I come to you as humbly as I know how, because I’m really at an interesting professional intersection. I currently work at a summer camp teaching kids how to cook and my co-teacher is tawdry. We will call this person “Calvin.” So, Calvin has been cooking for a while and has a lot of life experiences that add life and joy to our program. If something goes wrong, Calvin is normally the first to help find a solution to keep the integrity of the lesson going. My biggest issue with Calvin is that he is the “King of Change.” I feel like he’s changing things, just to be included. If we are doing an experiment and we hand the worksheets out first then go outside, Calvin will suggest we go outside first, then hand out the worksheets. It almost feels intentional. Just this week, we were making waffles and we had the students measuring the ingredients. After lunch Calvin starts pouring unmeasured ingredients in the bowl. I told him I wanted the kids to do that, so they get the chance to be included in the lesson. He said, “Oh, well we can have them do the cinnamon.” Then he asked me if he could lead the lesson. Now, this wouldn’t normally be a problem, but he had already led the majority of lessons during this camp. He was already in my face and the students are in the classroom, so there wasn’t really a chance to resolve the issue without it turning into something else, so, I decided to take break and come back at the end of the group’s class period. With every person you meet, Calvin tries to figure out if they know someone there and it feels disingenuous. Sometimes, Calvin talks loud on his cell phone during class lessons, and comes to work with a bonnet on his head; sometimes he’ll leave a roller in his hair for part of the day. Calvin just turned 50.
What can I do or say to Calvin? He is a great person, but I’m not sure, if he’s open to constructive criticism. How do I go about telling him how I feel with love and tact?
Can’t Wait ‘Til Friday
I was working this thing out in my brain and I thought I was on the right track, until I got to this sentence: Calvin just turned 50. Hit the brakes. Hol’ up, hol’ up, this changes everything. Your story about Calvin reminds of that over-the-top character from the “Martin” sitcom: “I said, Jerome’s in the house, watch yo’ mouth! Who you talking ‘bout, an old school playa from the Himalayas?” Calvin has been doing his thing for a long, long time. Take a seat young one, watch and unlearn. This is summer camp, so you’re only in it for a minute, on your way to bigger and better things.
You say Calvin is tawdry, I say Calvin’s non-swag is none of your business. Okay, he likes to wear a roller or an earring every now and again. What if Beyoncé did it, you’d call it a trend. LOL.
I have a feeling you are always slammed, glammed and got it going on—on the regular. That’s a wonderful thing, this world requires all kinds, but that’s not Calvin. Does that mean he can’t do his job? No. Does that mean he won’t ever be the boss? Yes and that’s all right with him.
Calvin sounds like he won’t be wearing any skinny jeans any time soon. I ain’t mad at him and you’ve got bigger fish to fry, you are clearly passing through. On those tough “I don’t think I can make it days,” those kids, potential foodies, chefs, restaurant entrepreneurs will remember your directions, professionalism and ability to make it look good while you’re doing it. I commend you for that. On those “this is too hard, I’m gonna quit days,” they’ll think about Calvin and say to themselves, if he can do it, I can do it too, face washed, teeth brushed, without a roller in their hair.
Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and The Washington Post. Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.
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Alma Gill gives advice for dealing with unique personalities in the workplace.