By Melissa FrenYea Workbytes – Times Union

This year’s race for governor of New York was once again disappointing.

Sure it had its entertaining moments. Sure it had its “only in NY” cast of characters. But will someone please tell me when we will get a candidate who will be brazen enough to finally force us all to face the very real threat of an invasion from Canada?

If ever there was a year that I had high hopes, it was this. And yet, we are once again left with a governor who will leave it to us to prepare for this on our own. And so we shall.

Fact #1: Canadians are experts at the sport of curling. Often called “chess on ice,” teams of four slide expertly on super slippery, Teflon-soled shoes down “sheets” of ice tossing granite “rocks” with blistering accuracy.

Fact #2: If Canada ever invaded us, it would be with a battalion of ninja curlers sliding gracefully down various frozen bodies of water hurling rocks with laser precision.

Anyone who watched the last Olympics understands the gravity of this situation. It is for this reason that I strongly encourage all Americans — especially those of us within easy sliding distance of Canada — to learn how to curl.

To this end, during campaign season, I joined the Schenectady Curling Club, where I was immediately enrolled in Curling School — an intense boot camp intent on honing curling skills as quickly as possible.

My reaction to this was twofold: (1) excitement that I’d finally met people who understand the urgency of the situation at hand and (2) a realization that they’ve got a thing or two to teach corporate America about how to welcome newcomers and get them up to speed wicked fast.

Welcome wagon: No fewer than 10 veteran club members were on hand to meet and greet and offer advice to the members of curling school. They were there voluntarily. They showed us around the club, helped us step out on the ice for the first time and made sure we didn’t fall squarely on our asses. They made sure our first experience was a good one. We liked them all right away. If you’ve ever been the new guy or gal on the block wandering aimlessly around your new workplace (and we all have been), you understand how huge this is.

Skills assessment and skill-specific training: I was put through a battery of tests of physical prowess to determine which curling skills — balance, aiming, rock delivery, sweeping, strategy — I will need the most help mastering. Turns out I need lots of help in all of them and it will be a good long time before I’m ready to go toe-to-toe with Canadian invaders. This news could have been a huge ego blow. But somehow it wasn’t. Hmm… I wonder why (see “Welcome Wagon” above).

Lessons in etiquette: Every endeavor has its rules of etiquette but it is only in curling that I’ve seen these rules so purposefully discussed. Instructors outline the basics — on-time arrival for games, on-ice courtesy — and demonstrate everything from the pre-game “good curling!” greeting handshake to the post-game socializing between the two opposing teams over a round of beers. When was the last time you recall someone explain workplace etiquette to you? Like… never? Right. Think of how much better those new people would make out if someone gave them a heads up that the restrooms are not phone booths or that they will surely feel the wrath of the office manager if they don’t properly recycle used batteries.

Real world practice: Armed with newly acquired skills and backed by the squadron of volunteers, I was placed on a team with other recruits so we could practice what we learned. Veterans offered guidance and advice but didn’t interfere. They let us make mistakes and gave immediate feedback so we understood and could correct the error of our ways. Adjustments were made. Future mistakes were avoided. Everyone smiled. Imagine that.

Socializing: At the end of the lesson, we were treated to bowls of snacks and enjoyed a round of drinks together. The instructors wrapped up the lessons of the day by fielding questions in a nonthreatening environment. Everyone was encouraged to join leagues, to be a part of the action and come back year after year. We did. We are. We will.

Only time will tell if my suspicions about a Canadian invasion come to pass. Curling may or may not be the game that decides whether or not New York trades in its state flag for a red and white maple leaf banner.

Whether or not this happens, based on my experiences as a newcomer to curling, I boldly make this call to arms to all of corporate America: Hie thee to the nearest curling club!

Learn to curl while learning how to properly welcome new employees into your midst. Dare to imagine a world in which new employees are surrounded by welcoming veteran workers… in which the rules of workplace etiquette are made clear from day one… in which experienced employees have your back and buy you a drink at the end of the day.

These secrets of employee loyalty — and perhaps the keys to our national security — are revealed at curling school.

Melissa Frenyea is a member of the management team at CommSoft in Rensselaer where she leads the Implementation, Training and Product Management teams. Contact her at For more information about curling and to inquire more about the art of how to welcome new people into your midst, visit

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive