Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Considering I've been in my new job two and a half weeks, the idea of going to an induction at this point may seem a bit strange.

But the email was clear.

SUBJECT: Induction

You are cordially invited to an induction day for new employees, to welcome you to the company and to introduce to you our corporate goals and principles. Details for this induction are as follows.

Date: Wednesday 27 June

Time: 9am

Location: Telstra Conference Centre, corner Exhibition and La Trobe Streets.

I could see from the address line that it had been forwarded to everyone else in my training group.

So 9am Wednesday I make my way to the Telstra Conference Centre, a crowded glass and white concrete block on a busy corner in the city. The lobby of the building, which also doubles as Telstra's own HQ, is awash with people, bending to scan their pass so they can get through a set of electronic security gates.

An even bigger crowd watches over this from a few metres back, clustered around one of three giant chain coffee shops on the ground floor.

Sign posts direct me away from the queues and the coffee and towards a slightly quieter mezzanine level at the rear of the lobby, where the Conference Centre is said to lie. There's no security in this part of the building, only a short escalator, about half the normal length, and then a series of corridors and walkways until I see a sign with my new company's name on it. This stands in front of a large, austere looking room dotted with tables and chairs, with a long table holding basic refreshments to the rear of the room.

I see that I'm one of the first to arrive and curse silently, annoyed at having wasted a rare on time start on a pointless event like this.

Myself and the others mill around for a few long minutes, idly killing time with a bit of half hearted banter and some flat sounding 'Good Mornings.' I read the paper. Someone else puts their head down on the desk, feigning sleep.

The facilitator for the session stumps about the room in a desultory fashion, showing no more obvious enthusiasm to be there then the rest of us. Which right away seems a bit out of place. The HR people they get to run these things are normally bursting out of their skin with excitement.

'You've come to work here at the right time! Just when we've become the greatest company in history!! NOW LET"S TALK ABOUT O, H AND S!!!'

But this HR person, Lina, hardly says a word of introduction and has a sour look on her face. She's about forty, with dark hair and is dressed entirely in black, which lends her something of a sinister appearance.

When everyone from our group has shuffled in and found a seat, she hands out an overview pamphlet and gets into it.

'Right... well... we're here today to.... well, we're here to... go through an induction process... to discuss... I mean, to introduce you to... to welcome you to the company. I guess we'll start... we'll start by... I guess I'll go over some information about the company and then... then we'll watch a video from the CEO.'

So the Gettysburgh Address it ain't. Yes, Lina has something of a thankless task with material she's been given; five hours of dry, rah-rah nonsense about the company teat that we all now suckle at. But she's obviously determined to make it as laborious as possible.

There are long pauses between sentences. She mumbles. She speaks softly and inarticulately. She looks and sounds cross. She sighs frequently. The people in our group rest their heads on their hands, which then begin the long trek downwards towards the desk.

It promises to be a long session.

And then, all of a sudden, a small gift appears for everyone.

Lina had reached a point in her dirge where she was talking about performance assessments and career advancement. Out of the blue, from the inert mass that the group has become while our moribund instructor has been speaking, someone asks a question.

This bloke Nigel - early thirties, goatee, black hair - puts his hand up.

NIGEL: Yeah, on that point. I was just wondering... if we were to see an internal vacancy advertised, how would we go about applying for it?`

LINA (appears mildly stunned that someone has asked her something) What, er... what do you mean?

NIGEL: Well, just that. If I see another job advertised at the company, what's the process for applying for it?

LINA: (suprise giving way to annoyance) Well... you just apply for it.

NIGEL: Yeah ok, but how? I mean, do I have to speak with my team leader? Or get my manager's approval? Or do I just apply along with everyone else?

LINA: (quite definitely annoyed) Well you just apply for it.

NIGEL : So I don't speak to anyone in my original department first?

LINA: I really couldn't tell you. That's up to you to figure out. I can't tell you everything, for every situation you'll come across, okay? You'll have to figure some of this out on your own.

NIGEL (quietly, a bit put out). Ok. I just thought you would know.

This tense discussion seems to reanimate Lina somewhat, as she then conducts the rest of the session in a state of barely contained hostility. Snapping at people. Ignoring questions. Telling us we can only have 45 minutes for lunch instead of the promised hour.

In comparison to the slack paced sludge we initially put up with, this is undoubtedly an improvement. Lina's narky attitude irritates a number of members of our group and there are a few repeats of the above exchange, with a different second participant. We're only a remark away from blows, it feels like.

Lunch, while shortened, is at the company's expense and they lay on quite a nice spread. Four different types of sandwiches, fresh juice, cold cuts, fresh fruit, pastries and a cheese platter. The last of these is so nice - quality cheese and a variety of biscuits - that the tray continues to work it's way around the room, even after the rest of the buffet has been cleared.

Much to Lina's annoyance.

'If you could just put that knife down so we can concentrate for a moment...'

The final part of the induction session is given over to reviewing what we've covered in the first part of the day. A process which I can sum up for you quite easily:

And then Lina gives us a small token to mark the day. A hideously ugly company pen, enomrously oversized, that also has a USB drive embedded in it.

With our new pens, Lina bluntly asks us to fill out some comment cards, rating her performance. I can see people around me gripping their pens tightly as they bend to the task of trying to describe, in a polite but aggressive way, how much they hate her and wish her ill.

I consider doing this myself, but the comment cards are going back to Lina and I just figure she'll throw out any really negative ones. She's grumpy, but she doesn't look stupid.

We hand the cards in to her as we shuffle out of the door at the end of the day.

'Thanks for coming in,' she says, with an expression that she may have meant as a smile, but which looks more like a mild grimace. 'Welcome to the company.'

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