Basil came home to his blessed house slightly depressed. What was weighing him down was an incident that had happened earlier in the day, when his boss had suggested that he attend an HR training. Basil being the good soldier readily agreed to his boss’s suggestion, but couldn’t help but wonder what had prompted this. Along with this thought, Basil carried the dread of going to another HR class based on a book somebody read in HR and got jazzed about. Another class and another theory deconstructing niceness and understanding at work. God bless HR people, thought Basil, because they do believe they are changing the world and are earnest about the stuff they are peddling.

The house smelled great and it improved Basil’s spirits. Trudy had prepared a crispy Peking duck and pancakes for dinner. Trudy blessed the food and Basil said a silent prayer for HR people everywhere delivering the good news of proper communication in the workplace. Trudy could tell Basil was still carrying thoughts from work with him, but she chose not to address them. She loved Basil to death, but when he talked about work he could be boorish. Plus Trudy knew Basil’s could stir up as much trouble as he received so she hardly saw him as the put upon person he thought he was at times. Trudy also had a low tolerance for whining and Basil knew this and he knew it was better to keep his obsessive thinking to himself.

Basil imagined the HR videos where actors progressively handled situations the “right” way and all was good in the work place after 5 minutes. Managers became nicer and more sanitized and employees became better employees because their employers had spoken to them with empathy and understanding in hushed tones. Employees no longer resented their employers nor did they sabotage productivity and everyone lived happily ever after because they had permanently changed for the better because everyone knows that after decades of HR training that shallow HR feel-good theories change hearts and minds and massively improve productivity, just ask Steve Jobs.

What stressed Basil out the most was having to do the inevitable group exercises, employing concepts with complete strangers. Where they practiced how to politely discuss issues with bosses, co-workers, and subordinates, and practiced how to elicit information and how to increase their understanding of other people’s feelings. These were always awkward and most people, because they only half listen to the lecture, do the exercises incorrectly.

You know what drove Basil absolutely batty was when HR staff suggested trying these techniques at home. Like I would ever try HR Jedi Mind tricks on the wife and kids, Basil mused. Trudy not only had eyes in the back of her head, but had x-ray vision into Basil’s heart. One time, Basil did try to implement the six bewitching concepts from an HR class and Trudy told him to stop before he even got to step two and did a reverse Jedi Mind trick on Basil and had him cleaning up the kitchen the rest of the evening. Of course, Basil barely remembers any of it because afterwards Trudy erased the memory from an empty spot in his cranium.

No doubt it is important to be positive and kind at work, but some people are tough nuts to crack, thought Basil as the crispy Peking duck slid down his throat. The world is not a place where one part of your life can be put away neatly into a box, while you go on to another part of your life. Life is not discrete, but continuous. People’s home life spills into work and their work into their lives. This can be good and be bad, but it means HR theories are powerless against personal history and family background. People don’t work harder if they get paid more, they get paid more because they already know how to work hard. Their work ethic is not learned at work and their personalities are not shaped by work.

Ah well, thought Basil, as long as I have Trudy and Peking duck, I will survive HR training. Life will go on whether or not I want to be trained, I might as well make the best of it. Who knows maybe I will learn something this time.