fired for being too eager

A reader writes:

I am a young graduate who was unfortunately laid off from his first job post-graduation.  The issue was that I wasn’t a good fit — I was too eager to take responsibility and frustrated management by being forceful in my requests.  I had a fellow coworker admit to me that the supervisor found me frustrating because I was “too motivated,” and all of my coworkers have told me that they would not hesitate to work with me again.

I am currently in the process of interviewing for a new job.  I plan on being objective with them as to why I was fired, and admitting that I was too eager for more responsibility and did not time my suggestions appropriately.

Do you have any suggestions on how to ensure that I find a company who is willing to let “the little people” be more involved?  Am I asking for too much considering I have been out of school for less than a year?  I have been told by several people that it is fairly typical to be too eager in your first job out of school, and I am definitely going to work hard on ensuring my suggestions are timed appropriately.

Okay, first, I want to clarify a terminology thing here, because you’re using “laid off” and “fired” interchangeably, which is something I notice a lot of people doing. So a quick clarification on that:

  • laid off = position is eliminated (generally for financial or restructuring reasons)
  • fired = let go for performance reasons or “fit”

This doesn’t have anything to do with your question, but I am a lover of precise language.

Moving on…

I think the key concept here is that there’s a right way and a wrong way to make suggestions and get more responsibility, and it sounds like you might be going about it the wrong way.

Manager don’t typically have a problem with highly motivated employees; instead, being told you’re “too motivated” is a euphemism for “you don’t know when to back off or let something go.”  And it sounds like you’re citing your coworkers’ comments that they’d be happy to work with you again as evidence that your manager was in the wrong, but I don’t think we can put a lot of stock in that, because very few coworkers are going to tell you that they didn’t like working with you. Their job isn’t to manage your performance or give you feedback, so most aren’t going to want to take on the burden of delivering a difficult message. Now, that’s not to say that they didn’t like working with you — only that I wouldn’t really factor in their comments as particularly compelling evidence either way.

You describe yourself as having been “forceful” in your requests, and that’s alarming. You can’t really get away with being forceful in your requests at this stage in your career (or possibly ever, in some cases). Before you can even think about being that aggressive, you need to build up a huge amount of credibility, reputation, and value as an employee … which is something that typically takes years, if it happens at all. And even then, being forceful still isn’t something you’d be going around doing all the time.

Look, here’s the deal with making suggestions and having input:  It’s all in how you do it. If you’re constantly throwing out suggestions about things things outside your purview or about things you might not fully understand, without first taking the time to understand why things work the way they do, you are going to annoy the hell out of people. (You may also cause your boss to wonder why you’re not more focused on what she’s paying you to do.)

But if you’re thoughtful about your input and don’t assume you know the whole story, and if you find structured ways to raise your ideas rather than just bombarding people with them when they’re focused on other things, then people will generally welcome your input, even if they don’t ultimately agree with you. If you go about it this way, some people will even work with you to help you understand what’s good and bad in your ideas, and help you refine them and make them better, and that’s how you develop the sort of expertise that eventually may cause people to seek out your input.

(It’s also really important to recognize that even when your ideas are good, they might not be as important as other priorities your manager needs to be focused on right now. And that concept of relative advantage is one that sometimes takes people a while to learn.)

And the way you take on more responsibility isn’t by demanding it, but by building up a track record of achievement at lower levels first, thus proving your ability to take on more. This isn’t usually something that happens in just a few months, so at less than a year out of college, you’re probably being unrealistic in your expectations in this regard.

But in any context, if you’re convinced that you’ve proven you’re ready to take on more and your employer isn’t giving you opportunities to, then you can always see if another employer will — and you’ll find out very quickly whether the market thinks you’re ready for more responsibility or not.

Overall, I think the challenge before you isn’t really about how to find a workplace that lets its junior staff be more involved, but instead is about figuring out how to navigate these issues differently — and probably less often — in a way that a good manager would welcome.

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Wilton Businessman*

    I think AAM put it perfectly by saying ‘being told you’re “too motivated” is a euphemism for “you don’t know when to back off or let something go.”’.

    Nobody wants to deal with “that guy”; the guy who comes fresh out of b-school knowing everything and is going to tell you how to make everything better. You don’t know jack about what’s going on in the department or what the back story is. You don’t know we do it this way because when the server crashed 2 years ago we lost data and this is our audit trail. You don’t know that when Shirley was out on Maternity leave, six clients got pissed off because they couldn’t get in touch with anybody for four months.

    I hired you to do a job; your job. When you can come to me with ideas on how to improve your job, I will listen and probably give you a chance to make those changes.

    1. Phideaux*

      We have “that guy” at my work as well. We are so blessed to have his insight and wisdom gained from spending 4 years studying charts and graphs and listening to professors blather on about theories and principles that haven’t been relevant for years and have no practical application here in the real world. He has a suggestion or better way for every single minute detail of everything that happens. He never has a thought that doesn’t go unspoken. He is beyond annoying. I’m not his manager, and I’m ready to fire him. If he tells me one more time that I can improve my vendors lead time by simply telling them that “if they can’t step it up, we’ll have to find someone who will”, I’ll strangle him. Then I’ll fire him.

      Sorry, I seem to have gone off on a tangent here. AAM’s advice here is dead on in that the OP needs to take some time to watch, learn, listen, and then, contribute ideas with the understanding that not all of your ideas (in fact probably most) won’t be embraced as the next Big Thing.

      1. Michigan girl*

        I had to sign in just to say – lmao.

        “I’ll strangle him. Then I’ll fire him.”

  2. Chris V*

    The whole laid off vs fired thing? Managers always use the term laid off, even if they mean fired. At some point there was a difference. But, that hasn’t been true in years.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually haven’t found that to be true! There’s a clear difference between what each means, although I could imagine a manager who might say “laid off” in trying to soften the blow of firing someone.

      1. Nichole*

        Though it seems to be more or less known on this board, I also want to reiterate that laid off vs. fired makes a *huge* difference when filing for unemployment. Like there are potential legal consequences for saying you’re laid off when you’re really fired (though it usually doesn’t come to that). Any manager who uses them interchangably may want to adjust that practice quickly to avoid the backlash of losing a UI appeal because the claimant was told they were laid off, especially if the real reason for the termination wasn’t given to the employee. It’s sloppy practice with real consequences that managers need to be aware of.

        1. Kimberlee*

          Agreed completely. If you fire someone and tell them they’re being laid off, then you’re basically telling them that they can file for unemployment.

          1. Chris*

            I’m not sure how it works in other states, but in Illinois, you can receive unemployment for any reason other than resigning voluntarily, or gross misconduct (theft, assault, insubordination, etc.). That being said, I’m not sure the relative difficulties in successfully filing a claim after a termination. In my last position, the HR person even told me that if the unemployment office contacted them, they’d list my termination as a lay off (even though it sort of wasn’t).

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — in most states, you can get unemployment if you were fired, as long as you weren’t fired for gross misconduct. If you were fired for general incompetence, you’ll usually be able to get it.

        2. Nichole*

          I forget sometimes how much UI laws can vary from state to state. To clarify: In Indiana, laid off vs. fired is huge. The standard is you must be unemployed through “no fault of your own.” If you actually did what you were fired for (or aren’t convincing when you say that you didn’t), the company followed the established procedure, and they treat you the same way that other employees in similar situations have been treated, you’re probably not going to have much luck, even if it was a typical infraction such as being late or poor performance rather than gross misconduct. Some people complain, but I personally dig the tougher standards. I don’t think you should have to prove that an employee stabbed someone to get out of paying them unemployment.

          1. Elaine*

            I had a long stretch of unemployment a long time ago, and was doing temp jobs (admin assistant/secretary) and collecting unemployment when I couldn’t find work. I got a “permanent” job, but realized after 3 days that my boss was really psycho and I would never be able to work with her, and started looking for another job. We had a meeting about 6 weeks later, and it was mutually agreed that I would leave the company. I applied to reinstate my unemployment, and had a phone interview with a woman from the state. She wanted to know more details, and if the decision to leave was mine or the company’s. I explained it was mutual, and she tried to call my former boss to hear what she had to say about it. This arrogant woman would not accept her phone calls, so after several attemps, the woman from the state ruled in my favor and I got my unemployment check the day before my mortgage payment was due. Lesson here – never let there be any ambiguity about how you left an employer. Either resign or have them fire you or lay you off. It does need to be clear.

      2. Vicki*

        I worked for a company that “fired” at least thirty people over several weeks. It wasn’t )in legal terms) a layoff. There were no performance problems, no advance notice. And they claimed in my “severance notice” (a sheet of paper that I had to sign) that I had “voluntarily” quit. On the advice of a lawyer, I was able to get that changed.

        I wasn’t laid off. I wasn’t “fired” for cause. They were reducing headcount for reasons that they didn’t explain to anyone.

        There’s a clear difference in what these terms mean but some companies find very creative ways around. We need new terms. :-(

  3. Anonymous*

    The first thing that usually annoys me as a manager when this happens is that the person, usually new to the position and industry, has a limited understanding of the system as a whole. So yes, suggesting something that seems to make sense and not realizing the series of consequences this would engender in the rest of the organization and system just confirms they do not have the whole picture view and that they are new. That is not what is annoying. What is, is that often they are not interested in knowing that it has all these extra consequences they have not thought about and think I am being obstructionist. What would impress me would be an actual conversation (at some other time even) where the person can incorporate what I told them and think of ways to make the change with that new information. I have often implemented changes (sometimes very different from the original idea) that have made a difference from conversations that have started like that, but in my experience, once the person realizes their bright idea is not feasible in the way they think it should, they give up or think I am averse to change or something like that.

    The other thing that annoys me even more as a manager when I have someone who is “very motivated” and has suggestions about everything is that when they come to me with their new idea or thing we should be doing, they do what I call plopping. They have not thought about how to implement such idea; more often than not, they do not think they want to do it or take on the additional work, they just want *me* to do something about it. How is that helpful? And frankly, I am usually aware of many extra things we could be doing if we lived in an ideal world with full staffing and time. Some things just end up being lower priority because we don’t. Now, if you would volunteer to take this on, or figure out how it could be implemented within the limitations we do have, that would impress me, but in my experience the two often don’t go together.

  4. Angela*

    I used to be this type of employee…. I knew I was smarter than anyone else in the organization. Look at my degree! Admire me!

    Now, for the first six months in a job, I keep my trap shut about possible improvements…unless I am in a leadership role that involves that very process.

    After I have been there six months, I have proven myself able to work with their current system, and can make improvements.

    And, I still don’t comment on things outside my department.

  5. Phyr*

    Unfortunately people see the fresh eager new people and assume they are “that guy” without a second thought. I’m wondering if it was a combination of being fresh to the job force, not understanding and not getting an answer.

    Companies can get very set in their ways and forget that new hires don’t know all the answers or experiments that they company has tried/come up with. if the company is starting to try and change its ways then more talk of change can make the other employees pissy.

    Fresh out of school is another possible problem. Some schools coddle and encourage their students to be stubborn and pushy. Students don’t get a class on ‘know when to shut up 101’ or ‘don’t be a jerk 101’. They say they want to make strong, determined students with change on the mind.

    Sometimes all that is needed is for a person for them to turn to to ask/talk/bounce ideas off of that will listen and tell them just why something won’t or didn’t work. It could take days but you can get a really good employee out of it. One shaped into the perfect minion, but a good employee none the less. Or they leave.

  6. Meaghan*

    Im kind of impressed by his tenacity and self-esteem, actually. I had been relieved of the conviction that I knew everything by the end of my second year of school. I spent the first year of work being blown away when my boss asked for my opinion.

    1. Anonymous*

      Im kind of impressed by his tenacity and self-esteem, actually. I had been relieved of the conviction that I knew everything by the end of my second year of school.

      One is reminded of a saying by one A. Bierce:
      Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding

  7. Anonymous*

    The others are right. “Too eager” is a euphemism for not being a team player. For always having to be right. For not taking the time to consider the system as a whole.

    Here’s my thought process on how one can’t know it all right out of school:

    1. I knew everything when I came out of school, just like you.
    2. I have more time on the job then you do.
    3. Therefore, I know everything + I know everything about the system in which I work.

    Therefore, I know more than you, the fresh out of college grad, which means you can’t always be right when we disagree. Unless I somehow became magically stupid in the whopping year I’ve been here.

    (The delivery is all tongue-in-cheek, but I do mean the general point which I’m trying to make.)

  8. Kelly*

    In an ideal work environment, managers would take input from all workers, including those fresh out of school. They may have some good ideas on how to change or modify existing processes or policies that they see because they haven’t been there long and they can see that the current way of doing the process could use some tweaking. Yes, they have to be tactful about making their suggestions because they don’t know whose ego they may be bruising with their ideas. You find that people don’t like being told that their ideas that worked at one time are not as effective now.

    I also have to agree with AAM’s comment about co-worker support. It could be that the co-workers were telling the OP one thing to their face but going to the supervisor and complaining about them behind their back. They told them one thing in the interest of having a calm work environment on the surface. I also wonder if they were long time employees and were possibly threatened by the OP’s eagerness and passion. They could have become complacent with the existing policies and not interested in taking any initiative themselves because it would have meant doing more work.

  9. Joey*

    this reminds me of the post on that “idea guy”. It sounds like the ops manager hasn’t dealt with this before even though it’s a fairly common issue among recent grads. Schools really need to include lessons in tact in their curiculum. As an employer this should be on your checklist of things to teach new grads.

    1. Jamie*

      I immediately thought of “the idea guy” as well.

      Most here seem to be basically saying the same thing, which is 100% correct imo – focus on your own responsibilities and gain a reputation for competency and good business skill and you won’t have to worry about forcing your ideas on anyone…they’ll come to you. (Often about things outside your wheelhouse, regardless of your area of expertise which can be an issue…but that’s another topic.)

      1. OP*

        Jamie: I like how you worded it. I became the “expert” for the technology we were using as I had put the energy in to learn it well. I was being called once a day or two when there were programming issues.

  10. fposte*

    Another point–I don’t think my position is unusual in that while managing people is my job, it’s not my *whole* job, and an employee who takes up disproportionate time by continually offering suggestions and “being forceful” (which, I suspect, means not quickly ending the conversation when being told no) is an employee that’s making it hard for me to get my other work done–in other words, that employee is becoming a detriment already.

    I’d also say that if you need to be forceful in this kind of situation, then you haven’t made a decent logical case for what you’re asking for.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is very true: “if you need to be forceful in this kind of situation, then you haven’t made a decent logical case for what you’re asking for.”

  11. OP*

    Thank you so much for answering the question. It’s quite revealing to see all of this frustration towards the “idea guy” and I am definitely going to have to be much more tactful at my next job.

    The one issue I was quite forceful about: Being allowed to work extra overtime. Often I’d get a burst of energy at around 4 PM, and would happily work until 7 PM. By 5:30 PM most nights I’d be kicked out (I’m a software developer). There was also a period where we were told our deadline was for X date, but we weren’t allowed to come in on weekends, reduce features, or work late at night! I warned that we didn’t feel ready to meet this date and asked if there was a contingency plan, I was simply told “The date will be met and there won’t be bugs”. Of course, it was over a month later that we actually finished.

    The one time my feedback was well-received was when it was given within two weeks of us discovering a new challenge in one of our processes — I explained which technology could help us improve the process (I had investigated this technology months ago). I trained another developer in that process, and he asked me “Do we need this step?”. I e-mailed the supervisor, explaining his question and asking if we could eliminate this step to save us work and simplify the system for another department.

    Stuff I’ve learned (that Ms. Greene and the comments agree with):
    1) ALWAYS do the highest quality for my own work first, and get respect for that.
    a) Presentation matters, take the 20 minutes to make your reports pretty.
    2) Do NOT get involved in other departments (including any “faults” they may have).
    3) NEVER ask for something more than once.
    4) Dedicate your energy to fixing YOUR job, and take the time to come up with a full solution, not an idea.

    1. Henning Makholm*

      Okay, a software business that won’t let developers work late is a place to run from. Whether they will pay overtime for it is a different question (aren’t most developers salaried anyway?), but if they actively forbid making an effort when you’re on a roll, then … I lack words here.

      I usually do my best work between 18 and midnight when the office is quiet. Luckily my employer is cool with that, and don’t require me to show up before about 13 in the morning.

      1. Jamie*

        Agreed – I’ve never heard of limiting the time for development.

        I guarantee you if I took all my best work 95% + was done outside of normal business hours. If this place was trying to schedule development like they were staffing customer service you’re better off being out of there.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’ve never heard of limiting the time for development.

          Well, some places where the software has to work do tend to frown on people needing to stay late. It indicates that the planning went wrong at some point.

        2. OP*

          It’s a running gag that everyone who left has found a much better job elsewhere. I should’ve ran myself when our company owner told me in a conversation outside one afternoon that he deliberately ignored my former supervisor’s request for a raise and didn’t even bother giving an answer!

          They also deliberately misled one of our coworkers by stating he’d be our internal tech support/IT person, and then telling him that he wasn’t trusted enough (a long-time friend was hired instead) and treating him as an entry level clerk.

          They had major paranoia issues, and I’m sure they’re convinced that if they let me stay late by myself I would be stealing it and selling it to a competitor.

          Regardless, I know that I still messed up with the way I acted at times, and think there’s an important lesson to be learned :)

    2. Jamie*

      I see – you’re an IT guy – I’m now far more inclined to assume your suggestions were correct and they should have listened to you!

      All kidding aside (although, wasn’t totally kidding in that last statement), from someone who also toils in the technical trenches every day – I understand your frustration. As you are clearly looking to improve your approach I have no doubt that with a little refinement of communication style you will end up being a better employee than most – sooner rather than later.

      Do you know how many times people repeat the same mistakes over and over until they realize they need to change the pattern? Of course you do, you program for a living – some people fail at office politics the same way bad developers churn out crappy code in one job after the next. Your self-awareness will be your way up the ladder.

      If there is one common thread amongst IT people it’s aversion to the illogical. We operate based on empirical absolutes and there are shades of gray in management that can be difficult to navigate at first.

      I think it’s the people part of management – they have feelings and needs and motivations…people are nuanced. Give me code to debug over a personnel issue any day of the week – much easier to deal with.

      If I could give one piece of advice to anyone just starting out in the workforce it’s to make it clear when suggesting improvements that there are probably factors of which you’re unaware which need to be taken into account. It can make people more open to hearing what you have to say.

      Most people we work with (if you are IT in a non technical industry) don’t really understand what we do or why we do things. We wouldn’t want the person in shipping to tell us how to schedule our back-ups or beta testing…something to keep in mind when we want to apply logic to the softer skilled positions.

    3. Talyssa*

      Well now that I know what you did –

      A friend of mine (BSA) got a job at a place that felt STRONGLY about not working overtime, even if you were salaried. It happens sometimes and its USUALLY due to bad project management/bad overall management where you working overtime shows that their estimates were bad. Which should be something you learn from rather than something you hide. But anyway, crappy job that was and she was just as happy to be fired as not.

      However if you were HOURLY and you were insisting on working overtime then DUDE, REALLY? Are you SURPRISED that didn’t go over well? They budgeted 40k/year for you, you asked if you could do the work to make 50k/year and they said no. And then you kept asking.

      I think the issue here (if my hourly scenario is right) is that you weren’t overeager or too forceful – its that you didn’t listen to what they were actually saying. You thought they were trying to prevent you from successfully launching the project, and what they were telling you was that the budget for the project was more important than the time.

      Software projects (all projects) are “Time Money Quality – Pick 2” They were telling you that they were choosing money over time or quality (looks like in the end they went with money and quality over time). And you weren’t listening or they weren’t conveying that message well. (Probably because someone in the management chain is weak and didn’t understand they were making that choice, which happens ALL the time)

      1. OP*

        I made it VERY clear that I did not want to be paid for this, but that I just wanted to do the best job I could, and sometimes needed to stay until 7 PM to get it done.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Were you exempt (not eligible for overtime pay) or non-exempt (eligible for overtime pay)? If you were non-exempt, they can’t legally let you do it unpaid, even if you say you’re okay with it.

          However, I’m betting that you were exempt (and thus not eligible for overtime pay anyway), since most I.T. jobs are.

          1. OP*

            I’m not actually sure; I was actually listed as being paid by the hour.

            They were getting most of their income from government research grants and have to record the hours being worked. This may have been a major part of the issue, and given their paranoia they may have felt concerns that I’d “backstab” them by making them pay for the extra hours.

          2. Talyssa*

            at my company the way they do exempt vs non exempt is based on more on your annual income — is that weird? I always thought it seemed a little arbitrary- when I started working here as a BSA, I was hourly, once my hourly pay went up over a certain amount I became salaried. And it wasn’t that I was a contractor, I just was told thats how HR divides up exempt vs non-exempt. If you may over XX you must be exempt.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Not just weird, but possibly illegal. Whether or not a job is exempt isn’t up to the employer; it’s dictated by federal law, based on the job responsibilities.

            You can be salaried and still be non-exempt … but you’d also be eligible for overtime pay if you worked more than 40 hours in a calendar week. It’s not really about whether you’re salaried or not (although that’s a common shorthand people use); it’s about whether the FLSA requires you to be paid overtime when you go over 40 hours, and that’s dictated primarily by your job duties. It’s a super confusing area of law, and many, many employers don’t do it correctly.

          4. Charles*

            to the OP:

            In answer to the question “are you hourly or exempt?” you’ve answer:

            “I’m not actually sure; I was actually listed as being paid by the hour”

            Sorry to be so harsh; but if you don’t even know exactly what you compensation is how do you expect anyone to take your suggestions seriously? Perhaps, this is a large part of you problem? You don’t get ALL the facts before jumping to conclusions!?

  12. Henning Makholm*

    In my experience, the point where “making suggestions” crosses over into “being obnoxious” is when suggestions are made in a way that demands that anyone LISTEN to the details of suggestion and then immediately do something about it (that is, either agree or explicitly argue against to the suggestion, or even promise to thing about it).

    This does vary a lot between workplace cultures, but I have found that it pays off to make suggestions to peers and bosses in an offhand way instead of assertively. Here’s a recipe:
    (1) Wait for the topic to come up in conversation.
    (2) Say “Of course I think we ought to (insert 10-word summary of outrageously creative idea here)”
    (3) Don’t pause for breath but immediately continue with “- but we could also (insert your best good-faith attempt to address the matter like we’ve always done, WITHOUT any effort to contrast it to your super proposal)”.
    (4) Unless anyone specifically asks for detail about your proposal, let it go for now, silently and cheerfully.
    (5) If someone does ask for details, give them. Let the matter rest immediately as soon as they don’t seem actively interested in discussing the idea right now. This includes if their reply is “hmm, interesting …” without an explicit prompt to continue.
    (6) Afterwards, continue working loyally to carry out your tasks within the bounaries of the existing decisions.
    (7) If you’re carefull not to show any resentment of the lack of immediate enthusiasm, you can get away with pitching the same idea several times a week without annoying anyone. Instead of being known as “that guy”, you’ll become known as one who’s creative and flexible, AND one who can have his ideas shot down and still be a good cheer about it. The latter is one of the most important qualities of an “idea man”.

  13. Jenna*

    I agree also that “too eager” is a euphemism. Forcefulness is rarely welcome, something to be saved for the very select few times that it really is necessary (budget talks, etc), so that it has an impact. If you’re pushy all the time, you just become “that guy”. I’ve worked with “that guy”. Everyone in the office dislikes “that guy”.

    However, I also feel a bit for the poster– one of my frustrations with organizations I’ve worked with in the 4 years I’ve been out of college is the lack of interest in actually building a loyal, knowledgeable employee. I do get that I’m an assistant and have no expectations that I will be right or even really respected at this point (totally understandable! I’m still very green!), but when I try to learn more about the processes and the way decisions are made and why, you get the blow off. Many managers aren’t interested in maybe spending an extra 30 seconds explaining to someone who hasn’t been there for 20 years the reason that option A is not possible, so it’s nearly impossible to learn for next time so you can make better decisions and suggestions.

    Of course, I’m not asking for hand holding in the least– I understand my role at the bottom of the totem pole and that your time is very limited! It would just be helpful to help me grow in my role, so I can better assist you and not be treated as if it’s expected that I’ll just walk out on the job in a year or two anyways, so therefore a waste of your time to help me learn or grow in the organization in any capacity. Very frustrating to feel so disposable without any chance to redeem yourself.

    Luckily, I have a great boss now who is very patient with such matters, and I’ve gotten more out of 9 months in the job then the 18 months in the one before it. But this is something I try to remember, so when the time comes that I’m managing I’ll hopefully remember that being somewhat invested in your employee breeds a measure of loyalty and morale, at the very least.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m glad you finally have a manager that knows how to manage.

      Give me someone who is eager to learn the bigger picture behind the day to day activities, and I will go out of my way to bring them in. You end up with someone who has more job satisfaction and adds more value to the company. Why some managers stifle that I will never understand.

      Personally I’ve found that people like you who are willing to take it to the next level are rare – many seem to want to learn what they need to do to complete the task. Assistants like you don’t tend to stay assistants long – a good manager will see to that.

      I think I just answered my own question about why some bad managers stifle this in their people.

      1. Jenna*

        Thanks Jamie! I used to have a lot of anxiety about the way my previous manager(s) were- I felt it was a reflection on my own abilities and when I made mistakes, I took to heart that I must be the stupid one, because isn’t it so obvious? Yet as I got a bit more experience, I started to see that their inability to effectively communicate was more of the problem. I also learned that managers who so staunchly refuse to assist your growth as an employee usually have a reason of their own, that generally involves not allowing you to blow their own carefully crafted covers. (I had a few really, really bad experiences, if you can’t tell :])

        Keep up the great managing! Those of us from below are desperate for managers like you :) There’s too many bad seeds out there, as this site displays very well.

  14. Anonymous*

    I appreciate this post. I am also a new grad with a “go-getter” attitude, but I do understand that there is a fine line between being highly motivated and being highly annoying. Most potential employers I spoke with actually look for people who are eager and motivated. But I agree that it sounds like the OP is “demanding that anyone listens” rather than making suggestions.

  15. Rachel*

    Be really clear on your responsibilities. Even if you can do something (ie develop a marketing strategy) because you’ve taken classes/had internship experience, that doesn’t mean that’s what your manager wants you to do. I would rather have an employee say that they’re interested in growing in a certain area/taking on projects as they become available, than dropping an unsolicited, itemized report on my desk.

    Also, don’t assume that a small or department will give you a broad range of tasks. It really will depend on how the manager manages. In the interview, ask specific questions about professional development and how other employees have grown in the position over time. Even a not very challenging job can be the right choice for a recent graduate if it pays the bills and helps you to cultivate “cheerleader” references.

  16. Bohdan Rohbock*

    I agree that people can be overly enthusiastic or persistent in trying to get change. In the specific case of working late, as a manager it is definitely annoying if someone keeps asking for something you have to say no to (few like saying no).

    It also sounds like his manager was less than impressive. To not simply explain “We can’t have you work OT because it would put us over budget” or “it would bring too much attention from my boss” or “I want to make sure my employees get adequate rest” indicates a significant lack of work ethic.

    Much like the parent who tells their child “because I said so” or “as long as you live under my roof…” it’s simply lazy.

    I have heard it repeatedly said that people simply don’t have the time for coaching (either for their kids or their employees). Then you’re doing it wrong, unless it’s a temporary emergency that’s consumed all of your resources for the time being. If it’s a perpetual shortage you’ve got problems. Bring your people up and your job gets easier. Investment.

    Not to say there aren’t better ways of bringing forward ideas. My latest post on my website is actually about that topic, oddly enough.

  17. Anonymous*

    Sometimes the managers who “refuses” to explain why something is done a certain way CAN’T explain it….they are the ones who are doing it because its “always been done this way”. I agree with the majority of the posts here that “that guy” (who apparently has worked at each of our jobs at one time or another) can be super annoying, especially when they refuse to understand that there may be other priorities or time constraints preventing that idea.

    I totally agree with anon at 7:43…the “idea” with no follow up plan to implement it or actually make it work. If you have the idea…please give me a clue how to implement it. If you’ve devoted enough time to clearly thinking it all the way through including possible issues and problems then I’m willing to discuss it. If it was just a “bitch session” at the lunch table and the idea is why “someone else should be doing this” then I’m not nearly as interested.

  18. Anon y. mouse*

    I’m also a computer tech. Maybe your college was better at this than mine was, but I graduated with almost no practical skills. I could discuss data structures, boot processes, and the OSI model all day long, but I didn’t know how to create a user account in Active Directory. My first year of IT work was essentially an apprenticeship to actually learn how to do the work. I didn’t suggest anything that went beyond my own responsibilities during that time!

    I learned early on not to complain about anything unless I’m volunteering to put in the work to fix it. If I *can’t* fix it – if it’s outside of my control – I’d rather ask why things are currently done as they are, and learn what I can about the situation. I’m no longer surprised to learn that people are doing things the ‘wrong’ way because it’s simpler, because they don’t want to put the time into learning a new way to do it, or for personal or political reasons. For me, the key to not going insane was to recognize that sometimes these are valid reasons – not necessarily *good* reasons, but important ones, and they can’t be brushed aside.

    Major props to you for being self-aware and taking the criticism here with an open mind. Some of it’s been pretty harsh criticism, too. :-) Good luck to you, I have no doubts you’ll do well.

  19. Sydney*

    To OP:

    You said there was one time when your feedback was well received. What differentiated that idea than all the other ideas you’ve had and communicated to your management? Could it be that this one idea was executable within the time and resource constraints of your company, while others were too lofty? I would think hard about this.

  20. CH*

    I’m so happy I found this discussion. It has definitely helped me understand a lot of things…

    I’m in my first full-time job after graduating college, and I have to admit that I’m ‘that guy.’ I’ve been there for 3 years now, but I was overly motivated to make changes immediately in the door. I would just like to offer a suggestion to managers who find themselves with an employee like this: help them fine-tune their ideas or just be honest about why it simply won’t work. In the college environment it’s perfectly find to throw theories around and bounce things off, and you’re constantly getting feedback.

    I NEVER received any feedback for the first 2 years on the job. It’s weird to go from an environment where your mind is constantly being stimulated to one where you’re getting no recognition. So, I just think managers should help these overly motivated employees be more of a team player and give them feedback to advance their knowledge of the inner workings of the company. These employees can be a great asset if you use them correctly and teach them about office politics and etiquette. The worst thing you could do is “just want to strangle them” when they open their mouth – they’re just going to become unmotivated and will start performing poorly over time if you don’t help them correct these attributes. They (we) mean well!

    Just an anecdote: I recommended a safety check be put in place to stop recurring errors that I noticed even after being there for 2 months, and I was completely ignored. I recommended THE VERY SAME SAFETY CHECK after being there for 3 years and feeling like my head was going to explode because I felt like people should have listened to me, and they implemented it!. All’s well that ends well, but I have to admit that I definitely felt like I was dismissed because I was the new guy and I couldn’t possibly have any good ideas.

  21. Dave*

    I had something simular happen to me. We some very serious quality control issues. I was an entry level engineer who would often get called with a how do we fix this just before it goes out. Several of the managers and engineers would point fingers at our own people and the supplier. It was honestly cool to call others in your company stupid it felt like. One day I just could not take the arguing and finger pointing anymore and I sent an email as to how we can modify our processes to fix our problems… That was stupid. I ment well and I’m normaly a soft spoken type of person that tries to keep thoughts to himself. I was there only a year and it was my first job out of school, needless to say I lost it. What could I have done differently? My view was that the management had very little respect for the people working for them, how do you deal with that? How do you work with people who think their way is best when it is compleatly not working at all? (I mean this in the sense that we were being repremanded constatly for our poor quality by both customers and higher managemen)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sorry that happened to you! Email probably wasn’t the way to handle it — probably talking with your manager about your ideas could have been a better way to go.

  22. Jan*

    Sometimes managers feel threatened by highly intellegent, eager workers. Afraid of being replaced. They want to get rid of the competition.

    It’s a matter of priorities being misplaced. When you have an eager, intelligent worker should should see that person as an asset and a resource for the company.

    It may not have been anything you have done wrong but have everything to do with what you do right! You just have to find the right employer, someone who appreciates you.

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