I’m getting mixed messages from my boss, training resistant senior colleagues, and more

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

1. My boss told it it was fine to attend a week-long conference — but I don’t think he means it

I have a weird situation with my boss. I’m in a management training program where I work in one department, but receive leadership training from another. I’ve just returned from a three-month posting abroad (through my department). There’s a week-long conference coming up (arranged through the training department) that I’ve been registered for since before my overseas assignment. I recently discovered in a casual conversation with a coworker that my boss would not like me to attend this conference.

This was surprising (and frustrating) because I spoke with my boss earlier this week about the conference, during which I specifically asked if he prefer that I not attend. His didn’t answer me directly, asking instead if I wanted to go. I explained that I would like to go, but I didn’t have to if it would be a problem. He said it wasn’t a problem and that he knew these types of events and conferences were part of the deal when he chose to include his department in the leadership-training program.

The conference isn’t mandatory, but the tickets, hotel and everything else has already been purchased with the expectation that I’ll be attending. I know my boss to be passive-aggressive and now I’m afraid that if I do go, I’ll be penalized some way in the future. What should I do?

Well, you asked him directly about it and he told you it was fine and explicitly said that he knew these events were part of the deal. I’m wary of having you take your coworker’s word for it being the opposite.

Go the conference. But also, sit down and talk with your boss to align your expectations going forward. I’d say something like, “I know you gave me your blessing to go to the conference (you’re emphasizing this on purpose) and I really appreciate it. I do realize that going away for a week after returning from a three-month posting might not be ideal, and it made me want to get aligned with you now on how to balance program participation in the future. The program has X, Y, and Z coming up. X is mandatory but Y and Z are more optional. Would you be more comfortable with me doing just some of it rather than all? I’d like to have a better understanding of how you’d like to see me balancing the program with my obligations to my work here.”

2. Trying to train senior coworkers who are resistant to my efforts

Presently I’m the junior employee amongst three other senior employees who provide information to a large group of colleagues who deal face-to-face with clients. Due to evolving organizational changes, our section’s role has had to change to keep up with the times, and it’s apparent that the senior employees I work with have failed to keep up-to-date with system changes and operating knowledge about how our face-to-face colleagues work.

I’ve tried to help, train, educate, and demonstrate these computer systems and new tasks to my senior colleagues on many occasions. I drop my tasks whenever they’ve shown some interest in learning, but I feel that despite them showing some receptiveness to learning, they become easily overwhelmed and throw their hands up in the air, saying “I can’t do this.” I’ve broken the tasks down into the smallest chunks I can, but I feel they’re reluctant to learn, as they’re disputing the fact that they should even have to do these tasks in the first place. In the end, they may find the smallest grammatical error in one of my documents (which I’d show to them as an example piece of work) and then they’ll smirk and mock me – which I find rude.

Should I just let my colleagues drown and let our manager (who doesn’t understand our systems fully either and who relies on me for “expert” knowledge) deal with it, or should I persist with the smirks and keep trying to help my colleagues? How can I respond to those smirks without sounding like a cocky junior member?

Leave them to it on their own. You’ve done the right thing here — you tried to be helpful, and it sounds like you’ve gone above and beyond to train them, which wasn’t even your job to do (although it’s certainly the mark of someone conscientious to try to help) — and you’ve gotten mocked for your efforts. It’s on your manager to figure it out from here.

3. Proactive offering references that haven’t been requested

I’m in the midst of a very fast interview process – the prospective employer is looking for someone to start soon (within a month) and it has been a rather accelerated process so far. It started with a phone interview one week and then they quickly set up a full day of interviewing (with several large panels to introduce me to the maximum amount of people at once) the next week. Signs are all good, but I’m wondering whether I should proactively send my reference list to help them move things along and make a decision quickly. They have repeatedly asked about start date availability and emphasized the importance of filling this role in the very near future.

Would it be presumptuous to include my references’ contact info in a follow-up thank-you email if I haven’t been expressly asked to do so?

It’s not presumptuous. That said, they’ll ask for references when they want them; I don’t think you’ll really speed things up by offering them proactively. But there’s nothing wrong with doing it.

4. Starting a new job with a recent surgery scar

My question has to do with a health issue. I’ve made it through the second round of interviews for a new job and I was given a potential start date. They told me Friday they had completed contacting all my references and all had gone well, so I’m just waiting on the final offer with my salary. I am still applying to jobs in the meantime just in case.

I was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but it was very small and I have an excellent prognosis. I had my thyroid removed about a month ago, but I now have a scar at the base of my throat that is very noticeable. I showed up to both interviews wearing scarves, but if I get the job I wonder if I will look strange wearing scarves every day to work around my neck.

I started applying to jobs in a relatively short time after my surgery, because I realistically thought it could take several months. I got a reply right away, which was much quicker than I anticipated.

If I do get the job, should I not disclose that I had thyroid cancer if someone should ask? At some point I want to stop wearing scarves, which will reveal the scar. It doesn’t seem like a good idea as a new employee, because it makes it seem that my new employer has inherited a sick person. The other issue is I have to get my thyroid levels checked every 6 weeks, and I don’t want to look bad taking time off right away as a new employee. I don’t want to let my recent diagnosis stop me from doing anything, but there are definitely some issues that may pop up as a new employee.

You can share as much or as little as you want to; it’s really up to you. It would be fine to allude to a medical issue without getting into details — for example, “Oh, I had a minor operation and that’s the scar.” You’re under no obligation to share details with anyone — although you also shouldn’t feel like you have to be secretive about it if you don’t want to.

For the medical appointments, having one every six weeks is very much NOT a big deal, even in a new job. Before the first one, just say to your boss, “I have a medical thing that I get seen for every six weeks — just wanted to give you a heads-up.”

5. Restaurant wants me to train for free

I live in Las Vegas and have been in the food service industry for about 12 years. I recently took some time off and am now getting back into the field. This is now the second time I’ve been asked, after a very good interview, to come in at a set time, say 10 a.m., to follow a training server. They want you to get in there, ask questions, clear tables, and basically do what you would be doing after you’re hired, but they call it an audition for the position. I clearly have the experience, am qualified for this type of restaurant, etc. Is this legal? And is for some far off reason I or somebody else was to injure themselves during this process, who is liable? Would the restaurant be, or are you not considered an employee? I’ve never in my life heard of this. In acting, yes, for a waiter position, no. Help!

Nope, it’s not legal. They need to be paying you for that time, because you’re performing work that they’re benefiting from. However, this weird unpaid training/”audition” is apparently not uncommon in the restaurant industry, despite violating labor laws. (And yes, they’d be the ones who were liable if someone doing this “audition” got injured during it.)

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. Brooke*

    I’m in a similar situation to the person trying to train senior coworkers and getting snubbed in the process. I wish I could offer something other than sympathy. It’s a terrible feeling to know people, out of insecurity, are actively wanting you to fail at the very same time as you’re (a) doing your job AND (b) trying to help them do theirs.

    1. Mike C.*

      Frankly, if they’re going to treat you like crap, let them fail in large and publicly embarrassing ways. Make it obvious that the issue was covered in training multiple times while they struggle from the rope they hung themselves from.

      You did what you could, and they threw it back in your face. Leave them to their own doom.

      1. UKAnon*

        The trouble is, that only works so far. I’ve known situations where I ended up having to essentially duplicate work over two different systems because there was the company approved one and the management approved one because they didn’t learn the company approved one. Then I look like I’m being much slower than is warranted and management wouldn’t listen to that. That doesn’t mean there’s anything the OP can do, but I think it’s worth acknowledging that this may reflect more poorly on them than on their superiors unfortunately.

      2. AcidMeFlux*

        I just wonder if an how it was “covered in training”. A lot of stuff gets thrown at people (“this update has only minor differences, ahem..”….”This training video explains everything (not!)”.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        I concur, Mike. Also, the Op should go ahead and run the training examples they created through the spell-check and have them handy in case they ever need to say to boss “look, I even created these training tips/instructions”.

    2. MK*

      On the other hand there is such a think as being too helpful. And assuming a role just by virtue of being an expert, and not because the boss has assigned you, is not a good idea, especially for a junior employee. It sounds to me as if the OP has decided senior coworker aren’t performing well and has taken it upon themselves to to “train and educate” them. It also doesn’t sound as if these people asked for the help.

      To begin with, don’t take it for granted that your way is best, or that the manager will agree with you. I have known one such helpfull coworker go to the supervisor with such a complaint, only to be told “Actually, no, the way you do things is not particularly better that the other way”. But even if it is, one really has no authority to train their coworkers just because they know better. It’s to offer help and wait for it to be accepted instead of just jumping in and demenstrating the right way.

      1. Coach Devie*

        In the letter, OP said their manager also relies on them for their input because of their know-how with the system though. It wasn’t said explicitly that manager asks them, but it was implied and so I’m going to assume the manager does ask for help or leans on OP for this help.

        1. MK*

          My point was that this is a dangerous assumption to make. The manager may rely on the OP’s expert knowledge, but, unless they have officially put the OP in charge of training their coworkers (which doesn’t sound like it’s the case), that doesn’t mean the OP has any authority. The manager may even be finding this a convenient unofficial way to implement changes without having to bother with pushback from the other employees. My advice goes double if that is the case; don’t assume anything and wait to be asked for help. If the manager finds the OP’s knowledge so very helpful, they can bloody well back them up with the proper authority.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            I completely agree. If I were OP I’d be asking my manager, “I’ve noticed not everyone seems comfortable with the Teapot 2.0 software. Should I be helping Lucinda and Fergus learn that?” The answer might be “yes,” or it might be, “No, they’re on their own.”

            Similarly, if OP’s job is providing data to another department, but the senior coworkers are ASKING her to take time away from that to answer their questions, she should go to her manager and say, “I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Teapot 2.0, and it’s taking away from my ability to work on the chocolate data project. How should I handle these requests?” The boss may say, “can you help train people?” at which point you can talk about setting up training sessions and how much of your workload has to be moved onto someone else’s plate to make sure you have enough time to do the training. Or the boss may tell you it’s not your problem and to politely say no to such requests.

            But I do agree with MK: It’s possible that just because there’s a problem doesn’t mean OP’s boss wants her solving it.

          2. Coach Devie*

            Yeah, I definitely agree with that part and with the advice to stop helping and let the mistakes happen if they’re going to, since it’s not your designated job to fix.

            I was just pointing out that, according to the OP, their manager does rely on them for help with this area of things.

            1. MK*

              I would take even that for granted. The OP says the boss relies on them for expert knowledge. I would guess that the OP is the go-to person when the boss has a question or needs help. It really doesn’t follow that they would approve of the OP deciding to train the other employees.

          3. Venn*

            +1. It would be vaguely offensive no matter what the age scenario if a junior employee just took it upon him/herself to “educate” senior employees (and then, just as the cherry on the top, showed them work with all sorts of obvious errors in it).

            1. LBK*

              Why? It doesn’t sound like the OP is organizing formal classes, just helping coworkers out when they have questions or ask if they can be shown how the system works. That is exactly what I would expect out of a system expert, junior or not.

              1. Venn*

                Maybe I misunderstood the OP’s post. I was thinking of the post in terms of the OP approaching people who are in senior titled positions — experts to a degree in their own field in which OP is in a junior title position — whether they actually wanted help or not. (This was really the only way I could imagine them rolling their eyes and — and this is apparently an issue not even addressed — now taking OP even less seriously, not just because of possible overstepping but doing so with supposed model work that then contains other obvious errors.)

                1. LBK*

                  I didn’t see eye rolling or not taking the OP seriously, which might line up more with what you were saying. The only reaction the OP describes is the coworkers giving up out of frustration; that doesn’t imply the OP imposing on them to me. The nitpicking of grammatical errors sounds like a defense mechanism – they don’t like that they don’t understand how to use the system so to make themselves feel better about the OP outpacing them, they have to take jabs at her where they can.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  I agree with you, LBK. I have trained a lot of people. At some point they will bust on me or even seriously critique what I am doing on a particular thing.

                  BUT, they usually remain engaged and continue learning the material. As long as they do not tune out, I tend to put up with the ribbing and most times laugh along. Or if they make a serious comment, I either correct as needed or I point out why there is an exception. The difference is the trainee is staying engaged and committed to learning.

                  It is true, though, that trainers can easily come across as being a bottomless well of knowledge and that alone can intimidate the trainee.

            2. nona*

              Well, yes, it would be, if that was what the OP had done.

              OP offered help to coworkers who don’t know how to do part of their job.

              In the end, they may find the smallest grammatical error in one of my documents (which I’d show to them as an example piece of work) and then they’ll smirk and mock me – which I find rude.

              It sounds like OP is either talking about small mistakes, which happen, because OP is human, or talking about showing them how to correct an error.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I see what you’re saying, like a new guy sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong. But, giving the OP benefit of the doubt, it sounds like customers are suffering for their lack of understanding the new system, and that these senior coworkers have grown complacent and stuck in their old ways. Kind of surprised Alison didn’t mention speaking with the boss. They could do it in a not throwing them under the bus sort of way, but rather “I’ve found there’s a lot of new system changes bob, jane, and sue don’t know about, but the customers are inquiring about, and I’ve began creating some documents to help, but they don’t seem very receptive, seeing that I’m somewhat new. Do you want me to continue helping/training them? And if so, could you bring it up during our next dept. meeting and let them know you want them to learn and for me to help?”

  2. mdv*

    #4 – my boss had the same surgery (for the same reason) about 18 months ago, and she felt very self-conscious about how visible the scar was. But within a few months it was much less noticeable, and now it is basically invisible.

    1. anonymous daisy*

      I heard that Barbara Bush liked wearing her three strands of pearls to hide her scar on her neck. If you are looking for a scarf alternative, try jewelry. Also, one cool thing about Barbara Bush is that she freely admitted the pearls are fake.

      1. anonymous daisy*

        I just tried to verify that Bush wore the pearls to hide a scar and it turns out I cannot verify that but one article said she wore them to hide her wrinkles. Barbara Billingsley wore her pearls to hide a scar though so perhaps that is what I misremembered?

        1. penelope pitstop*

          #4 – I also have a brand spanking new and really obvious scar on my chin that wasn’t there 10 weeks ago. Attempting to hide it with makeup would make it even more obvious, but I do get lots of questions about it at and outside of work (always from adults). I try to handle them with humor as IMO, most people don’t mean harm even when they tread heavily.

          My answer varies from I’m a scientific experiment gone wrong to a slightly panicky ‘scar, what scar?!?’ to claiming a Chuck Norris-style fight with a grizzly bear* to telling them my bionic parts are a government secret to truth depending on who’s asking and how quick on my feet I am.

          I second that I hope you’re not ashamed of your scars–they’re a souvenir of survival and a testimony to inner and outer toughness! :) Glad you’re ok.

          1. the gold digger*

            Two weeks after I started my new job, I fell off my bike, hit my head, and had an enormous bruise on my face to accompany the six stitches in my eyebrow. I just told people my boss had beaten me up.

          2. Cleopatra Jones*

            I once read a shirt that said, ‘scars are tattoos with better stories.’
            I thought that was a pretty awesome shirt. :-)

          3. Anastasia*

            Penelope, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer is a godsend. It goes on smoothly and blends really well and yet has strong coverage. They carry it at Sephora so you can try it on in store and see if it works for you. That stuff was a total game-changer for me.

            1. No Longer Passing By*

              I love makeup suggestions and definitely will stop at Sephora this week to check this out

          4. I'm a Little Teapot*

            When I was in college, I was a lot more socially clueless than I am today, and asked one of my professors if she was OK – she looked like she’d hurt herself. It turned out the scar – which I thought was a recent injury – was from being attacked with a knife by a college classmate. I felt awful.

            I can’t really apologize to her again – but I apologize to you!

        2. penelope pitstop*

          You made me curious with the Barbara Bush business because I remember reading that she joked with reporters about wearing pearls to hide wrinkles. I also know that she had Graves disease, which involves the thyroid, but no idea if her thyroid was actually removed. Hiding a scar actually doesn’t seem quite like her–she was almost aggressively un-self-conscious.*

          *not sure if this is an actual word…oh well.

      2. fposte*

        There’s an Agatha Christie character who did this–maybe there’s memory cross-pollination there?
        I have a neck scar from spine surgery and the surgeon carefully put it into a natural neck crease, so it really wasn’t noticeable once it healed. (My thyroid was ablated, but ironically it was done with iodine, not surgery.)

        1. manybellsdown*

          That’s what my surgeon did when I lost my thyroid. It’s still noticeable, but it’s not prominent. Although I may have a different perspective because I also have a very large and prominent heart surgery scar that is visible in any shirt that doesn’t come all the way to the bottom of my throat. A thyroid scar is pretty small potatoes for me. ;)

    2. Sins & Needles*

      LW #4, I’ve found vitamin E oil useful in helping scars fade.

      Allison’s advise, a casual “Oh, it’s from a surgery, nothing to worry about” is going to be enough for work, should anyone ask, although I’d hope no one does. For social situations, on those rare occasions people have felt free to ask me about my scars, I find a “Why do you want to know?” ends that line of questioning. For kids who ask, though, I like to make up fantastic adventure stories; I have more patience for kids.

      1. Coach Devie*

        I’d like to think 9/10 people won’t be rude enough to ask. A few will probably draw a correct conclusion, a few won’t notice at all or care, if they do notice, and maybe 1 or 2 will ask out of curiosity (but hopefully not before getting to know her better first). However, I don’t think OP has to worry that it will affect her job.And yes, upon starting just mention you have a standing appointment every 6 weeks.

        Best wishes and here’s to your complete healing and long term good news, OP!!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I have a large scar on my neck–a keloid–that is from mole removal when I was a teenager. They tried to remove the keloid and it made another one, so I said let’s just leave it the hell alone. No one really notices it now, as it has flattened with time, or if they do they don’t say anything. When asked, I usually just make up something funny, like “Vampires. It was vampires.”

      You can wear scarves every day if you want to–a lot of people do anyway because they’re fashionable. If not, and someone asks, Alison is right–you don’t have to give any information about it, and what your boss needs to know for you to go to your appointments.

      Also, thank you for sharing this–I am educating myself on thyroid cancer right now (I’m hypo so I like to stay informed).

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I had a similar scar on my jawline– an acne scar turned keloid. I had plastic surgery to get it removed, and then that scar keloided. I finally defeated it with a 100% solution of cortizone injected into my face (it really, really hurt). The scar is still noticeable if you know where to look because of discoloration, but at least it’s not a big old’ bump.

    4. Saucy Minx*

      I had a tracheotomy when I was in a wreck w/ severe head injuries many years ago. I remember one of the nurses saying that the scar would not be very noticeable after a few months, & I just stared at her, as my injuries were far more shocking — my face, w/ a shattered eye socket, a crushed cheekbone, a squashed nose, & a broken jaw. If my jaw hadn’t been broken, I might have pointed out to her that a scar at the base of the neck was the least of my worries!

      Fortunately, the surgeons contrived to put me back together looking relatively normal, & the scar on my neck, while still visible, really isn’t very noticeable. The one time someone mentioned it to me, it was to ask if I had had your surgery, & I just replied: “No, it was a tracheotomy.”

  3. Jeanne*

    For #4, please don’t worry about your scar. To you, it stands out like a big flashing neon sign. To others, it’s probably not a big deal. Don’t wear a scarf every day. If you act like it’s no big deal then they will too. Use the wording, “I had a minor medical procedure.” like Alison said and then change the subject.

    Remember: A woman’s life is told in her scars. Don’t be ashamed.

    1. chrl268*

      My mum had surgery on her thyroid when she was 16 – it wasn’t until she needed to have more when I was 15ish did I notice she even had a scar there. I now like to joke that someone tried to chop her head off. Personally, I still can’t see if unless I’m searching for it. When it was redone mum was really nervous about it, and wore scarfs etc to cover it. I don’t think anyone noticed it when she stopped wearing them. I think its like Jeanne says, to you its all you can see, but others won’t notice too much. Celebrate the fact you’ve got through this and gotten a new job! Congratulations for holding it all together, I imagine it would have gotten pretty scary for a period there.

    2. M*

      Thank you, it has already faded considerably in the one month since the surgery. My current co-workers and boss already know I had surgery, but a whole new set of people at a new job seems a bit daunting. I do run errands and go out on the weekends without a scarf, and forget it’s there unless I notice someone starting at my neck.

      1. Marcela*

        I have several scars, from small, invisible and covered by clothes to huge and very visible. Something that helps them to diminish is to use plenty of sunscreen. They are not very good to repair themselves, so they get burned instead of tanned. Another thing is vitamin E, as somebody said above, or any cream for scars. I used rosehip oil for years, and while I can recommend it, after so many years I truly hate the odor.

  4. Kerry(like the county in Ireland)*

    If the scar really bothers you, there are some tiny bandage options that make it less noticeable. My coworker wore those. My sister just wore scarves, since she is prone to keloids and your scar is vulnerable to the sun while healing. Maybe get some BB/CC cream to make it look less visible–they have the added benefit of sunscreen along with tint.

  5. Valerie*

    I wouldn’t worry about the scar at all, unless you’re worried about sun exposure. Thyroid issues and thyroidectomies are surprisingly common, and personally I chose to wear my scar as an interesting badge. Even with that attitude, it’s been extremely rare that anyone has commented on it. When it does get mentioned, it usually goes one of a few ways:
    – A knowing nod or brief mention from someone who knew someone who went through the same procedure.
    – I’ll mention my cancer in passing, someone will pipe up “Oh, is that what that scar is?” and someone else inevitably exclaims “What scar?!”
    – I once had a woman point uncomfortably close to my scar and ask directly about my cancer, but she was already a really strange lady, and it turned out that she’d just been diagnosed and needed someone to talk to.

    It’s highly likely that this will very soon fade into a minor issue for you, once you’re over the initial hurdles. I’m at the point now where it’s a prescription fill every three months, a yearly blood draw and check in appointment, and an ultrasound every few years just in case. Very easy to manage :)

    One final note: If you’re set on covering up the scar, I had a very professional coworker who made the neck kerchief her signature style. We occasionally joked that if we removed the kerchief her head would pop off, like the velvet ribbon folk tale, but it was gentle joking in good fun.

    1. Coach Devie*

      I’m glad there is direct experience advice from fellow readers who have been exactly in these shoes. Glad you are doing well and I hope OP sees your comments :)

    2. M*

      Thanks, this is very reassuring. The whole thing happened very unexpectedly since I did not have any previous issues with my thyroid. I have been just trying to roll with the changes and get used to taking a pill every day now.

  6. Stephanie*

    OP 4: This might be a little spendy, but I think Kat Von D has a line of makeup designed for full coverage which you could possibly use over your scar. But really, it’s probably not as noticeable as you think to others. My officemate had the same condition and procedure; I didn’t even notice the scar until she mentioned she had thyroid cancer and her thyroid removed.

    1. Jader*

      Kat Von D lock-it foundation and there’s also a brand called Cover Fx that makes super high coverage cream foundation that will cover scars/tattoos and is waterproof.

  7. AcidMeFlux*

    Regarding #2, if the senior staff needs more training in IT and procedures, etc….why not give them training, instead of expecting a junior staffer to be Mary Poppins-McGyver? I’ll admit there is a generational difference (sometimes….I have younger colleagues you have grown up doing everything with apps on their phones, and thus can’t troubleshoot work on a PC very well.). My point is that the company is responsible for setting up a standard of training, and following up on it. It’s inefficient and short-sighted to just say,”Eh, Mary P-McG is on-site, she can handle it.”

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      We are going through the exact same issue as #2 at my job where we switched to a new system and people fuss over having to learn how to use it. What happens is we (in IT) end up doing a lot of the work for the, which is what they want. IT gets more responsibility and no more pay while others get to put off work.

  8. Cambridge Comma*

    For #1, your colleague might be innocently misinterpreting a comment your boss might have made of the sort “If only Ermintrude wasn’t going to be away at that conference next week”. He can be both fine with your going and at the same time wish that you were in the office that week.
    Unless he is very bad at using words, I would take his comments at face value, especially as he elaborated on his affirmative answer (he said he knew what he was getting into when he put you forward for the training).

    1. MK*

      Not to mention that it probably would mean losing money to cancel her attendance at this late date.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I do think the boss is unhappy about it, based on the combination of the overheard remark and his non-response to OP (asking “do you want to go?” when OP asked “do you still want me to go?” instead of saying, “yes, of course I want you to go!”). I also think the boss realizes he can’t and shouldn’t try to prevent the OP from going, but is too passive-aggressive to address the issue directly and say, “I know you need to do this for your training program, but frankly, I’m concerned that your missing so much time is impacting the work we can put out. Let’s figure out how we can solve that.”

      For the OP, I’d recommend going back to the boss and trying to address what the boss hasn’t said. Are there ways you can work on your regular projects remotely while you’re at the conference — say, at night when conference sessions are done for the day? If so, I’d go back to your boss and offer that up — “Fergus, I want to make sure I inconvenience the team as little as possible by being out for the training program. How would you feel about me working on Project XYZ after hours while I’m in Timbuktu?”

      To be clear — I’m a BIG fan of work-life balance and would not normally advocate volunteering to put in extra hours on top of a conference schedule, since those can be pretty tiring on their own. But I do think that with a passive-aggressive boss, it might pay off to counteract negative feelings the boss has because OP is participating in the program.

      I can also see this from the boss’s point of view (although he should be addressing it head-on, and his attitude is not OP’s fault). Training is awesome, but it sucks as a manager to be told, “Your employee is going to be out for a significant amount of time for training, and we won’t be giving you any extra help to pick up the slack.” I think for OP, empathizing with that and offering to help minimize the inconvenience will go a long way toward her boss thinking she’s a rock star instead of resenting the training.

      1. Daisy*

        I don’t really agree with this or AAM’s advice that OP should talk to the boss- it makes it seem like this is a problem of the OP’s creation. If this is how the management training programme works then it’s not really up to the boss to be happy or unhappy with the OP, and sounds like he knows that- he said “he knew these types of events and conferences were part of the deal when he chose to include his department in the leadership-training program”. I don’t think the boss should be addressing it head-on either- sounds like he was just venting to the coworker because he knows it’s just one of those things.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Just because it’s not fair doesn’t mean the boss won’t hold this against OP when the time comes for reviews and raises. When there’s a limited pool of funds to dole out, the boss may think to himself, “Fergus and Lucinda have been here whenever I needed them, and OP is always out doing training.” Voila! Raises for Fergus and Lucinda, and nothing for OP.

          It comes down to knowing whether your manager is likely to retaliate in this way, and deciding how you want to deal with it. You could simply say “This was what you signed up for, boss, so deal with it,” knowing that this may have unpleasant consequences. Or you could ask “What can I do to make this as easy for you and the rest of the team as possible?” knowing that this may carry the consequence of more work in the near term, but hopefully pays off in goodwill and tangible rewards in the long term.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            IDK, I could see how I could get myself into this spot.

            Employee whom I’ve been waiting to get back into the office, I find out (or remember because I forgot) that employee is going to be out yet another week, and I’m not happy. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy AT the employee, I’m just, not happy. I got stuff to cover.

            Everything is paid for, the employee wants to go, I’m not going to get in the middle of that even if I’m not happy to be down a person for another week.

            Is it possible I could say to Fred, “god, I wish Gladys wasn’t going to be away for another week” when we were talking about staffing something? Sure it is. I say stuff like that all the time. I said it just this morning about two people who are working a trade show this week, as we are scrambling for coverage.

            It doesn’t mean a thing about Gladys.

            It does mean that Fred’s a big old busy body for sticking his nose in, though, repeating something out of context and assigning a meaning that isn’t there.

            I call Fred as the problem.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Yes, but you’re not a boss with a history of being passive-aggressive. Unlike OP’s boss.

              I vote strongly against the after-hours offer. It makes it sound like OP thinks she did something wrong and doesn’t address the real issue of the boss being unhappy and kind of a sack about it.

            2. hbc*

              “It doesn’t mean I’m not happy AT the employee, I’m just, not happy.”

              Oh, yes, this so much. Though I have a boss who kind of loses track that lots of people will interpret the latter as the former in these situations. His first response to an employee asking for a well-deserved raise? “I’m not happy you brought this up.” After spending some time talking down that employee, I checked in with the boss and his answer was, “Of course I wasn’t happy. Who wants to spend more money?” I told him that he either needs to elaborate or stick with “Let me think about it.”

            3. puddin*

              Fred Buttinski. I don’t like that guy.

              I try to take people, especially bosses – and most especially p-a bosses, at face value. It is not easy for me, but unless I do I am prone to second guessing and worrying like the OP is doing. I have to trust that my boss will tell me when he is displeased. I think this also helps to create an expectation that he will do so. Sending out ‘signals’ to the department or making mention of something to another co-worker is not appropriately addressing the issue. Hopefully, by not acting like those utterances were directed at me specifically, my boss learns/knows to come to me and be explicit – whether it is positive or negative news.

        2. Graciosa*

          The OP can demonstrate concern about the impact of her absence and discuss with her boss how to minimize that impact without assuming any blame for creating the problem.

          I’m with AdAgencyChick in thinking that it can’t hurt her if she does – and with Wakeen’s Teapots Ltd. in thinking Fred is the problem here.

          Keep an eye on Fred.

    3. Daisy*

      “He can be both fine with your going and at the same time wish that you were in the office that week.” Yes, I agree. Personally I don’t really think it needs to be addressed further.

      1. Sadsack*

        Agreed, and I agree with Graciosa’s comment above that OP should communicate to the boss that he intends to do what he can to minimize the impact of his absence, and then do that.

      2. Joline*

        This is how I would see it as well.

        Like Sadsack (and Graciosa) mention – communicate to the boss how the impact of absence will be mitigated. And then going forward I think it depends on how much training is still planned. If this is basically it for a while I’d just let it drop. If there’s still more things coming up I’d maybe have a sit-down with the boss after the conference to try to more proactively discuss how things could be booked to reduce inconvenience.

  9. thelazyb*

    #3, my only thought is don’t be too surprised if you offer them up proactively and they still ask later :-/

    1. Graciosa*

      Eh – it feels a little presumptuous to me, as the OP would be assuming I will decide to advance her to the stage of reference checking. A *little* presumptuous does not mean it would change my decision, but I don’t think it’s a positive.

    2. OP No. Three*

      I decided to wait and didn’t send them… and they just asked for them! So I’m glad I held off :)

  10. Today*

    To the young employee who is ‘helpfully’ trying to ‘train’ her older co-workers I might add that she is possibly being herself rude and snarky when she ‘helpfully’ shows them what they are doing wrong.

    I have worked with people of all ages and this is not necessarily an age thing but a personality thing. Some people love to point out others’ problems or imperfections as a way to make themselves look or be better. Is it our job to point out others imperfections? to give unsolicited advice? No.

    If people don’t ask me, I don’t go around telling them of the things they are doing ‘wrong.’ Last week, I worked with a young man who made many mistakes of his own and I just waited until he was done, and didn’t say anything. But when I made the slightest imperfect gesture he was all over me and very loudly proclaimed my faults. Wow. What did he prove? that he was a jerk as far as I could see and someone who I once respected, I now no longer do.

    I think especially for young employees, the danger is that they are trying too hard to get ahead and will do it at the expense of perceived weaker colleagues. That same day, I also observed other (young) colleagues pointing out the imperfections of others to their face – and so my feeling is that when we are young we don’t know how that feels and only with time an experience do we stop, reflect and then allow others the grace to do their own work in their own way. It’s really none of my business and I am not in charge, better to keep the focus on myself and what I need to do and less on the perceived failings of others.

    1. Worker Bee (Germany)*

      I disagree.. How would anything get better if everybody was in the mindset of “not my business”. Sometimes Managers are not aware of problems (along the way) or not involved in the process at all but only in the results.. As a manager I’d want to know that someones time is used to help out more then just every now and then. But I agree it is the managers to handle it from there not the (young) employee. Especially since they might be missing some information for the bigger picture..
      I wouldnt want an employee deciding that s/he needs to train their senior colleagues..

    2. hbc*

      “…my feeling is that when we are young we don’t know how that feels….” Really? I think children are constantly graded and corrected and given feedback on exactly how wrong they’re doing it, and young people therefore know exactly how it feels to receive not-100%-positive feedback.

      Some of this depends on your culture, but there’s a lot of value in being able to point out things that you think aren’t being done correctly and then having a conversation about why. I’d certainly take someone’s feedback to me that he is willing to have the same come back at him–if not, then he’s a hypocrite.

      1. Allison*

        I think there’s a difference between someone in a position of authority letting you know you’re dropping the ball somewhere and you need to improve, and a coworker (or even your boss) nitpicking at little flaws in your work. Even younger people, who are used to having someone go over everything they write with a red pen, understand this.

        If anything, I’d think most young people would know better than to go around correcting people who are above them on the totem pole. I thought we all understood that correcting our superiors and those who are more senior than us is disrespectful. If you think someone struggling with a new system is hurting the team, you tell the manager, you don’t take the matter into your own hands.

        1. LBK*

          Is the OP nitpicking them, though? It doesn’t even sound like the coworkers are competent enough at using the new system to do things worthy of nitpicking; that usually means fixing small, insignificant errors rather than commenting on general inability to do work.

          1. cv*

            The OP’s description of the situation doesn’t make it sound like nitpicking. That said, I wonder if the mocking nitpicking of her grammar and writing is a response to how she’s treating these colleagues – could they feel like they’re being hounded, or nitpicked, or treated disrespectfully by OP, and are responding in kind? Probably they’re just jerks, but something as unprofessional as outright mockery is enough of an indicator that something is wrong that it’s worth taking a moment to consider how the helpfulness is really coming across.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          A lot of schools told teachers to stop using red ink because it “hurts the kids’ feelings.” So there may actually be some employees who *aren’t* used to receiving this type of criticism!

          1. Melissa*

            Well, regardless of the color of the pens, teachers are still giving their students feedback and correction on assignments.

          2. Sara*

            I have never met a single educator who actually changed their ink selection to spare kids’ feelings. The part that makes kids feel bad is when they get feedback that is (or can be interpreted as) negative or critical in front of peers, or by a teacher they’re afraid of or don’t trust, or when it’s given in a harsh way that doesn’t acknowledge that kids are people. I am virtually certain that my kids wouldn’t bat an eye if I switched from green pen to red.

            The kids get feedback. If the kids don’t get feedback, they don’t learn, and if they don’t learn, I don’t get to keep my job.

            1. Kristine*

              Not an educator, but as a writing tutor at a university the staff was asked to change our marking pens to green or blue. (I chose purple.) My students did seem slightly more receptive to the feedback (or at least less defensive), but I think it was more the novelty of the different ink than anything else.

    3. Colette*

      It doesn’t sound to me like the OP is proactively trying to tell them what to do so much as answering questions or helping when they ask.

    4. Venn*

      The OP could well be older than some of the workers in senior positions. I took it that these are job distinctions, not necessarily age distinctions (though often, someone in a senior position is going to be older. That said, I have a coworker 20 years younger who holds the title of senior writer). This is why I hesitate with the OP’s dilemma …

    5. Allison*

      I think there are people who loooove teaching. They get a real kick out of imparting their knowledge to others and feeling like they’ve made someone’s life a little better in doing so. Of course, that doesn’t make their unsolicited feedback/advice/lessons any less rude! While there are times where you need to tell someone that their work is unsatisfactory because of reasons, most of the time you should MYOB. If you really feel that people struggling with a new system is causing issues, maybe you should propose a training session so everyone’s on the same page.

    6. LBK*

      Honestly, it sounds like you’re taking this way too personally. When it comes to be able to do your job correctly, your ego needs to go into hibernation – if you’re doing something wrong, you should be grateful to have someone willing to correct you before it becomes a bigger issue. A lot of times people will do exactly what you do (ignore it) and that’s how big embarrassing mistakes often end up happening when all it would’ve taken is a 10 second conversation to fix it preemptively.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. Last week I made a small, fairly-harmless mistake that resulted in no problems (this time), but could mess up work flow.

        One of my coworkers (admittedly one more senior, but I just started here, so that’s kind of all of them right now) pointed it out to me politely as an “in the future” thing and I thanked him.

        Did I feel silly for missing a nuance of what I’d seen others do? A little, yes. Was I grateful to have it pointed out so I wouldn’t keep making that mistake? A lot, yes!

        Now I can go on to make more creative mistakes, probably…and hopefully, if they’re repeatable ones, someone will clue me in so I don’t repeat them.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        + a gazillion.

        It’s not about your perceived competence; if you don’t know how to do something, you don’t know it. That doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It just means you don’t know. Someone wants to help you–let them!

    7. Sunflower*

      ‘I drop my tasks whenever they’ve shown some interest in learning’ so it’s not unsolicited advice. Sounds to me like the colleagues hoping OP can give them an easy solution to learning the software but maybe there isn’t one. When OP tries to help and the instructions are too difficult, they take out the annoyance on her.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I would be tempted to say to them, “I understand that this is frustrating, but I can’t help you if you freak out and stop listening. We can try again when you’re feeling a little more receptive.”

        Basically what you’d say to a toddler, but with bigger words, because they’re acting like toddlers. I’d probably get in trouble for saying it, but it’s tempting.

    8. Anonymous123*

      I don’t think the letter contains enough information to determine that the OP is doing any of those things.

      And while I generally agree that focusing on yourself is a good advice, the advice to do nothing reminds me of what happened at GM recently with the ignition switch issue. If you know something is wrong you should speak up. If those who make the decisions choose to ignore you, fine, but you should still say something so you know you have done all you can do.

    9. nona*

      I disagree. OP’s coworkers don’t know what they’re doing.

      By the way, you don’t know OP’s age, you’ve just assumed it. Thanks for letting us know what you think of young people, though.

      1. Ineloquent*

        I agree, nona. Furthermore, as a young employee, if I’m jumping over your mistakes loudly and publicly, it means that we’ve already discussed them and that your mistakes are a Big Freakin’ Deal, which will result in very negative consequences to the company as a whole. At that point, I do not care about your feelings. I care about compliance, which is my job, and the figurative slap in the face may be what you need to get your act together. Do not discount the corrections given to you by your younger coworkers – they may very well save your butt someday.

    10. Dynamic Beige*

      I drop my tasks whenever they’ve shown some interest in learning

      I would be interested to see a script of how this happens. Does the senior colleague (SC) come up and ask a question of the LW? Or does the LW see the SC pull out the manual and struggle with something for hours? I would also be interested to know if this dropping all the tasks is impacting the LW’s ability to get their work done.

      If it’s the first case where help has been requested but then is mocked, time to speak to the manager about sending these people to someone else for training. Either the explanation is too complex for them to follow, in which case the LW is not breaking it down properly or some other failure to teach, or the method/affect of the LW when they communicate is pushing buttons. Perhaps someone else who is removed from the situation will be seen as less of a threat. Because depending on how old your colleagues are, they may be thinking “I make more than LW and LW is obviously better than me at this stuff. I could be let go and they give LW my job.” Which should light a fire under their arse to get cracking… but not always.

      If it’s the second case, where the LW is seeing someone struggling/in distress trying to learn so they put on their cape and do a big “Here I come to save the day!” swoop in… stop doing that. Most people hate unsolicited help because it immediately points out that other people notice that they are Not Succeeding. Let them struggle until they decide to come to you to ask a question, then politely point out what the issue is as nicely as you can. It may be tempting to snark back at them, but don’t. FWIW, I was in an opposite situation once where I came into the office one morning to see my junior colleague sitting at their desk, obviously not in a good state so I asked what was going on? Turned out, they had been up all night trying to figure something out in a piece of software and were at the end of their tether. I recalled they had been working on it the previous day. These were the days before the commercial internet and they had no manual, so it’s not like now where the answers can be found via The Google. I had some experience with that software and saw what the problem was immediately. I quickly showed them a technique to do what they wanted to do, it didn’t even take a half hour, and the problem was on its way to being fixed so I left them to it. About an hour later, the project manager came in and inquired about the status of the project and I got to overhear “yeah, I had a problem, but I figured it out” with no mention of the help they had received. Lesson learned.

      Finally, if any of this is impacting your work LW either because you’re spending too much time attempting to train these people or you are having to redo their work to fix their mistakes, then it’s time to discreetly talk to your manager about sending your colleagues off for training. Write out ahead of time what you want to say and practice it a few times so that you cover your points without getting lost. Even though this is not your fault, accept the blame that you have failed to successfully mentor/teach them when you offered your help, that you are not a trained teacher so perhaps you’re doing it wrong. Because admitting the truth to your manager that some ageism in both directions might be at play is only going to cause more drama.

    11. Sadsack*

      I think this is making a lot of assumptions about OP. OP specifically wrote that the other employees have approached him for help, and OP seems to be really trying to help them. That’s about all we know. I think you are projecting your recent experience here.

  11. Something Professional*

    I have some extremely obvious scars due to surgeries I had a year ago. Whenever people ask me about them, I just casually respond “oh, those are from the knife fight” and then change the subject.

    This might be inappropriate for the office, though. If anyone there asks you about it, Alison’s suggested response is a great one. If they press on, I always find “I’m doing very well now, thanks for your concern! Hey, did you hear the head of teapot inspection is in the building today (or whatever work-related comment you choose to make)” is very effective at discouraging further questions.

    1. Tasha*

      Ha, I also use the knife fight and “You should see the other guy” lines, but they were with existing colleagues. Might not be the best for new co-workers.

  12. Allison*

    #1, your boss probably feels that you going to the conference is less than ideal, but also realizes that it is part of the deal and therefore he needs to let you go. You may not get a straight answer on his exact feelings about it, but I wouldn’t worry about that too much, because it’s unlikely he’s going to penalize for you if you go. And if he does, you can cross that bridge when you get there. There’s no need to bail on the conference.

    And ignore your coworker, it sounds like they’re trying to cause trouble.

  13. Becky*

    Re: #5 I recently had a similar situation whereby a publishing company wanted me to write an 800-word article on a pre-selected topic as part of my assessment for the job, which would ultimately be published on their website. They asked to set up and conduct interviews with industry contacts in the US (I’m based in London, so this would have meant doing the interviews over Skype in my evenings). If anyone asked why I was emailing from a personal account, I was to pretend I was working for the company as a freelancer. They also wanted me to source primary data from company reports, and analyse it for the article. This seemed an excessive amount of work for an assessment, so I offered to write a mock article based on existing research – but that was flatly refused. That, and a couple of other smaller doubts, was enough to tell me that the company was at best niave and incompetent, so I withdrew from the process.

    Does anyone know whether it is also illegal practice for companies to get you to do work for free as part of the interview process in the UK?

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      I don’t know if it’s illegal, but I think it’s unethical. I do understand the need to test candidates’ writing/research abilities, but if you’re going to do that, then you can either give them a paid test assignment (paid whether you get the job or not), or you can give them a mock assignment as part of the interview process–not something the company is going to benefit from later.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is what my company did. The material they sent was out-of-context and certainly not usable from my returned test. Which I aced, by the way. *blows own horn–toot toot!* :)

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I don’t think this is exactly the same situation as in the question as it doesn’t require your physical presence in a defined time slot. However, if a reputable company asked you to do this, or something similar such as an editing test, they wouldn’t use what you produced, or would pay you if they did.
      You had the right instincts and asked the right questions, at it seems possible that this is a tactic they are using to get free articles. However, if they had offered to pay you only if the article is good enough to use, I think that would have been OK.

    3. No Longer Passing By*

      This doesn’t sound legitimate. This isn’t even spec work. They want you to interview people and write an article that they then will publish. Irrespective of whether they hire you. No no no no. The fact that they’re asking you to lie is a big tip off. This seems like just unpaid freelance work.

      My office asks for writing samples, ie something that the applicant has written in the past. And we may ask certain positions to produce a new writing sample based on a problem that we present to them. But the writing sample is short (please don’t exceed 2 pages), is based on a past problem so we already know the range of answers, and isn’t used. It’s meant to see how the candidate performs under pressure, is limited to specific positions, and, most importantly, is not something that we’re dependent upon.

      We also role play during interviews or present situations that have occurred and ask how the candidate would respond in those scenarios.

      It seems to me that the task that you’re given could have been addressed by a mock interview of one of the interviewers from followed by you quickly writing a short 1-2 paragraph article after the interview about the mock interview. And of course, the interviewers already should be familiar with your work as they would have reviewed your portfolio prior to the interview.

  14. Rae*

    #2 I was with the poster until he started to talk about his management relying on him/her for all the knowledge. This is a position that one puts themselves into and one that is very ego based.
    Most software also comes with it’s own training materials so cheat-sheets, guides etc, should be unnecessary. It seems the less software adept co-workers are picking at what they can.
    As other posters have said, if it’s really necessary, it’s a management issue. The fact that even your manager “doesn’t really understand” is a sign to me that the software is not as vital as you think. Also, we connect to people on our own level, some of your co-worker’s clients may utilize the software like they do (not taking full advantage of updates) whereas your clients do.
    Also dropping everything to go help them? Stopit. Unless your job specifically covers training, it’s not your job. If you have time between things or at the end of the day then show them. All you’ve done so far is train your co-workers on how they can get you to do their job when they tell you jump.

    1. AnonAnalyst*

      All you’ve done so far is train your co-workers on how they can get you to do their job when they tell you jump.

      This. Honestly OP2, it sounds to me like your coworkers don’t feel the need to learn the system because they can rely on you to either show them how or do the work for them whenever they need to use it. Stop letting them do that.

      If their inability to work with the system is otherwise impacting your workload or ability to get your job done, go to your manager and ask she would like you to prioritize. You could also mention that they seem to be having trouble with the software and seem to be relying on you to help whenever they need it, which is really cutting into your time to do your own work. But ultimately this is a problem for your manager to deal with, not you.

    2. LBK*

      Totally disagree with all of this. We just rolled out a new CRM system and I’m the only one in my department who’s used it before, which has made me the de facto go-to person for a lot of questions. That includes my manager and a few others who have been formally trained on the system but don’t have the year of experience I do. How is that at all reflective of my ego or of the system’s lack of vitality?

      Also don’t agree that just the provided documentation with the system should be sufficient – I’ve never used a system where I didn’t have some sort of supplemental guide that was more tailored to my iteration/usage of the system. Provided training materials tend to not be user-friendly, especially for brand new users.

      1. themmases*

        I totally agree. I’m currently in the middle of learning to use a piece of software my boss doesn’t know– Access. Is Access not an important product because my boss, like me before now, hasn’t happened to have the right combination of responsibility for a project, need, and time for training that would cause her to learn it?

        In my last job, I worked in radiology and knew two pieces of software– our electronic health records system and our image storage system– that my boss did not. This was because I worked with patients and my boss was an admin, not because the knowledge wasn’t important.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Access’s documentation is notoriously confusing. I had to google almost everything when I used it at Exjob. Help was NO help at all! If the OP’s software is anything like that, no wonder her coworkers are confused.

      2. Nerdling*

        Good God, yes! “Here, learn how to be proficient with this completely new system solely by teaching yourself from this massive manual with overly simplified user guide!” That crap is the worst. It might teach you the bare bones minimum, and, if you do enough digging, you just might be able to work out how to do some of the more in-depth stuff, but it’s far, FAR less efficient and effective than good hands-on training with someone who knows how the system works. It’s good business sense for companies to teach their employees how to use the systems, because that ultimately results in fewer man-hours being lost to trying to figure out how to convince your computer that you really do need a Whatchamacallit Report from the Wingdingy Database.

        1. Nerdling*

          And I’m sitting in updated training right now for the system that I’m a specialist in here. The fact that I’m better at using it than my boss has nothing to do with its vitality – it’s incredibly important, and I just got in on the ground floor with it, so, by default, I’m now the expert. As an organization, we actually just updated our legal policy to reflect the realities of using this particular system, so it’s clearly not something that’s just going to fall by the wayside.

      3. Miss Crankypants*

        One query I’d have for the OP is: are you sure they’ve been actually trained on this software? Because it’s quite possible that even in a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company, no one ever really bothered to adequately train staff on the program, its uses, and its purpose.

        I’m dealing with this now at at a MNMB dollar company and not one damn process that I have to perform everyday is documented. Meaning, nothing in writing. What I have in writing is what I’ve been able to scirbble down.

        And training? Ha! There’s no show, show and tell, show/tell/take notes, let the trainee try, re-show, method of knowledge transfer going on at all. You get (maybe) five to ten minutes of a senior staffer standing over your desk and pointing at things, and then you’re on your own. I cannot believe the level of incompetence with the training at the place. It’s dismaying and discouraging.

        So don’t assume that your colleagues have been fully trained. They may have and just forgot/don’t want to remember the process.

        Or they may have gotten almost nothing at all.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I, too, have a program at work that is not intuitive AT ALL. Picture going to the grocery store to buy some kiwi fruit. You finally locate the kiwi the household cleaner aisle next to the Drano but BEHIND the floor cleaner. Now you understand how this program works. It comes with instructions, but the instruction button does not work 90% of the time. The program locks up, it tosses away random info that you have typed in, various features take turns not working- I could go on but you get the idea.

        It could be that it is not OP the people have given up on. OP just happens to be in the line of fire –er, uh, ire, as the case maybe.

    3. Like Multics without the*

      Back when I was a new hire, I was in a slightly similar situation: my company had made (on a very high level) a decision to move towards the UNIX operating system (and associated hardware). As luck would have it, in the 120+ people in my group, only one person had actual experience and knowledge of UNIX: me.

      Long story short: my management tapped me to put together classes on both UNIX and the C programming language. And then I spent a month teaching classes. It went very well: even though I was a newbie, the fact that my management put me in an instructor role gave me a bit of a status nudge such that people paid attention (versus rolling their eyes at how this new kid needed a haircut).

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        Good for you, but I still think that that just means they were too cheap to hire real trainers.

        1. Like Multics without the*

          Heh. This all happened a long time ago, but your comment has reminded me: you are 100% correct! My management had indeed worked out what it would cost for everyone to get “official” training, and it was some really huge amount of money (As I recall, “official” training involved flying everyone to a training center) and, yeah, I was LOTS cheaper.

          BTW – as I re-read what I wrote about teaching that class – it’s not the best thing I’ve ever written here on AAM. I’m not sure it is clear, but basically I was trying to suggest that a possible solution / alternative to off-the-cuff answering random questions might be to get serious about the entire “teaching” aspect and try to handle it with an actual classroom-style education approach. If you enjoy teaching, and if your management will back the time spent on preparation and an afternoon or a day or two of classroom time for everyone, it could work out well for everyone.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think this is different from OP’s setting because you were acknowledge by the bosses as the trainer. You gave a course. This is a lot more formal than what OP has going on.

        I think one of OP’s biggest problems is that the bosses do not tell the people that they MUST learn this and OP will be training them. It is such a simple statement to make and, yet, without it chaos ensues.

        OP, it sounds like you have not been formally designated as a trainer on this material and you are not formally recognized as the designated person to go to. All this has been done informally.
        Additionally, I wonder if the people have not been told that they must learn this and they are just patching their way through, hoping it goes away.

    4. Kira*

      I disagree that OP put themselves in this position. I saw a manager essentially ignore an area of work she was responsible for, and always call on her junior employee to handle it/solve things/answer questions. Eventually, her Big Boss got upset that the manager wasn’t taking ownership of that area of work and there were repercussions.

      It wasn’t the junior employees fault at all that they were asked to be the in-house expert on the project.

    5. No Longer Passing By*

      (1) My boss doesn’t even have a computer. So I really can’t base the importance of any software that we use on whether boss understands it.

      (2) The documentation for a lot of software is either non-existent or terrible. Ter-rib-le. And now most of the training is just YouTube or Vimeo videos. Which is great for how the developer anticipated usage. But unhelpful for real life usage. I typically open support tickets or visit user forums to find the information that I need.

      (3) I typically select junior staff members (like an assistant) to train senior skip staff members. Why? Because they use the software more. I may have taught them to use 1 aspect of the software based on my prior investigation and customization. That staff member, after completing the assignment and showing that they understand, then is responsible to explain to coworkers that particular aspect. And guess what, if I continue to work with that staff member, they will continue to roll out new stuff.

      (4) these junior senator staff members also may take screenshots and out together a little hue-to-guide on that particular aspect. They are not technical writers so some mistakes may be expected.

      (5) the exact scenario that tge OP has presented, the indifference and the mocking, has happened. I’ve had sitdown meetings with staff members to find out why this is. The answer usually is that they just don’t like the software and don’t want to learn it. “Why don’t we use the other software anymore?” Um, because it’s no longer being developed, remember? Or you didn’t like that either, remember?

      This us could common. OP’s manager should back them up and also provide guidance to both OP and the senior staff.

      1. No Longer Passing By*

        Wow. Please ignore my typos and the additional words added to my comment. Apparently if you lay in bed while typing, an additional word will be added in between…..

  15. Sunflower*

    #1- I would go to the conference. As others have said, sounds like your boss feels the situation isn’t ideal but understands it’s part of the deal. It’s also possible your boss is 1. frustrated but not with you or 2. just getting used to changes. I am kind of in the middle of 2 depts and am traveling away from the office frequently for one dept. My boss of the other dept really dislikes it but knows that’s just the way things are.

    #2- Tell your manager NOW. This isn’t even a case of ‘you tried to help and were unsuccessful’. Your colleagues are not able to perform what is becoming a crucial part of their job. This is really job dependent but are you getting plagued with more work over this since you are the only one who knows the system? If not, it’s very likely it could happen soon. And if I was in that spot, I could see myself growing a lot of resentment over this kind of stuff. I’ve been in a place where I have become the ‘go-to’ for something because everyone else refuses to learn it. It was fine for at first- then I started getting pulled constantly away from my work. It became really hard to have to take on extra stuff because other people said it was just ‘too difficult’ to learn.

  16. Allison*

    #2, keep trying to help when they ask, but this may require the help of someone who doesn’t just know how to use the system, but specifically knows how to teach. Maybe you can propose a training session, which will include an explanation of why they do need to learn the new system, because it’ll make X, Y, and Z easier for everyone.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. Knowing how to do something, and knowing how to teach someone how to do it, are two different skills.

    2. Mephyle*

      From the description of what is happening, it sounds like OP#2 is not adjusting to their learning styles sufficiently. Ideally they would adjust to his/her teaching style, but that is probably not going to happen.

  17. Tasha*

    People have thyroid surgery for reasons that are more common than cancer. So while you could feel free to acknowledge you had surgery on your thyroid, or that you had your thyroid removed, or even that you had “a procedure,” it would be fine to never mention cancer.

    Unfortunately I had a raspy voice for several months as a result of thyroid surgery, and to me it was important to mention/acknowledge to colleagues that my voice wasn’t normal.

  18. AmyNYC*

    #3 – I wouldn’t send my reference list to the new company until they ask, but now is the perfect time to check in with your references and make sure a) they will still be a reference b) their contact information is correct and c) just remind them who you are/what you did (I’m thinking “Jane – I’m in the final stages of interviewing at XYZ Teapots and I’d love to use you as a reference. They work in ABC, which relates to the work we did on DEF back at LMN…”)

    1. Meg Murry*

      I was coming to say the same thing. Now is a great time to contact your references and let them know that you hope they will be contacted soon regarding a position with a fast timeline, so you would appreciate if they could respond quickly if contacted (this is assuming you already got their ok to use them as a reference). Some of my references really liked to see the job description and resume so they could stay on the same page – re-iterating attention to detail if that is called out in the job ad and my cover letter, or emphasizing “fast learner” if that is more necessary.

      I would get all your reference info ready in a blank draft email (with no one in the to: field) so that when/if you get contacted you can just send it along, but I wouldn’t send it proactively – that might jump the line into “overeager and annoying” and/or it might be easy for the hiring manager to lose track of the message or it might not meet their criteria if they have a system like asking for at least 2 former managers and 1 non-manager or something rigid like that.

    2. OP No. Three*

      That’s exactly what I did last week after the interview went well – and when they asked for them today I was ready with everybody’s contact info ready to go, and everyone was up to speed on my resume and the job posting. I also sent everyone a quick-hits list of what I thought the hiring manager’s goals for the role were, so they could have a sort of primer. Someone did that for me not too long ago when I acted as their reference, and I greatly appreciated it.

  19. Brett*

    #5 One of my friends is an exotic dancer, and among many awful labor law abuses in that industry, unpaid “auditions” of a full shift are common. If you include tip outs, they are often paying for those auditions. But the worst part is that these “auditions” come with one day contracts where the auditioning dancer waives the club of all liability. Broken feet are extremely common, and she has even seen a dancer break her leg while auditioning!

    1. UKAnon*

      But… but… Ok, I am used to it being illegal to opt out of health and safety or negligence laws. If that’s acceptable practice then I’m afraid I am just failing to see the point in having those liabilities in the first place.

      I think my mind died a little bit.

      1. fposte*

        Keep in mind that having them sign something like that isn’t the same thing as that waiver’s being held up on court, though. It’s not uncommon in the US for people to be asked to sign weak or outright illegal contracts by employers who just hope those will be enough to keep people from making claims.

        Which still sucks, but it’s not the same thing as saying the law allows this.

        1. UKAnon*

          This is true. I was trying to be politely disbelieving without going “OMG American Law!!!!” because I feel like I’ve been doing that a lot lately… I’m naive and I bet it’s annoying!

    2. Brett*

      These same clubs abuse independent contractor status (they treat the dancers exactly like employees, but always make them contractors). The club my friend worked before this charged her: $120/shift to work. $90 if she was late. $80 to leave early. $200 for missing a shift.
      And there were absolutely no benefits, payroll taxes paid, etc.
      These contracts are only there to intimidate the workers from trying to assert any rights, and probably not at all legal.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Ugh. Given that many women who go into exotic dancing are doing it because they don’t feel like they have better options, it’s equally unsurprising and infuriating that so many businesses in the industry use these shady labor practices. It doesn’t matter that the contract is unenforceable if a) none of the employees know that, and b) they don’t have the resources to fight it in court.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Usually they do, in that lawyers who take these cases (in the US) work on contingency. The club owners are banking on the workers being transient (i.e. not sticking around long enough to care about it much) and not knowing their rights. Because they almost always win, when they do complain.

          As Brett says: almost certainly not at all legal, and good luck trying to enforce those. The smarter clubs audition by having ‘amateur night’ competitions so they can pretend it’s not actually work.

      2. No Longer Passing By*

        that’s why they now are suing. And they should. Those clubs exist based on taking advantage of women and while the economic potential can be great, the penalties are meant to create a system of indentured servitude. Tip-outs shouldn’t even happen. I haven’t gotten 1 of these cases but I will take it if it comes my way.

        *employment lawyer

  20. Lisa*

    #5. It may be illegal, but I would consider it a gift. Restaurants are notoriously dysfunctional workplaces – you’ll find out so much in one day!

      1. Lisa*

        Restaurants are tough places to work! This particular place has a reason for this “free day” of work. It probably stems from high turnover, which is expensive when you hire someone and they never come back after their first day (happens quite often). High turnover could be due to poor management (bad), or high standards of service (good, if you are a good server; not good, if you aren’t). In this case, it doesn’t seem like she (he) is leaving another job, but if that’s the case, it’s an opportunity to “try before you buy”. In the restaurant business, I consider it a gift to be able to see behind the scenes without first making a commitment.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Not only that, but restaurants have such high overhead that it’s unlikely for one to implement a training period (unless it’s a chain that’s raking in bucks, and maybe not even then). The ones where I worked just showed you the ropes for ten minutes and then chucked you out there. “Here, take this order out.” Where does it go!? What even is it?!

        2. Ad Astra*

          They might have a good reason for asking potential employees to “audition” before offering them a job, but there’s no good reason for not paying someone when your business is benefiting from their labor. The legal/ethical way to do this would be to pay for the work whether you make an offer or not.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Yes, a gift of an entire day of free labor that the employee could be trading for actual money. The “gift” is receiving the offer in the first place and knowing the business is shady.

        4. christopher reyna*

          I replied as the original question asker a bit down the way. The restaurant not only as you mention list the same positions over and over on a very free and popular website, about a couple times a week, so the turnover I imagine must be high. I feel I’m extremely qualified, even with the time off to jump right back into the game. I feel, not only it rude and inconsiderate, they risk their own reputation, if I, or anybody, is somebody who gets injured, hurts a guest, has none of the proper work cards needed if the Health department popped in, slipped and fell, was a felon, and the list could go on and on. 3 plus hours, going over the computer system, drinks, food, tables, etc, is a standard training first or second day once you fill out paperwork, and do all the fun stuff. This isn’t a mom and pop place, but a chain restaurant with many locations so I’m pretty sure they know the laws. I’m going to call again, and if told, I’ve been passed up or whatever, that’s fine, but I will ask for compensation for my time, as I was told I’d be doing a follow for 1 hour. Not 3 plus hours, and walking out dirty, with no job, or any closer to knowing what is going on. And this is not a fine dining restaurant, nor a place where servers need a lot of standards. 3 feet mohawks and full sleeves of tattoos are the norm. So I do not know what I did. All my references are spot on, my degree is legit, and I smiled, and even knew the menu as I looked it over online. Just SMH.

  21. JC*

    #1, I personally wouldn’t be as deferential to your boss’s wishes re: your training program as others are suggesting you should be. Don’t let your boss get in your way of getting value from the program. It appears clear to me that your boss begrudgingly accepts that you are a part of the program, but doesn’t like having you away for program-related events. It seems that if you always asked him for his blessing before every optional event, he would either say no and prevent you from experiencing the program, or say yes even though he’d really rather you didn’t go. What would you gain from that?

  22. LQ*

    #2 – I sympathize with you completely. I don’t think you’re a jerk or condescending or too young or anything else to want to train (and wow do I identify because all the people who are implying that I wanted to respond to).

    You want to help, people are frustrated or confused or they just aren’t able to or aren’t doing their jobs and you want to help. I get it.

    A couple things from experience training people on software they don’t feel they should need to learn both coworkers and as a formal training thing.
    It’s hard. No, seriously, this is a job people learn how to do, the training, just because you understand the software doesn’t mean you are the best person to teach it, sometimes we can know too much to train these things. Assuming this isn’t actually a part of your job go to your boss and express your willingness to help, but that it doesn’t seem to be effective. Offer to be a subject matter expert if a training does happen, but recognize that you may not be the right person to train it. (You have a dump truck full of information, they can handle a glass at a time, that’s nearly impossible to pour with a dump truck.)

    If someone comes to you for help deflect. First just for 5 minutes. Then for a half hour. Then for a half day. This gives them a chance to learn it on their own. “I’d be happy to help you, I need 5 minutes to finish this.” “I really want to help but I’m in the middle of this, can I check back in with you in about 30 minutes?” “I’m really swamped today, can you check with Suzy, otherwise I’ll get to you about 1?” You’re still helping, you’re still offering. But the 5 minute things? When they figure it out on their own they will be much more likely to remember, they’ll feel better about learning the next thing. It’s really a good thing. Don’t drop everything to teach them. Wait. I know this is hard, but it will help them.

    If they push back on why, say you aren’t sure. (This only works if you didn’t design the system but it doesn’t sound like you did.) If they start to get grumpy or snark or smirk-step back. “Well I’ll let you get back to what you were working on.” *say with a smile, not a smirk* and step away. Just walk away. They don’t want your help. That’s ok.

  23. Another Steve G*

    #1 This is like when I ask my wife if everything is ok, she says “fine,” and I know it’s not fine. But this is work, and it’s on your boss to communicate with you in a productive way. Go on the conference and always make it easy for your boss to communicate with you. There will be nothing he can do to penalize you if he knows he had the chance to address it earlier.

  24. CLT*

    #1 It is possible for your boss to want you to participate in the leadership program and also want you to be at work instead of the conference. There are many times we have employees out at inconvenient times for professional development, but we are also committed to professional development. You might just say to your boss, “I know it is inconvenient for me to be away for a week, and I just wanted to thank you for supporting my professional development. It means a lot to me.”

  25. Kingsley*

    #1 I smell jealousy, probably that co-worker wants you to say you dont want to go so that she came go in your place. Go talk to your boss, sort things out with him, I doubt if he is the problem.

  26. Sunflower*

    #5- I have worked in a few different restaurants (US) and had never heard of this until a couple months ago. I applied for a job and they asked me to come in for a ‘trial’ shift. I googled it and apparently this term is very popular/more common in places outside the US. I asked about details and they told me I’d shadow a server, learn the POS system, see how things work in the restaurant. I think it’s popular in food service because references aren’t as reliable(turnover is higher, easier to lie about who your manger was) and they want to make sure you aren’t BSing your experience. I made the decision for myself to not do it. I know how hectic(and shady) restaurants can be and ‘shadowing’ can very quickly turn into running food and wiping down tables. It felt like lazy management to me. There are many ways you can figure out if I’m BSing my experience during an interview. Ask me to put an order into the POS. Ask me what I do if I get triple sat. You’ll figure out real quick who is BSing and who isn’t.

  27. MJ*

    #2 This is a challenging situation, but in every challenge there are opportunities. Try to strip away the story from the facts, so that you can do something positive with the facts here.

    You say it is apparent that senior employees have failed to keep up. How is it apparent? What data do you have to support this? You say they do not have operating knowledge about how your face-to-face colleagues work. What makes you think this? You say that they show initial receptiveness to learning. What does that look like? When do they do this? How often? You say they become easily overwhelmed, and say “I can’t do this.” How often has this happened? What other signs suggest to you they are overwhelmed? You say you drop your tasks whenever they show an interest in learning and you break learning down into the smallest possible chunks. How often have you done this, and what does your training method look like? You say they smirk and mock you – how often has this happened and exactly what was said?

    Once you have stripped away your story/feelings/interpretations/assignment of motives from the facts, you are in a position to figure out what the next best thing is that you can do to add value to the situation. It may be a conversation with your boss, where you let him know your observations (without the story) so that he can decide what to do next, after which you go about your business. Hopefully your boss will supply training for your coworkers. It seems that your coworkers aren’t responding well to your training for whatever reasons, so if you end up assigned to training, you may need to do some professional development of your own to adjust your training methods in order to increase your success rate.

    Good luck!

  28. Ad Astra*

    #2 reminds me of working in a newsroom, when everyone said I “knew the future” because I could see breaking news on social media before the Associated Press could write up an alert and push it out to members. A lot of senior employees resisted things like social media or going web-first instead of writing for a paper deadline. It was hard not to get frustrated and act like a know-it-all.

    But if the OP is getting so much pushback that her coworkers are being rude as she describes, maybe it’s time to give up and focus on her own work.

  29. NicoleK*

    #2. I’ve been struggling with a similar situation, except in my case, it’s a peer and not a senior level person. So it’s been interesting and helpful to see all the differing view points.

  30. Jo*

    re: letter #4

    It sounds like a lot of people have absorbed the idea that you aren’t supposed to take a vacation in your first few months on the job and taken it to mean that you aren’t supposed to use any sick time or go to necessary appointments. That’s not the case with any reasonable employer. Looking after your health isn’t taking time off for funsies; it’s a crucial life chore that decent employers are used to accommodating.

    And on the subject of actual true vacation time, if you are offered a job and you already have vacation plans set in the next few months, you can grandfather them in. As an example, my cousin got a new job right before my wedding but was up front with the employer about it and negotiated so she could still have a day off to travel cross-country.

    1. No Longer Passing By*

      Yes, I’ve had situations where I’ve hired people and they told me “in 2 months I have a 2-week trip, is that okay?” Honestly, it happens so many times that it’s nothing to me. Just be upfront about it when they make the offer or when you’re starting

  31. christopher reyna*

    So, I did go do this audition in Las Vegas on one of the busiest days of the Summer. We were having EDC, which is one hundred thousand crazy kids partying all night for three days. Anyway, I followed, ran food, bussed tables, asked questions, sweat my balls off, etc. and was very comfortable in the position. I then sat with another manager who talked to me, sort of a second interview, asking me questions. He said he would put his input, and the first managers notes along with the person I followed together and submit it to the GM. If He likes what he sees, he will go ahead and make the call. As I wrote, I’ve never heard of this, and they have been putting ads on a job website all weekend. I called today to check my status, and was told, “it’s too busy to talk to you right now.” Yet, I looked on that jobsite, and not more than 40 minutes later, the same ad was posted. I’m going to assume I wasted my time, and they are losing employees left and right. I just feel cheated, and not sure what I did wrong. That’s the issue I have, working for free and this “audition” watching the bartender, watching the cooks, follow the server, etc. All for hours and not even get the F’ing job.

    1. No Longer Passing By*

      I don’t believe in these auditions. i have a relative who worked for 2 days at the same restaurant auditioning. When the 3rd day came, I put the kibosh on that and didn’t assist with transportation costs. 3 days unpaid? Absolutely not

    2. CdnAcct*

      Unfortunately, it sounds like they found an easy and cheap way to get extra help for this 3 day busy festival period without hiring anyone or paying them.

  32. Elyse*

    #2 – I know how this feels, big time. Working in a library, you see this CONSTANTLY. Because of the constantly-evolving nature of libraries, you have to be willing to learn new software all the time. So you get older people who have been in the library for years, so they aren’t willing to check their ego at the door and let anyone train them with new software, but throw hissyfits because they don’t know how to use it (“and shouldn’t HAVE to,” apparently).

    The result is an organization working to nowhere near it’s potential, with plenty of better potential employees who cannot get jobs in the (very VERY competative) library field.

    This comment isn’t geared towards people who are willing to learn new things– just the ones who’re digging their feet into the sand and genuinely believe they shouldn’t have to learn something new because they never had to do it before. It brings down everyone else, honestly.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Not sure if this should come from OP, but there is nothing wrong with the boss pointing out that changes in programming are to be expected. It is part of the job to learn the changes as they come up. Everyone is expected to keep up with the changes. (The boss probably feels he can’t say that because the boss does not keep up with the changes.)

      It sounds so obvious to say that but as you are showing here, some people have to have that explained to them. It’s not always the old people, either. You’re right that it brings everyone down.

  33. Been There, Done That*

    #2–I’ve seen my views in many comments here, so I’ll just add this:

    -During the decades of the computerized workplace, senior employees have probably experienced numerous software/equipment upgrades. This is just one more, and they’ll learn what they need to do their jobs.

    -Communication skills are just as important as computer skills, especially if you’re training. That means respect for the learners, their time, their experience. It also means that written training materials need to be accurate. Typos, grammar/punctuation errors, misspellings, etc., are not small things–they’re an indication of the care and attention that went into producing the materials.

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