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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sweet Rewards

In many of my jobs, I have ended up in the position of being a trainer. It happened when I was a bank teller, selling cosmetics in retail, and in banking customer service. This didn't bother me, though, I have always loved helping people learn to do their jobs, and sharing information that helped me do the job better. I remember thinking, after I had been through my telephone customer service training and started taking calls on my own, that if I were training, I would make sure that people understood things and were able to be self-sufficient. I would also make sure that they did not die of boredom during training. 

As a trainer, I was a member of a small group of people who trained new hires, as well as doing ongoing training courses for bankers who were promoted to service customers with additional products like loans, retirement accounts, and leases, among other things. New-hire training lasted a full month, eight hours a day. Ideally, and in practice in our other call centers, the training would be split up among two or three trainers who would take turns teaching various modules about servicing different products. Unfortunately, I happened to go through a period of time in which we had too few trainers, so I often was the only trainer for a group of new hires, and was in the training room eight hours a day for four and a half weeks. 

Any conscientious person will worry about whether they are doing enough for their trainees. I did my best to inject humor and personality into my training so that my students would not become bored. At the same time, I tried to fill them with as much knowledge as possible to make their working lives easier. If a former trainee struggled after getting out of my class, I usually took it pretty personally because I felt I might have let them down. I always wanted to be better so that they could be better.

A few months after one of those grueling training marathons, I saw that a young man named Chris was still working in the call center but was no longer taking phone calls. Instead, he was working about three days a week as a department assistant. His cubicle was very near mine, and his duties involved all of the support functions that helped keep the bankers on the phone. He picked up and delivered mail, copied memos, processed forms, and ordered supplies, among other things. When I saw him move into this position, I began to get depressed. I had really liked training Chris and was worried that I had done a poor job of it. Why else would he have quit taking telephone calls? I felt like a huge failure every time I saw him at work. 

One day, he came over to my desk to say hello. I decided on the spur of the moment that I needed to know if I had let him down by not training him well enough. I asked permission to ask him a personal question. Why was he no longer on the phones? Had he found himself unprepared for the work after he finished my class? Was he unhappy? His face lit up. "No, Katrina," he said. "I didn't have any problems with the calls. But I'm glad you asked because I wanted to talk to you about this. I knew you'd be wondering why I was working down here. It's because of you and your training class." My heart began to fall into my shoes. Then he continued, "I want to thank you. And I want to thank you for my mom, too, because she is so happy now. I decided to go back to college to get my degree and it's all because of your training class. You taught me that learning can be fun. I didn't know it could be until I met you. So thank you, because your training is actually changing my life." 

I was flabbergasted, and thanked him for such high praise. I managed to hold it together while we talked for a few minutes, but after he left I started to cry, as I am now while I write this. He had given me a gift that was far too precious for me to describe. For one moment, I had a glimpse of how great an impact we can unknowingly have on another person's life. Sometimes our influence may be bad, and sometimes it is good, and sometimes it seems to make a little magic. That one brief conversation showed me I could do good things for others in ways that I had never imagined. It was one of my life's sweetest rewards.