A few years ago, the management of our organization decided to put the staff of the entire Bangalore office through a two-day workshop on “etiquette training”. [They announced it as “Training in etiquettes, communication skills and mannerisms etc.” — I can find four grammar/ word usage errors right there.]
Our office space was a two-bedroom house that had been converted into an office. There was a toilet attached to each (erstwhile) bedroom, so we had designated a toilet each for men and women, and we had a prominent board on each door.
On the appointed day, the trainer, Chander [name changed] showed up. He began by stressing that we should not have preconceived notions about things or people.
I found myself disregarding that advice almost immediately. From the way he spoke (his English was atrocious, to boot), I began to wonder how this guy could possibly be a trainer. My worst fears were soon confirmed — he was crass enough to ask many of the women their age and marital status, and even which community they belonged to! Obviously, he was a bachelor hoping to find himself a match here.
When it was lunchtime, he rang the bell and rushed to the nearest toilet — the one with the ‘Ladies’ board hanging squarely at his eye level — with his hands ready on his fly. We tried calling out to him but he had already slammed the door behind him, and he just responded, “One sec, coming”. I could hear the bubbling sounds come to a halt, and he opened the door barely four seconds later, indicating that he hadn’t even washed his hands. And this guy had been making us practice a firm handshake with him all morning! [Etiquette?]
When he emerged, I told him it was the ladies’ toilet, and he just said, “Oh. Anyway, it’s OK; I’ve finished.” [Manners?]
When I walked into the toilet, I found that he had let the seat remain down (it was the women’s toilet, after all); he had sprayed all over the seat — and he had not even flushed the toilet! [It would be inaccurate to say that he literally flushed his manners down the toilet — because he didn’t flush!]
He later said in front of the whole room that I was very aggressive and not accommodating — he did not say why — and that he would keep a watchful eye on me throughout the workshop. [Imagine how much more angry he would have been if I had pointed out to him that he did not use the toilet properly.] From that point on, he made it a point to give me low marks for any exercise that required his evaluation. He awarded me 60% in spoken English — like he was qualified to sit in judgment of anyone’s English at all. And he made sure he awarded the highest points to an outspoken woman he believed was the boss; he did not realize that there was an understated guy who was her boss! [Preconceived notions, anyone?]
But then, I blame the people who engaged him. Maybe it’s not so bad to have preconceived notions when you’re evaluating and choosing your trainer.