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Why Don’t We Take This Outside

February 11, 2015

The training room fell silent in shock. The trainees were new Microsoft employee. They were in their 3rd week of a 4 week training course. The first two weeks had been all about Windows NT.

Now, they were finishing up their first week of learning about Microsoft Exchange server. The instructor was ironically named Win. He sported a long ponytail and seemed a throwback to the 60’s. While his grasp of the course seemed okay, his classroom demeanor was much different than the Windows NT instructor’s had been.

Mostly, he hated to be challenged.

No, he really hated it.

It might not have been a problem if the students in his class had been less experienced. But, these people were the cream of the IT world. It was late 1999 and Microsoft was the biggest computer company in the world.

We were the best and the brightest and we weren’t afraid to tell people. In exchange for long hours, and high stress, you had a chance to watch your personal worth shoot up along with the company’s stock price.

Win was an unlikely Microsoftee. In an age when the company was mostly young and male, Win was pulling up the company average age. He was probably at least 40!

He also lacked a certain curiosity that drove the Redmond folks to spent their limited free time diving into technical topics and software.

But, hey, not everyone had to be a nerd. And training was not a job that just anyone could do. It takes loads of patience to aim the firehose of knowledge at the students and make sure they are all equally drenched but don’t get swept away.

So, what was the problem on this day?

One of the students decided that Win was wrong. The details of the disagreement are lost to the ensuing years, but the results are not.

I don’t think it works that way, Win.

No, this is how it has to be set up.

But, it’s never going to work if you set it up that way. I think you mean. .

LOOK! I’m the instructor. YOU are the student. I’ve been teaching this for years. THIS is how it is supposed to be setup.

The student thought carefully before responding. Win was wrong. And not just a little wrong. What he was saying wouldn’t work. Not “might not work,” but flat out wrong. Looking around at the other students he decided that he cared more about them getting accurate information than not hurting the instructors feelings.

If this is the way you’ve been teaching it, you’ve been teaching it wrong. I used to do this everyday in my previous job. It won’t work the way you are describing.

He could see the instructor pause and turn to face him. Taking a step forward he said the last thing any of them expected,

Look, do you want to take this outside?

A look of confusion crossed the face of several trainees.

Are you. . .are you challenging me to a fight?

Fortunately the student was more level-headed than Win and the moment passed, but not before it was noted and repeated among discussions of classes gone wrong.

I wrote that courseware that Win was teaching that day. I wrote courseware for Microsoft Exchange for 4 years. During that entire time, Win was one of my trainers. I say “my” trainers, but only because they taught my classes. Had I been Win’s manager, I would have had to deal with his outbursts. And as hard as it is to find instructors, anyone who challenges one of his students to a fight in the parking lot probably isn’t ideally suited for corporate training.

My frustrations with Win weren’t over. Tomorrow I’ll describe the my own experience disagreeing with Win.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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