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Annie Ward


Editor, HR Zone

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Trainers Diary: Stereotyping and the Dreaded Night Shift


Byron Kalies
Trainer Byron Kalies looks beyond the stereotype and finds a shining light at the end of the night shift.

How often when you’ve worked in large organisations have you heard;
“Well that’s a good theory but I’m not sure it would work in our area,” or “I like that but here in (HR/sales/technical support) it’s just not practical given the nature of our work.”

In really large businesses you can map that onto location. Then it’s “Well that’s a good theory and I’m sure it would work in (Head Office/Regional Offices) but really I don’t think it’s for here” or “Not really. It’s not a (Welsh/London/Yorkshire/Southern) thing. But I’m sure it would work really well somewhere else.”

It is so easy to stereotype groups of people. That is to assume all IM personnel are unhelpful, introverted and have the customer care skills of Genghis Khan. But we know that isn’t true. Similarly it’s a common stereotype to assume all Yorkshire people are mean.

We learn through experience that this isn’t true, of course. Although I do recall on my one encounter training staff in Barnsley it proved very stereotypical. A manager from a local office in Barnsley called me asking how much the training course would be. I explained that as it had all been arranged and practically all paid for by Head Office, but there would be a nominal charge.

“How much?” he asked.
“£20,“ I said.
“Does that include lunch?”
“Yes” I replied.
“And the course,” he continued “When does it start?”
“And it’s £20.” He thought for a while then replied, “It’d better be bloody good.”

Building on the stereotype theory I’ve delivered a fair amount of training to night shift staff. I’ve heard from other trainers that they are unappreciated, miserable, not much fun.

In my experience when I’ve trained night shift staff they do think they are the ‘most special’. They do feel they are unappreciated, neglected and ‘dumped on’. However, I’ve learnt that even though it’s a stereotype in most instances it’s true as well. They are often the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ people.

They rarely meet senior managers. They are treated as second class citizens in that the canteens are rarely open, the vending machines are often empty by the time they start and they get little chance to meet with HR, IM or any of the standard corporate services.

So behind the stereotypes there may often be some truth, or a great deal of truth. I think it’s useful to look at these stereotypes and treat this as a useful piece of information – nothing more, nothing less. In terms of the night shift it certainly helped to understand the frustrations, pressures and often, the negative attitude they have to the centre.

They saw me, and other trainers as the corporate voice of the organisation and often take their frustrations out on trainers, as we are often an easy target, the only target. This used to really frustrate me at the beginning. After listening to the concerns over the years I can appreciate their feelings a little better now.

On the positive side the night shift are special. They have a certain sense of ‘us against them’ that bonds them as a team. There is a genuine feeling of looking out for each other and whatever you do as a trainer you daren’t single one of them out. Not that you would but …

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Annie Ward

Editor, HR Zone

Read more from Annie Ward

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