Friday, July 1, 2011

It’s simple: Just don’t be a dumbass

Recently at work all employees were required to participate in a series of online “courses” (Basically PowerPoint) to learn about things like safety, sexual harassment, how to clean up toxic waste, etc. Even though we had all completed a different program on sexual harassment maybe six months before, this was mandatory. All employees were registered by human resources last June with a deadline of nearly a year to accomplish this task, which at the time sounded like no big deal. Sure, it was long (I think someone said if you sat down to take it uninterrupted then you could probably finish it in about 4 or 5 hours) and dull (the voiceover work was provided by what sounded like an updated Speak n’Spell), but I also had a lot of time to get it done.

Fast forward to May and I was on a short list from my branch manager reminding me that the deadline to complete theses courses were coming up and I, of course, had yet to even login to the site. Luckily, my direct supervisor was also on this list and was very understanding about giving me lots of off the desk time to finish this thing. However, I would get back to my desk, fire up the program, put in my earbuds so I could listen to the robot narrate and after about oh, let’s say fifteen minutes of this I was on the verge of sleeping or crying hysterically from boredom. The worst part was that with this thing you couldn’t skip to the end to answer the questions, you had to listen to each and every slide in the presentation, do the stupid practice questions before getting to the final test, where if you didn’t at least get 80% you failed and had to go back to the beginning of that section to do it all over again. Scoring tantamount to a “C” grade may not seem hard to achieve, but I’d like to see how well you would do on a test that only has five questions about various hardhats and the specific use of each one – totally relatable to library work. I ended up taking the test on bloodborne pathogens a mindly-numbingly almost twenty times – and did I mention that it mixes up the questions each time? So I could get everything right but the one I needed to score at least 80%, go back and then be presented with some old questions mixed with new and then I would be able to get even more wrong. It was painful.

But it was also very silly. As I and a couple of my coworkers were working on the courses in our cubicles, one would hear little giggles here and there and an occasional flat out laugh. This was for two reasons: 1)The scenarios presented were ridiculously idiotic and probably never take place in real life, and 2)The photos used in the presentation were clearly purchased or leased from a stock photo company who probably sold the group as “workplace photographs” as they rarely had anything to do with the narration or captions that would float by on the screen and when they did match it was over the top.

The best examples of this obviously came from the sexual harassment portion, where instead of providing a realistic, true to life scenarios we get this:

Tom and Judy share a workspace. In her free time Judy enjoys participating in female bodybuilding competitions and has won several titles. She is proud of her awards and has placed a photograph of herself posing in a bikini on the desk. Seeing the photograph makes Tom uncomfortable and he does not like being forced to see the photograph at the desk. Judy may not realize it, but she is sexually harassing Tom.

And NONE of the photographs presented during this voiceover match at all. The viewer of this presentation is oddly treated to photos of two women working at computers followed by a young man with rumpled hair and his shirt collar undone looking stressed followed by a photo of an older woman looking creepily staring straight at the camera to suggest she is watching me. There is also a disturbing quid pro quo situation where the voiceover describes a boss pressuring a female employee that he supervises to exchange sex for a raise. The photograph displayed during this shows an office setting with two employees, a black man and a white female, chatting in what appears to be a friendly, non-offensive way, over their shared cubicle wall. As if that wasn’t bad enough, photos were frequently recycled during presentations so that later in a section on interoffice dating we get the SAME photograph! Yes, I am being nit-picky, but all I could think of was that the boss and the woman suddenly seemed right – pressuring a coworker for sex is the best path to starting a relationship!

In my boredom, while listening to the voiceover, I took screen caps of some of the more “interesting” slides, minimized the program so that it would still play in the background while I brought up Paint to paste in these pictures, mashing them together in a collage of on the job no-nos. I took so many screen caps that I ended up forgetting where I saved some of them and accidently left out some of the really strange ones including one of two old men fighting in a boardroom and another of an Asian man tied to his ergonomic Herman Miller Aeron desk chair. But the important thing is that I am now aware of alarming fact that “hundreds of people in the U.S. are killed while doing their jobs” so I won’t try to do anything about those dangling exposed electrical wires in the staff workroom.