how can I get employees to find answers for themselves?

A reader writes:

I’ve recently become a manager at my workplace and I oversee two people, both of whom are really great workers and I’m thrilled overall to have them. They both do one thing that really annoys me – when they don’t know how to do something, they immediately ask. I am talking fairly inane things, e.g., how do you tell what page size a poster is in Microsoft Powerpoint or how you drag and drop a folder. They are such bright people that it really surprises me they wouldn’t automatically think to search how to do these things on the internet before coming to me for help. I would like to politely suggest they do this but I’m wondering what the right way to phrase such a thing is. Any ideas?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How to avoid socializing with a coworker’s kid at work
  • I wasn’t included in a meeting I’d asked to be a part of
  • Hiring manager said he’d call me if his new hire doesn’t work out
  • Can you really leave a job off of your resume?

{ 92 comments… read them below }

  1. Dee-Nice*

    True Story: I used to hide in an unused cubicle whenever this one manager brought her little girl in. She’d take her from desk to desk and basically supervise a conversation between you and her four-year-old. The child herself was unobjectionable, I just couldn’t deal.

    1. Hlyssande*


      I like kids just fine and I don’t mind making a little small talk, but that’s so painfully, embarrassingly awkward.

  2. Alli525*

    Boy. This problem has only gotten worse over the years, hasn’t it? I can’t tell y’all how frequently I see people crowdsourcing answers that could be found in literally 30 seconds of scanning Google.

    1. Koko*

      It really amazes me. I’m far too impatient to wait for humans to respond when I can find it much faster on Google.

      I have a coworker who is very guilty of this. It’s not my place to saw anything but to me he comes across like his primary MO is to get work off his plate by any means necessary without really taking ownership. As soon as he gets stuck on something he just sends it off to someone else asking them to handle. As one of the people often on the receiving end of that, it’s a tricky situation to handle, because typing out how he could find the answer on his own will take just as long as looking it up for him, and I don’t want to come across as unhelpful. I’ve learned that if I give the answer *and* explain how I did it, he ignores the instructions and keeps sending me similar things in the future. I have to find diplomatic ways to withhold the answer without looking rude while redirecting him on how to find it.

      1. Artemesia*

        “I don’t have time to take on your project, but you might try googling “obvious phrase” and if that doesn’t work try “other obvious phrase.” It is never wise to just do it because it takes as long to flip it back to him because that makes sure the tasks keep coming. Do this every time until he either googles it himself or picks on someone else.

      2. JessaB*

        Let me Google it for You is your friend with people like this.

        Also “I’m sorry I don’t have time to look this up, I would suggest Google search terms of ‘chocolate spout will not adhere,’ and ‘tempering problems with chocolate spouts.'” Or “Try the intranet, production faq, spouts, common problems.” Thanks, JessaB

        If your boss will let you push back like the 2nd example, you show them your work steps but don’t actually DO the work for them. The idea is give them the how to get but not the what they wanted. If they then send you a request showing they DID that and still need help, that’s when I’d help.

    1. Tina the Tech Writer*

      How timely! I just submitted a question about coworkers begging me to bring my baby back to work for visits. :)

  3. LeisureSuitLarry*

    The first time you answer an easily found answer for one of your employees, you can always try the demeaning, passive-aggressive approach and send them your search results from “Let Me Google That For You” ( It may not be the most professional way to get your point across, but only the most obtuse person won’t get the message.

    1. finderskeepers*

      A lot of messages are received loud and clear but it doesn’t make the sender of said message look good or professional

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I might do this with a peer, if we otherwise had a working relationship that allows for a little bit of teasing.

      I would never, ever do this with a subordinate. Why would you ever deliberately be passive-aggressive with someone you manage? This doesn’t even seem like that difficult of a conversation.

      1. Taylor Swift*

        There’s exactly one person I work with to whom I would think about sending a LMGTFY link. And that is because we have a good relationship that already includes a fair bit of gentle teasing. And we even (gasp!) send each other emojis and memes from time to time. But to anybody other than that it would be incredibly rude. (Although I have wished so many times that I could send those links to problem clients . . . *sigh*)

    3. k.k*

      I more professional nod towards that could be to say “I’m in the middle of something now but you can probably find the answer on google.”

      1. JessaB*

        Part of the problem of Google and this is for some reason not something people take away from school with them, is many, many people do not have any clue how to actually formulate a search query, and if they try it and they don’t get what they need they do not know how to alter it to try again. This is actually a skill. Which is why I prefer to send search terms back to people rather than do the work (except for a handful of people I care about and know are just too busy and know that hitting me with it will get it done.)

        Someone might make a fortune preparing a course for workers that explains this in a layman’s way (I’m not talking complicated boolean searches here.)

    4. Brett*

      Please don’t do that.
      LMGTFY is sometimes blocked because it can be used to bypass website blocks (just like google translate), and there is a distinct possibility that use of it will get flagged even if it is not blocked, because it can be used to bypass website filters.

    5. SleeplessInLA*

      I actually can’t think of a worse way to handle this situation. Passive aggressive tactics in the workplace are so..ick! and to suggest a manager treat their employees this way is terrible advice. If I received this as a response from my boss I would consider them a jerk and it would negatively impact our working relationship.

    6. Vertigo*

      The only message an employee gets from that is “i would rather take the time to demean you than just type ‘look it up'”.

      (My boss has done this twice to me, once just because i asked the address of a bar we were considering doing happy hour at, and it’s really just going out of your way to make the other person feel like a moron.)

    7. k8*

      the fact that OC literally called this “the demeaning, passive-aggressive approach” means that they probably don’t endorse it . . .

  4. Indie Accountant*

    OMG, the easily-googled questions were the bane of my existence at my previous job. I was frequently tempted to ask “Does Google not work on your computer?” I did exactly what Alison suggests; explicitly tell my staff that I expected them to do some research before coming to me, and when they did come to me I would ask what they had already tried. Sure, there’s a bit of skill needed to effectively look up info online, but it’s a skill I expect anyone working in a public accounting firm to possess.

    Now I work for myself and happily answer these questions for clients at a nice hourly rate :)

  5. Snark*

    “I would like to politely suggest they do this but I’m wondering what the right way to phrase such a thing is. Any ideas?”

    So, I’ve had a couple of coworkers and reports who did this, and something like, “When you have a question about something like this, I really need you to Google it first and come to me only if you can’t find a clear answer on your own.” And then shut it down when they do it anyway, and they will. “What did you find on the internet?”

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think one other thing you can say is, “Getting the answer for yourself is a powerful skill that will work for you in the future. In fact, it’s one of the things that people mean when they say ‘shows initiative.’ Also, don’t forget that while it’s nice to have company, and it may be shorter for you to ask someone who has the answer easily, you’re also interrupting them, which derails -their- productivity. That’s also an important part of working with a team–taking care of your own business, so they don’t have to interrupt theirs to help you.”

      Explain, very matter-of-factly, the why of it all.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        When I next update cv, seriously considering putting “experienced in getting google and stackoverflow to tell me what I need to know” in skills section!

    2. myswtghst*

      I work with primarily with new employees, and your last line is pretty much my go-to. If you’re coming to me for help, you’ll learn quickly that my first question will almost always be “what did you find in the knowledge base?” :)

  6. Grumplepuss*

    Eh, I disagree a bit on the kid thing. I know all my coworkers well enough that they are aware that I don’t like kids, so they keep them away from me. I don’t care if they silently judge me and I’m not being rude because I have revealed my curmudgeonly nature organically through other normal conversations that took place when said kids were not present.

  7. Curiouser & Curiouser*

    Allison, Remember the letter about employees with children getting extra privileges or money I forget which and how it ticked off childless employees. Could you work that angle in?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can only answer the questions they ask me, so I encourage you to submit questions/comments at the link above and they may make it into the show!

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      And can you please not imply all childless employees feel that way as I one get really REALLY sick of people implying they speak for me.

  8. anna green*

    #1 – Yes, please be direct. It’ll help so much. My manager is just terrible at managing and communicating and has complained on occasion that I’ll ask too many questions that I should look up myself, but he will never tell me at the time its happening! He just complains later. Sometimes I’ll ask because I assume its faster for him to just tell me than for me to waste the time looking it up. I’m trying to be efficient! But that can be a very wrong assumption because it would be super quick to look up (and he’s busy with more important stuff) but I don’t know that, so it would help if he would just give me a quick heads up. And then other times I’ll spend a lot of time researching something to get nowhere and then when I ask he says, oh of course I have to explain that to you. So, I’m at the point where I never know when I should go to him or not and its extremely dysfunctional. So, tell them!!

    1. nonymous*

      Can you impose a time limit? I’ve heard people use 15minutes as the threshold, I have one coworker who needs to focus for an hour or two, and I personally like to survey/discard the top three options + have a bathroom break before I go to boss.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “Sometimes I’ll ask because I assume its faster for him to just tell me than for me to waste the time looking it up. ”

      Actually, never ever assume that.

      Sure, it’s faster FOR YOU. But he has to interrupt whatever he was doing to deal with this–and you’re not factoring in the loss of HIS time (bcs now the two of you are spending minutes with yoru question) simply answering, plus the loss of time and effectiveness because you’ve broken his focus.

      Also, you aren’t learning, and so you may end up asking the same thing over and over.
      sure, maybe each time it’s a new thing, but you are missing out on the process and practice of learning how to get the information! That’s a skill that gets better with practice as well.

      If he’s told you once, it applies always. Make an effort to answer your own question before you interrupt him.

      I used to just walk into my partner department and say, “whose project is this?” instead of looking it up on the routing chart. Because they all know off the top of their heads. Then I realized it’s really disrespectful to them to do that, and now I look it up before I go over there.

  9. Shadow*

    My favorite responses are “what do you think/recommend and why” or “what are our options and what are the pros/cons?”

  10. Zathras*

    For #1, make sure you’re hiding your exasperation enough that you don’t give the impression that they should never come to you with questions. You don’t want them to skew the other way and spend 2 days trying to figure out something you could have explained in 2 minutes. Sometimes it helps to give a time frame – “if you’re still stuck after 30 minutes, then ask!”.

    I tend to the “wait too long to ask” approach so the time frames help me too.

    1. But you don't have an accent*

      There’s a manager here that kind of does that – you can’t tell he’s annoyed but he tells you the very first, basic step to solve it. I’ve never had a problem with it thanks to this blog :) There was a letter…last year? (or maybe I was digging in the archives)…from the perspective of the person asking who felt like she was asking too many questions and Alison’s advice was to explain what she had already tried before asking (and to actually try before asking) iirc.

      I recommended this to two of my colleagues who were having issues trying to get answers out of him and explained that he probably just wanted to see that they had tried to do it before immediately coming to him. It worked for both of them.

      TL;DR: from the other side, I get a much better response if I try it first and explain what I tried to the person I’m asking.

  11. JAM*

    I remember in school people used to ask what the answers were in math, when half the answers were literally in the back of the book. I developed a coping mechanism of acting stupid but doing well on tests but in the end I realized I can’t do that on the job without looking stupid. I’m also in an admin role so I really do have to google things like “what time does xx festival this weekend start”, even if the answer isn’t related to the job. It’s exhausting at times but I’ve come to realize my ability to google basic things makes me seem reliable. Sometimes I even get weird requests, like “can you find a photo of my friend’s birth father?” and then when I do I inevitably continue the cycle. (Classmates was the secret there in case you all get a similar request)

    If this wasn’t so connected to the trust my team has in me, I wouldn’t go the distance so I think you have to decide if this helps or hurts your job before you give up the role completely. I would imagine the more senior you are, the more you should empower employees to do their own thing.

  12. DanaScully*

    I currently sit next to someone at work who asks me questions on an almost constant basis. 99.9% of the time, the answer he needs is on Google. It’s so frustrating when people don’t use their initiative and try to work things out for themselves. This person has an Information Technology degree but apparently doesn’t know how to put on their out of office or even Google how to do it. *despairs*

    1. Decima Dewey*

      My last supervisor, a librarian with a Masters in Library and Information Science, asked me to Google stuff for her, like using tennis balls in laundry. I have the same degree. But when I wanted to know something, I’d Google it myself.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Replying to myself: she’d also respond to questions like “Should we open to the public as usual hoping that the required fourth person will show up?” with “That’s a good question….” Yeah, one that has a binary answer: yes or no.

  13. Zip Silver*

    #1 – my employer bought licenses for everybody at the manager level and up for, and I’ve found it to be dead useful for learning office type stuff of all sort.

  14. MsMaryMary*

    I have come back and hired the person who was my second choice. In this case, it wasn’t that the first person didn’t work out, but we had another position open up a few months later. I don’t think we explicitly told the candidate he was our second choice, but I think we did say something about him being a very strong applicant and that we’d keep him in mind for future openings. And we did!

  15. Neosmom*

    LW#1 – I ran into this with an administrative assistant I supervised. I used her “how to” questions as coaching opportunities when I realized she was making a habit of coming to me instead of searching out the answers first. For a while, we talked together about various options and selected the best one. As she improved, I asked her to bring me her questions along with at least three solutions for us to discuss. Finally, I asked her to bring me three solutions AND her recommendation on which we should take. She became a much more dynamic, proactive team member (and brought me a lot fewer questions) by going through this process.

    I also told her if she was stuck or stewing on something she should come to me after 10 minutes (e.g. an Excel question) to 30 minutes (e.g. more complex questions) – reduced time waste.

  16. Admin Amber*

    Kids in the office can be fun or really eye-opening. We had a family that came in to sell Girl Scout Cookies. The girls were not well-behaved and super rude to their mother. I was asked if I wanted to buy cookies and said no thank you to get away from the situation.

  17. AnonasaurusRex*

    LW #2 makes me wonder if anyone realizes that kids are people too. They are. They’re just younger and don’t have quite the same impulse control or language skills, but they are actually people and you should be polite and treat them as such. We were all kids once, imagine if every adult you met was a jerk to you or couldn’t manage to be polite enough to say hi? If someone is asking you to watch their kid, yes that’s a line, but just to acknowledge their existence politely? That should be a standard part of being a human being.

    1. k.k*

      I’m fine with giving the kiddo a polite greeting, but that never seems to be enough to satisfy parents who bring there kids to the office. It’s one thing if you’re childcare falls through and they have to bring them, but some bring them specifically so people can see their amazing kid like this show and tell (in which case they’re the ones not treating them like people). I get the feeling that LW2 is dealing with that type of coworker. In that case I’d be tempted to avoid the kid all together to avoid dealing with an offended parent when I don’t ooh and aah over them for long enough.

    2. YuliaC*

      I don’t think the LW is rude to children or wants to be. I think she’s asking how to let the parents know that she’d rather not interact much with the children.

  18. AndersonDarling*

    #1 Ugh. I’ve been dealing with this problem with a co-worker. In this case, she is trying to suck up or show off and is using simple questions as a way to open a conversation. I’ll turn to my computer, google the question, cut and paste the web address of the page into an email and ask her to read it at her desk. It only took one repeat for the message to set.

  19. BigSigh*

    Hmmm, I suppose I may have a bit of an opposite viewpoint. For the most part, people do need to look things up on their own versus interrupting others.

    BUT I remember getting very frustrated with a boss who wouldn’t answer questions at all and was always quick to snap, “What did Google say?” Lady, I’m not asking for Google’s opinion, I’m asking for YOURS. There’s a difference between a question I can look up the answer to and asking a boss which of two options on something she would prefer. But something about my phrasing kept steering her into thinking I didn’t know how something should be done versus asking if she wanted a project to go a certain way.

    I think I was phrasing things with too little detail in an effort to me super polite to someone I didn’t like. So instead of saying, “This is the rule, but it’s not going to work in this instance because of x/y/z. Should I do a or b instead?” I kept fumbling and being unclear by saying, “What do you think of ‘a’ for such and such project?” In the end, she decided I was a moron and I started doing whatever I wanted becasue she’d never hear me out anyway. I’ve been promoted out from under her, so I guess it worked out in my favor. PLUS I learned to be more clear.

    1. AnonasaurusRex*

      I agree, but I think there is a difference between a subjective question that is asking for input or an opinion and an objective “how do I do X in Word?” question.

      1. BigSigh*

        It’s funny, because I had a different coworker who used to drive me nuts with stuff like this. I honestly think, based on his age, he didn’t understand looking things up on Google/didn’t understand how to Google effectively. I found out once he was trying to resize a browser window, but didn’t understand that was a basic option possible on every platform. So from the start, he was trying to do something very basic and searchable, but didn’t have the vocabulary to even search for it via Google in a meaningful way.

    2. TootsNYC*

      that’s an interesting point about how important it can be to start your question off right.

      Something like “I need a judgment call from you” can frame things like that.

    3. Sarah*

      In this type of situation, I tend to start with what I have already tried and then ask the question, to make it clear that the appropriate answer is not going to be “google it” or “look at the internal documentation.” (I do this a lot with IT requests!).

  20. Jennifer M.*

    Re #1 – We had a junior employee who was about to go on her first international business trip to a country where we had done a lot of work. I told her that “Suzi” had put a guide on the Sharepoint drive called Suzi’s Guide or something like that and it had lots of good information on where to get your laundry done, how much to pay for this or that, where to top up a local SIM card, etc, but I couldn’t remember exactly which folder it was in. She said to me “that’s great, can you forward it to me when you find it?” I JUST TOLD YOU the document’s approximate name and that it was on Sharepoint (which she did use on a day to day basis for her job). OMG.

    1. Vertigo*

      With #1, what do you do when it’s people above you doing this? I’m the ‘administrative person’ where I work, and even though we have spreadsheets with information and numerous guides (that I made), I still will get slack messages (even on my days off) with questions like “do we have an X” account or “what’s the login for Y?”or “how do I scan?”. It doesn’t matter if I link them to the document (apparently bookmarking isn’t a thing anymore), somehow they (especially my boss, who I have a whole host of issues with); somehow they’re always too busy to look it up themselves even though it’s RIGHT THERE in a place that I’ve told everyone about a hundred times. Hell, I’ve gotten people asking me where office supplies are…before checking the shelves where all the office supplies are kept! I feel like their mother sometimes, and I can’t figure out a way to redirect these without being rude or sounding condescending.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        When it’s a higher up asking an admin, I think you have to suck it up and answer. The theory being that they are focused more on “big picture” and “strategy” and they rely on their support staff for the details.

      2. krysb*

        You can’t. Your job is to make their job easier. When I was a legal assistant, my boss would put her empty stapler in her outbox with a note saying “needs staples.” What did I do? Go get staples.

  21. Statler von Waldorf*

    #4 is so timely it’s seriously creeping me out.

    So I had the same situation as #4, where the manager, whose name is Dan, told me that I was a really close second but that I didn’t get the job. I’ll admit that I didn’t believe him when he said that if the other person didn’t work out that he’d give me a call. I just moved on with my job search.

    I got a call two weeks later, offering me the job. As I found out later, Dan had this gimmick of “forgetting” his wallet in new hires offices. When she returned it to him, he counted it and found there was cash missing, and he fired her on the spot. I passed that same test and ended up working for him for five years, only leaving after the company was sold and restructured. He was definitely a little crazy, but he was still the best boss I ever had.

    His funeral is this Saturday. He died a few days ago at the age of 72 from complications from heart surgery. So let me raise my over-sized coffee mug in honor of Dan, the best boss I ever had, and the only reason my career is where it is today. He was one of the good bosses, and to this day, he’s what I aspire to be as a manager. Rest in peace.

    1. Liz2*

      Ugh I had someone do the “leave money out” test on me and I felt really gross about it. If you genuinely think that will happen, why did you hire me? The whole place was dysfunctional overall.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        Really? Huh, I never had that reaction at all. I was more in the “This is obviously a test, how would anyone be dumb enough to not realize that?” camp.

        To be fair, after six months, I had access to more money than I’ll ever make in my life. By the end of that five years, I could have emptied out the bank accounts I had access to and lived comfortably for the rest of my life, with enough left over for my children to do the same.

      2. Artemesia*

        I had to do that with a house cleaner one time. My young son said money was missing from his room. I was certainly not going to accuse someone and jeopardize a job over a child’s statement like this. So we put money in his drawer before she came — once again half the money was gone and so I proceeded to talk to the supervisor and she was fired. It is serious stuff to make an accusation like that, so you really have to be dead sure.

    2. Anion*

      I’m sorry for your loss. FWIW this is a lovely tribute you’ve written; I bet he’d be thrilled to read it.

  22. AndersonDarling*

    #3 It is possible that the OP was purposefully left off the meeting invite. The initiative may have moved to a higher level and the OP’s input is no longer needed, it’s now up to management to make decisions and move forward.
    It may feel like the project belongs to the OP because she helped create it, but often times in business we create ideas and then hand them off.

    1. Park Fountain*

      I thought about that possibility, too. The letter is brief so it’s hard to tell where the players fall within the org. When I was a new manager, my boss would sometimes be very specific about who he wanted at a meeting (or on a project) and who was not invited, and sometimes the not-invited person felt very strongly that he or she should be at the meeting. It was challenging, in the moment, for me to come up with a non-awkward response to the person wanting to attend, without coming across like I was blaming the boss (or appearing to hide behind the boss).

      I don’t know if I have a GREAT answer now about what to do, but I’ve practiced giving non-committal answers when the meeting invite first comes up, thanking the person for his/her interest, mentioning that the participants list isn’t settled yet, and I will be sure to follow up with all invitees via email once that happens. I might also mention that the entire team will receive an update after the meeting so that everyone is in the loop. If the person follows up to directly ask why they weren’t included, I try to be kind but also direct, and keep it focused on the work and the tasks. Sometimes I will bring it back to my boss to take another look at the group membership, but part of my job is to understand leadership’s priorities and make decisions based on that, and often than means there are specific positions or skills represented in a meeting.

    2. Artemesia*

      I assumed that this was intentional in this way too. when you ask to be included and are not, it is usual a decision or message.

  23. Mini Quiche*

    I’m not a manager, but I’ve documented processes and style for our department (before I started, people just went by memory and scribbled sheets of paper). Both peers and management are constantly asking me things that are written in the shared, searchable, cross-referenced documentation and it drives me insane.

      1. Mini Quiche*

        I’ve tried responding by telling people it’s in the documentation, but my peers get snotty (and then management says nothing can be done because that’s just how they are) and I don’t feel comfortable telling my supervisor to look it up. Occasionally if someone is in my office asking a question, I’ll say “let me double-check,” open the documentation in front of them, and pull up the answer, but it hasn’t seemed to make an impression.

  24. Gee Gee*

    LW #5

    I freelanced during a very long period of unemployment (2008 bust, stuck in a very small town for family reasons) and I’ve gone back and forth on resume format for this reason.

    Chronological format closes the gap, but I’ve gotten feedback that it makes the freelance work look “too important” or “deceptive” when the job is a short-term, one-time thing.

    Conceptual format makes clear the permanent FT/contracted PT divide, but emphasizes the gap.


  25. Murphy*

    #3 happened to me before. (And I continue to be left out of things I think I should be included in, but not meetings that have been specifically discussed.) It was a higher up who wasn’t my boss (at the time, he is now). I didn’t say anything because I was just so flabbergasted that I’d been left out of the meeting after I’d already made clear my desire to be there (which also should have been obvious). I think Alison’s advice is good, but also make sure you follow up and are persistent about it.

  26. Falling Diphthong*

    If someone introduces you to their newborn, you say “Awww, how cute.” That’s it. If they offer to let you hold her, you can say no and turn back to your work.

    One thing about newborns is that they can’t move around independently, so you don’t have to worry that they’ll start gnawing on your computer cables if you don’t watch them.

  27. Akcipitrokulo*

    “How do I do…”
    “OK, let’s see. What did you find on Google? ”
    “OK, have a look and bring back some ideas?”

  28. My Yoga Mat has Sparkles*

    I find it interesting how many people we hire who are so clueless as to how to find information, especially since we live in a world with so much information right at our fingertips. It makes me wonder what / where these people grew up, what they did, how they spent their time.

    1. Cassandra*

      There’s quite a good report from 2012 on post-college workplace information seeking/use from an academic-library research group called Project Information Literacy. My handle for this comment links to their full publication list; the one I am suggesting is entitled “Learning Curve: How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace.”

      1. Rebeck*

        2012 is getting old these days, but ooh… I’ll be looking that up when I get to work today. Thank you!

    2. Artemesia*

      I am sort of stunned by this. 35 years ago I devoted a fair amount of time teaching undergraduates how to find arcane information e.g. make use of political journals, archives etc. That was when the internet was not at our fingertips and doing library research was an art. Now the big problem is to teach people how to evaluate sources on the internet and cross reference so you are not using bogus nonsense. Can’t imagine working with people for whom googling is not the first step.

  29. ...with a K*

    #2 – this used to happen ALL the time with a person who was not my boss, but more senior than me. He remembered everyone else but me. Alison’s advice is what I wished I had said. I would ask him to include me every time he “forgot” but nothing ever changed.
    So no additional advice from me, just solidarity :)

  30. MommyMD*

    I love when my colleagues bring their new babies to show off. It’s a short visit and makes the day a little happier. Older kids are ok too for a short visit but if I’m busy I just walk out of my office. I make no pretense of being a babysitter.

  31. Nana*

    I remember reading of a teacher (one of those ‘Teacher of the Year’ winners) whose classroom rule was “Ask three before you ask me” — encouraging kids to work with peers to find answers. Pre-computer days, but still valuable (when you can use it)

    1. Hekko*

      Suppose today one of the three would be Google!

      At my highschool* we had a competition organised by one of the teachers during which said teacher would put ten questions on a board every week . The answers were to be found in Encyclopedia Britannica (the school library had it) – this was before Google became the thing. A great way to get us acquainted with library research.

      *Not really a highschool, but about the same age of students.

  32. kitryan*

    I’m lead on a two person team. I have tried and tried to get my coworker to figure stuff out on their own – and things have improved- but that just means they’ve gone from terrible to bad!
    When they ask a question I’ve tried using Socratic method, just answering, giving a hint, asking them to give me 3 options, telling them to find it themselves…
    The other problem is that they aren’t very good at identifying the right solution either. So they’ll ask what they should do about a billing discrepancy and not bother to look in our emails to see if we have a request to adjust the billing rate that explains the discrepancy, but just email the submitter to point out the discrepancy, even though we’ve gone over and over doing your research before asking senior people questions. So this means I end up being more controlling, running more work through me, than I would like to in order to keep our team from getting a bad reputation. I want to let them show initiative but I also get tired of reviewing all their work and fixing their mistakes.
    What do you do when the learning curve is nearly flat!? I’ve worked very hard to keep from getting BEC all over things and it’s been nearly 3 years of this!

    1. Guitar Lady*

      That sounds more like a bad-at-your-job problem rather than a dependency problem. (Meaning your coworker, not you!)

      1. kitryan*

        Unfortunately I have no control over anything like giving performance improvement plans or looking for a replacement- and if this person were let go or moved to a different job, odds are slim that they’d be replaced, or if replaced, that the pool of applicants would have anyone better. Additionally, there’s a fair amount of training required, which would have me working double time for a while until new person was up to speed – so any personnel change is out of my hands, unlikely, and would have a punitive effect on me :(

  33. DivineMissL*

    I had an assistant (retail specialty chain) who would call me all evening to ask me how to do all sorts of things. Finally, I just said, “I’m happy to answer your questions; but I also want you to learn how to be a great manager. So, when you call me, I want you to have already thought it through and first tell me what YOU think the answer is. Then, we’ll talk it out about whether that’s a good solution.” She was very happy to do this, and as she started to think it through on her own and gain confidence, the calls subsided. She ended up getting promoted to manage her own store and was very successful.

  34. phil*

    I was taken to the office-family business-when I was a kid because I was the Crown Prince-in-training. I asked all sorts of questions and everybody had to answer and be polite because I was the Crown Prince! How awkward!
    Seriously, kids don’t belong at the office unless some life or death circumstance is involved.

  35. char*

    Glad I saw #1 today. I’ve been having a variation on the same problem.

    See, sometimes part of what our team needs to do is figure out what effects certain processes have. If I don’t have time to figure it out myself, I’ll give it to someone else to look at… and half the time they come back to me asking what’s supposed to happen. I don’t know, that’s why I asked you to figure it out! (Of course, if they can’t figure it out even after looking into it thoroughly, we can work on it together, but I’m talking times when they clearly just immediately asked me without even trying to investigate it themselves.) Clearly I’m not communicating my requests well enough. I’ll be sure to be more explicit about what I need from them next time.

  36. krysb*

    #1 On of my reports is really bad at seeking answers and troubleshooting. If something is weird or doesn’t work, he just stops doing it and hopes that someone else picks it up for him. For example, a couple of weeks ago, my boss (who deals more with him than I do) was on vacation. I had multiple deliverables due all at the same time. The physical-to-digital work is more time consuming, so I put my focus there and had him focus strictly on the digital stuff – which he is more than capable of doing. However, one of the projects had a wonky database file. I told him to send it back to the PM and tell the PM to get a new file with the irrelevant fields removed. He sent the ticket back to the PM with no explanation of what was needed. So I get with the PM and get a new file. Two of the fields were bad. I told him how to fix one and walked him through it. The other, the PM told him (by told him, I mean when he asked me what to do, I brought the PM into the conversation, after which he refused to speak) to empty the field and they would fix it on his end. I gave him all the tools he needed to create the necessary deliverable. Instead, he stopped working on it and my boss ended up finishing it. I have to note that this exact database issue happens all the time, so it’s not a rare occurrence. He just refuses to investigate or troubleshoot problems.

  37. Lisa Reeve*

    I regularly have trouble connecting to I get the message: ‘ refused to connect.’ This has happened multiple times on multiple days, and it happens at times when I have no trouble connecting to other sites. Sometimes I can get through to, though. I’m in Australia. No idea if that makes a difference. Have others had trouble connecting to

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