Difficult Conversations – Your Training Starts Now

Over the past two decades as an Employer, I have given a similar speech to all my employees.  I have never written it down before writing this article.  The current version goes something like this.

Welcome to our company.  You are here, because we believe that can become better at this job than we can.  Our job is to help you to do that.  Your job is to do your best – while we help you.


This is a professional environment.  The only environment that you have known, from primary school to university, is the academic environment.  In the academic environment, 70% may be a good exam mark, 80% may be very good, and 90% may be excellent.  Here, 99% is a fail.

In the professional environment, your work must consistently be 100% accurate.  If an engineer’s calculations are 99% correct, the building may collapse.  If an accountant’s calculations are 99% correct, the client may go bankrupt.  If a nurse’s or anesthetist’s calculations are 99% correct, the patient may die from being given an over-dose.


We will train you to consistently achieve 100% within four years.  You will learn to achieve 100% accuracy, by repeatedly correcting your work.  Your job is to do the work assigned to you, whether calculations, drawings, reports, or letters.  You will then bring your work to us.  We will review it, and give you our comments.  Then you will do it again, and again, until you get it right.

You may have to redo your work seven times, before it is ready to be given to our Clients.  Please do not get emotionally attached to your best efforts.  Otherwise, you may feel discouraged when your initial best efforts consistently require corrections.

Our hope is that you will come to appreciate, that we respect our Clients too much to give them substandard work.  We do not get paid until your work is given to our Clients.  We can easily do the work more efficiently by doing it ourselves, but we prefer to invest in your improvement.  So, value your training.


We started our professional careers in a similar way that you are now starting yours.  We know that there are things that you are unlikely to know now, for the simple reason that such things are normally learnt through experience.  Therefore, never be afraid to admit that you do not know.  Ask questions – so that we may train you better.

This method of training takes intentional humility on your part.  Graduating from university with a bachelor, master, or doctorate degree, means that you have met the academic grade.  However, you are years away from meeting the professional grade.  So, you should willingly embrace, rather than resentfully resign to the training.


You will likely communicate with your fellow university graduates, who found employment with other companies, or the public service.  Do not be dismayed if you learn that they have been rapidly promoted to management and regulatory positions, while you are still being trained.

There are many companies and government agencies, that do not seem to understand the wide difference between academic and professional grades.  You will interact with their employees throughout your professional career.

When persons with academic qualifications are prematurely given professional responsibilities, there can only be sustained frustration for everyone with whom they interact and influence.  Do not get frustrated during such professional interactions.  This is an inefficient cost of doing business, that you must learn to accept.


You are not perfect; therefore, we expect you to make mistakes.  A mistake is to inadvertently send something to one of our Clients, that is not to a professional standard.  Whether that mistake is minor or major, you have one responsibility, and that it to admit your mistake to us – as soon as it is known to you.  It is our responsibility to get mistakes corrected.

There are no consequences to you for admitting your mistakes, regardless of whether they have minor or major consequences.  You will not be sanctioned for admitting a mistake – because we all make mistakes.  Instead, you will be trusted more.  You may be tempted to hide your mistakes, and hope that they will never be found.  They are always found.

There is only one on-the-spot fireable offence in this company, and that is hiding mistakes.  Doing so puts the Company at an unnecessary and unacceptable risk of harm.

So, welcome to the company.  As you persist with your training, you will build a stable foundation on which to support a successful professional career.  Your training starts now.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

11 thoughts on “Difficult Conversations – Your Training Starts Now

  1. Brother, now that you are on the topic regarding your Engineering Profession, I must utter these few words regarding a Christian brother of mine who is in fact a Civil Engineer and a man whom I considered remarkable brilliant, but yet humble in disposition.

    Now, when I was in my middle to late twenties, I attended Church with this African American Christian Brother named Garry Hale, and I founded Garry to be a very humble individual despite his academic pedigree and countless number of achievements.

    This young African American Christian Brother, who is still a Civil Engineer today, never talked or boasted about the fact that he graduated the Ivy League school Cornell University at the top of his class, and owned his own Engineering Company in his twenties, but what impressed me the most about this Christian Brother, was the fact that at this tender age, Garry used work for the State of Connecticut designing Bridges and Highways, as well as he were the only Black person to sit on the School Board in a predominantly White City in the late 80s, but yet Garry Hale remained humbled in the face of all his accomplishments and academic pedigree, and this gained my respect and admiration for this extraordinary African American Christian Brother.

  2. Brother, let me add this last fact about this remarkably gifted and brilliant Black Christian Brother, and that is, in addition to designing Bridges and Highways for the State, Garry went into designing Apparatus for the Physically Disable Population in the State.

    Nevertheless, the moral of this story is, there is nothing more remarkable or beautiful in my view, than to see someone that has achieved so much at such a young age, managed to remained humbled in the face of all his achievements or accomplishments.

    And lastly, this only could have been the Spirit of God operating in this earthly vessel, and the foresight and vision of parents who laid the foundation for this Black Christian Brother success.

  3. The age limit to legally buy or consume alcohol is to be raised to 18 under a new Liquor Licences Bill, lawmakers in the House of Assembly agreed Tuesday.

    Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Kerrie Symmonds told the House of Assembly that anyone caught selling alcohol to those under 18 or encouraging them to become involved in the business of selling liquor could be charged and fined up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

  4. @Hants May 12, 2021 11:21 AM “The age limit to legally buy or consume alcohol is to be raised to 18.”

    I never knew that the legal age for buying and drinking alcohol was 16, I’d assumed that it was 18. Now that I am nearly 70 can I go back and do my 2 missed years of buying and drinking alcohol? And if so where do I get permission?

  5. What struck me was the manner of the Minister’s statement on the matter and the newspaper headline.

    “Police have the RIGHT to shut you down” – Minister’s statement.

    “Police still have POWER” – newspaper headline.

    Better would be-

    Police have the RESPONSIBILITY to shut you down.

    Police still have duty.

    Isn’t it also time we change the name from Police Force to Police Service?

    We could kill two birds with one stone when we drop the “Royal”.

    Words do shape perceptions and hence behaviour.

  6. Did not even know about the age limit at all.

    Sure my son hasn’t a clue either.

    No reason to care.

    I never made alcohol a big deal. We blow up its aura by our words.

    Just as we blow up sex.

    Makes young people want to indulge even more. And overindulge.

    Alcohol and sex, things we can enjoy in moderation and in the right circumstances.

    Not necessary for enjoyment of life but can enhance it when one is in control.

  7. How about the banning of the production, importation and sale of alcohol and make it equal under the laws which govern the production, importation and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes?

    Wouldn’t that be a ‘genuine’ reflection of the values of a good god-fearing Christian country by treating all sins as equal in the eyes of Satan?

    If Barbados is to survive and earn its way in this brave overly competitive world of tourism as a place ‘worth’ visiting in the Caribbean it has to become the Amsterdam of the Eastern Caribbean.

    How about removing the country’s already stained gown of hypocrisy and decriminalize the ‘economic activity called Prostitution?

  8. The Amsterdam of the Caribbean???? Is that all we can do to survive?

    I think not!

    But I have no problem with the decriminalisation of prostitution, as unsavoury as I find it to be.

    Rather than criminalise alcohol consumption I would decriminalise marijuana use.

    The crime to me should not be in the consumption or use but in certain acts harmful to others committed under the influence.

  9. As an employer what do you think of businesses who are not paying severance to employees they have let go. Apparently the Act is time sensitive and employers know this and are playing their ex employees as suckers. Do you agree that severance pay is, according to the law, an entitlement that should not be time sensitive?

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