update: my bombastic coworker is pushing me over the edge

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. I’ve just gone through all the updates that came in, and we have a TON. So starting today, prepare yourself for a flood of updates — multiple updates every weekday for the rest of the month, and at least one each weekend day.

Remember the letter-writer who was in a training class with an incredibly irritating coworker? Here’s the update.

Thank you very much to everyone for your advice as it really helped, and I managed not to murder Cersei.

I emailed Alison on the way home from the second day of training, and the letter wasn’t posted until the fifth day, so a few things happened before the letter was published. Training was broken into modules, and at the end of each you had to fill out an evaluation of that module, including the instructor’s handling of things. They were anonymous so in mine I put that the instructor needed to get a better handle of students going on tangents and even jokingly outright said that they needed to take control before I strangled Cersei.

The next day I came in to see the instructor for the next module, Ned, had mixed around everyone’s nameplates so we were working with new people. Low and behold, my nameplate of Sansa was right next to Cersei. I literally muttered under my breath “oh hell no,” immediately turned around, and went up to Ned. I asked him if I could not sit next to Cersei, and he agreed, switching around a few spots to make it less obvious that I requested it.

Clearly the training team had read my feedback because instantly Ned and Catelyn in their various modules were quicker to cut off and shut down Cersei. Catelyn started telling her “we’re moving on” and, “I’m going to stop you there, Cersei.” With less of a platform to speak, Cersei started to get less and less disruptive. However, just whenever I started to think “maybe Cersei isn’t so bad after all” she would almost immediately say something to me that usually involved shutting my ideas down rather rudely because clearly despite my personal experience in things, I knew nothing.

But as we progressed from product and industry knowledge into the areas of customer service and technology, she got to be less and less of an expert, and I started to be more. For customer service, Cersei deals with clients who book appointments, while I get the retail off the street aspect. She may have more years on me, but due to the higher volume of customers I work with, she and I ended up being rather neck in neck with experience and knowledge.

Then came the tech system training, and boy did the tables turn. I had been training on the system in my location for two weeks already, so I was comparatively an expert on it. I had to recuse myself from answering some of the questions Catelyn asked the class because I not only knew it, but had a notebook filled with detailed notes of every system process broken down step by step. Meanwhile, Cersei was hopeless with technology. She was always lagging behind, couldn’t figure out simple things like how to delete an item, and didn’t understand the explanations no matter how many times and ways they were explained to her.

Unfortunately, I decided to be a kind person and help Cersei a few times. This, coupled with my notebook of awesome, meant that whenever Cersei couldn’t figure something out and Catelyn stepped out of the computer lab for a second, guess what would happen? I would hear the shout of “Sansa! Sansa! Can you help me with this?”

Overall it was a trying few weeks, and a good lesson in not only dealing with difficult people but standing up for myself and giving feedback to higher level people. After seeing the Cersei criticism got results from Ned and Catelyn, I was more confident to take action again. We had a woman, Melisandre, come from HR to show us the time clock system. At the beginning of the lesson she put a chair in the middle of the computer lab and told us all to put our cell phones on it, and then checked each computer that Skype Messenger and Outlook were closed. After the lesson, and a few grumbles from my class, I went up to Catelyn and told her plainly that I didn’t like how Melisandre treated us (there were a few other issues too.) I told her that we were adults, which meant we can be trusted to put our cell phones away and that not even in my junior high drama class were they forced to be put in the middle of the room on a chair where the teacher could see them.

So thank you again to everyone for helping me get through the training sessions. I might have to see Cersei again from time to time, but thank god I’m going to be safe in Winterfell when the wildfire burns the Citadel.

Oh, and to everyone who suggested I look around at my classmates for their reactions of Cersei, you were totally right. I literally caught one person rolling their eyes.

{ 114 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Eulerian

    I’ve been hoping for an update for this one. Glad everything worked out ok and that you didn’t strangle Cersei!

    Reply
  2. Seeking Second Childhood

    Dare I ask how the 2 of you have done on the job in the time since training ended?
    (Ok honestly I’m wondering if Cersei’s attitude has bitten her on the butt or not.)

    Reply
    1. The One With the Bombastic Coworker

      I’ve been doing very well, and have learned a huge amount of stuff about our industry. As mentioned, Cersei works at the Kings Landing location and I work at Winterfell, so I haven’t been able to keep tabs on her. I didn’t see her at the Christmas party (there were a lot of people from my training class there) but according to the organizational chart, Cersei still works with the company. I don’t know how she’s doing, but hopefully she’s mellowed out a bit.

      Reply
  3. Budgie Lover

    “because clearly despite my personal experience in things, I knew nothing.”

    Of all the times it would have been appropriate for the OP to write in with the pseudonym Jon Snow…

    Hope things continue to get better, OP!

    Reply
    1. The One With the Bombastic Coworker

      Dang, I should have called myself Jon Snow. Eh, I thought the Sansa and Cersei relationship was a better match and way to convey our relationship.

      Reply
  4. CleverGirl

    If someone in a training asked me to put my phone in the middle of the room like that I would refuse. That’s ridiculous. My phone is the way people contact me in the case of emergencies and no training is so important I’m not going to pick up if, say, my husband calls me 3x in a row because clearly it’s something urgent at that point.

    Reply
    1. Recent Anon Lurker

      Agreed. I have two people programmed to completely different ring tones from everyone else (hubby and kid’s school) if either of those numbers ring twice I know I need to pick up the second time. Anybody else will wait until training/work is over, and get called back if you left me a voicemail.

      Reply
    2. Bilateralrope

      My phone is linked with far too many personal accounts (eg, banking) for me to be willing to leave it lying on a chair.

      Reply
    3. ..Kat..

      I put my phone on silent (no vibration also) for these kinds of things. I will even turn it completely off. But, my phone stays in my purse. It does not go in a pile somewhere.

      Reply
    4. ceiswyn

      I use my phone to take notes.

      Partway through a training day, I got a censorious ‘OK, please put your phone away now’ from the trainer, and she looked astonished and frankly disbelieving at the idea that I had actually been taking notes on the training; she’d clearly just assumed I was on email/FB.

      Reply
      1. What’s with Today, today

        Honestly, I’d probably assume that too. I trained a recent grad/new hire during the fall that claimed to be using his phone for notes, but I question the truth in that b/c I’d have to call his name 2-3 times to get his attention b/c he was glued to his iPhone. His performance has been terrible. Boss asked me about it a few days ago and I truthfully told Boss he paid more attention to his phone during training than he did to me. Notes or FB, his phone was his focus. Honestly, I’d have loved to tell him to put it elsewhere and in hindsight probably should have because I’m sure his lack of knowledge is reflecting on me (though I’ve been here 11 years and boss knows I’m good at training our new people).

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Shrug. You still don’t know what he was going, and it’s foolish to focus on the phone rather than his performance. Not everyone is good at note-taking. For some people taking notes takes so much attention that they will do EXACTLY what you are describing – I’ve seen it.

          Instead of accusing people of lying, just address the behavior. “You seem more focused on your notes than on the actual content of the class. I had to call your name multiple times. I think you should put your phone away and organize your thoughts after class.”

          And before anyone tells me about how terrible phones have made note-taking, I grew up before laptops existed. And plenty of terrible note-takers existed. On the other hand, there is a reason why in many meetings people are expected to NOT take notes and specially designated *n0n-participant* is assigned to take minutes (ie notes) of the meeting.

          Reply
          1. What’s with Today, today

            My months experience of working with him is influencing my opinions of what was going on. He’s proven himself to be a liar. We’re in the documentation phase of letting him go.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              OK, so you’re saying that this guy is an incompetent liar all around. I’ll take your word for it. But then why would you make any assumptions about anyone else, based on his behavior? He’s an incompetent liar, so any parallels only work with people who you have reason to believe are incompetent liars. If you don’t think they fall into that category, don’t treat them like they are!

              Reply
      2. DArcy

        Yeah, I got that for my former employer’s EMS training course. The instructor politely confronted me over having visibly been on my phone for his whole lecture (in private, on our lunch break. I politely showed him my detailed notes. He asked me not to have my phone out anyway, but made it clear that I wasn’t going to be in trouble since I was legit taking notes.

        Reply
        1. ceiswyn

          I had to show her my notes before she’d believe me as well! Even then she was clearly a bit dubious :/ But with my handwriting, written notes are entirely pointless…

          Reply
        2. Recent Anon Lurker

          I think it’s a perception thing, and it’s not fair. Phone equals goofing off, tablet or computer equals taking notes but you can just as easily goof off on a computer or tablet. The thing is not everybody can afford a tablet on top of a phone, and not everybody can do written notes for a variety of reasons (that can include preferences as well as disabilities).

          Reply
        3. Karen from Finance

          I used my phone to follow the teacher’s powerpoint presentation that the teacher had sent in advance. It caused less eyestrain for me. He definitely didn’t like it, but I appreciate he at least treated me like an adult and limited himself to a lot of sideye.

          Reply
      3. OfOtherWorlds

        I’m dysgrahic. Handwritten notes are worthless to me- they will be illegible. When I went back to school I had to buy a cheap tablet as a backup for my laptop. I found that professors interpreted using the laptop or tablet as note taking, but using my phone was interpreted as goofing off. On the other hand, at least I don’t have to have an official disability accommodation to take notes electronically rather than on paper, the way I did when I got my history degree in the early 00s.

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        1. FuzzFrogs

          I’ve had the same issue in work meetings–my ADD means I need to take really thorough notes in order to trick myself into paying attention, and my colleagues talk fast! The phone gets side-eye, but my tablet covered in Star Trek stickers gets no judgment. :P

          Reply
  5. TootsNYC

    The “put your phone in the middle of the room” bit reminds me of a Bible study book my women’s group was using once

    It had: “Go read BibleVerse 17:1-39.”

    And then:

    “Check here that you’ve read it. _______”

    I thought my head was going to explode.
    (this was also the author who thought a household would be clothed in scarlet during the snow because it was expensive and arm. Not because it was, you know, RED and VISIBLE.)

    Reply
    1. Whiskers R We

      Ooh, the Wife of Good Character bit from Proverbs? I always thought the scarlet was used because it was expensive / luxurious.

      Reply
      1. Roja

        That’s always been my understanding as well. Scarlet was expensive, and the passage is demonstrating that they’re wealthy.

        Reply
  6. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

    I can empathize with putting the cell phones in the room. Way too many adults play on their phones at inappropriate times. I’m not saying what Melisandre did was right but I understand why. People state ” I’m an adult and treat me as such!” yet they answer calls or texts in speeches. ignore work trainings for their phones, have their phones on in the wrong venues (concerts, movies, etc.)

    Reply
    1. Alison gives the best advice.

      I was once interviewing a job candidate with a colleague and my colleague actually started emailing or texting on her phone in the middle of the interview while the candidate was talking!

      Reply
      1. MLB

        I had an interview once where the guy took me to his office (instead of a conference room) and proceeded to answer emails, and answer both his desk and cell phone. And this was 10 years ago before everyone was glued to their phones. I was so pissed I almost told him off. I talked to my recruiter after it was over, told her what happened and said I wasn’t sure how he could fairly assess my abilities since he wasn’t even paying attention to me. I wouldn’t have taken the job even if it was offered, and I was out of work and desperate.

        Reply
    2. mark132

      I totally get this too. I think Melisandre was of dealing with it was over the top. But, I can’t tell you how often often l’ve heard “I’m sorry I missed that” from someone who’s playing on their phone. And to be fair some times I’ve been that person.

      Reply
    3. Observer

      And, OF COURSE, the best way to get adults to act like adults is to treat them like untrustworthy children. /sarc

      There are better ways to deal with this than asking people to put their phones on a chair.

      In my experience, this type of over-reaction is generally that mark of a poor teacher.

      Reply
      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

        And how do you deal with it? I know of a college professor who warned his classes any cell phone disturbances ANY–meant the student was expelled from class from the day. ANd he did so. Kudos to him. Too many adults ACT like children about their phones–they play, text, whine they can’t be separated from it like Linus and his blanket. Best way I can see is telling the adults to turn off their phones and put them away and ask them to leave if they can’t,

        Reply
        1. Anomalous

          I am a type 1 diabetic, and my phone is connected to my continuous glucose monitor — my blood sugar meter and my phone are the same thing. When my blood sugar is going down too fast, it will beep loudly at me to take some action (eating something with sugar), so that I don’t get in a dangerous situation. I can’t turn this setting off, either.

          So, by this college professor’s rule, I would be expelled from his class for the day if I had an urgent medical situation. Lovely way to treat someone with a disability.

          To everyone who thinks restricting cell phone access in a meeting is a good idea — you don’t know what people are using their phones for, and what medical or assistive technology you may be taking away from them.

          Reply
          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

            Then that student needs to clear it with the professor first. The phone could be set to vibrate so the student feels it. Like in your pant’s pocket against your thigh.The vast majority of people don’t need access to their phones 24/7. It’s rude to have a phone at a venue unless for extreme medical needs like you say. And I see nothing wrong with telling people the cell phone is a bother to most people. A ringing/vibrating cell phone is distracting and disrespectful to the other people in the audience and to the trainer/performer/speaker. As is texting.

            Reply
            1. Anomalous

              I don’t think it is reasonable to have to tell every professor, meeting organizer, conference speaker, and the like about my medical conditions, simply because I choose to use a smartphone to help me manage my condition. In my particular case, from time to time I will get a loud warning buzz on my phone when I need to take action. I also CAN’T turn it off — it overrides the system settings. This may actually have been an FDA condition of approval, though I don’t know for sure.

              In the couple of months I have been using this system, the quality of my life has improved tremendously. My phone gives me a stream of data which makes controlling my diabetes easier, and it also provides me much greater degree of discreteness than I had before.

              My point is also more general. People use their phones as accessibility aids and medical devices for many different conditions. You can’t possibly know why someone is looking at their phone. I think a trainer presuming to tell a person that they need to abandon their assistive devices is extremely disrespectful. “People with disabilities need not apply.”

              Reply
            2. Anomalous

              I don’t think it is reasonable to expect me to share my medical condition with every trainer, professor, speaker, etc., simply because I use my phone as an assistive device.

              It is rude, and ableist, to assume that you know why someone is using their phone.

              Reply
              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

                Is it not rude to disturb others as well? Again, medical needs fine. But most people aren’t using their phone for that.

                Reply
                1. Anomalous

                  The point is that YOU DON’T KNOW. You don’t know who has a medical reason for being on their phone. You don’t know who has a learning disability and is using their phone to aid them. You don’t know. You don’t know, and it it isn’t your business anyway.

                  The last thing I want to do is shout “I HAVE DIABETES” every time I enter a meeting.

                  By assuming that someone on their phone does not have a good reason for it, you are discriminating against people who do have a good reason for it. By forcing someone to either give up their phone, to be penalized for using it (as in the case far above), or to have to give up personal medical information in order to use it, you would be the one being rude and invasive and discriminatory.

                  Why can’t you just let people be?

                2. Observer

                  The amount of disturbance is minimal vs either the need to tell EVERY trainer, teacher, etc. or, even worse, to turn it off or gut the functionality of feature like this.

              2. Trek

                Professor can set the rules of their classroom and usually do so based on experience I.e. Phones disrupt. They are trying to do their job. If you don’t want to share personal medical information than that’s your choice but professor has a choice to ban phones. If everyone managed their phones appropriately it wouldn’t be necessary to band them but most people forget at least once that their phones are on when they thought were off.

                Reply
              3. Yorick

                Yes, if you use a device that might give a loud beep in the middle of class/meeting/whatever, thereby creating a disturbance for the speaker and the rest of the class, you need to explain it to your professor.

                You don’t have to give a lot of medical details. If someone told me “my phone connects with a device that monitors my health condition yada yada sometimes it beeps,” I would not mind that use of their device.

                Reply
                1. Scully

                  This. All a person needs to say is that “I need my phone for medical purposes/emergency/whatever” if it ends up going off, which it doesn’t always. You don’t need to go into your medical history, and few would demand you do. It’s not ableist to say that phones are not allowed, because any even slightly reasonable human will allow them for good reason and there’s an unspoken understanding that you can keep them if need be.
                  But the vast majority of people don’t actually need to use their phones at any given time. I don’t agree with taking phones, because emergencies happen, but saying they can’t be used is fine.

            3. Observer

              So, firstly, you seem not to have read what Anomolous wrote – they CANNOT change that setting. And, there is a reason for that. Vibrate is nowhere near as good as that loud beep, but people like and your professor will insist on it, because you’ve decided that it’s “good enough”.

              Reply
              1. Anomalous

                In a previous part of my career, I was also a professor. In addition to my comments above, I find the notion that cell phones are inherently disruptive to be ridiculous. If someone doesn’t want to pay attention in class, or in a meeting, they will find a way, with phone or without.

                Reply
          2. JSPA

            Not potentially lethal, but phones can also now be your car key / house key. Regardless, all the “needless distraction” aspects can be handled by asking people to put their phones away (pocket or bag).

            Makes me wonder if the instructor was more worried about being recorded than about distractions!

            Reply
        2. OfOtherWorlds

          Yeah, no, I have my cell phone on priority only in class. My friends and family know when I’m in class (or at work). If they text or call me it’s an emergency. I will go out to answer, but I do answer.

          Reply
        3. Observer

          You answered your own question, at least in part. Set some reasonable expectations, and let people clearly know what those expectations and the consequences are.

          Of course, you do need to have reasonable expectation and that emphasis on ANY sounds like he may not have totally reasonable expectations.

          Reply
        4. MLB

          Honestly, as long as the student isn’t disrupting the class (or an employee interrupting training), I would just let them be. The distraction will show in their work, and then they fail and have to deal with the consequences.

          And I say this as someone who despises the fact that so many people have their heads buried in their phones, ignoring their surroundings.

          Reply
    4. The One With the Bombastic Coworker

      Oh, the phone thing was just the biggest issue. There were a couple other little notes, though I can’t quite recall them now as that happened in September.

      Reply
      1. Res Admin

        I remember attending a training sessions a few years ago where the speaker made a point of telling every that they had to turn the cell phones off and put them away, etc.–like a school teacher reminding young children. Then, of course, 2/3 of the way through her session, her cell phone went off AND she answered it. It was from her husband (nothing that seemed particularly urgent) and everyone got to hear the whole conversation since she was miked up. One of my CWs was so angry about it that she packed up and walked the 2 miles back to our office…which was unfortunate since she was the one with the keys to the van we came in.

        Reply
    5. Zona the Great

      I believe the I’m an adult so treat me that way refers more to, ‘it’s really not your concern if I don’t pay attention, if I look like a jerk, if I fail at my job’. Just react appropriately and move on. Tell phone watcher who wants you to repeat that you’re moving on without repeating.

      Reply
      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

        But that doesn’t account the fact that the colleague is disrupting the trainer and others. It’s not simply matter of ‘ignore Bob’. Phones are distracting and rude to many. If my co worker is playing on their pphone while I t to focus on the training, they’re affecting me.

        Reply
        1. Zona the Great

          So what I meant here would be to treat this person as any other adult doing any other rude thing. You wouldn’t lecture people before a meeting to not speak over people, be disrespectful, or the like so why the need to pre-emptively declare phone go off or away or in a shame pile?

          Reply
          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House

            I’ve been in many places that did that–stated cell phones needed to be off/silent/out of the way and anyone using one would be asked to remove themselves from the room. Our local movie theater tells people before every showing that the phones are distracting and they need to be silent and if you have to respond, you need to go to the lobby. I’ve heard places state no applause until everyone is done’, etc. I taught a few safety classes and yes, in the introduction, told people that anyone needing to answer a text/call needed to leave the room.

            Reply
          2. JSPA

            Scientific meetings sometimes set ground rules for questions and polite question procedure and phone settings, especially when there are people from places where norms differ markedly. In my neck of the woods it’s also common in public meetings (City Council, County Council, Water Authority, etc.)

            Setting ground rules for “what’s acceptable here” doesn’t strike me as intrinsically infantilizing. But that may depend on how homogeneous your corporate hiring pool is, or the culture of your specialty. I’m sure there are situations where it would lead people to wonder if it was being pointed at a disruptive individual, and become disruptive in its own right.

            Reply
        2. Observer

          If you can’t focus on your work because you don’t like the way someone is taking notes, that is YOUR problem. If you can’t focus on your work because someone looked at their phone, looked at their watch, looked at a book or looked out the window THAT IS YOUR PROBLEM.

          My daughters 6th grade teacher expected her 11 and 12 year old students to mind their own business to that extent – I think it’s reasonable to expect adults to keep their noses in their business to that extent, as well.

          Reply
    6. Emily S

      It’s interesting because I think in a weird way we bring this on ourselves with contradictory values. As a society we value undivided attention when engaging with another person; we also value productivity to the point of that people are expected to be available for back-to-back activities all day long; and we have a 24/7 culture that expects nearly everyone to be reachable at any time. If a person wants to try to embody the things that society values in a conscientious, responsible adult, they really can’t be busy all with things that require their undivided attention and still be reachable all day.

      Not speaking here about how individuals are choosing to balance attention/productivity/responsiveness, just noting that the sociologist in me finds it fascinating the way technology has interacted with concepts of work ethic to create this sort of unattainable model.

      Reply
    1. The One With the Bombastic Coworker

      Actually, there was a little more to the update in which I had addressed the feedback of people saying don’t share anything personal with your coworkers. The company is extremely incestuous and tight knit (cousins working at different locations, one of my coworkers is the daughter of a guy who just retired from the company and she had two of my other coworkers in her wedding party, and so on.) In that explanation there were so many GOT characters. There was an Arya, Lyssa, Daenerys, Aegon, Margarey, and a few others I don’t recall.

      Reply
  7. Bilateralrope

    Phones in a pile in the middle of the room ?

    That’s just asking for people to get confused between their phone and an identical looking phone someone else is using.

    I don’t even want to think of how Melisandre would behave if one went missing.

    Reply
    1. TheRedCoat

      Yesss. I guess most people have cases, but there are only a few major types of phones, and only a few types of cases.

      Let’s not even get into the fact that my phone case is also my wallet.

      Reply
      1. Elvis Needs Boats

        Same. My DL and two credit cards live in my phone case. No WAY is it going into a communal pile, regardless of the fact that it’d be easy to distinguish from everyone else’s. In fact, allowing it would probably be considered a security breach by my company.

        Reply
  8. RebeccaNoraBunch

    As a sales trainer myself, I agree that the “put your phones in the middle of the room on a chair” thing is ridiculous and condescending.

    I have, however, asked everyone to close their computers or check in to make sure everyone is paying attention. But physically taking them away? No. Ugh.

    Reply
    1. The RO-Cat

      Yeah, soft skills trainer here. I do the same: “Please make sure phones are on Silent Mode. In case of an emergency call / text just go quietly out, solve the issue and come back”. If anyone is texting / messaging quietly during class I make a quick mental assessement: is it me (do I need to change something?) or is it them (a string of signs disinterest, no matter the subject?). In the former case I look for what I can change (pace, metaphors, case studies I have at hand to pick up interest etc); in the latter, I make a mental note.

      OP, standing up assertively isn’t easy, but hat tip for you doing just that!

      Reply
        1. Cat

          on iPhones at least, the text graphics are pretty obvious, even from a few seats away, thanks to the white background and bold colors of each message…

          Reply
        2. The RO-Cat

          Usually participants are seated at a U-, V- or T-shaped table. I walk a lot while delivering (and by “a lot” I mean 6 – 8 km / 8-hr-day as reported by my Samsung) and I see practically 95% of what they do in class. Partially it’s just me (I can’t talk seated or standing still), partially I do it because it allows me to switch pace, subject or rhythm if necessary to keep them connected to the class.

          Reply
          1. ceiswyn

            Thankyou, that makes sense. I asked only because I keep seeing a default assumption that typing == messaging, but if you can actually see the app they’re using then that’s a different kettle of fish :)

            Reply
        3. JSPA

          the pattern of looking at phone,
          smile or grimace (or suppressed chortle),
          typing on phone,
          hiting send / look of satisfaction resolution
          paying attention to the talk,
          sneaking glances at phone,
          sudden renewed interest in phone,
          [pattern repeats]
          doesn’t really add up to, “taking notes.”

          Reply
  9. Snowberry Kitten Foster, Inc.

    When I was in a week long training at the hospital I worked for, our instructor, who worked in Human Resources I believe, had a super irritating and totally inappropriate way to get our attention after any breaks. She had explained that she had a dog named PITA, which stood for…..you can probably guess… Pain In The Ass. and whenever she wanted the dogs attention she’d say, “You want a cookie?” So…..at the end of every break she’d say to the class, “You want a cookie”. I am not joking.
    After the first day, I fired off an email to my director stating that I would not tolerate being called like a dog who is proudly named PITA, how unprofessional and rude this was….etc…..
    The instructor apologized the next day and didn’t do it again. Ugh.

    Reply
  10. Foreign Octopus

    Update season!!!!!!!!!!

    Throw them all at us, Alison! I’m ready :)

    And thank you to the OP for the update. Cersei sounds…hard.

    Reply
  11. Micromanagered

    On the cell phone thing, I can’t promise I’d think to do this in the moment with the social pressure of others complying… But I would hope if I were ever asked to hand over my cell phone in a work setting, I’d simply say “I don’t have it with me” or “It’s put away” or something else that indicated that I wasn’t doing it.

    Good for OP for saying something about it afterward. (And honestly, good trainers want feedback. I get what she may have been trying to do, but to know that it was off-putting and started her training off on the wrong foot, is good info to have and she should welcome it if she’s good at her job. She needs to find some other way to address not having your phone out.)

    Reply
  12. PolicyChick

    Kudos, LW! I thought Alison’s advice on reframing was spot on, and it works for a myriad of situations. For me, for example, I sometimes have to resort to that kind of thinking when I have to spend the holidays with my parents. Just DIS. CON. NECT.
    Luckily this year is my ‘off’ year, which means I get to spend Christmas away from family, i.e., with people I like. :)

    Reply
  13. PolicyChick

    Speaking of trainers with foot-in-mouth disease…. Several years ago I took a marketing job in house at a hospital/medical cooperative. This org had an all-round good reputation in the city, and had been around since before coops where a thing.

    During training, the trainers often talked about the coop’s history – which was interesting and filled with advances and triumphs. Unfortunately, they would always circle back to a time (about 50 years ago) when it went through a rough patch with some bad doctors. With morale low, the coop developed an internal ‘bad’ name (think, instead of referring to the actual name of ‘Happy Health Care’ people would sometimes say ‘Crappy Health Care’).

    I had never heard of this name or the coop’s problems outside of the org. It had (and still has) an exemplary reputation. And that whole thing was decades ago! Why these trainers would repeat this horrible story (repeatedly) to new employees escapes me. The ONLY reason ANYONE knows of this bad time in the org’s history and the disparaging nickname is SOLELY because HR repeats it to new employees.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      Perhaps it was incorporated into training to keep people from resting on their laurels – ie “We do have great history, but don’t think we can’t stumble” kind of thing.

      Reply
    2. Recent Anon Lurker

      Trying to put the best spin on it – the bad situation internally may not have reached external implications but the organization want to make sure they collectively never return to that place. Doesn’t explain or excuse the nickname, but could explain having the back history in the training?

      Reply
      1. CM

        I agree, I think it’s good to acknowledge a bad history and what you’ve done to address it and improve the organization. But if it’s just told as a bad story without the “what we learned” part, I can see how that would be off-putting.

        Reply
    3. Wine not Whine

      I see this in the history hobby group to which I belong. There are folks in the group who are well-meaning and quite knowledgeable, but whom I do NOT want a newcomer to the group to encounter because all they’ll hear about is the inevitable political (because if you have two people in a room, you have politics of some sort) and interpersonal hiccups that have occurred. Nothing scares off a newcomer like dirty laundry!

      Reply
  14. neverjaunty

    This is a great update, LW, but…. never, ever write down in an evaluation, however jokingly, that you want to do something physically violent to a co-worker.

    Reply
    1. Commenter

      I’m surprised no one else has commented on this yet. Even if I knew the person was joking I’d have some strong feelings about how brazen it is to write that down for others to read.

      Reply
  15. ResuMAYDAY

    Seeing a chair with everyone’s phones piled on it would be a HUGE distraction, especially if one rang or chirped at any time. To me, that would be a bigger distraction than hearing someone’s phone ring while tucked away in a bag.

    Reply
    1. Karyn

      True! If it starts ringing, now it’s chaos because it’s not within easy reach to silence it. Way more disruptive.

      Reply
    2. Indie

      This is a great point, because I’d have my eyes locked on my possession the whole time; if it was in my bag I would think about it and could concentrate on training.

      I teach myself and it is a poor first impression for a session leader to practically announce a) I can’t hold your attention b) I do not trust you or c) I am not assertive enough to tackle anyone on an individual basis who turns out to be rude.

      Reply
      1. Recent Anon Lurker

        May I add a D?

        D) I am in a better position than you to decide for the next number of hours what is important and what is not.

        For me, that’s really infantalizing. How can anyone predict an emergency?

        Reply
      2. Observer

        This is a great point, because I’d have my eyes locked on my possession the whole time; if it was in my bag I would think about it and could concentrate on training.

        No! Now why would you even THINK to worry about your phone? /sarc

        Reply
      1. ell oh ell

        Because it’s the one with the screen which is lit up and flashing the caller’s details? I mean, there are a lot of problems with what the trainer did, but this really isn’t one of them LOL

        Reply
        1. Mongrel

          Or just a non-standard ring tone? I can’t imagine not getting a new phone and not cycling through the options at a minimum.

          Reply
  16. Flash Bristow

    Updates are great! I hope they’re positive, of course, but any update is interesting.

    Thank you Alison for bringing them to us. I shall look forward to the rest of December!

    Reply
  17. Jo

    Thanks for the update, OP! Can’t remember if I said this in the comments on the original post, but I once had a flatmate like Cersei, so I know how annoying it can be to deal with someone like that! Not that it’s much consolation, but at least you didn’t have to live with Cersei! Just kidding, sounds like she was a nightmare to train with. I’m glad you got through the training and hopefully will encounter Cersei with the frequency of a total eclipse.

    Reply
    1. Gelliebean

      I would guess in that circumstance, you would know in advance to (a) have someplace secure to leave your phone, and (b) make alternate arrangements for family to get in touch you in an emergency. Neither of those are really possible when an instructor just springs something so unexpected on you.

      Considering how much personal information cell phones have on them now, there’s no way I would be comfortable leaving mine in a pile in the middle of the room, even with the password enabled, and still be able to concentrate fully on the lesson. There’s a difference between knowing nothing is likely to happen and really *believing* that nothing is going to happen.

      Reply
    2. Silence Will Fall

      We had a vendor come in and do a demo of a pre-release demo with us. No cell phones/recording devices were allowed in. They let us know that when they set-up the meeting, so my coworker who had a sick kiddo at home could let her kid know to call the receptionist instead of her cell phone.

      Knowing ahead of time made the difference for her. It also allowed the rest of us to leave our cellphones somewhere secure.

      Reply
  18. CM

    The OP sounds very competitive with Cersei. I get that everyone agreed Cersei was annoying, but in this update the OP sounds really invested in wanting to be an expert when she’s supposed to be receiving training. And I think the way the OP gave feedback — saying she was going to strangle Cersei, and Melisandre ran the training like a junior high drama class — could use some de-dramatizing. I think that the OP learned step 1 of standing up for yourself: if you can’t change things yourself, tell somebody who can. Step 2 is to say it in a way that’s more respectful and also saying the change you would like to see, like “I’m finding Cersei disruptive because she goes off on tangents that aren’t related to the training materials. Would you be able to cut off these tangents sooner and bring us back to the agenda?” or “I felt like I was being treated like a child when Melisandre took away our phones and checked our screens. We’re adults and should be trusted to use technology appropriately. Can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

    Reply
    1. Lucille2

      That was my reaction too. OP seems very focused on demonstrating their own expertise rather than gaining new information from the training. OP needs to keep the competitive behavior in check to ensure success with this company.

      Reply
    2. Susie Q

      Completely agreed. Why is OP so obsessed with Cersei? Has OP never had an annoying co-worker before?

      OP comes off kinda catty IMHO.

      Reply
  19. Peaches

    I missed this original letter, but after reading it and the update, what a story!

    I feel like we all know/have been forced to interact with a Cersei before.

    Reply
  20. Annonymouse

    LW seems a little naive. Ratting on HR to the course instructors? Anyway, glad she felt empowered enough to speak up about the disruptive coworker.

    Reply

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