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Workplace Training: A Time-Wasting, Teaching of the Obvious?

Like other jobs, members of the military spend a lot of time sitting behind computers in order to work on computer-based training, or CBT. Much of this training is ancillary, or not job-related. This ancillary training covers such subjects as the proper use of a government-issued credit card, the virtues of using safety equipment, workplace etiquette – or how not to offend others, sexual harassment/abuse prevention, and some other miscellaneous issues. While some topics are necessary, such as introductions to new policies and procedures, others could be perceived as rehashing common sense, or trying to define the obvious.

When government employees – including members of the military — have to travel for official business, they are required to make most travel-related purchases with a government-issued credit card. Yes, a government credit card is as nondescript as any other credit card, so there is the possibility of accidentally grabbing it, instead of a personal card, to make a routine gas or food payment if it is among personal cards in a wallet or purse. Unfortunately, government cards have been used to intentionally make much bigger purchases, such as new stereos and at least one new car.

There is a big difference between giving a credit card to an eighteen year-old who hasn’t had much experience with finances or military travel procedures, and a thirty year-old who does. For first-time cardholders – especially younger ones, an introduction to government travel card use is a necessity.

Like government credit card etiquette, safety training is a crash course into the laws of unintended consequences when specific habits are established. However, credit card training doesn’t include the gruesome safety training pictures. Also, safety training is kind of a throwback to high school industrial arts safety videos.

The longer a person holds a job that has the potential for work-related injuries, such as in construction, mechanical maintenance, police or fire, there is an occasional tendency to take shortcuts, or become sloppy, since “nothing has happened yet.” While annual safety training is intended to help prevent becoming sloppy, a repeated safety message could become little more than background noise. Although it is easier said than done, it is up to each individual to ignore the temptation to use shortcuts; it takes about fifteen repetitions to establish a habit – and about ten times as many to break it.

My favorite safety briefing in school was a short, yet direct, one: “Don’t mess up.” Of course, there is another word that had been used in place of “mess.”

While watching a computer course about harassment and intimidation in the workplace, I realized that the foundation of these problems is not the curse of testosterone and power. The causes of intimidation and harassment are rooted in what has become the most basic perception of what respect, or lack thereof, is to people – a perception that takes shape throughout a lifetime, especially during the early years. This early programming is what will either create a potential role model or delinquent.

Unfortunately, behavior is now determined by others on the basis of what actions are considered to be offensive, instead of what is insulting.

Being offended is a choice; this is the result of an oversized space cushion that is easily disturbed. This space cushion is determined by words, items, people – anything or anybody that a potentially offended person wishes to not come in contact with. The bigger the space cushion, the more likely that that person will be offended by something. An insult, however, is an intentional attack against someone else.

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Chuck Gruenwald

Born in Chicago and raised in northwest suburban Cook County, Chuck Gruenwald developed an unfavorable opinion of machine politics quite early in life. In addition to cars, electronics, law enforcement, and politics, Chuck enjoys writing, and is also a horse racing fan. He has recently written op-eds for