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What does your name tag say about you?

Isn't it interesting when you attend a training session, and are required to write your name on a placard that sits on the table in front of you?  What does it really say about who you are.  Many times, when I have attended training sessions, whether inside or outside of my employer, I have wondered what that sign says about me to others.  One of the first things that go on in these sessions is for each person to say something about themselves through a scripted format of questions . . . .Who am I?  What department do I work in? Why am I here . . .It is all well and good, and does serve as an excellent ice breaker,  it also lets everyone know what to call you.

People always ask me whether they should call me David, or Dave, or even Bussell.  I really don't have a preference.  Co-workers usually call me Dave or Bussell, rarely David.  Because it is such a blur, I don't remember what anyone calls me on a regular basis, except for what my parents and my wife call me (David).

Several years ago, I attended a supervisory training session that was held for all of the supervisors in our division.  We were assigned to one of four sessions that included 14-16 supervisors from around the plant.  This particular session dealt with "Dealing with difficult personalities".  The content was taken from the book  Dealing With People You Can't Stand by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirshner.  Without going into too much detail since the book is a great read, we discussed ten different personality types that cause their own flavor of trouble in the workplace.

These personality types are described on the spectrum of passivity and aggresion with extreme ends being the most acute, and the ones along the scale having their own passive/agressive nuances.  We all sat in a U-shaped table setup, so most of us could face the rest of the group.  Silly enough, we all had placards in front of us with our first names and departments written on them with a Sharpie.  Like normal steel mill maladapts, we joked around about how we already knew each other, but the placards were originally meant for the instructor to learn our names so we could be called upon directly to participate, not for us.  We covered these different types of personalities, starting with the most agressive (Tank/Bulldozer) and proceeding throught he spectrum. With each description, the instructor would explain the different behaviors, how they manifested, and how they negatively interacted with others.  These included:

1)  Bulldozer/Tank - Agressive, alpha, control-freak, cruel when stressed.
2)  Sniper/Ambusher - Agressive but hidden, taking cheap shots, sarcastic
3)  The Time Bomb - Mostly agreeable, silent until a breaking point is reached then BOOM.
4)  The Know it All - Self explanatory.
5)  The Think They Know it All - Idiot.
6)  The Yes Person - Overly agreeable, afraid to disappoint.
7)  The Maybe Person - Wishy washy, unable to commit.
8)  The Nothing Person - Passive, protective, keeps things to themselves.
9)  The No Person  - Passive, always naysaying new ideas.
10) The Whiner - Passive as it gets, the victim.

Throughout this explanation of these ten personalities, I found myself looking around the room and realizing that we were all exhibiting these terrible traits.  Furthermore, I could put a label on each person there that I knew.  What was worse, everyone else was doing the  same thing.  We all had these odd looks on our faces as our eyes darted back and forth, scanning the room, mouthing little smirks, realizing  that we were the reason that we were being taught these traits. The traits were our traits, not our superior's or our suborndiates, but the very obstacles that were in our way of being quality supervisors. During this time, I don't think anyone was paying attention to the instructor anymore, we were completely entranced with that fact that each on of us were one of these characitures.

Finally, I took my placard, folded it the other way, and wrote on the clean side.  I placed it in front of me and exclaimed "Fine, there you go, I might was well just name myself 'Ambusher'!"  After that, everyone one at the table simultaneously took back their placards, folded them over and wrote on the clean side their newly conceptualized title.  Around the table, instead of names and departments on the tables, there were name tags reading "Bulldozer", "Sniper", "Whiner", etc.  As honest as young children we identified ourselves for who we really were.  The instructor was flabbergasted, and didn't know what to say.  She in turn took out a new placard, on it wrote "Know It All".

And then, the healing began.


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