried that they would drop me early on, and I think they felt the same way. The original consulting manager actually asked me what I was doing there! I got a couple calls from my recruiter at the company in my first week that sounded as if she expected me to jump ship immediately because I didn't belong! It hurts just thinking about it. For two weeks I was tossed around from team to team as they tried to decide to which of the seven sites to send me. It felt like no one wanted me on their team because everything was already decided before my hiring paperwork was completed and I was seen as just another useless warm body thrown into the mix.

We went through two weeks of training as we learned the system ourselves so that we could teach it to the employees at the hospital. The truth is, our "training" was more like beta-testing the software and the training materials they hospital staff was developing for the end-users. I quickly proved that I could learn the information and teach it back. I may even have become something of a teacher's pet. That was not my intention. I am always hungry to learn new things and when I learn something I want to share it. I may not get something immediately, but as an INTJ, I sometimes have to have things sit in the back of my mind before the flashes of insight come through and I make the connections. Unfortunately, I fear I started to appear as too much of a know-it-all to many of the rest of the team. One of the trainers actually snapped at me when we were told that we were supposed to be training in the first week when we thought the SMEs were supposed to be teaching. I don't remember exactly what I said, maybe I had too much confidence in my knowledge because I did pipe up to help out in the super user class that day. He said something about not everyone learning the information completely like I did. He quit the next day. After today, I started looking back on my experiences during our training. I see now that moments in which I thought I was being helpful by answering questions that others had were actually moments in which I should have kept my mouth shut and let the "right person" answer the question. I received a good number of dirty looks any time I tried to help someone else. I realize it was not my place. The ones training us were supposed to answer ALL questions; it was not my place to help anyone. I step on too many toes at times, even if I think I'm helping, sometimes even if all I'm doing is being confident.

Today I was called away from my original assignment to teach a major class at another site. We have a couple of one-hour classes for techs and their managers, a couple of two-hour classes for specific departments, and one five-hour class for the group who will probably be using the software more than anyone else. This last one is the one I consider to be the major class. I honestly felt like I was coming to the rescue of the site, and that's how the request was relayed to me, by coming to teach the five-hour class. When I got there, though I was told that I was "in charge" because it was my class, I got the distinct feeling that I was an invader into their space. There were three "trainers" (I use the term loosely) from the team there already. The problem is that they all refused to teach the class. I was told that one of them actually pitched a little fit about teaching the entire five hours; she has a background as a performer. Despite the fact that another one constantly reminds everyone that she has 19 years of nursing experience and she is (not was, but IS) a professor, she wouldn't step up to teach the class either. I interpreted that as a lack of knowledge or confidence in the software, so when I thought she was struggling a little in showing a student how to do something I stepped in to help so that I could get the class back on track (we were waiting for that one student to catch up). This experienced "professor" nurse got peeved and stormed out of the classroom. I humbly apologized when we had a break because I realized that I stepped over a line. She explained her feelings, throwing in the obligatory "professional" and "professor" references, and I said "yeah, that's why I'm apologizing." I realized my mistake and I was atoning for it. She didn't seem satisfied that she couldn't slap me around and teach me a lesson because I already learned it myself.

I didn't even say anything when the other trainer (the one who refused the teach the class, the performer) interjected so much towards the end that she started to take the class away from me. I let her have her say. My toes can take a lot of stepping, apparently. The third trainer, whose background was in education and developing training systems, was running the slide show and showing things live in the software for me because the projector & laptop were in the middle of the room. I wondered why he wasn't teaching the class, but he ended up leaving before it was over, so that might explain it. There were many times, unfortunately, when he spent time helping the student sitting next to him, so the whole class had to stop because he was supposed to be driving but was acting as proctor instead. Afterward, he sent a message to the team asking about logging into the laptops because they (at the site) always let the students log in with whatever they want and I started my set-up by using the generic MIS log on that we were told to use in all our classes to get into Windows. I apparently offended him by doing this type of set-up. Again, I felt like I was perceived as an invader. I didn't want to be seen as a hero (that's insulting to any true professional), but I would have liked to be allowed to run the show I was asked to run my way.

I don't know if this group felt insulted that I came in to do their job. They asked me if I needed anything. They told me they would help out however I asked. Then they were not happy that I was confident and capable enough to run most of the show myself. Miss "professor" even interrupted me, quite embarrassingly, at the beginning of the class, telling me how to demonstrate things so the students wouldn't get lost. I didn't bite off her head, though I know many others on my team who would have. I did make a mental note later when I quietly shushed the whole class to get us back on track because too many side conversations were popping up and the small room was growing too loud. Miss "professor" had the gall to say "who's shushing?!" I guess she was offended that the person teaching the class would dare to get it under control again.

So, where does the humility (and the positive lesson) come in to play? So far it sounds like all I'm doing is ranting (and not getting any work done for tomorrow). Well, after some soul-searching and a lot of self-evaluation, I have come to the conclusion that I complain about this job too much to the people who have this job. I have started to become THAT person--the person who complains so much that everyone wonders why they keep coming to work. I don't want to be THAT person. I have always tried to squash those thoughts. When other co-workers complained about the job I tried to listen, but quietly envision what another side of the story might be. I am still doing that a little bit with this project, but I'm finding myself soaking up the toxicity too much lately, agreeing with the complaints, launching too many of my own, listening to and spreading gossip, perhaps not giving the sympathetic ear that people expect from me as often. Therefore, going forward, I'm not going to complain about anything about the job. I'm not going to whine or imagine that unforeseen circumstances or last-minute changes are the end of the world. I am going to truly roll with the punches, take everything in stride, keep my fool mouth shut. This contract will be over soon enough and I will once again be unemployed before I know it. It's not worth my soul to fit in with everyone and their complaints. I'm putting on my turtle shell, eating my humble pie, doing everything a good little soldier should do, and saying nothing to anyone about anything. I have been slapped with humility and, like the Blessed Mother, I will keep all these things in my heart but I won't speak of them to the people involved.

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