What about the old dog’s tricks?


When each of my siblings and I reached about the 6th grade we went to work for my dad.  (One of the perks of owning the business, apparently.)  My personal experience was that I showed up after school to work and my dad pointed out two people who would teach me what I needed to know.  It was presented as an opportunity to learn something and increase my personal value as an employee.  Maybe I’m weird because I bought into it, but many years later I can look back on it and see that it was, in fact, valuable to learn to take direction and to appreciate their on the job experience.

I’m not sure when or how the appreciation of experience disappeared.  (Yes, I realize teens for-basically-ever have believed they know everything that could ever be known, but I’m referring to adults.)  Maybe it’s just not in fashion right now?  I’m really not sure.  But, what I do know is that it is totally annoying.   I find it difficult to watch others make mistakes that could easily be avoided if they simply listened.  Remember the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?  Well, sometimes you can’t teach a new dog the old tricks because the new dog is an annoying know-it-all.  Those old dogs have already learned to work smarter not harder.  What would it hurt to sit and learn a bit of that?

I have a co-worker (from here on out referred to as co-worker 1) who has refused to take instruction from the day co-worker 1 started.  Instead of learning when training was offered co-worker 1 simply ignored all instruction.  Generally, I don’t care if others don’t want to use the experience being offered.  But, when it starts to affect me – it becomes a problem.

Here is a delightful example or two from the past year when co-worker 1 moved into a position to work with me more often:

Co-worker 1 needed to check the work of another co-worker.  The company has a system for this.  We have protocol and procedures to be sure it’s done correctly.  Did co-worker 1 listen when the procedures and protocol are explained?  Nope.  Co-worker 1 instead chose to shrug and do it their own way.  But, then errors happened.  So, I gently suggest “you know, co-worker 2  has been working here nearly 30 years.  And, because it’s been so long they are amazing at that job.  I bet if we asked they would come teach us.”  Co-worker 1 said “I don’t need them to teach me.  I already know how.” For.the.love.  So, I decided that the next time it came up I would simply contact co-worker 2 to give another free example for co-worker 1.  A few weeks later my evil plan came to fruition when the same task was presented.  I sneakily called co-worker 2 and ask if they were willing to come and train again.  While co-worker 2 was sharing their experience and knowledge after a lifetime of being in the same job – co-worker 1 WALKED AWAY.  When co-worker 1 returned I said “Wow.  Co-worker 2 was teaching us how to do that and you walked away mid instruction. Co-worker 2 is more than twice as fast as either of us so since it is now your job it’d be great to learn from Co-worker 2.”  Co-worker 1 said “well ,I don’t need help.  I can do it by myself.”   My mind was blown.  I’m not even sure how someone can have that sort of mindset.  But, whatever.

Then two weeks ago a huge job came in and co-worker 1 was put in charge of shipping.  Co-worker 1 simply had to be sure all 5 volumes of the job were in boxes.  However, when I came in on Monday – I could tell that something had gone terribly wrong.  There were not the same number of remaining documents.  What this meant that somehow the counting to 5 had proved to be too much and the clients would not all receive all 5 volumes.   I was pro-active and fixed the issue.  I again suggested to co-worker 1 that perhaps some training in this new area would help.  Co-worker 1 insisted that they were fully trained, but that counting was confusing.

And, of course, we arrived at yesterday (which prompted this blog entry).  To avoid the counting struggle I insisted on making sure exact amount of documents needed for each client would be left for me to recount.  But, before we could get to that section of the job co-worker 1 needed check the work again.  Two days.  A job that should have taken a few hours took two days.  I.can.not.even.  I didn’t bother to suggest any training.  It would simply be shunned and ignored.  I doubt I will ever understand the mindset that causes someone to think they have no room for improvement or what makes them think they can’t learn from those ‘old dogs’ tricks.

For me – put me in a room with someone who has been doing a job for awhile and I sit and take notes and ask a billion questions until I feel like I can duplicate the task.  I adore learning something new, and I adore it even more when I can learn to do it quickly and well.

But, it’s not just this co-worker I’ve noticed this with.  It’s so many people in this generation.  Maybe it’s my generation?  I’m not sure where the issue is focused.  But, I do know that it’s a dangerous thing to assume that all mistakes should be re-made simply for the sake of learning.  There is a loss of respect and care for those who have worked hard to get where they are.  I do not like it and I’m not sure how to fix it.

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