am I obligated to share my work with my coworker, how to reward an exceptional employee, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Am I obligated to share my work with my coworker?

At the job I started several months ago, it’s important to take notes because there are very few sources to look up needed procedures/information and there’s way too much to rely on memory. All the people who had been working there before me have notebooks full of notes, and when I (and a few other new people) started, we were supplied with large notebooks. So I’ve been taking very detailed notes, and I even typed all my notes up this past weekend to put in a binder to make them neater and more organized.

The coworker who sits next to me rarely takes notes, so he’s constantly asking me questions. And he makes comments like, “Gee, I wish I had great notes like yours,” or “Hey, where did you get all this information?” (I just tell him that I take notes whenever I see or learn something new.) I’m worried that now that my notes are neat and typed, he might start asking me to print them out or make copies for him. Which I don’t want to do. I’ve poured a lot of time into taking great notes—why should I share them with someone who hasn’t put any effort into taking notes? I’m not sure how to respond if he asks me. Is it okay to refuse, or am I obligated to give him my notes to be a “team player”? If I can refuse, what’s a good way to do it?

It’s not likely to reflect well on you if other people, particularly your manager, learned that you refused — it will come across as saying that you’re protecting your own turf at your employer’s expense.

But you could actually turn this into something that’s both useful and reflects well on you: Show your manager your awesomely organized binder of notes and say something like, “Cecil sounds like he’d really like to have something like this for himself, and I know it would have been really helpful to me to have something like this when I started too. Now that I’ve created it, would it be useful to set up some version of this for the whole team to use as a reference, or even just supply to new people?”

(Also, it’s crazy that your company hasn’t already done something like this. This isn’t school, where you’re expected to learn the whole thing on your own. In the workplace, shortcuts and finding ways to minimize people’s learning curve and set them up for success are good things.)

2. How can I reward an exceptional employee?

I have an employee who is exceptional — anticipates problems, has great attention to detail, works well with others, and goes above and beyond the call of duty daily. She came on board eight months ago. Within a month of her hiring, not only was this apparent but because of a reorganization, she received a $10,000 raise. I have encouraged her to apply for professional development grants (and if I can swing it, even if she doesn’t get the grant, will send her to the annual national conference in our field.) I spoken to my supervisor about providing further professional development. I give her feedback on how well she is doing verbally and in writing (she had an outstanding six-month review) and to our supervisors. She has flextime, generous vacation etc. I have given her a Target gift card (a thank-you for work on a special event), supplied her with cartons of her favorite power bar, bought lunch for her and her cohort, and gotten her a team jacket.

I can’t give her any more money as she is at the top of her classification. I can’t give her more vacation. I can’t give her a higher title as I made up the one she has to get her classified. Is there anything else that I can do to reward her outstanding work?

P.S. I do not fear that I will lose her to another organization, as her position is a much coveted one, the work is miraculously exactly what she wants to do, and her pay is above the industry norm.

I don’t know that you need to continue searching out rewards for her; you’ve done a nice job of that already. Now I’d just focus on being a great manager to her — give her useful feedback, flexibility, and recognition, be a buffer for her from annoying people/processes to the extent that it’s feasible, check in with her periodically about how things are going, and make sure that she’s taken care of at raise time.

Read multiple updates to this letter here.

3. Should I ask the hiring manager who rejected me to put in a good word for me with another department?

I was rejected for a position last week, and upon learning of the rejection I sent the hiring manger an email requesting feedback. She replied and stated that I interviewed well but was overqualified for the position and went on to say that she was not sure that I would be growing or learning anything new in the position if hired. This was what I believed was the reason for my rejection, so I am plenty relieved – but I have another issue.

I recently applied for another position at the same company (in a different department). This position aligns with my skills a bit more. Would it be inappropriate to ask the hiring manager to put in a good word for me? She seems friendly and was kind enough to give me feedback, but I am wondering if it would be ok since she knows my qualifications and has interviewed me.

I wouldn’t ask her to put in a good word for you, exactly — that’s a little too much for someone who doesn’t know you well. But you should absolutely mention to her that you’ve applied for the other job, because she might decide to do that on her own. You could say something like, “Thanks again for talking with me and for taking the time to give me feedback, as well. I actually just applied for the X position with your Y team and am hoping that might turn out to be the right fit — I’d really love to join the team there.”

4. When should I tell a prospective employer about a name change?

I have an interesting situation. I’m a guy. I’m changing my last name. I won’t bore you with details, but it has nothing to do with trying to hide anything. I was abandoned, adopted, abandoned, have had so many people in my life I wanted something of my own.

While waiting for the legal system to approve the change, I applied for a position at a company that I’ve been wanting to work for. I nailed the phone interview and now I have a in-person interview. However, my name change will either be approved or denied before this interview. If the change is denied, no worries. If it’s approved, how do I let my new potential employer know? Do I wait until I’m actually offered the position? Do I tell the recruiting manager right away after it’s approved? I really want this job but am worried that this might somehow tarnish my image but I legally need to let them know. I’m very confused on how to proceed.

I’d wait until you’ve accepted an offer. At that point, you can say, “By the way, I want to let you know that my last name has recently changed to Lannister. Is there anything I need to do on my end to get that reflected in my paperwork?” You’re likely to field questions about whether you recently got married (because people will be being friendly and assume that you did, and will want to express congratulations), but you could respond cheerfully, “No, it’s a long story, but it’s settled now.”

5. My boss wants access to my tools when I’m not there

I’m a dog groomer and our tools are very expensive. All together, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on all my equipment. I work with another groomer and we bought a five-foot tall lockbox with drawers to keep all our stuff safe at work; we’ve had things stolen before, and it’s too much work to bring everything home and back every day. There are only two keys, and we can’t get another one made because the key is unique.

Our boss wanted us to leave a key there so she can get into our stuff even though there is no real reason to do that. She hired a bather recently and wants him to start grooming. We feel that until he has his own stuff and because we’re training him to be a groomer, he can use our stuff but only if we’re there to supervise. I’ve already lost very expensive shears to groomers in training dropping them.

Yesterday, on my day off, one of my coworkers called demanding that I come open the lock box for the bather who was going to do some grooms completely alone. I was an hour away visiting with in-laws and the other groomer was busy with her kids. Now the boss is demanding that we leave a key. I feel that she should buy her own tools for the shop and not rely on our tools to train new groomers. We bought the tool box and all the tools in it so she shouldn’t be allowed to go into it whenever she wants, right?

Yes. That’s a 100% reasonable position. There are jobs (like yours, apparently) where you’re expected to provide your own tools, but that shouldn’t mean that you’re expected to provide them for others to use. I’d say this to your boss: “Since we purchase and are responsible for our own tools, I’m not comfortable having people access them when I’m not there. I can’t afford to replace lost or broken tools, which has already happened. Could you get a store set to keep on hand for this sort of need?”

{ 320 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*


    If you’re comfortable with it, you could mention to the hiring manager you’re changing your name because of adoption issues. You’re completely entitled to your privacy of course, but I can’t help but think Alison’s wording of “No, it’s a long story, but it’s settled now,” makes it sound like you’re on the lam. (Maybe I just watch too much tv)

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        Except that OP said he’s male. People will speculate and marriage/divorce probably won’t be their conclusion.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Based on the guy I know who changed his last name, I’d probably jump to something like what happened in his life–basically, his father was a horrible person (as in, he’s in prison for a looooong time for it), his mother remarried when he was already an adult, but he took stepdad’s name because he didn’t want to be associated with his dad’s name anymore. I wouldn’t assume it was exactly the same in all particulars, but I’d figure it was in a similar vein.

          1. Windchime*

            Yes, I know two men who have changed their last names for similar reasons. So if a man told me, “My last name has recently changed to Lannister”, I probably wouldn’t even ask why. But if I did, Alison’s suggested reply would be perfectly reasonable and actually is a very nice way of saying, “It’s personal, so please mind your own beeswax.”

        2. Loose Seal*

          Some men change their names for marriage and might conceivably change them back after a divorce. It would probably be the first thing I’d think of.

          1. Blue Dog*

            I have had two mail friends change their last names. Both were because when they were young, they took their step father’s name. One wanted to return to a birth name. One wanted to return to the European version of their birth name before it got butchered at Ellis Island. I think this is somewhat more common than people think. I would probably just say, “Now that I’m an adult, I don’t really want to use my adopted father’s name anymore.” Short and simple. Vague answers like “It’s a long story” breed continued questions by nosy co-workers with not enough to do.

    1. Sara M*

      I agree with saying briefly something about adoption if you’re comfortable with it.

      I legally changed my name and fielded tons of questions about it. Expect curiosity, but you don’t have to give your life story.

      Congrats, I think you’ll find a name change deeply meaningful. I did.

    2. JT*

      I’m the guy getting his named changed. I was just going to let people know it’s because I’m adopted because as a guy it is odd unless your an actor or hiding from Johnny Law. I just needed to know when would be the best time to let someone know. I will wait and see if I get an offer and take Alison’s advice and let them know after I accept.

      1. Graciosa*

        Another thing to think about is how to note this on your resume for future jobs – you don’t want to create a situation where someone calls a past employer (assuming you had some under your current name) who says, “Lannister? No one by that name ever worked here.”

          1. Natalie*

            And you can always alert Prospective Employer that Past Employer likely has your files under a different name.

      2. Jamie*

        It’s unusual, but it happens. One of my son’s just did this* so I actually know a lot about the process.

        The approval or denial – for us they need a reason to deny. Name on an offender registry, lawsuits, legal issues, or if the name you want is offensive or that of a celebrity (or someone notorious.) Otherwise the default is to approve.

        Most people don’t know much about the process, but anyone that does knows that doing it legally is proof you weren’t hiding from the law, or it wouldn’t have been granted.

        Anyway after filing our state requires 3 week ad run in the paper announcing the intention so any creditors can come out of the woodwork – which in my opinion is probably the result of the courts being in bed with the papers because really? Who reads those things? Anyway this has to be done X number of weeks before the court date, which you’re given when you file.

        Then he went to court, the judge saw all the criteria had been met and congratulated him on his new name. Done. Go downstairs to the clerk to get the paperwork notarized (certified? Something) which you use to get a new social security card and amended birth certificate.

        School and work changed him in the records right away, based on the document from court – but the DMV needed the new social and the bank needed the new DL. It’s a pita for the paperwork, but not nearly as bad as I thought.

        The key is to be matter of fact about it, you don’t have to tell people your whole life story, the more nonchalant you are about the less weird it will seem to other people.

        Names are a big deal and good for you for being proactive to change something that bothers you rather than just walking around your whole life with something that doesn’t fit.

        *He hated his first name so changed that, so while he was at it he took my maiden name as he prefers it to his dad’s. No drama and it wasn’t a statement. He just didn’t see why he should have his dad’s name over mine because of tradition when he likes mine better.

        I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I feel about it and honestly as much as I love his birth name (or I wouldn’t have given it to him), it sucks to go through life with a name you hate and if he was going to do it it’s better to do it before he establishes credit, gets married, or gets deeper into adulthood with all the records, etc. There are some people who don’t understand and assume this is out of a desire to punish his dad but honestly – it’s pretty superficial. He has 3 parents – me, his dad, and his step-dad who raised him and he loves like a father. He evaluated his choices and picked the one he thought sounded the coolest…it’s not always deep.

        What’s funny is I named him after my grandpa, but my grandpa also hated that name and went by his middle name since adulthood and refused to answer to it – so I think he had a little nudge from above in this. :)

        1. Appellation*

          I also changed my entire name (first, middle and last). I chose a name I loved and was entirely disassociated from family names. The process was very similar to your son’s except I wasn’t required to place a newspaper ad. OP, I would also recommend waiting to receive an offer, as until they have a reason to enter you into their HR system or make badges and such, it really is a non-issue for the company and hiring managers beyond what to call you. I completed my name change while I was in the middle of interviews for different positions and this is what I chose to do. Yes, it may be a little weird to meet up again with those managers and inform them of your new name just after you start, but people get used to it and, especially at work, they make a bit more of an effort to remember and respect your decision. If you’re Jim now instead of Chuck, you’re Jim.

          You have the benefit of being in the middle of the process, so the only people who will know are the hiring managers you’ve been speaking with. You will have the benefit of being able to introduce yourself by your new name to your coworkers and managing that interaction yourself. So I don’t even see how this will be a problem or why you would need to explain anything to anyone unless you want to.

        2. gingersnap*

          Thanks for this! It’s helpful to hear other people’s stories. Spouse and I have been married for 3 years and still haven’t decided what to do about last names….(we got married, I started my doctorate, I got sick, spent two years finding a treatment plan that worked- it wasn’t a priority). Whenever I’ve looked into it, the process seems daunting. Particularly because we both had masters degrees when we got married, and are committed to continuing to use our current names professionally. But we might have kids, and I’d really like to have a name in common with hypothetical future child, and if I don’t ever want hypothetical future child to be alone with my parents, hypothetical future child probably shouldn’t have their last name.

          1. Appellation*

            I understand where you’re coming from, having courts involved for anything makes even the simplest procedures feel a bit scary! I practiced so many conversations with the judge in my head to explain why I wanted a rather unusual, oddly-spelled name, why I was changing it, did I have any debts I was running from… the whole shebang to be as convincing as possible… and she didn’t even ask!

            She verified the legal description of my address because I had a legal interest in it if my husband should pass, but other than that it was a done deal. We were in and out in ten minutes, and half of that was spent waiting while she checked things on the computer. Once you make a decision, just go plunk the money down and file your petition. It’s really simple and people do this sort of thing every day. It will feel much more real after that and you kind of let the court lead you as to what to do next. For me it was submitting a notarized letter that my husband knew about the name change, waiting 30 days, paying all the fees and showing up on time. I would really be surprised if it was any more laborious a process for you than it was for me or Jamie’s son.

            1. Jamie*

              This – and I thought it would be much worse than it was. My son was SO nervous that despite my constant reassurances and showing him the law that the judge would disallow it if she didn’t like it. It’s somewhat unusual – no amount of convincing could put his mind at ease that she wasn’t in the process of giving baby names to adults. :)

              It’s the court thing that’s scary. Weird is that it was family court and only one other case in there was a child support case, pretty ugly and of course they went first because time hates me…turns out the mother was in one of his classes in college! He knows way more about her financial situation than he wanted to.

              The judge and clerk did joke and tell him if this was in preparation for being a rock-star they expect an autograph for helping him on his way!

              I’m actually a little worried that it could hurt him job wise later not because he changed it (he’s just a freshman in college and so school and everything will be in his new name) but because it’s a little unconventional in America. It’s a real name, but more common in Germany than here and I worry about anything that could hurt his chances and we know sometimes there is an unfair bias with resume screening – conscious or not.

              As Appellation said, anything with the courts can be scary – but it’s important that you be happy. The way I look at it, if my son had a disfigurement that really bothered him I’d have helped him correct it if possible. When you hate your name so much, or for emotional reasons it doesn’t fit you, it’s the same thing. I think it’s awesome when people take charge of this and make the change so they can be happy – it’s a huge confidence boost.

              (Although I swear to God if I had given him this less than typical name at birth part of me thinks he’d so be changing it now to something super common like the one he just got rid of! Not really, but he can be a stinker so I wonder! I’m just grateful he didn’t go with his first choice which I haaaated. Chewing on tin foil hate – I didn’t want to have to say it and I didn’t want my own baby to have a name that made me cringe. So when he popped out with something I would pick myself and loved I was thrilled.)

            2. Pennalynn Lott*

              My experience was equally smooth. I changed my last name to that of my real father (vs the name of the man my mom was married to when I was conceived) as a Father’s Day gift. Part of the paperwork asked for a brief explanation of why I wanted to change my name, and the judge (a man) got a little choked up when he read it and asked me about it. But, yeah, it was, “Next case?” “Name change, your honor.” ::judge reviewed paperwork, asked one question while signing off on it:: “Have a nice day, Ms. Lott.” Easy-peasy.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          My decision about which name to use when I got married was 100% based on which one sounded better! Not deep at all – I use a one syllable version of my full first name, so I considered it an upgrade to switch from a one syllable surname to a two syllable one. It just sounds better.

        4. KSM*

          >which in my opinion is probably the result of the courts being in bed with the papers because really? Who reads those things?

          No, more the result of old laws where you would put legal notices in newspapers (e.g. some jurisdictions allowed for banns, the proclamation of a marriage, to be done via newspaper) because they were the single most-common, most-read documents available for publicizing things.

          Today, sure, low readership, but they used to be huge and still have potential legal ramifications (e.g. for archiving).

  2. hayling*

    #1: I agree with Alison that you don’t have some sort of formal way of keeping all this information organized. You might think about starting an internal wiki or something! I bet that your manager and coworkers would really appreciate it, and it would reflect well on you to have initiated the project.

    1. Laurie*


      If you’ve already done all the work of typing it up, and have word documents saved somewhere, put it on a shared drive, help get it all organized and then put that on your resume! A project like this is an excellent way to demonstrate that you can handle large documentation projects and that you take initiative and can manage projects.

    2. Melly*

      Totally agree. Turn your work into a shared resource. And make sure it’s visible enough that you get some credit for it.

        1. Artemesia*

          And ‘I don’t want to share my notes makes you sound like a college kid’; definitely grab some glory by going to the boss and suggesting creating a wiki or shared resource manual. Everyone wins with that.

          1. LCL*

            At the start of this project, consider posting your notes as a PDF file so they can’t be changed. Keep the originals on your drive. You want to encourage everyone to join this project, but there may be missteps at first with people not understanding how to share documents and accidentally deleting or changing things.
            I have found it it is really hard to start a document sharing system from scratch, however it is important to get the information out to the end user ASAP and fine tune your system later.

          2. Phyllis*

            True, “it makes you look like a college kid” but I think her gripe is, he could take notes as well as she does; so why should she just hand them over? Having said that, I think the suggestions to offer to make this an office resource (and enhance her own rep in the process) is a great idea.

    3. Ezri*

      I understand the frustration of coworkers who constantly need help with things that you’ve worked to get on your own – I’ve been there myself. But I agree with other comments that the ‘sink or swim’ mentality, while trained into you at school, isn’t helpful in a team work environment.

      While it may be tempting to let your coworker ‘sink’ on his own devices, giving him your notes (and/or taking other people’s advice about getting your notes accessible to the whole team) makes you into a valuable resource and a team player. Maybe your coworker is, as Dan suggested, someone who struggles with good notes but otherwise is a skilled worker. It’s also possible that he really is disorganized and floundering. If it’s the former, you’re helping shore up his weakness with your strength and making both of you more productive in the process; if it’s the latter, you’ve done what you can to help him while preventing your own work from being interrupted.

      1. just passing through. . .*

        PLUS, if this coworker is not performing at his best because of true slackiness…and not because of poor training practices at the outset, all the training manuals and stellar notes aren’t going to help that issue. Look at the bigger picture and do it for the greater good.

        1. Angora*

          You can prepare a SOP Manual for the position. If you copy the notes … you can always have Drafted by in the footer. But … it will save you from the constant interruptions. You can give him your notes at this time, but tell him he’s responsible for updating them from this point forward. That you are too busy to constantly answer the same questions from him.

          I would prepare a SOP Manual and make sure it’s mentioned in your evaluation.

          They should have a SOP … period.

    4. Sadsack*

      In addition to the other comments about sharing, perhaps you could raise the issue of the need for a larger continuous improvement project based on process documentation. Process documentation is a helpful and important tool. Kind of hard to believe that your company would force new employees to reinvent the wheel when there are others in the organization who have already been there, done that, and documented it!

    5. Koko*

      If you’re interested in advancing in your career, being given higher-level tasks, more autonomy in decision-making etc., it’s all about how you handle extra work/helping others.

      If your reaction to being given extra work is to stew, grumble, drag your feet, and do the bare minimum, or you hoard resources because you don’t think others should get a “free ride” on your work, you’ll probably toil in low-level positions for most of your career. Because you’re doing your job enough to not get fired, but you’re not doing much to prove you could be more effective in a higher-level position.

      If instead your reaction to being given extra work is to step up, roll up your sleeves, and do the best you can, and you voluntary create new resources to help others do their jobs better as well, as long as you’re working for a functional company, your value will be recognized and you’ll be rewarded with promotions and likely other perks as well. Because you’re showing your employer that you’re competent (perhaps even beyond their original assessment of you at hiring) and invested in seeing the company succeed, and therefore can be trusted with increasing responsibility for ensuring it does.

      1. Eliza Jane*

        See, I agree with this in principle, but in practice, especially when it comes to “scut” work like note-taking, it doesn’t always play out. The reality is that there are a lot of tasks that can eat into the work you are hired to do, but that is almost never recognized and acknowledged. Taking minutes at meetings is an example for me. Dealing with arrangements for interviews. Scheduling meetings and finding times everyone can be there. Cleaning the kitchen in the office. Bringing cake in for birthdays.

        People sometimes get pushed into the trap of doing this work by being good at it, freeing others up to do work that actually is rewarded by the company.

        1. saro*

          I completely agree with your point. I have seen too many people, women especially, do this and then not get promoted because others are doing ‘high value’ work. It’s something to consider in your work life. That said, you also don’t want to be seen as a refusing to be a team player.

          1. EB*

            I agree.

            I did too much of the note taking type stuff while an entry-level employee and it didn’t get me anywhere. I also fell prey to gender dynamics where male coworkers didn’t do things like take notes and relied on me, while then using the time they freed up by not doing “piddly stuff” to direct their energy at more high profile targets which got them recognized. So in a way, I can see the OP’s sense of injustice – the coworker is not doing part of his job function and putting it on the OP so that the coworkers can do other things (wouldn’t we all love to dump stuff like taking notes and remembering exact details on other people).

            If I was the OP I would really think about whether there is a need for typing and organizing their notes.

            If documenting changes would be a way of gaining visibility and showing value added, then the OP might want to consider many of the suggestions of others and gain visibility that way (just don’t get stuck in the secretary function).

            If not, OP might want to take a page from their coworker and stop spending time typing, organizing, and printing their notes (it does take time) and just keep to handwriting things while devoting their time and energy to other projects (organize your notes with sticky tabs if you need to). Yes it might look nicer, but could that time and effort be put somewhere where you gain other skills or increase productivity as a means of increasing your marketability.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think it’s very context-dependent. When you’re in an entry-level role, I’d volunteer for anything and everything you can. Ten years later, it makes less sense to step up for some of that stuff proactively.

          But this isn’t just about sharing notes — it’s an opportunity for the OP to volunteer for a reasonably visible, substantive thing: department-wide documentation. That’s valuable and worth doing — it’ll look good on a resume, it’ll look good to her manager, and it’s definitely not in the “plan all the cakes” category.

      2. Anonymoose*

        One of my favorite mantras is to “judge your own success based on how successful you help others to become.” If you can help three other people be more successful, that’s better for the world than only trying to make yourself a success. Share and assist when you can!

            1. QK*

              Which is why Allison’s suggestion to proactively approach your manager with the material you’ve written is doubly a good idea. You will both look like a team player and get the credit for your co-worker’s (assumed) improved performance.

      3. Lefty*

        A co-worker of mine who is working toward his Bachelor’s degree was complaining about how much he hated a class of his that required weekly group projects. I acknowledged I had the same gripe – most of the time you get stuck on a team where you are either the only one capable of doing the work at a level that you would put your name on, or you are the only one who does any of the work at all. I guess this is to prepare the student for the real world. I have been on countless teams at work where this is pretty much the same. Unless I want my name on something going to the CEO that looks like it was written by a junior high school student the night before it was due, I end up having to do most of the work.

        The higher you climb in a company, the more teams you will find yourself on. Everything done seems to require a team of representatives from the various groups. The stakes get higher, so you do have more participation and work quality than in college classes – most of the time – but you still had better be prepared to do the entire thing yourself if that’s what it comes to.

        Work is not like school. The CEO isn’t going to commend you for turning in your piece and doing a stellar job and then write up the people that didn’t do any of their parts. Everyone is going to get a reaming for it not being done well and on time. Yes – this unfair. There are people that will benefit from this system their entire lives. They will be promoted – possibly above you – all while doing less than their fair share. You just have to get over it and worry about yourself.

        1. Koko*

          I think that depends a lot on your company’s leadership and management. At a well-run organization, dead weight doesn’t get promoted just because they stuck their name repeatedly on successful projects completed by other people. Hopefully each person, no matter how high in the company, has a manager who can effectively evaluate their actual contributions and see if someone is doing less than their fair share.

          Part of a manager’s job is to recognize talent, but you do also have to be your own advocate and make sure your contributions are visible. There are tactful and subtle ways to do this without looking petty and overly concerned with rewards, though of course it depends on your company what opportunities you’ll have. If you create a new resource, depending on company norms you could send it to your whole department or ask your manager if she’d like to distribute it. Put your name on things you create. Try to get informal face-time with people above you. If you have good ideas, speak up more in meetings and email chains with senior leadership on them–use appropriate framing and you won’t seem out-of-touch, maybe it’s more appropriate to say, “What if we did X?” instead of “I think we should do X” when you’re the most junior person in the room. When you run into a senior manager at the water cooler or have a few minutes before a meeting begins to chat, casually discuss some interesting aspect of the project that you enjoyed working on from the perspective of, “I really enjoyed working on this project, X was cool.” Or even better, “It was great to work with Sally on Project X. She knew exactly which reports would help me make the best decision between Option A and Option B.” These sort of positive/active statements 1) make it clear you were involved in a material way/point to specific things you did and 2) don’t come across as attention- or praise-seeking. I’ve especially found that if you make a habit of helping other and thanking them for their help, all but a few rotten apples will return the favor.

          Obviously bad management exists and selfish coworkers exist, but on the flip side, the more valuable you make yourself, the easier of time you’ll have securing a position at a well-run company or on a well-run team. Here’s the thing: highly successful, talented people want to hire and work with other highly successful, talented people–for just the reasons you’re laying out above. They want to be part of a team where everyone is putting in their best effort and no one feels like they’re carrying the team. Build a track record of success and get a spot on one of those teams. They exist and they’re a joy to work for.

      4. Dwight K Shrute*

        I totally agree with this. I am the awesome person at work who is always organized and knows how to do things. I used to get really bitter about people taking so much of my time asking questions. I couldn’t take breaks or vacations because I was constantly needed. I’m learning that being needed is not a good thing. I’ve put my notes and charts into a usable format on the company’s intranet. If someone has a question, the information is there. If they choose not to use it, then that’s on them and it shows when review time comes around.

        If you disseminate the information and give everyone the tools to do their jobs, then you’re making the whole company better. It opens you up to do other things and possibly take on different roles that may be more interesting. Companies love people who can come up with solutions to problems they didn’t know existed in the first place.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Not only that, but when Coworker bothers you about how to do stuff, you can point him toward the manual. :)

      Our procedurals are on our shared drive. If I’m out, someone else can do my stuff. Re the clerical job I had at a lab, the previous person had typed up a huge amount of notes and that helped me immensely when I started, as she had moved out of state and there was no one to train me. I actually recommend that people do this if they can.

    7. BadPlanning*

      We use internal wikis around here for assorted information and right now my bacon is being saved by a diligent former coworker. I had to take over one of her roles and I reference it a lot. I’m happy to sing her praises.

      I know some people like to keep their info secret for some sort of job security and importance, but at my job, it mostly seems to mean that you have to work on vacation, extra extra late hours, on the weekend because other people don’t know how to do it. I’m always happy to share my debug tips, etc so others can work on what I’m an expert in– at least enough so they don’t call me on vacation.

      It’s an odd transition from school — were your work was your work. At a job, your work is the company’s work.

    8. Former Professional Computer Geek*

      The nice thing about an online (internal) Wiki is that it keeps track of who writes what. It’ll be possible (later; say, at review time) to go in and show how many pages there are on the wiki and who has written the most.

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    #5: That would really tick me off too. That type of stuff is pricey and there’s no way I’d want just anyone being able to get into it. Not only are you running the risk of something getting damaged, there’s also a good chance of the tools being stolen. Stand your ground OP! You can be firm and polite at the same time.

    I had no idea how expensive that stuff can be. My hairdresser told me a good pair of scissors to do hair can be hundreds of dollars.

    1. Artemesia*

      There are lots of jobs where people have their own tools — chefs have their own knives, mechanics have their own wrench sets etc etc — These are not the property of the owner of the business and are not commonly used by others. This is a hill to die on. If the owner wants ‘newguy’ to learn to groom, she either needs him to provide his own tools or she needs to have a shop set she provides. This is outrageous.

      In the meantime, I would be inclined to keep yours in a case you can take home if you can’t guarantee the lock box stays that way. If you can possibly keep them in your trunk rather than her shop that would be worth the effort.

      1. Jessa*

        The first thing you do, and I always did this in places where I had to supply my own tools/items is make an itemised list and make the bosses sign off on you having the stuff.

        Also, if there’s they are going to make me share them, we get an in writing agreement that A: they are responsible for what is on the list when I am not there, and if something gets broken they’re responsible for repair/replacement of the SAME item (they can’t replace an $150 knife with an $20 one from Walmart.) They are also responsible for extra wear and tear, if someone drops it they’re responsible to fix it. Yes it’s picky and legalistic, but it also points up to them that the property does NOT belong to the company and if you happen to leave on iffy terms for some reason it’s proof you can take the stuff WITH you. It also sometimes makes them think twice about making people share stuff.

        I had this happen to me not because I left on iffy terms, but just because I’d been moved to three different teams in a call centre over time, the fact that I had a signed by HR paper saying that my headset (which was much nicer than anything they ever bought and adaptive because I’m hearing impaired) was MINE and not something the company purchased as an accommodation. Saved me a huge argument with security when leaving the building the last time with it (usually kept it in my locker on site.)

        1. Ezri*

          On that vein, I can picture some managers choosing to buy their own tools jut to avoid having to track all of that information and mind the employees using them so closely. I’ve known a few ‘take advantage’ types who stop as soon as you make it annoying or difficult (or you give them *gasp* accountability for wrecking things, oh noes). :)

          1. Jessa*

            That is kind of the point. I really hate people using my personal property without my direct permission. I want to protect myself (also the company, if they don’t want to replace/repair they can refuse to let people touch my stuff.) And this definitely points up to some companies why it’s a bad idea to make people share personal stuff.

        2. Nichole*

          Make sure to note the timeframe on the replacement too if you go this route. If an expensive tool is broken and the owner has agreed in writing to replace it but the document hasn’t specified a timeline, you could be stuck choosing between replacing it yourself or being unable to effectively perform your job indefinitely.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          It sounds like there may be a lot, but I’ll bet the OP could find a decent toolbox on sale for around $20-30 that would hold, if not all of them, the most expensive/important ones, then they could take them with them.

          In theory I agree that it’s worth taking a stand, but if the boss started talking about firing people or cutting hours and I depended on that income to support my family, I have to admit that I’d probably just start taking my tools home at the end of every shift.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If the tools are heavy/numerous it might be a good investment to keep them in something with wheels that could be rolled to and from the car on work days.
            Conversely, OP might find that she is actually concerned about certain tools, and those would be the tools to keep in the trunk of the car.

            I have lost tools here when contractors packed up to go home. I don’t think the tools were actually stolen. I think it was just a mistake. (For example: They already have ten hammers, they did not need mine. They grabbed my hammer by accident.) I totally get it about tools. And I have couple that do not leave my sight.

            I worked in one place where tools disappeared regularly. I brought in my own if I had a special project. Yeah, I watched it closely and made sure the tools went home with me at night. It’s a hassle, and I understand that, too.

            1. Jessa*

              Sometimes you can also use an engraver to put your name on stuff and then “Hey Sam I think one of those is mine, can you check for the one with my name on it?”

            2. Professional Merchandiser*

              I am a merchandiser and when I would work on a crew setting a new section other members (primarily men) would borrow my tools and not return them. I solved that problem by purchasing a set of tools with bright pink handles. They might use them, but they were quick to return them!!!

            3. Angora*

              I suggest you get a tool box and one of those luggage carts and store it in the truck of your car. My mother is a hair dresser and you cannot believe the cost of her tools.

              Your first responsibility is to yourself not your employer or co-worker. If the shop owner is unwilling or unable to pay for shop tools I would view her as super stingy, a user or having financial trouble. The last would worry me the most.

              Please let us know how you chose to handle it. I like the suggestion of having the tools engraved.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          I’d take them with me every night.


          I don’t think you can’t trust the manager to not break into the lockbox, one way or another. Keep your tools in your possession.

          You might also think about working for someone who understands how a professional shop is run.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            Yes, this manager doesn’t seem to understand how this works. This is why hair stylists and mechanics lock up their tools. It’s not just to keep them from strangers, but also other employees.

          2. just passing through. . .*

            Technically, she shouldn’t have to take them home every night. When she is gone and her tools are locked up, it is the **same as if she had taken them home**. I mean, would her boss ever even consider calling the OP at home on days off and say “BRING IN YOUR TOOLS, WE’RE TRAINING THE NEW GUY!”

            Same same. Off limits is off limits, whether locked up or physically off the premises.

            1. MissDisplaced*

              Exactly. This manager doesn’t seem to get that. The tools may be on her property, but they are NOT her property. It’s amazing how some owners seem to forget that.

      2. Mike C.*

        Holy crap, yes. There’s a phrase used repeatedly in Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” regarding the etiquette of touching tools that don’t belong to you. I won’t repeat it here, but the suffice it to say that the boss’s request is way out of line.

      3. Elysian*

        I’ll add to the taking them home group. Maybe if there are a lot (or they’re heavy) you can get a toolbox on wheels or something? Since the owner has shown a disregard for proper boundaries here, I wouldn’t keep the tools there.

    2. Adam V*

      Yeah, that bugs the crap out of me. Part of me wants to be snippy and say “Sure, you can have the key – as soon as I get a) a check for the shears Susie broke last year (here’s my receipt for the replacements I bought) and b) a signed agreement to replace any additional tools that get lost or broken.”

    3. EngineerGirl*

      If the owner pushes it then it would be reasonable to inquire what the insurance policy covers on the tools. It needs to be 100% replacement (not depreciated, b/c insurance companies never give you a fair value). Then inventory all of the tools – make, model, serial number, state of tool, etc. This would be for the insurance company. A picture of each would be great too.
      Insist that the tools can’t be used unless they are fully covered by replacement insurance.
      I’m concerned that the owner wants to use the tools with no supervision. That is such an unreasonable request. You are already being kind by allowing the bather to borrow your tools with you supervising. Really, the shop should provide training tools.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        And I hope there are security cameras, so if something goes missing, they can see where it went.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          This is my concern. I used to bathe dogs as part of my job as a pet supply store manager and the groomers there would go through 6 weeks of training with heavy supervision. And even then they were only scheduled to work the same time as the grooming manager until they were 100% trusted not to accidentally hurt an animal. And this was at a chain which doesn’t even have that great of a reputation! I would find another shop, OP. The ethics of your boss is a huge red flag for both employees and customers.

        2. EngineerGirl*

          This. An inexperienced bather dropped a co-workers dog (miniature poodle) and broke its back. They then denied responsibility and my co-worker had to sue them for medical expenses and a wheel chair for the dog.

    4. plain jane*

      The owner doesn’t get to have it both ways. Either the stuff is yours and you pay for it, or they’re allowed complete access to it – in which case they they pay for it, and take the risk of a trainee dropping them.

      1. AdAgencyChick*


        OP, is there anything in that chest that *does* belong to the owner? If yes, then I’d take that stuff out so that the owner can’t claim you need to give her the key because there are things the business owns in there.

        If no (and it sounds like that’s true), I’d firmly state that you’re not comfortable giving other employees access to your personal property. Even with an agreement in writing, I’d be worried that someone who feels free to demand access to things she knows you paid a lot of money for is also going to be someone who quietly locks broken tools back in a box and hopes you won’t notice or that you’ll be afraid to claim your reimbursement because she has power over your job.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      All these replies make me wonder if the owner of the business is just someone who decided to open it on a whim because she thought it sounded fun, without really knowing anything about industry standards. All the replies here make it pretty clear that in any profession where you purchase your own equipment or tools, it’s common knowledge that those things belong to the person who purchased them, and they are not to be touched or used without the owner’s permission.

      For the owner of the business to be considering that anything on the premises is to be treated as community property is so out of line it’s reasonable to assume that she has little or no experience being a dog groomer. That’s not to say that someone can’t run a business doing something they’ve had limited hands-on experience with, but if you’re going to do that, you need to spend some time learning about the profession, standard practices, and so on. And it doesn’t take much to learn — just asking questions is a good start. Just chit-chatting with my hairdresser and the lady who does my nails I’ve learned (as I said above) that a good pair of scissors can be hundreds of dollars, that people in that line of work can either be regular salon employees or independent contractors who pay to rent a space in the shop, what kind of training you have to get, how you get licensed, how salon politics work (lol), and lots of other interesting information.

      1. Observer*

        –For the owner of the business to be considering that anything on the premises is to be treated as community property is so out of line it’s reasonable to assume that she has little or no experience being a dog groomer. —

        Actually, no. If it shows inexperience, it’s at any reasonably run workplace. If someone pays for an item with personal funds, it belongs to them. Full stop. The ONLY exception is if the purchase was a replacement for an item belonging to the employer that the employee lost or broke.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Actually, forcing the employee to use personal funds to replace a broken item is illegal in many places. So not even then.

  4. Dan*


    Yes you’re obligated. AAM beat me to the punch when she said you’re not in school anymore. You actually want to truly collaborate with your coworkers now, it makes you look good.

    Besides, some people just suck at taking notes, I know I do. We get away with it because most of our classes don’t have much that isn’t in a book.

    The flip side is we get very good at reading stuff and figuring out what to do.

    1. Luxe in Canada*

      And if you don’t want to do it for the sake of true collaboration, think about how nice it will feel when he asks you a question and you can direct him to the notes instead of answering it. You’ll have more time to get your interesting work done instead of playing teacher for this coworker, *and* you’ll have something great to point to at review time. It’s all wins for you!

    2. Eos2008*

      I found this question really strange somehow. As someone who recently had to train a new co-worker on a computer system he was unfamiliar with, if I’d been able to go “here are my detailed notes telling you everything you should need to know to use this system and do your job” I’d have handed them over with a bow on top and then basked in the glory that rained down from being the person who standardized the notes and saved the new guy/company tons of time. And thus didn’t have to interrupt the flow of my work to help him with his. But for the record I didn’t mind helping him whenever he needed it because when he’s up to speed at his job, my life gets even easier! Plus it gets everyone on the same page which means everyone will do all the things the same way. It’s win win. Do what Alison suggests and ask management if it’s ok if you give everyone a copy first if you want to draw attention to the fact you’re the one who made the job notes useable by everyone but seriously, this is not a place where a game of let’s make Cecil look rubbish because he’s not a good note taker is the right answer. It’s not junior school, you are not teacher’s pet. This will reflect badly on you for being childish if it ever comes out. Now Cecil might be a lazy coaster who will slide by forever, or he could have some fabulous skill you don’t know about but will need some day. Don’t burn bridges over hording notes about a job. this is not your life opus novel. It’s notes about work. Just share them with the guy already.

      1. Natalie*

        I think it’s a school holdover – at least in my experience, you never collaborate in school the way you do in an office because they’re fundamentally different. The point of school is the process of learning the information (taking notes yourself) and not the deliverable (the test or paper), but it’s reversed at work.

        1. TychaBrahe*

          My coworker and I recently were given a role that involves running SQL queries. Neither of us knew SQL.

          My coworker was not a techie at all, but I am. In fact I’m very familiar with other database applications, and some of the concepts transfer over, even if the language and techniques don’t. So I can, with the help of SQL web sites, figure out how to do things. It takes me time, and often multiple failed attempts, but I can put together the query I need to run to do something. And then I pass it along to her with the instructions for what it does, and she can run in 15 seconds what might have taken me 15 minutes to construct.

          And yes, sometimes I resent that.

          1. Koko*

            But presumably as long as you maintain a friendly/cheerful relationship with your non-techie coworker, and she’s cognizant of what a big help it is for you to be able to Google/decipher these tasks, you’re building good will around the office. Maybe she’ll be able to return the favor for you later, or maybe she’ll simply enjoy working with you, be more pleasant to work with, and help build your reputation in the office as someone who is helpful and agreeable to work with. There’s nothing to resent about gaining an ally in your office.

            There’s a wonderful book called “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success” that looked at this exact topic: how do reciprocity styles impact professional success? Several studies are reviewed looking at people who are Givers (inclined to give more than they receive); Takers (inclined to take more than they give); or Matchers (inclined to return favors but only to the extent they receive and to avoid owing favors). What they found is that across a variety of professions, the least successful people are Givers, and Takers are generally more successful than Matchers–just what a cynical person with an attitude like LW might expect. What might be more unexpected was that the most successful people were also Givers, and these Givers were more successful than the Takers.

            The difference between the successful Givers and the unsuccessful Givers related to knowing when to say “no” in order to avoid burnout. The unsuccesssful Givers said “yes” to everyone indiscriminately, allowed themselves to be taken advantage of, and grew tired and resentful. The successful Givers said “yes” to things they knew they could be a big help towards, and when they couldn’t be very helpful they had a tendency to say “no” but refer someone else in their network who could potentially be helpful instead. And this is why the Givers were the most successful: they are masters of networking. They had larger networks than Takers or Matchers and built a tremendous amount of good will by connecting people who could benefit from knowing each other, without any direct benefit to themselves. Later on down the road, when they were looking for a job for themselves, or were trying to locate someone with a rare skillset to pitch in on a project, or needed some other sort of favor, the Matchers in their network felt indebted for the previous favors the Givers had done for them, and were happy to pay it back.

            Essentially, smart Givers are more successful than Takers because they give in ways that make the pie bigger. By creating resources that make the company more successful and bring in more revenue, Givers enable the company to create new positions and make more promotions and raises available to everyone.

          2. Jenny Next*

            The upside to you is that you actually learned it, played around with it, and debugged it. So it is in your brain in a way that it is not in your co-worker’s brain. This will serve you well in the long run.

            P.S. Someone should be paying money to train you formally in SQL.

    3. GrumpyBoss*

      +1. Some people tend to look at hoarding notes/knowledge as job security. Couldn’t be further from the truth. The best job security is to be open, inclusive, and collaborative with your teammates. You have a common goal to achieve with each other. There will come a time when you need assistance from your coworker. While it may not come in the form of well organized documentation, teammates help each other out.

      1. SJP*

        See I am the opposite on this and agree with the opinion of the OP, I could be wrong but it sounds like this guy isn’t a new employee, just a co-worker who is an ass and is too lazy to make notes when going through something new.
        I’ve definitely had this. I am a meticulous note taker and pride myself on being able to keep referring to them so I don’t have to keep interrupting a co-worker. So for a lazy colleague who just doesn’t seem to get the point of taking notes instead of asking questions all the time this would annoy me.
        Also to teach him a lesson that i’d be like “Sorry but I’m really busy right now and don’t really have time to answer your question. In future may I suggest than when we do training that you make some notes to refer to” and leave him to try and figure out the answer and use his memory.

        I dunno, it just really grinds my gears when half-arsed colleagues rely on the note taker in the team rather than make their own and then interrupt them constantly.
        Which is why I’d be tempted not to share them just to teach them a lesson. Although saying that they probably would be taught a lesson, they’d just go and interrupt some poor other person. I guess it’s a personality thing that some either do or don’t make notes but boy does it annoy me.

        I definitely see other people’s points about doing a team player, and the boss would like it etc doesn’t stop it annoying me. It would depend on my relationship with the colleague whether i’d share them or not and if my boss actually noticed me doing something nice for someone

        1. MK*

          On the other hand, this co-worker hasn’t actually asked for the notes; the OP believes that he will because he has been dropping hints. If the note-keeping is really supposed to be “every man for himself” and asking for another’s notes is considered inappropriate, it’s possible that the co-worker is trying to get the OP to offer, but won’t outright ask, because he knows it’s not “done”.

        2. MaggietheCat*

          I agree! I totally pictured myself as the OP taking detailed notes while ‘co-worker’ goofed off during a training and then whined about not having notes when it’s time to do *our job*. ugh!

              1. JoJo*

                Yup. I once made the mistake of being Go-To-Girl and I was constantly interrupted by people who were too lazy to look things up or figure them out for themselves. Never again. Call me a “matcher”, but I’m not doing favors for people who have never done anything for me.

              2. Observer*

                And there is absolutely no way to know which it is. But, if it IS just laziness, it will come back to bite the lazy person. No need to be petty.

          1. Cat*

            The thing is, if that’s the case, either (1) it’s a one-time thing and thus doesn’t matter or (2) it’s going to show up in the co-worker’s work later. If you’re a slacker, that’s going to become obvious over the long-term; OP sharing her notes isn’t going to ultimately affect anything except people’s view of the OP.

          2. RobM*

            In any case, this is a chance for the OP to either demonstrate leadership by producing an actual manual for the job and offering to share it as needed (I’m talking about doing so via the manager so it gets noticed here) or a chance to demonstrate that they are “not a team player” by hoarding information that people need in order to do the job well.

            I wonder what kind of demonstration will stand them in better stead when its time to hand out payrises and promotions?

            1. Mephyle*

              I don’t think ‘hoarding’ is descriptive of what is happening here, where this information is being given freely to all the newish people, but coworker is ‘throwing it away’ by not taking notes.

        3. Eliza Jane*

          Yeah, I had the same feeling. I like the idea of going to the manager and saying, “Let’s turn my awesomeness into a team resource,” but the idea that those of us who pay attention and take notes and learn things are somehow obligated to be a constant source of shortcuts to everyone else is really grating on me. It takes actual time and energy to maintain that level of organization and tuned-in attention to a workplace.

          The OP spent the time and energy because he or she thought it was going to pay off down the road. It has paid off. The coworker made different choices, and “invisible” helping (sharing without looping in management) is likely to make the coworker look more productive compared to the OP than is actually true.

          1. Mike C.*

            The real problem here is the fact that these policies aren’t written down for future reference. It’s not about “making choices” or some measure of personal morality, and I’m tired of folks who feel this way.

            Sometimes those of us who are “making different choices” are really just trying to deal with a learning disability or are just spending that meeting time trying to understand what is going on rather than writing every last thing down.

            1. Xay*

              Exactly. Taking good notes and organizing them really is a skill and although everyone should have some note taking strategies, it is also ok to acknowledge when you (or someone else) has expertise and to share the results of your work with others. I am a good note taker and I realized a long time ago that turning my notes into fact sheets and manuals to be shared was a good thing – it was a good use of my skills AND it helped the office move from having unspoken fluctuating rules to having consistent policies and procedures across all staff. Not to mention, it made my job easier because I could refer questions to a resource rather than having to flip through notes.

            2. Colette*

              Sometimes it is about making different choices, though. There are people with legitimate learning disabilities or different learning styles, but there are also people who figure they don’t have to do the work of taking notes because they’ll get them from someone who does.

              I do agree the OP should share her notes with the coworker & team, because if the coworker is a slacker, it will show up somewhere else, but I also think that if you’re asking for something out of the ordinary because you have special circumstances, you need to explain at the high level what those circumstances are. (i.e. You don’t need to say “I have ADHD”, but you do need to say “I find I’m not able to effectively take notes and listen in sessions like that”)

            3. Eliza Jane*

              I think a lot of my feelings on it come from personal fatigue and my own baggage. I have spent a lot of time as that person — the one who takes notes and observes things, and I have to spend a lot of what should be my productive working time helping coworkers with things that we were trained in together.

              I actually agree 100% that there should be written policies and procedures, and I really like Alison’s suggestion that the OP offer to turn her notes into a reference guide, since that’s something management will see and hopefully appreciate.

              But I spend maybe 10% of my work day actively absorbing information about my company, its procedures, its business, its clients, its competitors, and governmental regulations that relate to it. That really improves the quality of what I can do with the 90% I have remaining — enough to make it an effective use of time for me.

              I have had coworkers who seem to think I’m getting some extra training they’re not getting, or that I should be writing up regular digests of the information I’m getting, so they can be operating at the same level without doing the work to get there. There’s an implication that I’m somehow “cheating” by not sharing in a convenient way. I spend time answering questions and writing things up, and at a lot of places that all comes across as invisible or valueless to management.

              1. Mike C.*

                You’re well within your rights to be tired of always being the one to train and help at the expense of your own work. That really sucks and it shouldn’t fall to you to have to take care of it all yourself.

                I’m just really surprised that if you’re able to be that much more productive by reading/researching certain areas why your management isn’t making your coworkers aware of these resources.

                1. JoJo*

                  A lot of people are too lazy to use the resources. They’re perfectly happy to mooch off of their co-workers’ efforts.

          2. Observer*

            No one thinks that you are obligated to interrupt your work to help everyone all the time. Sharing your notes doesn’t rise to that level. And, just because you aren’t looping the boss in doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable thing to so.

            On the one hand, if the coworker can’t be bothered, it’s going to show up no matter what the OP does. On the other, if the OP is reasonably helpful, people around do tend to notice these things and it makes for better working relationships. Also, if you are generally helpful, it’s a lot easier to push back when things get disruptive. If you tend to answer questions and even agreed to share your notes, for instance, it’s going to make the co-worker look pretty silly if he then gets into a tizzy or complains to others about the times that you DON’T help him because you were too busy.

            1. Koko*

              Agreed that sharing notes is different than providing more hands-on help to teammates. You might resent sharing notes if you think it enables your coworker to do LESS work, but it’s work you were already doing and sharing them doesn’t add any significant amount of time. At my company it’s actually common practice when we have a big brainstorming/learning meeting (as opposed to a more operational meeting) for the meeting organizer to ask everyone in the room to send him/her their notes and then he/she compiles them and distributes the notes en masse to the whole team in one document. There’s no indication of who contributed which parts of the notes, but my company does this because it figures we all might have missed something but together we probably didn’t miss anything.

              People popping by to ask questions, have something shown to them or done for/with them, etc. – that’s actually work you weren’t already doing and makes MORE work for you, which is a more substantive reason to say, “I’m sorry, I’m really slammed with my own work right now.” I help my coworkers a LOT but I actually hate getting pop-by requests that interrupt my workflow. If I’m too busy to help I usually try to direct people to resources or offer them a later time when I can help. And anything I’m asked to do more than once I will generally go ahead and teach the person how to do it if possible, or if it’s not (like they don’t have a login for the system to run that report) figure out some way to work it into my routine tasks instead of having it pop up unexpectedly when I haven’t planned my workload around it (“I can run this report for you biweekly on Tuesdays when I’m running my own reports, but I can’t do it any more often than that. Maybe you can make a case to IT that you should have your own login with reporting privileges if you need it run more frequently.”).

        4. Elsajeni*

          I think the risk there is that you wouldn’t actually be teaching him a lesson — you’d just be leaving him to keep bothering you with questions. Maybe there’s a valid principled point to be made, a la the ant and the grasshopper, but even if you feel you’re in the right not to share your notes, this becomes a choice of: would you rather be right (by not having to share your notes/the food you wisely gathered in summer) or happy (by not having to deal with this guy constantly asking you questions/the grasshopper whining outside your door all winter)?

            1. GrumpyBoss*

              It isn’t, and in fairness, the OP didn’t suggest it. Another poster said it, which is pretty revolting if you think about it. What an unpleasant office environment it would be where anyone thought this would be “ok”.

              1. LBK*

                Wouldn’t refusing to turn over the notes be “teaching the coworker a lesson,” i.e. this is why you should take your own notes?

            2. Elsajeni*

              Sure, there’s the separate question of “Are you, in fact, in the right not to share your notes” — obviously you think the answer is no, and I lean toward agreeing with you. But even leaving aside whether not sharing the notes makes you a jerk, will it make you any happier or more productive? My guess is no, which means that wherever you come down on the question of the principle, it makes more sense just to give him a copy of the dang notes.

        5. Miss Betty*

          I actually had sympathy for the OP as well, mostly because of an employee where I work who has been there for decades and doesn’t want to learn anything new. She’ll ask over and over again how to do the same things, even after people have written down the instructions for her. It may be because of my personal bias, but I got the impression that the OP’s colleague was of a similar mindset: Why learn it myself when other people can learn it for me and then give me their notes (or maybe show me what to do over and over again)? When does our responsibility for helping our co-workers end and their responsibility for learning to do things on their own begin?

          1. Windchime*

            Yes, I work with a guy like this. There is a specific task that we have to do occasionally and it’s kind of tricky and unintuitive. I wrote up documentation with screenshots, mostly for myself but also to share with the team (which I did as soon as possible after writing it up). My coworker has come to me at least 3 or 4 times since, asking “How do I do task X?”. I explain it again and re-send the instructions to him, but I don’t think he even looks at them because a month later, he is back in my cube again asking how to do task X.

            1. Jessa*

              That’s the point where you have the talk with the manager that goes something like “How do you want me to handle it this month when Sam comes to me about x task again (for the xth month,) even though I’ve given notes and screenshots, and helping Sam takes time from my z task.”

        6. LQ*

          I don’t take the best notes, but I do create amazing tools that my coworkers can’t. If I started withholding MY skills from the team it would be a disaster. Everyone should put their skills out there. When I go to a coworker who takes great notes on everything she’s thrilled to help me because she knows I’m already working on designing the thing that she needs to make her look good, and I’m thrilled to do it because it’s fun and it makes all of us look good.

          It would make me turn out a totally half baked product and you know what? Then the whole department fails and none of us have jobs. YAY! You get to teach us all a lesson!

        7. Not So NewReader*

          While, I agree about “teaching the coworker a lesson”, I also know the lesson would be lost on some people. For myself, I only need to hear “no” once and I know I need to move to Plan B immediately. Not everyone is gated that way.
          Alison’s idea is brilliant because OP gets the glory for putting together this monstrous reference guide and OP also gets to tell the coworker to go “look it up”. Win-win.

          OP, you have a talent that not everyone has. I would not be surprised if you encounter a similar situation, again, in your working career. I think you are underestimating how much of an asset this organizing/writing skill is to an employer. Instead of hiding your abilities, do what Alison says, draw attention to what you can do. You will be growing in your job and your coworker…well, we don’t know what will happen there.

        8. lai*

          I have to say that in rather baffled by this. In every job I’ve had, there is always only one person taking notes at meetings who shares then with everyone afterward. Yes, some people still choose to take their own notes, including me, because I learn better by writing than reading. However, your goal at work isn’t to be better than your coworkers – it’s to do whatever is in the best interests of the company as a whole, which is usually to have everyone well informed, however you get there.

          1. Koko*

            “your goal at work isn’t to be better than your coworkers – it’s to do whatever is in the best interests of the company as a whole”

            Yes! Your goal at work should be that you want to be working with people who are just as capable and successful as you are. If you can help them get there, you’ll enjoy your job a lot more. Unless you assume that everyone who needs help is incapable of improving (in which case I hope such a person is never put in charge of other people), or you’re so insecure in your own skills that you feel threatened by someone else’s success.

        9. Koko*

          The problem is that a company in which everyone hoards resources and refuses to help each other is that they’ll consistently lose out to the company where everyone is collaborating and sharing resources. Because your company loses market share, they have less money to reinvest back into their employees, fewer promotions to offer, etc. Your lazy coworker and you work for the same company. Your salaries come out of the same profit margin. Letting your coworker fail because you don’t want to help him hurts the company and reduces the pot of available rewards for everyone at the company, including yourself. Helping your coworker do a better job than he’d have been able to do without you helps the company and increases the pot of available rewards for everyone at the company, including yourself. Just make sure people know that you’re helping and make sure you’re working for a company that rewards helping, and you’ll get some of those rewards.

        10. Observer*

          Teaching people lessons in the work place generally does not end all that well for the “teacher”, unless that is your job. It’s a good mind set to get rid of.

          If your co-worker is really just a lazy bum, it will show up in other ways. Of course, if you are really busy, it’s ok to say “Sorry, I can’t help you right now”, but that’s not what the OP asked. I don’t see any way he can refuse to share notes without sounding juvenile and petty. On the other hand, if the co-worker asks so often at times where it really is disruptive to your work, where you really CAN and should say “sorry, I can’t help you now”, then your co-worker will wind up either getting the message or self destructing.

      2. ClaireS*

        I’ve worked with the Knowledge is Power types before and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Everyone on a team, at a company, etc, should be working together towards the same goal. Don’t horde knowledge.

        I get that it feels like you’re supporting a poor performer. But, if this guy really is a poor performer (more so than just being a poor note taker) it will show in other areas.

        1. My two cents...*

          Hoarding info can lead to ‘tribal knowledge’ for a team. Within our small team, we have two ‘hoarders’ of information. The problem really becomes terrible when someone else ‘figures out the secret sauce’ and is willing to share it with everyone else, because the hoarder looks insecure or possibly deceitful. For instance, the hoarder may have written some pretty nice software. But now they want to play it close to the vest, so it’s barely documented. Then a not-hoarder employee…without access to or understanding of the other software…goes ahead and spins a similar program with slightly different features, possibly in half the time, and then opens it up to the group.

          Though, when you’ve put in THAT much work on your own to perfect your performance in your job, I can fully understand how not-fair it feels that you’d both be evaluated similarly. You’re focusing during the trainings, and this ‘slacker’ keeps shaking you down for info! I would go to your manager (assuming that with similar job roles and duties, you’d have the same boss) and show them all the awesome work you’ve done, and explain that it is necessary information that ‘some others’ are often asking you about. You’ll get the recognition/validation that you’re yearning for (wow! that’s amazing information! Look at how organized you are!) and then you’ll get further recognition when it becomes ‘standardized’ info (we’ve posted SoAndSo’s highly detailed fabulous amazing notes for others, because there was a severe lacking of documentation. Isn’t SoAndSo awesome?!).

              1. LQ*

                Yeah but why are you assuming that coworker wasn’t doing something else equally (or of greater) valuable during that time?

                In court there is only one person taking notes and that doesn’t make the judge a slacker….

                1. My two cents...*

                  I was simply trying to empathize with the OP because they do feel like the coworker is doing ‘less’ work, although the coworker could just have a different focus. It is OK that the OP feels that way, though the OP shouldn’t hold onto that anger at the expense of her team.

                2. Colette*

                  Well, if it’s a requirement of the job that everyone attend sessions and take notes, then if you don’t take notes, you’re not doing what is required of you.

                  So yes, I should have said “you’re not doing what is required of you and others are”.

            1. Miss Betty*

              I don’t think they are, automatically. If not taking good notes doesn’t affect the ability to do their job, no one things twice about it. However, if they don’t take good notes, preferring to rely on other people to help them learn their job even though it was their responsibility to do so in the first place – which is the impression I got from the OP – that’s slacking by definition.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          To the knowledge is power types: If you figured it out, then chances are someone else will figure it out at some point, also. All “power knowledge” is temporary, it does not last. In the end, most work groups eventually figure it out.

        3. Cassie*

          I believe knowledge can be power, but I’m not a hoarder of knowledge because I also believe (rightly or wrongly) that I personally am smart enough to gain new knowledge. It’s not a finite resource for me. If I share my knowledge of making perfectly shaped white chocolate teapots, sure, it’s no longer “my knowledge”; but then I will go learn something else that will become my new “knowledge” until someone asks me to share that with them. And so on.

          Some people in my office, though… well, they hoard knowledge like it’s nobody’s business. Knowledge “IS” a limited resource in their eyes – they act like once someone else learns how to do their job, that they’ll be kicked to the curb. The quack psychologist in me thinks that they suffer from low self-esteem issues because they have such a limited ability to learn new concepts and retain knowledge. So they have to cling on to what they already have.

          Sometimes I pity them… and then I remember that they are making like $75K to $115K and doing very little work… if they’re scamming the system, they’ve got it all figured out!

      3. Anx*

        I agree with this comment when the person with the information is genuinely a team player and otherwise competent.

        I have witnessed too many instances of people keeping their jobs solely because they are the only one who knows how to do XYZ, though.

        1. Anx*

          I shouldn’t say solely. There could be other reasons such as blackmail or seniority or favoritism. But I have seen people lament over their inability to replace workers that are costing them headache after headache and attribute it to not knowing how to do the day to day work while transitioning.

      4. OP #1*

        I’m not trying to hoard notes from my team or anything. One of my other teammates was struggling with something recently, and after going through it with them, I happily made copies of my (then handwritten) notes for them to keep. That teammate does a lot of good work, tries hard, and takes feedback well.

        The teammate I don’t want to give my notes to is constantly trying to push his work off on other people, does everything from simple tasks to special projects poorly (requiring other people to redo it), and when you correct him or tell him something needs to be done differently he gets mad and defensive about it (and then keeps doing it incorrectly). He’s horrible to work with, so I’m reluctant to help him beyond answering his questions (since I can’t really get out of answering questions).

    4. Kai*

      Yeah. I very much empathize with the OP because I was *always* that kid in school that other kids wanted to mooch off of because I’d actually done the work and they hadn’t. So I get it. But it won’t do you any favors to hold onto that at work.

    5. Magda*

      To me, it really depends on how the request for notes is made. 9 out of 10 times, I’m happy to share knowledge/instructions with my coworkers. I don’t even mind answering repeat questions (within limits of course). Even the best people struggle with stuff at work sometimes, and I know how I would want to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot.

      However… if I get the sense that someone who’s not my boss feels *entitled* to my time and efforts, that’s going to piss me off. I don’t think it’s a crime to be a poor note-taker (it’s not my greatest skill either). But taking notes is an effort even for people who do have that skill. While I don’t think it’s acceptable for the note-takers to hoard knowledge, I also don’t think OP #1’s question is solely about protecting her knowledge — it’s also about making sure her time and work are not taken for granted.

      Also, I think passive comments like “Gee, I wish I had great notes like yours” are really irritating. Intentionally or not, it makes it sound like great notes are something that just happened to OP rather than being something she put in the hard work to create. I can’t speak for OP, but personally, I would much more strongly prefer a straightforward “Hey, I didn’t catch this part of Procedure X at all. Can I look at your notes, whenever it’s convenient for you?” type request, rather than a “you’re soooo much better at this than me” type of dancing around.

      1. My two cents...*

        But, I also thinks it goes a long way to validate the hard work the OP does. When something comes naturally to someone, like detailed and organized note taking or understanding a complicated theory, it’s sometimes difficult to externalize that maybe it doesn’t to other people. “How can they NOT understand this is necessary?!”

        I think the OP may have been less bristled had the inquiring coworker framed it in a validating/praising way. A little flattery/validation/recognition goes a long way. A coworker can do a real disservice when they assume the OP’s notes are fair game, or imply that they’re just trying to ‘compare notes’.

        But really, if THAT many notes are required just to get the job done correctly, it should be put into a manual. This isn’t shorthand work-around stuff, this is new operating procedure. While it’s awesome that the OP is able to swim through that ambiguity, the COMPANY should be insuring that others aren’t sinking due to lack of documentation. And OP will only look like a rockstar for offering to help others learn to swim, so to speak.

        1. Magda*

          I agree completely that the real issue is the workplace’s lack of clear written procedures. When 10 people take notes, even pretending for a minute that they are all really GREAT at taking notes, you are still going to get 10 slightly different variations on the information. It’s a poor way of working.

          In regards to flattery/validation, I think it really depends. What makes me bristle is a manipulative type of flattery — “oh, you’re SO good at this, I’m not even going to bother.” It reminds me of people who try to get out of household chores by saying “But you just get the dishes SOOO much cleaner!” Like… it doesn’t make me feel respected when there’s an unspoken “and therefore it’s going to be your job forever” tacked onto the end of that compliment.

          That said, there is certainly nothing wrong with expressing genuine respect for the work someone does, and acknowledging that they have done something for you that they didn’t have to (and even better, offering help with something you ARE good at as a show of reciprocity). I don’t want to completely assume from OP’s letter exactly which flavor of compliment the coworker is offering.

        2. Natalie*

          This may sound like an exaggeration, but I promise it’s not – my company lost it’s largest client (50% of the business) and had to lay off hundreds of people due to bad and absent documentation.

      2. Koko*

        “I also don’t think OP #1′s question is solely about protecting her knowledge — it’s also about making sure her time and work are not taken for granted.”

        While I think you might be right that that’s what is motivating her letter, I think it’s also important to point out that that’s a “cutting off your nose to spite your face” attitude. The way to make sure your time and work are appreciated isn’t to be stingy and refuse to help people–who’s going to appreciate that? It’s be 1) being valuable and 2) demonstrating it. Refusing to help someone neither makes you valuable nor makes you look valuable. It’s a negative coping skill that people use to comfort themselves when they feel wronged, but it doesn’t do anything to address or remedy the wrong.

        1. Magda*

          Listen, I do think it would be in OP’s best interests to share the notes in some way (writing the manual/procedures for everyone would be great). And just completely keeping it to herself would probably ultimately hurt her in the long run more than help.

          But, it’s also true that “helping” is not always actually helping. If you do the work for your coworker every time they ask, you are essentially telling them yes, I can be expected to do your work. You’re taking on things that distract you from what you were actually hired to do, and in MANY cases people will lose motivation to learn something they know they can just expect you to swoop in and pick up. I am always willing to help people when they sincerely struggle, but I will not enable other people’s laziness or bad habits. In the long run, covering for bad performers does not actually help the team.

          1. Koko*

            Yes, I agree with you when it becomes a pattern of someone consistently asking me to do something they should be doing. But that’s not the read I got from this letter. He hasn’t even asked for any help yet, he’s just praised her note-taking ability and she’s anticipating that he may ask for copies of them in the future, which she has decided she doesn’t want to do because she doesn’t want to give him something for free that she worked hard on. That’s a very different case from a coworker who is actively expecting her to do his work on a regular basis…not only because it’s not a pattern of abuse, but also because the note-taking is work that the LW was already doing. Giving him copies would not be increasing her workload or taking time away from her other work tasks.

            I have encountered very few people who have tried to pass their work off on me on any sort of regular/ongoing basis, and I know how to shut that down. (After the 2nd time they ask me for help with something, I say, “I’m glad you’re getting value out of this report. I don’t always have time to run it for you when you may need it. Let’s do it together this time so that in the future you can do it on your own,” or something like that.) Scenarios where I have a resource someone else could benefit from or where someone has a one-off request for help are much more common and I’ve generally found that helping in those cases is to my benefit and has helped me build a reputation in my office as a person who cares about our mission and makes sure projects succeed.

            I do wonder to what extent this is what Alison talks about, when she talks about how dysfunctional work cultures can teach people bad work habits. If you are coming from a long stint working with lazy people who don’t do their own jobs and who take credit for work that isn’t theirs, and where these sort of people are rewarded and promoted above people who work hard and collaboratively, then I can see how it would take some time to unlearn those habits.

            1. Magda*

              I’m surprised you say you don’t see a pattern. The OP states that her coworker is constantly asking her questions about things they both learned during their meeting/training/etc. It’s exactly that pattern that leads her to anticipate he will want to go a step further and just get her notes.

              I think it is great that you have figured out how to shut down lazy people. There are some people who don’t have that skill yet (just as not everybody can take notes). It’s possible that the OP is looking to shut down her coworker on the issue of her typed notes because she knows it’s not the last thing he will ask her for. Now, I think it would be to her benefit to create a manual and then just refer him there, but I don’t think it’s necessarily dysfunctional workplace PTSD to have an instinctive “no” reaction to an overly needy coworker.

      3. MaggietheCat*

        Right. It’s not like the OP is the only one receiving training and then refusing to share her notes on it… Nope. Lazy co-worker is sitting right beside her playing Farmville.

        1. Observer*

          How do you know that the other worker is playing Farmville (or whatever)? Some people are not just poor note-takers. They CAN’T take note AND listed / absorb the information at the same time. This is especially true of people who have not been taught how to take good, concise notes AND who have not spend a lot of time writing by hand. If you noticed, everyone is hand writing all of their notes in a big notebook.

          There are so many reasons why someone wouldn’t have good notes that it makes no sense to make these assumptions.

          1. Magda*

            But the coworker’s not absorbing the information — he’s asking OP for it afterwards, even wondering where she got it from! He may have a valid reason for that, and I agree with other statements above that the workplace needs to have clear written procedures so that they aren’t relying on every single employee’s note-taking abilities to convey information. Nevertheless, you still have a case were Person A and Person B are being presented with the exact same opportunity to learn the information and only one of them is doing it.

            I think it would be good if OP shared her notes in some way, but I also completely understand the frustration of working with someone who gives the impression that they don’t need to learn a particular skill because they can just depend on you to do it.

            In other words, the lack of note-taking skills is one thing, but I do think you risk crossing into a-hole territory when you constantly depend on another coworker to make up for your deficiencies.

            1. Mephyle*

              This. This is what makes this situation different from the others that have been discussed where a employee learns arcane unwritten secret workplace procedures or figures out tricky SQL queries, and shares or doesn’t share them with c0workers.

  5. Marin*

    #1 Having been new in a role in which I struggled to learn numerous arcane and illogical procedures, I would have valued a central set of procedures/best practices so much.

    Could you make it a team task and have different people take responsibility for different documents, so you don’t need to share all of yours, and so there’s a culture of documentation from hereon in?

    It saves time in the end, either because new colleagues won’t bug you so much for help, or they won’t get things wrong because they’re embarrassed to ask.

  6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP #1, you have my sympathy – I shudder to think of a workplace where “there are very few sources to look up needed procedures/information and there’s way too much to rely on memory.” There are valid reasons why people in some jobs might need to take lots of notes – as a teacher I take notes constantly on my students’ progress – but commonly-used procedures and established information should be written down and easily accessible to newbies. It’s inefficient to have all the new hires take copious notes on the same information just so they can have a way to look it up later.

    Hopefully you can be a force of change in this by turning your notes into a resource for many people.

  7. Dan*


    Can I be honest? While it’s good to recognize and reward high performing employees, you sound a bit over the top, and I’d be feeling awkward. Eight months isn’t all that long on the job. I’m not saying that she can demonstrate excellence in that short of time, but that’s too short to be laying on praise that thick.

    You sort of make it sound like the company would struggle if she were to leave. At a well managed company, no single employee is irreplaceable. But you even admit you’re really not at risk for her leaving.

    So what gives? If I were your employee, I’d be wondering if you have a romantic interest me. (Given ALL of the little things you gave her, on top of a substantial raise early in her tenure) its just a lot. I’d want to know what your motives are. Since you are writing in to an advice column asking what more you can do for an employee who has only been with you for eight months, hell *I’m* curious what your ulterior motives are.

    1. Jessa*

      Thank you, you cut down to what was bothering me about this that I couldn’t put my finger on. It’s a little…wow, too much. And I’d hate to be the employee in the next office or cubicle and know you’re doing this for one person, no matter how awesome they are. A 10k raise in pay? What about the regular employees did they get raises? This is a serious morale killer and also looks a little – hey why is the OP always giving her stuff? How does anyone else in the company get stuff like this? They’ll all wonder what the objective criteria are to get big raises and gifts. And they really should because the criteria should be discoverable. The one that sticks out as making real sense was the gift card for going above and beyond, that anyone can aspire to.

      1. MK*

        The OP mentioned that the raise was partly because of a reorganization; I am assuming that the employee was promoted or the job description changed significantly.

        But, yes, the OP does sounds over the top.

        1. Raine*

          Yes, a lot of people seem to be missing the $10k raise came within a month due to a company reorganization.

    2. BRR*

      I was thinking it felt like a bit much (not that I would turn down $10k after my first month or free protein bars). Just make sure she knows you appreciate her hard work and you mention she’s at the top of her classification but hopefully you can at least give her a COL raise.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        It sounds like the salary is at the limit. So that will be a shock at her next review. “Sorry, I gave all your raises already, and you will never get another raise.”
        We have a few employees who have been with the organization for 10+ years and have topped out their pay scale, so they won’t get another COL raise unless the positions are reevaluated. That is the time a manager should be thinking about “other rewards.” Not one year into employment!

        1. Koko*

          I’ve never worked in budgets for any of my employers, so I’m curious–wouldn’t the maximum salary cap also increase each year with a COL increase? If the cap for a junior associate is $50K in 2003, shouldn’t it be $51K in 2004?

          I just ran the numbers and checked against an inflation calculator. A 2% increase on $50,000 would be $61,000 10 years later, while what cost $50,000 in 2003 would cost $63,032.63 in 2013 due to inflation. If a COL increase is truly meant to hold pay equal while adjusting for inflation, then holding the cap flat is actually lowering the pay of that entire grade over time, as newer employees are hired into a wage band that is worth less and less each year.

          1. Anne*

            ‘COL increases’ often have no correlation with inflation, and IME salary bands rarely move upward unless the market rate changes drastically. It’s part of how some companies end up with brand new employees at a higher salary than existing employees in the same job category.

    3. Wander*

      Yeah, I came away with the impression that there had to be an underlying reason for that much praise too. My first thought was that it was a hard to fill role (though the PS seems to indicate otherwise) or that it had been previously filled with such a low performer that a high performer seemed even more miraculous in comparison. Regardless, it stood out.

      It’s hard to say what all is baseline for the company (both the vacation policy and flex time could be), but even just the gestures that are obviously the manager’s are a bit over the top all taken together in such a short time frame. I can’t imagine that other employees haven’t noticed. If they’re not under the same supervisor, it’s not as big of a deal (perhaps a little disheartening, but most people understand that managers have different styles), but if they are, I’d be concerned about morale (assuming they aren’t all rewarded). Professional development and industry conferences are easily related to work, but people are going to see cartons of power bars, lunch(es), and gift cards and wonder if they’re just not liked enough to be rewarded. Honestly, if the treatment is uneven enough, I could eventually see it leading to complaints of favoritism, even if it solely is about work performance. That’s unfortunate, but it’s good to be aware of the general perception.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I agree (okay not the romantic interest part but I see where where Dan is going with that also).

      This is way over the top for an 8 month employee. WAY over the top. It is important to reward people and to not drag your feet in making sure people are taken care of but if you do absolutely everything possible nearly the second they walk in the door, you’ve created two problems:

      1) You may have locked yourself into overpaying/rewarding someone whose issues don’t crop up until after the year mark. Performance needs to be evaluated over a longer frame of time than 8 months, and you’ll be damned resentful if otherwise normal issues come up and you’re locked into a higher pay range than you would have chosen if the full picture was known. You can’t know the full picture at 8 months!

      2) if employee remains terrific, now you have nowhere to go. You’ve spent everything you had to reward her in her first 6 months, what do you do for the next 10 years if you expect to retain her?

      So, never do this again. Use year benchmarks. There are reasons to use 6 month benchmarks also but I think you are safer sticking the word *year* in your mind because this seems oddly compulsive, your impulse to shower a new employee, so go with *year*. And not everything at one year!

      And with this employee, just do what Alison said.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        So much on number one. I had an employee go from superstar to holy terror at about the 6 month mark. As people settle in, build a routine, and get comfortable, they will reveal more of their true self. And it isn’t always good.

        I hope this isn’t the case with OP’s employee. But, has been rightly pointed out, you’ve done enough and further rewards may create a perception of favoritism.

        You know a really simple way to recognize hard work? Thank them. Let them know why their actions matter.

        1. MK*

          They don’t have to go to holy terror. The fact of the matter is that most people are on their best behavior the first few months of a new anything (job relationship), commonly known as the honeymoon period.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          This has happened to me so many times. It’s like the crazy doesn’t leak until they get comfortable and then all of a sudden the great new employee is actually Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction. Think of the bunnies!

          1. GrumpyBoss*

            Isn’t it weird? When I’ve seen it happen, it isn’t gradual. It’s more like: Tuesday, high performing employee. Wednesday, sociopath.

            Of course, I’ve also seen people’s performance slip due to outside influence (trouble at home, etc). This is something totally different. Fatal Attraction is right!

        3. MissM*

          Oh, this reminds me of someone I used to work with. She came in as a salesperson, and within a couple of months was up at the top of the leaderboards, bringing in all kinds of new clients and making cross-sales, etc. After about a year, we figured out that she was making all kinds of promises to the clients that we couldn’t keep, falsifying credit applications, etc. She quit before she could be fired and got a great job at one of our competitors, where she got a big promotion in just a couple of months…

        4. K.*

          I was the rockstar employee at one job, and I felt my own attention and awesomeness really drifting away around the two-year mark. I just couldn’t keep up with being so “on” all the time and *that’s* when rewards and benefits and stuff really served to motivate me and keep me engaged and with the company. I stayed for four years, total.

          So yeah, even as the employee who bosses have loved for doing all those things, I’d have been kind of weirded out with all that attention and reward right up front.

      2. Mike C.*

        Number one doesn’t make any sense to me in the slightest. So long as you don’t do it retroactively and don’t go below state/federal minimums, you can lower someone’s wages to whatever you want whenever you want. How is someone “locked in”?

        1. K.*

          If my company suddenly said, “We’re cutting your pay,” I’d be out the door in weeks. I think most people would.

          1. Eliza Jane*

            Yes. A pay cut would be an instant, “Bye: I have other options” for me.

            I’ll add, if I got a 10% pay raise my first year and then no real raise for a few years after, I’d also pretty much be gone.

            1. original poster #2*

              That is interesting. I just found out that in my old job department, in order to prevent the layoff of a valued department employee, the 2 senior managers took a pay cut equivalent to a day’s pay weekly, indefinitely. (until funding improves) If I was still there, I would have done it too.

              1. Anne*

                But there’s a huge (HUGE!) difference between an agreement to lower pay to prevent x thing that you get to have a say in, and having your salary reduced by TPTB.

                Your material possessions, including your income, are all signs of success in many modern cultures – a salary cut is essentially the employer saying that you have less value to ten now, you are literally worth less to them than you were two days ago.

        2. LBK*

          I think she meant the OP has locked herself into a pattern of rewarding/praising this employee a lot, so if she burns out and sucks once she hits the year mark (which happened to one of my rockstar employees, it’s like her motivation was suddenly drained out of her by dementors) it’s a much harder conversation to suddenly be giving negative feedback when the employee is used to always being the golden child.

          1. Cat*

            So I actually think this is hard for employees too, especially ones without a lot of experience in the workforce. It’s easy for employees who are used to be being the golden child to burn out and, because they don’t really have experience with the ebb and flow of the workplace that happens, and because they feel like they’re expected to be perfect, they don’t have a way to dial back without crashing and burning.

            1. LBK*

              Totally agreed with that as well. It happened to me at work and in school – I cruised through most of my education until high school when I couldn’t get away with not doing homework or studying anymore, and I had no idea how to handle it because I’d literally never had to put in effort to succeed before.

        3. Joey*

          Employees never remember what they’ve gotten up to this point. But take something away and they will never forget.

        4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I suppose it might be different in different industries, but cutting somebody’s pay in my world is unheard of. I’ve never even cut anybody’s hours during a slow time. People have mortgages and bills and things they are depending on that promised pay for.

          I couldn’t do it.

      3. Taz*

        Well, the company reorganized within the first month of the employee being on board, leading to her job being reclassified and the $10,000 change in salary. Presumably many people in the company were affected by the reorg with salary and/or job classification changes. So that part wasn’t necessarily something to attribute 100 percent to the OP (though there is a tremendous amount of OP enthusiasm here).

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I am agreeing with you, WTL, I think that the reason OP can’t think of another idea is because she has pretty much used all the ideas.
        I would consider sitting down with Superstar and telling her she got off to a fantastic start and continues to do exceptionally well, but unfortunately the pacing of the rewards must change. Time to roll up the sleeves and focus on the work itself.

        Frankly, if I were the recipient of all that, I might find this conversation a relief. Implied in every reward is the idea that my next big effort will be even better. I may or may not have my next big push lined up, but I would feel an expectation. As someone else mentioned above my “on switch” may be burned out.

        1. Original poster 2*

          Not so new reader,
          I appreciate what you and others are saying. I started to be concerned that I was overdoing the “rewards” As a regular reader if AAM, I see a repetition of postings of workers who feel that their efforts are not recognized. I thought I may be missing something.

          I checked with my own mentors to see if I had been going overboard and the consensus was that no, my style is to be generous with my time and recognition when warranted. This is usually in the form of mentorship. This exceptional worker has not received anything that the other staff members hadn’t. The gift cards had been given to me as thank yous and I just passed them down. It was pointed out to me that a large number of former employees and interns have remained in touch over the years as to my ability to establish strong professional relationships.

          I have had the good fortune to work with people of all kinds of strengths and abilities. And yes I do like springing for a carton of protein bars on that trip to COSTCO. I do think age and experience has that privilege.

    5. Liane*

      Yeah, I was thinking there was something odd, but like Jessa below, couldn’t figure it out.

      But then I was focusing on the big raise so soon, more than the other things.
      Alison, when I read “Taken care of at raise time,” I wondered if you had missed that Rock Star just got a large one after a very short time? Or did you have some other reasoning, since you usually advise people not to ask/expect raises so soon? Perhaps that the OP said the raise wasn’t related to performance, or was it a reminder to not neglect future raises because of that one?

      1. Taz*

        The $10,000 pay increase came within 1 month of the employee coming on board in relation to a company reorg. The OP does later say OP had the employee at the top of the job classification, but really, it’s clear that even if the OP wasn’t this employee’s supervisor, the employee was going to have a bump due to the reorg already in progress long before she came on board.

    6. Melly*

      Yeahhhh the $10k raise so quickly is overkill and has now set up a salary expectation that clearly can’t/won’t be met. It’s great that there’s no concern about losing her, but I hope all this early reward doesn’t backfire.

    7. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I will say that one reason for the massive raise could be a salary adjustment. I started one job a couple years ago, in the midst of the recession, and my new job now pays about 150% more. I have close to the same qualifications, and the work is very similar, it’s just that I was seriously underpaid when the market was worse.

      1. KerryOwl*

        If you were originally making $40,000, then you’d now be making $100,000. That is definitely a hell of a jump! That’s changing companies, though, right?

    8. Treena Kravm*

      I think that is highly dependent on their tone and relationship. And it wasn’t a raise, she said it was due to a reorg. You could easily receive those things and not assume your employer is interested in you!

      My husband has a similar story. He got a 10% raise at his 6 month review, they pay ~$3-4k annually for him to go to conferences, and for monthly travel to and from an industry meeting. He has flextime whenever he needs it and 6 weeks vacation. He’s gotten 2 more raises since then and 2 Christmas bonuses in less than 3 years. When we got married, his boss casually mentioned that there would be an extra $250 in his paycheck as a wedding gift. When his boss was driving through our city (husband works remotely), he took us to an expensive french restaurant for dinner so they could meet in person.

      All this to say, it has *never* crossed his mind that his boss has a romantic interest in him! He knows why he gets all of the above. He regularly works a minimum of 60 hour weeks, and has worked up to 100 hours if there was a big project being pushed out. He’s available every second he’s not sleeping. All those little conference are on the weekend, and he doesn’t do less work during the week to compensate. As a result of a networking contact, he ended up getting a $30k contract with a new client (not his job at all). He’s straight up been told him that they care a lot about employee satisfaction and retention and if he ever wants more to just let them know before job searching.

      It’s certainly not impossible to have a romantic interest in the mix here, but it’s definitely not something I would assume or even suspect.

    9. Windchime*

      Yes, it kind of reminds me of the guy who, when I mentioned that I liked Kiwi-Strawberry Snapple, came armed to our second date with an entire CASE of Snapple. Honestly, one chilled Kiwi-Strawberry Snapple would have bought him more goodwill than a case of it. The case felt like “Whoa, too much!” or something. Awkward.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Ha ha ha!

        I dated that guy AND his cousin back in the day.


  8. jesicka309*

    OP #2 – While it’s great that you’re recognising your exceptional employee with money/gifts, have a really good think about the work you’re giving her. If she’s that awesome every freaking day, she may be itching for something that she doesn’t just breeze through. Give her increasing challenges, stretch her capabilities, ask what she would like to do and where she sees her future career goals. Work out how you can help her achieve those goals through the work she does now.

    I’m currently in a role where my boss thinks the world of me – praise everywhere I go, good reviews, talking me up around the company head honchos, advocating a raise, pushing me into professional development etc. But the kicker is that my workload is very similar to when I started 11 months ago… I’m almost at the point where I can’t take the praise as genuine because it’s like “duh. Of course I can plan that process. I’ve done it 11 times now. Give me a challenge!”

    My boss and I are currently working on ways I can develop my role, add some complexity to my work, and keep progressing towards my future career goals. To me, that shows me my value to her ad the company far more than a team jacket, a carton of protein bars, or a Target voucher does! (sidenote: still waiting to hear on the raise. A raise is always an awesome incentiviser)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      That’s great advice.

      People who start out the strongest are fast learners who are energetic about new things. You are spot on to mention that giving new challenges is a great reward.

      More praise for you. My god you are amazing! :) (over the top? :p)

      1. LBK*

        Completely agreed. I am an extremely fast learner and my motivation tanks once I’m no longer expanding my skills and facing new challenges. Once the new tasks become routine, I start getting hungry to learn something else. Don’t let that happen to this employee.

    2. #2*

      Great advice, jesicka309.

      Reading #2’s letter, I almost thought it was about me, except for the 10k raise! I’ve been in this position for 8 months and my boss offers me lavish, sometimes embarrassing praise (even noting that I’m the strongest member of the department, including herself). The praise is always unspecific (and therefore not useful) and she can never offer me concrete suggestions for improvement, which is something that is important to me– I’m always trying to get better at things.

      Also, my boss is unnecessarily cruel to one member of our team, never gives her praise, and constantly nitpicks at tiny details. This poor employee can never do anything right, even when she follows my bosses instructions exactly! It’s definitely not fun to go to work every day when I know I’m just going to be generally praised and my coworker will be generally disparaged.

      Just from my own perspective, I would advise letter writer 2 to focus on creating an office where everyone is their most productive selves. No one wants to be the best person in the department. People want to work with other excellent people so they can learn and grow from their peers, so start working on making an environment where everyone is performing excellently.

      Next, start asking this employee where she wants to be in five years, and then help her get there. Maybe she’s interested in a flex project that no one’s had time for. You can offer that project to her. Or maybe she wants to be involved in a special topic in another department. You can use your influence to get her assigned to that topic.

      Also, in terms of not worrying about losing a good employee, trust me that money doesn’t motivate everyone. People at this level usually want to go to work for a boss they love who challenges them and supports them, and want to work with a team that produces great and valuable work. If your stellar employee doesn’t feel like her non-monetary needs are being met, she can and will leave.

    3. Kai*

      Oh my goodness, THIS. I could have written those first two paragraphs exactly. Praise is awesome, but if she’s that great, she may get bored very quickly (I know there was a statement that the job was exactly what the employee wants to be doing, but that can change). Interesting challenges are going to be very important here.

      I do administrative assistant-type work, and when I first started and had no experience it was great to hear that I was doing such a good job of managing calendars and scheduling meetings. After several years, good feedback is still a good thing, but I can’t help feeling like…no kidding that I’m good at it. It ain’t rocket surgery!

    4. original poster #2*

      Whoah! Romantic interest! Now that is out of left field. I think we can safely take that off the table.

      I also don’t think favoritism is an issue. Food is the currency of appreciation in our corporate culture. From the top down. There is plenty for everyone.

      Remember the temp wars? One part of our job requires us to retrieve materials and do inventory in an area that is around 55 degrees. Staff order and pay for their own fleece jackets. I just covered hers out of my own pocket as well as bought a few extras to have around as needed for our temp workers.
      I do realize rereading that it sounds like I am going overboard.
      Background- The huge raise was a system wide job evaluation equity raise that came from an outside consultant. I just made sure that her job title landed in the right category. Give frozen budgets and layoffs this year (above my pay grade) there will be no more raises in the next fiscal.

      When I arrived a year and 10 months ago, the department was a mess (poorly trained staff, rogue assistant manager- high self esteem/poor work efforts, lack of consequences in general) I helped most of the staff move on to positions better suited to their education and abilities, documented and placed the assistant manager on PIP. (she left a month ago) Exceptional new hire came in during this transition time and rode through it all with competence, maturity and grace.

      We have rebuilt the department, hired replacements, established working relationships with other departments (who had given up communicating with us) and put in place checklists and written procedures.

      I just wanted to know if I was doing enough to show appreciation or if there was something I was missing.

      As I read the comments, I realized that one thing I forgot to do was just ask. I know that there is one part of her position responsibilities that she feels that she hasn’t had time for with all the new hire training and special projects. I will make sure that we put time on her schedule to do just that task uninterrupted.

      Jesicka309- this also makes sense to me. I get that she doesn’t think she is doing anything amazing and I am perhaps excessively grateful. I will be on the look out for challenging work for her professional growth.

      Had a chat with a colleague at my level yesterday… she encouraged me to find the money for the professional conference June 2015 no matter what. I shall do that.

      1. Jamie*

        I was the recipient of this kind of enthusiasm once and it was because the person before me was so abysmally incompetent I seemed like a miracle. I get it as a manager because it’s such a relief not to have to carry a dead weight employee and you’re so thrilled someone is holding their own and even excelling – but as an employee it’s weird because you’re being treated as if you saved puppies from a burning building basically for just doing your job.

        But you can see you’ve gone a little overboard so that’s good…you can pull back and just treat her normally going forward. I am sure you’ll make sure she’s challenged and get her the professional development she wants – that’s a pretty great manager. Also slaying any dragons for her behind the scenes that come up so she’s not needlessly frustrated would be awesome, too.

        And fwiw I didn’t think romance at all – I thought you sounded like someone who had been carrying a crappy team member or department for a while and were just so relived to have the load lightened.

        1. original poster #2*


          Thank you. I appreciate your comment. and yes I couldn’t have articulated this better

          ” but as an employee it’s weird because you’re being treated as if you saved puppies from a burning building basically for just doing your job.”

          I am pretty sure that I am treating all of our staff fairly including those who may not be excelling but doing a good enough job. I will keep an eye on the that.

          1. Cassie*

            Even if you are treating all of your staff fairly, it’s still awkward to get treated like you saved puppies from a burning building for just doing your job. And even more awkward when *everyone* gets treated like that for just doing their job. At that point, I’d feel like the praise doesn’t even mean anything anymore.

      2. #2*

        I’m sorry, but something about this still rubs me the wrong way. It just seems condescendy and over-praising: “competence, maturity and grace.” The same goes for buying jackets with your own money. Also, you should make sure she wants to go to conference before pushing for it.

  9. Fruitfly*

    #1) I think the OP fears that she might be treated like a “doormat” by her coworker, since he might feel that he doesn’t need to take notes and just ask the OP whenever he feel like, for she would always have her notes. This is a situation I will dread as well.

    I don’t mean to say that the OP should say “no” every time the coworker ask about her notes. The coworker should make the effort to copy notes, and maybe he could ask the OP about what was said in the meeting after he realized that he miss-copied it.

    If a manager is talking about a step-by-step procedure of doing something and the coworker still doesn’t take notes, and he later on ask the OP to see her notes–then I think that is a bad manner from the coworker. You are expected to make an effort to taking notes–how could you not take notes!!!

    I think I would ask why the coworker was not taking notes during the meeting. Maybe offer some tips to help him get started. If he still doesn’t put an effort to taking notes, then maybe the coworker might be bad news.

    1. Dan*

      Some people just suck at taking notes. I might make an effort, bit it won’t be pretty. So I don’t bother.

      If the boss is giving out step by step directions that he expects people to follow to a t, well that’s what email is for.

      The one place taking notes is critical is client meetings, and you can bet the boss is going to make sure there is an official note taker, and there won’t be any pretty squabbling.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I think the OP is a time traveler from 1986.

        The system is so antiquated it’s shocking. Forget Wiki, what about email?


      2. MK*

        But apparently this job requires taking notes. If the co-worker is bad at it, he lacks a basic skill for the job.

        1. Mike C.*

          It doesn’t have to be a “basic skill for the job”. There should be reference materials for this sort of information.

              1. soitgoes*

                I think the issue might be that she doesn’t like the coworker for other reasons. It doesn’t have to be malicious – there are a million reasons why we’re not close to certain people at work, and also why none of us would want to just hand over notes that took hours of our own time to compile, especially if the coworker isn’t going to read them thoroughly anyway.

                BUT…if her workplace bff asked for the notes, I’m sure she’d hand them over in a heartbeat. This coworker is bugging her for other reasons and this notes thing is just the easiest way to create a barrier between the two of them.

                1. fposte*

                  Though a good point is made downthread that if the OP is the information retainer every time something new comes in, that’s more onerous; at that point it’s a de facto team leadership.

            1. Jamie*

              It’s not necessarily a basic skill. I’ve trained sales people in the CRM and ERP, some learn it faster than others but if I didn’t have documentation the non-note takers would be in trouble. So I wouldn’t dream of doing this without documentation, because if they are great in sales and can totally do their jobs then not being able to document an e-process shouldn’t stand in their way.

              The first thing that struck me is the company is in error for not having this process documented already – and let people take their own ancillary notes beyond that if needed.

              1. Kelly L.*

                This. Basically, the OP’s workplace is passing along the job of creating documentation to the employees, without any kind of oversight or official status. And yes, ordinarily, the documentation would be written by someone who works there, but they’d be asked first, and their documentation would then get some kind of official approval and then have the weight of authority behind it once it was adopted. And the OP’s notes could turn into that! But there should be an official version–whether written by the OP or someone else–that they can consult if needed.

      3. JB*

        You may never be a great note-taker, but if you worked at it, it could become something you don’t suck at. It’s better than just plain not trying and then hoping others will carry you, which is what it sounds like this guy is doing. And it’s not like this guy has to write the employee manual, he just needs to write down enough to remember what to do next time.

        OP, you’re right that it doesn’t seem fair that he will get away with not even trying, but AAM is right, you won’t look good if you refuse to help, at least at first. It’s one thing if he starts taking up all of your time because you have to walk him through every task. But just refusing to share notes is something that will only hurt you.

        Maybe, if he really doesn’t like taking notes, you could tell him to take a few minutes when learning something to make a voice recording of the steps he needs to take? If he has a smartphone, that would work, no fancy equipment needed. Or maybe there’s something else he could do that would help him remember procedures that doesn’t require extensive note taking. Or, as AAM suggested, see if you can put together a manual. That’s a great thing to boost your visibility at work in a good way.

        1. Ezri*

          I think there’s a line OP can draw in terms of ‘helping’ a struggling coworker, if it gets to the point where assisting him prevents OP from accomplishing work. Sending an email with a document is pretty easy (usually, I don’t know for certain how much work it would be to get it to him) and benefits the OP with fewer interruptions and a reputation for helpfulness.

          If the coworker started asking OP to do his work, though, or walk him through a process already detailed in the document he received, OP would be totally justified in saying ‘I’m sorry, I have a lot to do, why don’t you check out section such-and-such in the notes I sent you and see if that helps?’. Someone else already pointed this out, but if the coworker is really incompetent / lazy, it will manifest in other ways.

        2. Dan*

          I suck at taking notes because I either focus on trying to understand what the speaker is trying to say, or I focus on accurately and meaningfully trying to write down what he is saying. I remember concepts well; “facts” are a bit different.

          My line of work is such that I don’t go to meetings and hope the person next to me “got everything”. My meetings aren’t lectures where the leader is trying to convey facts to the audience, he’s trying to convey concepts, foster discussion, or what not. If I’m writing down what others are saying, then I’m not processing the information and forming my thoughts on how to respond when called on.

          I’ve noticed that in truly important meetings where minutes must be kept, there is actually a team of people whose sole job it is to take the notes. They only speak when they must ask for clarification.

          The only things that are important enough for me to write down are action items, deadlines, and perhaps a contact person. That’s not hard. But the “processes” that the OP is talking about? Those get emailed. it’s the 21st century.

          So basically, there’s no real need for *me* to not suck any less than I do at note taking. Improving it is not a skill that is going to improve other parts of my professional career, because there’s simply no opportunity to use it in my line of work.

          1. JB*

            I’m not suggesting that YOU improve. I’m saying that if this guy’s problem is that he currently sucks at taking notes, but having notes is important for him to be able to do his job, then there are steps he can take to improve that skill up to a level where he can do his job. He may never be great at it, but he can learn to do enough. If you were in a job were taking notes mattered, you could improve, too–there are sources out that that can help with improving that skill. But you don’t need to. My point was simply that “maybe he sucks at taking notes” isn’t a good enough excuse for his not taking notes if he really truly needs to do it in order to be able to do his job.

            But it sounds like in this case that what is really needed is for the company to have a procedures manual instead of wasting time with everyone making their own.

    2. Eos2008*

      It’s a bad system to expect everyone to take notes about every process. Maybe it wasn’t her job role but OP has documented several processes in a way that perhaps a lot of coworkers would find valuable. I’ve had to train people but it’s always been using what’s in my head, there is no manual. My other half works in IT and he’s had to write technical documentation for a lot of things he does so that other people can read the document and learn how to do it. They do too many complex things to rely on him always being there to walk someone through it. He did not go all like “I’m the one with the CCNA so go get your own CCNA.” He just wrote the documents and shared them through their internal IT systems. It also reflected well on him that he did a good job of this that anyone could follow. It does sound like this company is a bit behind the times expecting all staff to figure this stuff out and note it all down themselves, but this sounds like it only has the possibility to reflect well on OP if she does offer this book to the company. It will give them something to hand out to newbies if they wish and make life easier for everyone, as the newbies can be directed to page 35 of the process book, saving experienced staff from explaining things and answering 20 questions. Work is about doing your work, not really about one upping your colleagues or being a teacher’s pet.

  10. Elkay*

    #1 I think Alison’s suggestion is great but I’d also make sure you circulate your notes to anyone who might have knowledge of the process just incase your notes are only clear to you. The last thing you want is for Cecil to do something wrong and turn around and say “OP#1 told me to do it this way”. Make it open and collaborative and it will go down well.

    Do you use One Note? You can make workbooks on that which are collaborative.

  11. Wrench Turner*

    When I got married I changed my name entirely – not just last name, the whole thing – and while the employer I had at the time was very patient, it made for some extra steps in my job search.

    References have to be reminded that I changed my name, transcript and record requests are under the old name and they sometimes balk at sending it to someone with a different name, etc.

  12. Training Manager*

    #1 – Some of us have had awesome career paths open up to us because we are really good at taking notes and organizing them so other people can learn. Just a thought :)

    1. GeekChick603*

      12 years ago I became a technical writer because I had been doing this as a ‘side job’ to my official duties in tech support

  13. Rebecca*

    #2 – I wonder how the other members of the team feel, especially those who might work hard but not be the “rock star” of the group, when they see a relatively new member literally showered with gifts. I don’t know what the salary levels are at this job, but a $10,000 bump is extremely generous in my frame of reference.

    1. Joey*

      Yeah it sort of sounds like this manager is valuing the position more than the company is. There’s a point to a maximum salary. It says this is the maximum the company values this job regardless of performance. If you’re doing an end around the max salary (which it sounds like you are). What you’re really doing is paying her more than the company is telling you she’s worth. That’s not sustainable.

      1. original poster #2*

        well, we are in a public institution and all of are salaries are available through an easy internet search.

        My own salary can be perceived as inequitable. I negotiated and was hired at a significant amount higher than other managers at my level. I do have what can be acknowledged as special knowledge and experience but also can understand the resentment of those who had been here much longer. I have had more than one staff member ask me why my salary was so much higher than the “norm.”

        On the huge salary increase- as everyone knows what everyone makes- the salary increase was across the board (with the exception of employees who received unsatisfactory ratings the previous fiscal) managers had no say in the matter.

        I had actually low-balled the salary for awesome employee’s position so that I could give a significant increase at 6 months if I wanted. Best laid plans.

        1. Joey*

          The salary is easier to justify. It’s the way you’re supplementing the salary that’s unsustainable and potentially problematic. Especially in public, buying employees things like lunches, staff jackets and cases of energy bars isn’t what most of the public considers a good use of tax dollars. Besides, I would guess its a matter of time before you’re asked to eliminate these sorts of “inefficient” or expendable expenditures.

          1. Jamie*

            She said she did it out of her own pocket, didn’t she? Which would be weird for me unless she owned the company (not the case) but a lot of people do things for their team out of their own pockets like lunches, or food treats – usually it’s for everyone though, not one person.

              1. original poster #2*

                and yes out of my own pocket. I tried getting reimbursed for a “get to know you” staff pizza lunch and it was impossible. Given the salary inequity between managers and staff at my institution, and my own secure financial situation, I happily bring in the occasional donuts and power bars. Everyone is on their own for coffee. The occasional staff lunch funded by me are usually the weather is crappy lets have something brought in or a goodbye lunch that is for their peers and I don’t attend.

  14. matcha123*

    I feel for #1. I don’t think I take great notes, but I’d be peeved if someone kept asking for mine because they didn’t want to take their own.
    On the other hand, we’re not in high school any more. And one type of coworker I dislike is the type that acts like everything is a competition for a higher grade from the teacher. I agree that approaching your supervisor with the idea to help distribute notes would look good.

  15. Kevin W.*

    Regarding #1, sharing it with the manager is all well and good…if you have a good manager.

    I spent years compiling notes, help sheets, instructions, etc. in relation to all the necessary technology within my department. Before my current manager took over my department, it was all available on our website for people to use and download at their leisure and it was actually the most heavily-visited page on the entire site. Current manager came in, took one look at it and deleted it all.

      1. Kevin W.*

        He basically didn’t want anything out there that he didn’t create, his way of exercising power.

        Another example of this was my sending of a memo to all departments on campus (I work at a university) at the beginning of each semester basically outlining rules and regulations for requesting technology, certain things we didn’t provide (Mac display adapters, for instance) and the proper channels through which people should go if they needed tech assistance. I had been sending out this memo in some form for close to 10 years until my current manager took over – and the first time I did it under him? I caught holy hell for it and he told me to never do anything like that ever again. Now faculty are basically left to guess what the rules are, what things we don’t provide, etc. because he won’t inform them and he’ll also make up new rules, etc. on the fly and not tell anyone (sometimes including me, which is fun).

    1. C Average*

      Wow. I would’ve been so angry. I’m curious about her reasoning, too. It takes a really long time to create effective documentation (and the amount of traffic yours was getting suggests that it was effective). Do people ping you all the time for the originals? Or are they aware that you were the original creator?

      1. Kevin W.*

        For a while, I had people contacting me wondering where it had all gone. I had to explain that my department got taken over and that my manager removed all the content. He’s…not particularly well-liked in most circles around here, but I get the feeling that he knows where the bodies are buried and that’s how he stays in his position of power.

        That whole debacle is one of the many reasons I’ve been struggling to get out of this place for the past six years now.

  16. Wonderlander*

    #1 – I feel for you! I have a coworker whom I have given several copies of my notes, and whenever she runs into a specific situation in which those notes would walk her through it, she calls me to come over and help her. The first thing out of my mouth is always “Ok, do you have the notes I gave you?” and her response is, “Uhhhhhhh they’re around here somewhere *shuffling random papers*” and then I end up printing off another copy for her. And then she won’t look at them, but insist I come over and walk her through it. This happens at least once a month. Grrrr…. Any ideas on what I should say to combat this? I swear I’ve printed 10+ copies of those notes…

    1. fposte*

      You could give her the actual digital file, but she’ll lose that too. I vote for print it out every time but then say “I can’t talk you through the procedures today, but it’s all in there” and stick to it.

      1. AVP*

        If she has a digital file, she can probably search for key phrases which might make it easier on her to find things (and leave Wonderlander alone). Of course, the key is not losing the file on your desktop in the first place.

      2. Cat*

        Or maybe not! I lose 90% of what’s handed to me on paper, but have no problem keeping track of digital files. Or alternatively, if there’s a shared drive, she can save it to that and just tell the co-worker “I saved it to the shared drive.”

        1. QK*

          All of these replies make my heart cry with sadness.

          Put it in a wiki! Then it’s impossible for your co-worker to lose the notes–they are forever and ever accessible via web browser, for anyone on your team to refer to or even add to.

          (Granted, I work in the tech industry, so the solution that seems obvious to me may not seem obvious to others–I apologize for any incredulity in my tone. :) )

          But seriously: wiki is your friend.

        2. Kate*

          Same here! I’m absolutely terrible with keeping track of pieces of paper, but am incredibly well organised digitally.

    2. the gold digger*

      Before I changed divisions at my old job last December, I put together a one-inch thick process manual for my successor, including samples of all the documents I had developed and how they were used, names of customer contacts, a calendar of what needed to be done when, names of internal people who would help with certain reports, how to run the reports, etc, etc, etc. I also left my email username and password so my successor could read all my customer correspondence. I made paper files with the essential data for each customer. (None of this information had existed when I had started the job 15 months before.)

      I then spent two hours with my successor going through everything. For three months, I answered his calls and emails. I finally started asking, “Have you read the files? Did you look in what I left?” and his answer was always no.

      That’s when I told his boss – who is a friend of mine – that perhaps my successor needed to try a little harder to find the information on his own before he called me.

    3. Natalie*

      Can you save a copy on a shared server folder? If you’re worried about her editing it or deleting it or something, put a PDF on the shared server and keep your text version on your drive. Then, just keep directing her to the “Procedures” folder on the shared drive.

    4. LQ*

      I find time delay can work really well here.

      Email the documentation and say, “I’m busy with a Super Urgent Thing until tomorrow at 3 pm, I can show you then if you are still having trouble.”

      (I wouldn’t do it if her thing is actually critical and urgent and your stuff isn’t, but a little time delay can go a long way. That said if someone is only doing a fairly complex process less than once a month it can be hard for people to remember. Encourage your coworker to add additional comments to your notes and try leading her through the process but not doing it for her. This doesn’t always work but I’ve found over time it does generally help.)

    5. Observer*

      My first reaction: In this case, when she says “I have them somewhere” tell her you’ll email her a copy and then do so. The next time, do NOT ask about the notes – you sent them to her and it’s TOTALLY on her to keep them. Just TELL her that it’s in the notes, in the section on white chocolate spouts.

      As for insisting that you come and help her, that’s totally not her place, unless she is your supervisor. Just tell her “I’ve been through this several times with you. I’m busy now and can’t come over.” If she pushes you can tell her “If you want, I can check with to see what she wants me to let slide so I can help you with this.” Repeat as needed.

      My second reaction: If this happens only with a particular set of tasks, it might be worth finding out if there is an issues that is interfering with her ability to do this one task.

  17. Dasha*

    #1 what great advice from Alison, a win-win for everyone. #5 I learned something new about groomers and I agree the trainee should not be using your very expensive tools!

  18. Joey*

    #2. I know you said she loves what she does, but when someone is great at their job what I’ve always done is talk to them about the potential I see in them in terms of career path. And almost always we’ve agreed that they should take on some responsibilities that will either prepare them for the next phase of their career or give them a taste of it.

  19. some1*

    I totally get #1’s frustration but ultimately Alison is correct that it will reflect badly if she refuses to share her notes and that there should be a centralized place where procedures can be found.

    If the LW can post her typed notes on the server for everyone’s reference, I think that would be a great, concrete accomplishment for her to point to come review time and to add to her resume. IME as a job candidate, HR people and hiring managers like when you can say in an interview that you found a hole in a process and took the initiative to fix it and can explain how it helped the org.

  20. soitgoes*

    #4 could say something like, “I was in the foster system as a kid, and as an adult I wanted to cut ties and start fresh.”

  21. MisterPickle*

    #1: Wow, talk about “opportunity knocking”!

    Admittedly, the nature of your job / workplace may or may not allow you to do any of these things, but offhand I’d advise:
    – get your notes into electronic format and make sure you have backups.
    – put your notes into some kind of document format. There are some formats that are very difficult to copy, which may or may not be appealing to you.
    – add a nice title page and nice headers and footers that include your name (ie, your name is on every page).
    – meet with your boss and go over the document; the meeting will almost certainly end with a suggesting of making this document available to others in your workplace.

    You might be able to use this to change the very nature of your job, if you want to: you could shift your job focus to “electronic documents”, starting with your notes online, updating them and adding other documents over time. If you’ve been documenting work processes, you might be able to spearhead an entire ISO 9000 push for your company (I know that some people are very negative about ISO 9000, but again: it could be an opportunity for you). You could possibly shift your job to something focused on developing and teaching classes. This may or may not appeal to you – but I’d urge you to think about how you can best take advantage of your work.

    Lastly: you need to be pro-active about this. Package up your stuff and do it soon, and make an appt to talk to your boss or whoever is appropriate. You want to appear to be the mover behind all of this – you *don’t* want your boss to offhandedly send you an email “hey, can you send out a copy of your notes to everyone in the office?”

    1. MisterPickle*

      Also: please pardon me responding to my own comment, but I wanted to add: if your co-worker starts to get pushy about asking for a copy of your notes, tell them “I’m in the process of putting them together in a formal document so that everyone can have them – just give me [some amount of time] to get it together”.

  22. saro*

    You mean changed your name to ‘Martell’. :-)

    Boooooo Lannisters!

    *I changed my last name while at work (a few years after I married) and received some puzzled glances and one email asking if ‘I got divorced or married.” Be prepared for a short reply but otherwise, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

    1. Amanda*

      I’ve been wanting to make a joke about the Lannisters always paying their debts though this entire comment thread.

  23. C Average*

    In reading #1 and #2, it occurs to me that these may well be snapshots of people in the go-getter phase of their employment. This is a fun phase to be in, but for most people it’s not sustainable, and for that reason it’s a good idea not to be arrogant about it (if you’re the go-getter) and it’s not a good idea to create baseline expectations around this level of productivity (if you’re managing the go-getter).

    Go-getters often eventually burn out and have to scale back. Or their life circumstances change and they find they’ve taken on workloads that no longer feel sustainable. Or they become resentful and martyred because the things they do that used to be much-praised extras are now taken-for-granted expectations. Or their work changes in a way that affects their ability to overachieve, and they struggle to deal with that change.

    Note-taker, good for you for being the note-taking overachiever. Gold star. Good job. Share your notes with your colleagues and stop worrying so much about whether it’s fair that other people don’t take notes as good as yours. A time may come when you’re not able to be the rock-star note-taker and you’re happy that someone else is willing to share. Or a time may come when the guy who’s borrowing your notes turns out to be a rock star at something other than taking notes and he’s happy to share his expertise as you’ve shared yours. In every decently-run workplace, these things have a way of evening out over time.

    Manager of eight-month employee, please dial back the enthusiasm. Every extra bit of recognition you give this woman reinforces the idea that she’s doing all the right things. Have a conversation with her about where she sees herself going in this job. Is she doing extra stuff because she wants a promotion to a new role? Is she just hungry for praise? Does she just plain love the work so much she can’t get enough of it? Find out what’s driving her go-getter tendencies and try to suss out whether her energy level with regard to her work is sustainable. Have a plan in place for what you’d do if she scaled back to just doing what was required of her, without all the extras. Would that be acceptable? Would there be repercussions? It’s not uncommon for go-getters to need to scale back at some point due to workload, burnout, competing priorities, life circumstances, etc. What happens then? Please think about what the contingency plan will be when the honeymoon period is over and this woman wants to be a normal employee rather than the designated rock star.

    I’ve been the rock star at my job. Sometimes I still am. I’ve seen new rock stars come along and overachieve and then level off somewhere between what’s expected and what’s above and beyond. It can take some time to find that level. That’s normal.

    1. original poster #2*

      C average
      I hear what you are saying … go getter…
      I am not sure we are talking about that in this case.
      She gets all of her work done during work hours,( except for the occasional event) does not stay late or take home work (nor is that the expectation)

      She has been able to communicate very clearly about responsibilities that she wanted to pass back to me. The request was reasonable and we did that.

      We are both new and newish and feel the responsibility of getting our department back on track.

      And yes…life happens and we will not be running on all cylinders (is that a phrase?) all the time.

  24. The IT Manager*

    LW#1’s question is very, very odd to me. I was imaging some strange kind of information that people need to reference regularly but is not available on the internet/network/in archives. But that doesn’t make sense. The “everyone keeps their own notes in a hand written notebook no less” is odd. Is it a case of “we’ve always done it that way from the the days before computers existed”? Does LW#1 and her co-workers analyse or organizes the data in some way before writing it down that adds value?

    I sympathize with the LW because the enviroment seems to be one of hoarding information and not sharing it. You’re trying to play by those workplace norms, and you’re co-worker is applying what would be fairly normal workplace rules asking for data from the person who has it.

    I can’t help but think there’s something more going on here but if there’s not, Alison’s advice to become workplace superstar by sharing the info you typed up far and wide seems to be a good one. Warning though: ut may make some of your co-workers annoyed that their notebooks are no longer so special though.

    I want more details because it seems wierd and non-value added for a company to act this way.

    1. soitgoes*

      I’ve worked in offices where the people who created a lot of activity around the process of getting the work done were always perceived as the most productive, while the low-key people were the ones who were really pulling most of that weight. It’s like that whole class participation catch-22: if you understand the coursework, you don’t need to ask questions, but the people who need to ask a lot of questions appear to be more engaged with the material.

      Based on my experience, it sounds like the OP is working for a business that engenders competition and encourages employees to stay hungry for that tenth hourly dollar. The smart people are filtered out quickly. The OP probably doesn’t want her coworker to be praised for starting out lousy and then improving, while she was on top of her game all along. The fact that she’s feeling that way means that she needs to get out of there. It’s a business run by people who aren’t savvy enough to keep a hold on good employees.

      1. De Minimis*

        I can see this maybe in offices where you have a lot of disparate projects that have special procedures, and maybe not everyone works on the same things.

        But it would be better to have a better structure other than handwritten notes, even if it was just files on a shared drive. I agree with those that maybe the OP should try to initiate something like that. Maybe throw around some buzzwords like “knowledge management…”

        I’m in the process of trying to put something like this together for my job.

        1. soitgoes*

          I’ve actually seen it more in places where a lot of people are doing the same thing. There’s competition for the easier work so management can see you working faster. The people who get stuck with more complicated tasks are berated for not working as quickly.

          I’m describing a very toxic work environment, but that’s the point.

      2. Observer*

        On a side note, the with a good teacher and well prepared class, the participation thing is not a catch-22. Participation is not necessarily defined by who asks questions to clarify the material presented. On the other hand a student who takes what the teacher has presented or what they have been required to read and asks a question that builds on that will be (or should be) seen to be engaged. As well, a good teacher should be asking questions that the students should be trying to answer – either on the spot or after being given a chance to read / hear relevant information that lets them draw some conclusions.

  25. Lily in NYC*

    #1 – I mirror write (backwards and from right to left – like Leonardi da Vinci); it’s just easier for me and I’ve been doing it forever (I’m a lefty). There’s no need for anyone else to see my notebook; the content wouldn’t be remotely helpful to them. But it drives my new boss crazy for some reason – he seems to think I am trying to write in cipher to hide something from him. He actually told me not to do it so now it takes me twice as long to write. And seriously, my notes are mainly to-do lists for myself, nothing secret or nefarious. I’m frustrated. I’ve had this new boss for less than a month and I am trying very hard to like him.

    1. MisterPickle*

      Your boss is telling you how not to write your notes?! Just me, but: I’d have an ‘issue’ with that.

      Maybe tell him how it takes you twice as long to take notes, plus get him a small mirror for the rare occasions when he needs to see your notebook?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I used to have a dog named Mr. Pickles! My boss is very new so I’m cutting him some slack but there have been some red flags in a few short weeks.

    2. JMegan*

      Wow, he sounds like quite the control freak. Can you tell him exactly what you told us, that your handwritten notes are intended for your own use, but you’ll be happy to type them up afterwards if other people need to see them? Where “happy” means “I hope I don’t have to, but I will do it grudgingly if you insist,” of course. Hopefully he’ll see that it’s not actually necessary, and drop the subject after a couple of times.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        He is super-charming and handsome, and he knows it. I think he is very used to people fawning all over him and having people do whatever he wants. He has yet to be on time for one meeting. He hasn’t been all bad, and I think this might be temporary for me because we finally hired a Managind Director who will start soon (I’ll work for him and no one else, hopefully). So I’ll just wait it out.

        1. MisterPickle*

          Yeesh! He sounds like Patrick Bateman from _American Psycho_!

          (just kidding)(I hope)

          The mirror-writing thing is really neat, though. Don’t let this guy discourage you from doing it!

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Oh yikes, he’s not that bad at all! He is pretty funny and is not creepy. I’m his executive assistant, so I guess that means I’m the Chloe Sevigny role from American Psycho. She’s my least favorite actress! Such a pretentious hipster.

            1. Mister Pickle*

              I’m not a fan, either. Hmm … okay, maybe he’s James Bond and you’re Miss Moneypenny? :) He’s never on-time for a meeting because he’s out saving the world from nuclear blackmail!

          2. Observer*

            Maybe you can offer to type anything he needs to see, so he doesn’t have to try to decipher your handwriting? That’s just so…so…. weird? Why is he even seeing your notes?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I also read magazines/newspapers from back to front. I love having a kindle because it used to bug me not to be able to read books that way. I do everything backwards, which can be embarrassing: I went the wrong way in revolving doors last week and made a fool out of myself in front of a bunch of people.

      1. Jamie*

        Thinking the same thing – now I’m sad I never learned and wondering where I can find the time to try. That is very cool.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          I can mirror write with my left hand (I’m right handed), but only if I’m simultaneously writing the exact same thing the normal way around with my right hand.

          I… can’t remember how I figured out I could do this? But it was when I was a kid.

          1. AB Normal*

            How interesting! I also can mirror write with my left hand (also right handed), but NOT if I’m simultaneously writing the same thing with my right hand. I need to be using just my left hand for it to work. Heh.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        Just practice!

        My friends and I used to mirror write (and write upside down and backwards) as kids to make it harder for teachers to read the notes we were writing to each other in class. I can still do it to this day, but it’s a lot slower and less pretty than my regular writing.

  26. Ann O'Nemity*

    I’m split on #1.

    If the OP is talking about policies and repeatable processes, then I agree with Alison’s advice. It would be a great opportunity to provide the notes as a reference for everyone.

    But if this is an ongoing issue where there is constantly new information coming out, I’m not sure the OP wants to add “designated note-taker” to her job responsibilities. I’ve had issues with that in the past since I tend to take great notes. Once I’m voluntold to be the official note-taker, I have less opportunity to actually participate in meetings with my colleagues.

    1. Elysian*

      This is a great point. I agree that the OP could use her good notes as an opportunity to stand out and take a leadership role, but then the OP should also be careful not to be the “note-taker” forever. I think it could work out as long as OP remembers to speak up – ie. “I took notes the last time – maybe Charles could take them this time and I can add them to the binder so that I can participate in the meeting?”

    2. Camellia*

      Yes, this!

      If OP is a woman, it would be good to avoid being seen as the ‘designated note taker’. And my impression from the letter is that both the OP and the person asking for her notes are new employees that came in at the same time, so it would be even easier to be seen as the ‘note taker’ for that group, especially if they are not long out of school. Group dynamics can be quite difficult to change and can bleed over into impressions and interactions with other employees.

  27. ryn*

    #5 – Oh god. As a former hairdresser, that just makes my skin crawl. While there were things that were out for general use by everyone, there’s a reason why you lock up your tools – such as your $500 shears walking off for a week and then magically coming home. Seriously. Your boss should know better. Also, the new groomer should have her own tools already, imo. At least the basic stuff. Does she use your stuff when you’re there? Cause, that’s super inconvenient too. I mean, what? Is she gonna come over and demand to use your shears while you’re using them because she doesn’t have a pair? She needs her own tools and your boss needs her own tools. In the hair industry, that’s the rule.

  28. A Minion*

    I hope it’s okay for me to do this – if not let me know and I’ll cease and desist immediately! I have a question and I’d like to know what you guys think. I’ve been here reading and lurking for a while – even offered a couple of comments, but I’m still technically a newbie. Some of the regulars here have excellent answers so I read for that as much as I do for the official advice dispensed by Alison.
    So, my question is this: I recently applied for a position and, since I’m currently employed, I answered “no” to the question of whether they could contact my current employer. However, after I had already applied, my manager actually came to my office and showed me the ad in the paper for this position. She doesn’t know that I have already applied, but she saw that it was something I was well qualified for and it pays quite a bit more than I’m making. She was very kind and reassured me that she doesn’t want me to leave, but she felt as a friend she should at least let me know the position was open in case I wanted to apply especially since it pays so much more and I am unlikely to earn that here in the foreseeable future. So, since she actually came to me and encouraged me to apply, there is now no reason the company I applied with shouldn’t contact my current employer. Would it be crazy to e-mail HR there and change my answer to that question? Or should I just wait and mention it in an interview if they call me?

    1. Elysian*

      Alison usually prefers questions unrelated to the original post to be posted in an open thread or emailed directly to her (we like to stay on-topic). But you’re in luck! There should be an open thread posted later today, and so you can post your question in that and will probably get tons of responses. :)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hi, A Minion! I do try to keep the comment threads focused on the letters in the post, but you are welcome to post this in today’s open thread, which is exactly for this kind of thing — open discussion that doesn’t have to be tied to a particular post’s letter. Thank you!

  29. amp2140*

    LW1: IVY! I was teaching my coworkers (under the direction of our boss) some routine data stuff, and there’s a bunch of stupid ‘do this, unless it’s this case then do that, except for that one time…’ I pretty much learned it all by screwing up and having to fix it. I keep a running onenote of stuff like that, but some of it changes so often, or is site specific, it doesn’t make it to official documents. I got to a certain point and realized none of them had kept any of the parts I had sent before, and expected me to supply it every time! One of them had the nerve to tell me that I should send them all my notes (which would require a ton of work to be useful to another person). If you can’t be bothered to write or type a single thing while I teach you, I sure as hell am not going to do it for you. Eventually I’m going to tell you to go find it on the horrific company sharepoint and figure it out yourself.

  30. MT*

    OP #1. Any work that you produce is actually property of the company that you work for. Any notes that you take while being paid ultimately belong to the company.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      True, but it wasn’t “the company” asking her, it was a coworker. I think that’s a little different. My boss has the right to look at my emails but the guy in the next cube sure doesn’t. That said, I agree she should share the notes, even though I do understand the frustration.

    2. Chriama*

      Sure, but if the company culture is such that people tend to hoard their notes (and maybe not deliberately, but that’s just how things have worked out), I can understand why OP is hesitant to put herself out there. You don’t want to do work that other people benefit from *without being credited*.
      Other commenters and Alison have mentioned that there are 2 types of givers: those who do favours indiscriminately and burn out, and those who give strategic favours and build a strong reputation and network. OP, make sure your boss knows how great your notes are and get him/her to be your champion in sharing the knowledge (also, use footnotes with your name in them and save the file as a pdf!).

    3. amp2140*

      Depending on OP’s relationship with her boss, she can ask her.

      A very similar situation happened with a coworker not wanting to take notes and pass the responsibility to me, and when I discussed it with my boss, he saw right through it and told me that it wasn’t necessary to do it. Coworker should take care of himself in this case.

      I would have hated to be responsible for someone taking my very specific notes and using them out of context.

  31. Observer*

    I’ve only gotten halfway through the comments, so I may be repeating something that someone has already said.

    For the note-taker:

    I would approach your boss and ask why there is no central set of notes / process & procedures manual etc. The current system sounds insane – so much so, that I have to wonder if there is something behind it. For one thing, encouraging people to hand write all their notes in a running fashion in a notebook is pretty crazy as it is. Electronic documents are generally searchable, which your written manual is not. And, in the typical notebook full of instructions written as you got the information, there is not organization or structure to help you find your information. So, for many, many people these notebooks are really not all that useful.

    In addition, when everyone is given a notebook and told to take notes on the SAME items, again and again, you are talking about about a ridiculous amount replicated time and effort – time and effort that could be used for other purposes. It encourages a culture of information hoarding, and actively discourages any level of standardization, systematization, shared learning and pattern finding. It’s hard to see how that it good for an organization. I understand that they may not want people to feel like they have to take a cookie-cutter, cookbook approach to everything. But cookbooks are useful sometimes, and so are things like shared set of principles and access to institutional knowledge.

    1. OP #1*

      It’s a good idea to ask why there isn’t a training manual. We complain to each other about there not being a manual or something once in a while–it hadn’t occurred to us (or at least me) that we should just make our own before. We’re always very busy getting work done, so I guess we’ve just been focused on getting work done and it doesn’t seem like there’s time for “extra” projects (even projects that would make things easier/faster to get done).

      Our team is actually fairly new (it’s only been around for about two years, I think), so maybe that’s why there isn’t a manual yet. Or maybe it’s some sort of “test” to see how organized, diligent and resourceful we are, since this team is made of entry level people that sometimes get promotions.

    2. OP #1*

      “And, in the typical notebook full of instructions written as you got the information, there is not organization or structure to help you find your information.” Definitely! It was getting hard to quickly locate information in my notebook since there was so much stuff. That’s why I had to retype it all and put it in a binder.

  32. phxchic*

    #1 – FWIW, I recently took a 3-day training class at my company with 20 people I had never met. I tend to take copious notes as though I were a court stenographer and I routinely share them with others.

    After this class, I shared my notes with all 20 students and the instructor. I didn’t have to, but the reward I reaped was huge – the instructor was incredibly happy that I had paid attention and understood the material; the attendees who weren’t sure of their notes could double check for accuracy; and I now have 20 new people in my network who expressed a great deal of appreciation.

    Over the course of a career, these little actions add up in a big way. It might seem like an annoyance, but Alison is right – these are the things that will set you apart from some of your peers as someone who truly cares more about the company goals and product quality.

  33. OP #1*

    There was a lot of replies to my question (way more than I would have expected!). I read them all and I really appreciate all the discussion and feedback. I found the differing POVs interesting (and they all seemed valid even though some perspectives were opposing…a lot depends on context). Just going to make one long post to address some things since I don’t have time to reply to all the individual posts I’d want to.

    We had several weeks of training before starting, so that’s where some of my notes come from. The rest are things that were mentioned at team meetings/emails, or things I picked up from needing to ask other coworkers, or things I just picked up from actually working through tasks and documentation or using Google. It’s not anything where I’m the only person who had access to specific knowledge.

    Everyone on my team shares their knowledge (with the exception of this one coworker…he really has no knowledge to share). We’re always helping each other. I’ve copied pages of my handwritten notes for other teammates before, and I’ve looked at other teammates’ notes and jotted things down in my own notes before.

    This coworker is a horrible teammate. He is constantly trying to push his work off on other people (“You’re good at writing, maybe you should do this.” “It sounds like you know how to do this. Maybe you should do it.” “I think Bob has probably done this before. Should I just ask him to do it?”), he does everything from simple tasks to special projects poorly (requiring other people to redo it later and causing other teams to get mad at us), and when you correct him or tell him something needs to be done differently, he gets mad and defensive about it (and then reverts back to doing it incorrectly later). There have been several times where me or someone else had to hand-hold him through tasks and spent a lot of time answering questions, and then when he gets praised for doing a good job on it, he tells the manager he’s happy she noticed his hard work without mentioning that someone else had to spend an hour helping him do it. So I’m reluctant/resentful about the idea of sharing my notes with him specifically.

    I really like the idea of starting some sort of manual or wiki with my notes, and then having other people help contribute to it (my notes are definitely not perfect, and I’m sure other people know things I don’t know or could explain things better). It’d be really helpful for us all on many levels. Since taking the notes was a lot of work (including working on it on my weekend), I would prefer to get some sort of “recognition” for it (and would want anyone else who helped with a wiki or manual to get recognition for it too), so I like the idea of approaching my manager about it. Maybe they could let a few of us set aside a few days to work on this as a special project. Maybe we could even have one day a month to correct and update it or something, or have a person or team in charge of maintaining it.

    Since I’m really good at taking notes and being organized, I hadn’t considered that other people might not have similar skills. I will try to be more sympathetic to that in the future, though for this coworker I think it’s more of a problem of him wanting to put in the least effort possible.

    1. Observer*

      That certainly doesn’t sound like a pleasant situation. But, in that case, it’s highly likely that this will come back to bite him. Say he does ask you for your notes, and you give them to him. What happens then? He won’t become any smarter, nor will it change his behavior in other significant ways. Remember, he has to actually LOOK at the notes, and follow through on whatever it is that you wrote there.

      The real problem (or at least one of them) is not that he doesn’t take notes, but that he doesn’t pay attention. It reminds me of a coworker I had some years ago who also had a bad habit of not paying attention some issues came up in how she was managing certain procedures. She claimed that she had not been told x,y and z. Although most of the people who were involved were pretty sure that was not the case, a meeting was called to clarify the proper procedures and to make sure that all relevant staff from different departments were on the same page and doing / expecting the same thing. She was the only one who walked in without a pen and paper. And she was the one who, only several days later, did something the exact reverse of what had been clearly spelled out in the meeting.

      I can’t guarantee something quite as clear cut will happen here, but, especially if your manager is any good, if you keep her in the loop and keep on being great yourself, it will only benefit you. And, whether you get to see it happening or not, his behavior will catch up with him if he doesn’t behave.

  34. Sasha LeTour*

    I don’t have anything to add to the comments in terms of advice or anecdotes. I just wanted to say something that occurred to me while browsing: these quicker Q&A segments are my favorite part of the blog. You get to learn about so many different jobs and industries apart from your own I found that I was really into hearing about the job of dog grooming…it’s a job, it’s important, and people do it, but I feel like if you’re not in an animal-related field (or especially if you don’t own a dog), it’s not something you hear about every day. Kudos on a well-written and informative blog, and I hope it sticks around for generations to come!

  35. Cheryl*

    #5 Tell your boss that the insurance you pay on your “tools of the trade” preclude anyone else from using those tools. It’s just like when your teen is on your car insurance, the more users, the higher the insurance goes. Whether you have insurance or not is moot.

  36. Willow+Sunstar*

    One reason you may have to share your notes with your coworker is in case he/she ever has to cover for you when you are away. I have a coworker where this is the case. We are being cross-trained and all of our notes are going into a group drive. Whenever I have any downtime (which is rarely), I type up my notes and add them to a Word document.

  37. Ruthan*

    Related to #1: I previously held a job that was basically a giant pile of arcane procedures which we were perpetually documenting and which were perpetually getting changed. I felt like it reflected poorly on trainees when they didn’t take notes — there was no way they’d remember everything, there wouldn’t be anyone around to ask (only one person on shift at a time), and I was never sure what conclusion I should draw other than that they didn’t actually care about being able to do the job they were getting trained for.

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