Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can’t, Train.

, , , , | Working | April 9, 2021

I am hired at a big government laboratory that handles sensitive biological samples. Some of the testing we perform is very time-critical and finicky; everything has to be carefully categorized and organization is super strict.

I am about a month into training and I am still only being allowed to perform the most basic tasks. Every part of my training has to be verified by a superior and there are numerous forms to fill out.

One day, a woman from the admin office who I have met once approaches me. 

Admin: “It’s [Wrong Name starting with my first initial], right? We’ve got a new college intern and I need you to train her on how to put these samples into [Complicated Database].”

Me: “It’s [My Name], actually, and I’m sorry, but I don’t know a single thing about that system. I’m not going to be able to train her.”

Admin: “All you have to do is read the training manual and then show it to her. Make sure you sign all of the paperwork saying she’s finished training.”

She starts to walk away. I follow her.

Me: “I’m not comfortable training someone on something that I know nothing of. What if something goes wrong?” 

Admin: *Now walking faster* “I’m too busy to train her; you’re just sitting around. She needs to be trained. I don’t get why this is so hard for you.” 

I ended up taking the issue up with my superior. It turns out that it WAS [Admin]’s job to train the intern but she simply didn’t want to. Funnily enough, [Admin] was only mad for about a week and then was back to her tricks. I was commended for following procedures, but in reality, I was just terrified of messing everything up.

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No Touchy!

, , , | Working | April 8, 2021

I worked at a government lab for two years. This story is one of the reasons I no longer work there. I worked as a laboratory technician. Above us were the scientists who were basically in charge of each testing area.

I was finished with my daily tasks and working on some less important projects when I was approached by a scientist. She was in charge of a different testing area for the day and the tech who worked with her was running behind and wouldn’t be able to do calibration tests for the machinery in the area. Since I was finished for the day, I readily agreed to do the calibration. I gathered all of the equipment and walked into the area ready to start. The moment I touched the machine, this started:

Tech: *Suddenly yelling* “What are you doing?!”

She then ran up and SLAPPED my hand hard.

Me: “Why would you do that? You have no reason to touch me.”

Tech: “This is my area! You just walk in here and touch my things.”

We both worked in this testing area and switched areas all of the time.

Me: “I was asked by [Scientist] to do the calibration because it has to be finished today.”

Tech: “If [Scientist] actually said that, she would tell me. Get out!”

I ended up telling the scientist and the supervisor about this exchange. The scientist was furious because she did tell the tech that I was coming, and now the calibration wouldn’t be finished. The supervisor told me that I needed to let the situation go. I’m so glad I no longer work there.

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A Bad Idea For So Many Reasons

, , , , | Healthy | February 16, 2021

I’m training a colleague to work in a lab for rapidly spreading diseases. The standard operating procedures are slightly different than for some of the other germs we usually work with, including wearing extra Personal Protective Equipment on top of the usual kit. As we are about to exit…

Colleague: “I want to watch you disrobe.”

Me: “I think the word for PPE is ‘doff.’ ‘Disrobe’ sounds like we’re about to have sex.”

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Why Do These People Even Apply For Jobs?

, , , , | Working | December 17, 2020

We are told that someone is joining the team, starting in just a few days, and it’s one of the ex-apprentices. This is very odd; normally, we have weeks of notice, and it tends to be people who have had many years in the company under their belt.

We get talking. Apparently, when this new hire was an apprentice, she did as little as possible, and she moved around the departments until no one wanted her. We are all pretty welcoming so we don’t want to judge; after all, she could have grown out of it by now.

She arrives in the department for her first day and seems interested. The first week goes well. She doesn’t know what she is doing, but everyone is happy to teach her and she slowly works her way around the jobs in the lab.

I’m pretty new in the lab myself, so I don’t end up training her, and it is a month before we work together.

Me: “Hey, I was going to do [job #1]. Did you want to do [job #2]?”

Ex-Apprentice: “No, [Coworker] will do that for me.”

Me: *Pause* “Okay. Oh, I won’t have time to write the report for [test]. Would you mind picking that up?”

Ex-Apprentice: “No, I don’t really want to. I think [Coworker] will do that.”

Me: “No disrespect, but I haven’t seen you do anything today. We work together here, and I need some support.” 

Ex-Apprentice: “You’re just pissed because everyone likes me more than you.”

Me: “No, I just think you should do some actual work, instead of fluttering your eyelashes and getting others to do it.”

She carries on in the same way for weeks, getting one of the older guys to do her work for her. Problems start when we have guys call in sick; suddenly, there is no one to cover her.

Rather than deal with the situation, my boss asks me to do her work for her. I refuse, so he eventually goes to speak with her. Forced to do some actual work, she makes a massive mess of everything and then disappears for the rest of the day, completely AWOL.

She lasted another month before being disciplined and had to re-sit all of her training. This took many more weeks, and she still couldn’t be bothered; she was caught trying to push her work onto others. She got transferred to yet another department and then suddenly didn’t work for the company at all.

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Ooh, This One Is A Slow Burn

, , , | Right | November 30, 2020

Tap water in Holland is ridiculously clean. Pretty much the only ways to get water that is undrinkable or contaminated is having your toilet output connected to your tap by bad plumbing or drawing straight from the canals.

I work in the laboratory for a company that produces flower food. We make those little packets that come with bouquets, but we also make also bulk solutions that florists and such put in the buckets to keep flowers fresh. Most of our products are not unlike detergent or lemonade in that you have to dilute them in a certain dosage for optimal results.

One part of the job is troubleshooting, both for internal issues and for external issues like complaints about our product.

One time, we get a complaint from a new client saying that our product is too acidic and is killing the flowers. Immediately, alarm bells start ringing! Our product does contain a bit of acid because flowers actually prefer this, but too much of a good thing is obviously bad. If this customer is correct, we’ve probably shipped a bad batch to at least twenty other customers.

First, we receive a sample of our applied product. The customer is correct in that this is by far more acidic than flowers can handle. While further analysis suggests the dosage is correct — a common cause of these kinds of issues — the results are not entirely conclusive since the product has been used, so some of the components may have been absorbed by the flowers or have degraded.

About two weeks later, we finally get a sample of our pure product. We run all the checks on it and the results are perfect! This batch could have won an award for meeting our standards! It’s a relief for the sales team, but it thickens the mystery for us and the client. We prepare our own dosage and run checks on it, and we order some flowers and put them in the solution, and everything shows this product is fine.

We double-check with our consultant who reported the complaint and he guarantees us that the client is using the correct dosage.

Another week later, our consultant calls my coworker because he is still anxious to hear if we have found any explanation. Despite our best efforts, putting about 50% of our workforce on it for three weeks now, we haven’t.

Consultant: “That really makes me question your skills. You agree that the diluted solution the client uses is bad, but you claim the pure product is good. Clearly, something isn’t adding up.”

Coworker: “Well, at this point, the only thing we haven’t tested is the client’s water, but since it’s the same Dutch tap water that we use, that seems a very unlikely cause.”

Consultant: “Agreed. They just use tap water with some hydrochloric acid added to prevent bacterial growth.” *Pause* “Why are you laughing so hard?”

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