Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Training Day

Well cupcakes, today has been truly jawful (jaw-droopingly awful). One day after I resigned, my Boss panicked and decided he wanted to get a temp in the office ASAP for me to start training someone to take over my job. When he told me this yesterday, I said, "Okay, I would recommend that you try to get someone with good German skills." So today I met my replacement. Her German skills are very good. Unfortunately, she doesn't speak English. Right now you're probably thinking, oh well, they sent you a German girl. No friends, they sent me a 40-year old Greek woman, a mineralogist who had lived in Germany for many years. As I said, her German was very good; her English was something I could only describe as "a handicap". Also, she had never worked as an Administrative Assistant before; one of the first things she did was admit to me she was nervous because she had never replaced a toner cartridge before. If only replacing printer toner were, say, 40% of my job that is a skill I could teach and her and something I could work around.

She had a three minute conversation with my Boss today and as soon as that was over, my Boss called me into his office. "Close the door," he said. "How's it going out there?"

"Well," I said. "She seems very enthusiastic and eager to learn."

"How's her English?"


"Was that English she was speaking to me? Because I didn't understand a single word she said to me."


"Are our clients going to be able to understand anything she says on the phone? With that thick German accent?"

"Actually, that's a Greek accent. She's Greek."


"Honestly, I'm more concerned that it seems she's never had an administrative position before. She said something about computer science..."

"She hasn't. Look at her resume yourself. But she can tell you how much your diamonds are worth." I looked at the resume the Boss tossed me. That's when I saw she had trained in Germany as a jewelry appraiser. My eyebrows arched. I was trying to stay positive. This woman had no relevant experience. I wanted to question the parent company's HR policy of just throwing us a warm body, no matter how poorly matched the person was for the job. To be fair however, the HR department doesn't have a lot of time to think things through, seeing as how they get downsized at the rate of one person every three hours. "Well, what do you think," asked the Boss. "I need to know if this is not working out. I'll have HR starting looking for a new replacement as soon as possible."

I thought about the new trainee sitting at my desk who had been taking notes for two hours and who was so excited when I showed her the International Delight flavored non-dairy coffee creamer. I thought about how wildly out of my league I was when I took this job. "Why don't you let me work with her until the end of the day?" I said. And then, just so I'd have a pleasant reminder of all the good times, the Boss dropped a last minute project on me that involved hosting a seminar in New York, bringing some guys over from Germany, one guy over from London, setting up two days of planning, then sending everyone to Toronto for two days and one night, then setting up two return flights back to Frankfurt, one to London, one to New York, plus hotels in two cities and every one's car service. I walked back out to my desk, where my Big Fat Greek Temp was sitting in my chair and giving me the thumbs up and decided that I could never leave this job, I would just have to work here until I died.

The ironic thing is, everything the Temp was trying to learn in English, were all things I had once had to learn in German a long time ago. If I ask you to answer the phone, you have this inherent vocabulary to do so. "How may I help you?" "May I ask who is calling?" "Can you hold please?" "One moment, I'll transfer you." Once I had to learn how to say all those things in German and now the Temp was trying to figure out how to say them in English. My pointers were not helping. It all came out sounding like this, "Die Bank, Guten Morgen, who are you speaking to?" The other problem was she couldn't understand anyone speaking English on the phone. So I told her, you can ask someone to repeat their name once, after that if you still don't get it, you have to just do the best you can. So I would have a lot of conversations like this, "This guy is calling for the Boss, he says his name is Twin."

"Twin? Twin is his name or the name of his company?"

"Oh, I don't know they talk so fast!"

"Okay, maybe his name is Duane?"

"Yes, Duane!" So then I would tell the Boss there was a call from Duane on line 4 and you can imagine how accurate that was.

Every job I gave the Temp to do, she did it with gusto. When I asked her to photocopy a 100 page document, she had trouble with the auto sheet feeder, so she did it page by page by hand. She looked truly frightened when she saw me bang out a five paragraph memo containing lots of travel information in English, but when I had to write a few lines regarding a business card proof to a printer in German she helped me with my German. And although she spelled documents "document's" on a waybill, she took copious notes all day- basically I was on her side.

I sent an email to my Boss this afternoon that said, look her English is a handicap and I really would have preferred someone with some experience so I can focus on getting into the actual complicated tasks of my job and not spend half an hour on the postage meter, but she's got heart! Also, keep in mind the time frame and the fact that I've now spent a day training her. I have no idea what Boss is going to do. I do know there's no way in hell I'm firing her, there are other people that get paid more than I do to have those conversations. I told her I'd see her tomorrow but I was relieved when she didn't leave anything in the desk.

Next time instead of going through the whole process of resigning and giving notice and training a replacement, I'm just going to fake my own death. One hundred times easier.


Beta said...

This was hysterical - I can say that cuz I'm a safe distance away from the situation. If I were actually going through it like you, I'd probably be crying and seeing if I couldn't work out a 50/50 time split between New Company and Old Bank. And although I'm sure it should be considered offensive, I loved your mention of My Big Fat Greek Temp...

Paula said...

Does it ever make you wonder why Admins are the lowest paid people in the office, yet it seems that their tasks are so complicated that no one else can complete them? If there was a God, Admins would make 6 figures and the old white men would be making minimum! I once worked with someone who hired me on a regular basis because I knew how to work the P-Touch!

Cupcake said...

What's P-Touch? Sounds sexy.

Paula said...

It's one of those Brother label makers; you type in what you want to label and hit print, and it spits out a little sticker. Actually I think she hired me because I could peel the back off the little sticker and apply it so that it was straight.