It can really make you nuts, this temping business. You have the same sort of problems that everyone working in this day and age does, only more. Here you are, being dropped into different environments with different people and different responsibilities, and it really takes its toll. After all, the first day on the job is the hardest, and youíve got several first days on the job every single month.
This portion of the website is designed to give you some tricks and tips for dealing with common office problems that everyone has to face, as well as those that are unique to temping. Donít thank me, just lavish me with expensive gifts and wads of cash.
Remembering Stuff / Forgetting Stuff
Stress / Sexual Harassment
Temping is tough on the brain. You are often plopped right into a large company with hundreds of names and the faces that go with them, and you will have to commit them to memory over a very short period of time.
You may have heard about something called photographic memory, where someone can just look at something and have that image perfectly preserved in their head forever. My mind works exactly like that, with the one small difference that I immediately forget everything.
So its a good idea to develop some memory tricks in order to help you remember all these employees who will run by and yell "Iím expecting a package, call me when it gets here!" and then are gone, leaving you to wonder just who the hell they were. While you may have indeed met this person at some point, it was probably during a mass introduction on your first day. You were probably brought into a large conference room containing no less than two thousand people, and your escort said, "Everyone, this is Chris. Heíll be working in Marketing this week. Chris, this is: Bob-Jim-Steve-Alice-Sue-Alan-Joan-Mike-Tony-Diane-Sally-Steve-Jaunita-Tito-Frank-Harvey-Matilda- (breath) Steve-Skip-Steve-Phil-Jean-Joan-John-Jen-Jeff-Georgia-Nancy-Steve-Steve-Steve-Ron-Ben-Karen and Sam."
So you need to come up with some way to memorize these people.
My Mom always said a good way to remember someoneís name when you meet them is to repeat their name back to them.
"Hi, Iím Steve."
Well, this is a nice theory and probably effective for someone with an actual functioning mind. But my brain is so busy storing all the dialogue from the Die Hard movies that it takes a lot more hammering to make anything stick.
"Hi, Iím Steve."
"Hi, Steve. Nice to meet you, Steve. Steve, Iíll see you around, Steve. Your name is Steve, Steve."
Steve now thinks I am planning on stalking and dissecting him. So, while I probably wonít forget his name for the next three or four minutes, I havenít exactly made a good impression.
I know what youíre probably thinking. What about ID Badges? Donít most companies require their workers to wear ID badges at all times when in the office? Yes, but few employees will wear their ID badges at all. And for those that do, there are still problems to consider:
So what can you do? Ideally, you should affix large, bright red label to each employee that states their name and position in eight-inch letters. Preferably worn on both the front and back of the employee, this label would also have a small electronic device attached to it that would announce the name of the employee every five seconds (for those instances when the employee is facing you sideways). And since Iím imagining things, why not a radio transmitter affixed to the ear of each worker, which transmit their coordinates back to the central computer you had at your desk. And to top it off, a small implant in the base of their necks through which you would be able to deliver a powerful yet not permanently-damaging shock into their cerebral cortex.
Okay, okay. Can we come back from dream-land please? Thank you. The only real solution is to come up with some memory tricks.
The way the human brain works isÖ well, to be honest, I have no idea how the human brain works. But it is my understanding that memory works better if there is some connection between what youíre trying to remember and something else you already know.
For example, if you meet someone named Alan Baker, and you want to remember his name, just think: Every time I see that guy, I will think of muffins, because a baker bakes muffins. See how it works? Muffins, Baker. Simple. So the next time you see him, youíll think: Muffins. And then youíll think, Why am I thinking about muffins? And youíll think, Because Iím hungry. And where do I go when Iím hungry? To the grocery store! And what do I find at the grocery store? Shopping carts! And whatís always in the bottom of my shopping cart? Old, wet, coupons for baby food! And where are babies most of the time? Behind me in the movie theater! Which makes me think of stale popcorn, which some Native Americans thought contained spirits that were released when the popcorn popped, and remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark when those ghosts were zipping around and that one guyís face melted, like a candle, which reminds me of the time when the power went out and I didnít have candles, so I used that flashlight that had something sticky on the handle, which brings to mind that time I stepped in gum on the way to the dentist, and my dentist looks just likeÖ Joe Don Baker! Thatís his name! Joe! Now, whatís his last nameÖ?
No, this isnít a joke. Forgetting stuff is an important part of temping. In fact, it may be the most difficult part of temping.
Hereís the problem. Letís say you work for a week at an office with one-hundred employees. No... make that... one-hundred and four employees. You struggle all week to get their names and faces burned into your brain, and by Friday afternoon youíve got just about everyone committed to memory.
But then what? Youíre done. You donít need to know these people anymore. So you have to forget them.
If youíve ever tried deliberately forgetting something, you know itís impossible, because you have to remember to forget it, and by remembering to forget it you are remembering it even more. The worst part is this now-unwanted knowledge will interfere with your performance at your new job. Say someone asks you which department Alex Sanders works in. Easy! Accounts Payable. Wrong. There was a Sanders in AP at your last job, but the Sanders from this job is in Accounts Receivable. So youíll get them confused and wind up looking like a total idiot and everyone will hate you and call you names and pants you.
My advice? How can you forget this useless information? Time, Iím afraid, is the only proven method of forgetting. So Iíd allow two to three years between temp jobs, just to be safe.
A recent nationwide poll has shown that the leading cause of stress in working temps is stress. Stress can cause such side-effects as headaches, stomach pain, hostage situations, and poor work performance (Another factor that can cause poor work performance is being a poor worker).
There are volumes of literature on the subject that detail a number of ways to deal with stress, such as taking deep breaths, listening to soothing music, or enjoying a nice hot bubble bath. I for one get extremely stressed out on a regular basis. I have taken deep breaths to the point of blacking out, with little or no effect (except for blacking out), music doesnít do a whole lot for me stress-wise, and I have never worked at an office with a nice hot bubble bath available to the employees. So I have come up with my own formula for stress relief in the form of screaming at the top of my lungs.
Screaming is great. And Iím not talking about going to some isolated location or anything. Iím talking about right at your desk. In the middle of a particularly annoying phone call, during a meeting, while being harangued by your superiors, etc. I guarantee that if someone is stressing you out and you start screaming, they will stop stressing you out and will, in fact, probably never speak to you again. For added effect, you might try grabbing their lapels and shaking them until their teeth rattle.
If screaming doesnít do it for you, you may have a serious stress-related condition, so I would recommend immediately calling your doctor and asking him where the closest liquor store is. I suppose you could ask anyone where the nearest liquor store is, but I was going for a surprise ending in the previous sentence. Anyway, despite the bad press booze is getting these days, thereís nothing like it for the stressed out Temp. Crack open a beer, toss back a shot, or go on a five day drinking binge and wake up in a different state wearing an nurses uniform. Booze is good food.
And remember, donít drink and temp. Itís a deadly combination that may result in injury or even promotion.
Remember when "harassment" used to be pronounced just like it was spelled? Now itís pronounced "harris-ment," much in the way that Uranus is pronounced "your-a-niss." And why? Because when you say any word that has "ass" or "anus" in it, children tend to giggle.
Well, sexual harassment is no giggling matter, kids, and by the way, if you are trying to stop children from giggling, adding the word "sexual" in front of a word with "ass" in it, even if youíve changed the pronunciation of the latter, isnít gonna do you much good.
Sexual harassment can happen to just about anyone. Take this fellow temp I know, a guy named Liam. He told me he was on assignment once and had a bad case of hiccups all morning. Heíd tried drinking water and holding his breath, but to no avail: his hiccups were echoing all over the building and the employees were enjoying a good chuckle at his expense. He was in the copy room at one point, hiccupping away, when a female employee walked in and waited beside him for his job to finish. He stood there, miserably hiccupping, and she suggested several means to rid him of his affliction. Finally, she told him a sudden shock might stop his hiccups. Then she lifted her top and flashed her breasts at him.
Now, I tell this story to bring up an important point. Nothing cool ever happens to me. You know, there have been dozens of occasions in which Iíve been in the presence of women and gotten the hiccups, and not a single bare bosom has been offered up. Itís depressing. And this guy Liam isnít really better looking than I am or anything, I mean, heís kind of a dork and you should see his hair, it looks like a family of squirrels live in it. I wonít even mention his breath.
But is what happened to Liam sexual harassment? I have no idea, because I have done absolutely no research on the subject, other than watching the movie "Disclosure" starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore. In this movie, Michael Douglas plays a guy who has a beautiful wife and family, and has a beautiful boss who proceeds to take off most of her clothing and crawl all over him. Some guys have all the luck! If you stop watching the movie there, itís the happiest happy ending in movie history!!!
But if you watch the rest of Disclosure, you can determine three things:
Um. I think I got a wee bit sidetracked thereÖ letís seeÖ bosoms, Michael Douglas, clappingÖ ah!
What is sexual harassment? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines it thus:
Make sense to you? I hope so, because I got lost three words in.
So. Sexual harassment is humiliating, degrading, and most of all, illegal. Remember:
There was one time when a woman I was working with began speaking to me in a rather candid way about sex, specifically, about the two of us having sex. She started off by mentioning that our supervisor, a male, was constantly coming on to her, questioning her about sex, and so on. She was very upset about this, so as she was leaving for the day, I walked out with her to take my break and see if she wanted me to do anything about the situation. Once outside, she began complementing me on my looks, then proceeded to tell me that, while she was not attracted to our supervisor, she would be more than happy to "lay with" me. She said I looked "tight" and "trim" and would be willing to have sex with me (well, she used a naughty word) right then and there. We would have "beautiful children" she said. This is about two minutes into the conversation.
Now I was in a bit of a bind. The fact that she was coming on so strong cast doubts on her story about our supervisor harassing her. At the same time, I did want to believe her, because although she was very, ahem, outspoken, it didnít mean that she was a complete liar, and if our boss was harassing her, it was a very serious thing indeed. And, far more serious than even that was the fact that we would not, repeat, definitely not have beautiful children. She was not attractive and, well, I ainít no prize myself. There should be a law against people like the two of us breeding, but theyíd better enact it fast because this tramp probably hit on every schmoe on her way home.
If you would like some actual, useful information about sexual harassment, contact the EEOC toll free at 1-800-669-4000, or visit them on the web at: http://www.eeoc.gov/index.html.
And heyÖ youíre lookiní pretty fine today.
BACK TO GUIDE