my boss keeps doing my job, and I’m worried I’m the problem

A reader writes:

I’m a mid-life career change professional in the accounting world. I’ve been in my current position as a staff accountant for almost a year at a small regional retail company. This is my first accounting job after my career switch, after my post-BA certification and returning to work after raising a child.

My boss is super smart. I have learned a lot from her, and I take every opportunity to learn more. I wish I could learn much more than I do! Her style is very hands-off and most of the time she’d rather have her head in her spreadsheets. Even though she’s not fond of managing, she is very nice and was very good to me during a recent health crisis. So I have nothing but respect for her.

When I first started, we met weekly so she could train me on what she wanted done. These sessions consisted of me sitting in her office for one to one and a half hours while she figured out spreadsheets or formulas. It was odd to sit there in silence while she did the calculations on computer screens that I couldn’t see (she has a large desk where you sit on one end but the computer screens are on the other). After about a month of this. I started asking if I could try it and figure it out myself. She agreed. I’d get stuck at some point and go back for direction, and the cycle would start all over again. I’d sit there for an hour or more while she figured it out. Typically I would leave these meetings frustrated and confused, still not any closer to solving all of problems on my own. I always take a notebook and would get about 60-75% of what she needs in my notes.

Here we are a year later, and I still cannot fully do my job and of course I’m being held accountable for the work. I think this is reasonable because I have been here long enough that I should be able to complete tasks 100%. Most of the time I can get it to 90-95% complete but can’t quite drag it across the finish line. If it weren’t for my notes, I’d not even be remotely close to 25%. I get very embarrassed by this because I have to go to my boss and say “I don’t understand,” at which point I sit in her office for an hour or more while she figures it out. I leave confused and frustrated and unable to repeat what she has done. Obviously she’s frustrated with me because I’m still asking questions and taking notes on things I’m pretty sure I “should” know by now.

I really hate the fact that I can’t finish a job 100%. I take a lot of pride in my work and my competence, and I’m very embarrassed by this. I want to be her go-to expert concerning my part of the team. When she asks me for something, I want to to be complete, accurate, and timely. I feel as if I’m heading in the wrong direction. My boss’s confidence in me is eroding. She says things like, “I know it can be confusing,” talks to me like I’m a child, and says, “I’ll just do it because it’s easier.”

My boss’s favorite is not helping either. I’ve spent some time trying to develop that relationship, and if I hadn’t it would be so much worse for me. She asks me for things and expects very quick turnaround (less than 30 minutes). When this doesn’t happen, she does it herself and says, “It’s just easier if I do it.” In the past, she has trained me to do additional tasks and it did not go well. She gets frustrated and impatient and ends up doing it herself. This person is very young, inexperienced, impatient, gets frustrated easily, and blames me for the failures. So I take that in stride. She is the boss’s pet so there’s not much I can do there. Those additional tasks were halted and I didn’t take ownership.

I had been slated to do a few other projects, but they were handed off to the favorite or someone else. It didn’t help that I had a rough patch of not being able to complete all my work 100% in a short period of time. We had year-end close and were under audit during the same two weeks, both of which were completely new to me. I expected a little inexperience to hinder me, but not to hinder every task I was asked to do! Again, I’d get it to 90% or more and couldn’t get it completed.

I’ve started going back to my textbooks, I’ve joined some online forums, and I’m looking for a mentor. I’ve watched tons of YouTube videos to bring my skills inline with what’s being asked of me. I turn to them for many explanations when I’m really lost.

Also, I thought it would help if I sent my boss weekly updates of all the tasks I’ve completed and what I’m working on. I’ve been sending her updates every Friday afternoon for about two months. I keep a spreadsheet with a list of “to do,” “in process,” and “completed.” It seems to have smoothed our relationship. Not that we weren’t getting along — it just seems to have helped somehow.

I have come home and cried a lot over this job. I find this even more embarrassing because I’m nearly 50 years old and am not new to challenges. I’m frustrated and upset and am beginning to wonder if I wasted my time returning to school. It’s beginning to erode at my confidence. I’m beginning to perceive myself as “not smart enough” to do accounting in the real world. But I have no idea what I’m going to do at this stage in my life if this isn’t working!

Two of my coworkers have assured me I’m not stupid. One believes the problem lies with my manager because she’s not interested in managing and that I shouldn’t be internalizing this as my personal flaw. I asked my doctor if it’s possible I have some brain damage from a medical event I had six months into this job and he said it’s possible but unlikely. He didn’t see any evidence of a stroke or other brain-type damage.

I’ve applied for a few jobs elsewhere but they haven’t come to fruition. I’m concerned that I can’t go anywhere else because I don’t have the skills needed to succeed — who is going to hold some 50-year-old’s hand in a new job?! When I go somewhere else, they will realize I’m unskilled.

Ultimately, my goal is to figure out what the darn problem actually is so I can work toward a solution. If I’m in the wrong field, that would be really good information to have. Maybe I learn in a funny way that frustrates people? Or I just need to change companies and it will get better? Maybe I’ve not adjusted to the new fast-paced work environment because I’ve been out a while? Maybe I’m being unprofessional in that I’m viewing this the wrong way? Do you have any insights that might help me find out the problem?

It’s hard to know from the outside exactly what’s going on here, but one thing is clear: Your boss doesn’t know how to train people, and she hasn’t trained you.

Having you sit silently in her office for an hour (or more!) while she works on spreadsheets is not training you to be able to complete the work yourself in the future. It’s just her doing the work for you. If she were training you, she’d walk you through what she was doing, explaining as she went, so that you could follow her logic and pick it up for next time.

So if nothing else, she hasn’t set you up to succeed. And it’s sort of amazing that she doesn’t realize that what she’s doing isn’t remotely like coaching or training you.

Have you ever tried asking her to walk you through what she’s doing in those meetings? If not, I’d try that right away. Say something like, “Could you talk me through what you’re doing as you do it, so that I’m following along with you? I think that’s been the missing piece for me, and if I can follow your thought process as you fix this, I’ll be better able to finish these myself in the future.”

Also, how did you do in your accounting program? If you did well there and didn’t find it a struggle, I’m inclined to think the problem is less with you and more with your boss/this job/this culture of “watch in silence while others fix things.” On the other hand, if it didn’t come easily and felt like a struggle, then sure, maybe it’s the field. But given that we have a very obvious explanation of your boss sucking at training you, I suspect that’s more of a factor.

One possibility here is to have a big-picture conversation with your boss about what’s going on. Name what you’re seeing and ask what her take is on it. You could say something like, “I have the sense that I’m not where I’d like to be in mastering my job. I often get projects to 90% done and then need help to finish them off. I’m concerned by this — I’m someone who really takes pride in my work, and this has been frustrating to me. I’d like to come up with a plan to master that remaining 10%. Can I ask about how you see things, and what advice you’d give me for where to focus?” You can also tell her pretty openly that watching her silently finish your work isn’t helping you figure out how to do it yourself, and ask if she’d be open to a different approach.

There’s some risk to this conversation. You’d be opening the door for your boss to tell you that yes, she has serious concerns about your work and even that she’s questioning whether the role is the right fit. (If that’s the case, she should tell you on her own, but some managers don’t — and a manager who doesn’t like to manage is likely to fall in that category.) But I think it’s better to get it out on the table if that’s the case and figure out how and if you can move forward.

Please don’t let this job destroy your self-esteem. You’re at the point of seriously questioning if you have brain damage, and that’s not good! It might turn out that this particular job with this particular manager just isn’t the right fit for you, but that doesn’t mean that other jobs won’t be, including other accounting jobs. The fact that you’ve applied for a few other jobs without getting interviews is no sign of anything! Most people don’t get interviews if they just apply for a few jobs. Apply for more. See what happens. Don’t conclude anything from a few unsuccessful applications; numbers that low mean nothing.

{ 189 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Is the 5-10% that you’re needing help finishing the same thing each time or is it always something different? If it’s the same, you may be able to identify a specific skillset that you can work on and ask for additional training on that particular area.

    For example, if you’re getting all the data collated and organized, but then you need help creating charts/graphs to summarize it, you could watch youtube videos on that or sign up for an Excel class or something.

      1. CrystalMama*

        I love YouTube because I can pause and replay to follow along. I wish u could pause your boss!!

    1. Washi*

      I was wondering about the 5-10% thing as well. I don’t know accounting at all, but I would have imagined that there would be enough repetition that after a year, you would have seen most of the variations of things and that percentage would slowly start going down. If that’s not happening, then as Amy Santiago says, maybe there are a couple key areas you could work on that would at least cut down on your questions.

      I wonder if you could also reach out to any mentors/friends you made in your accounting program about this? They might have some more targeted advice for you and give you a sense of how normal your struggles are.

        1. Nardole*

          I know I have free access to through my public library account so if you don’t want to pay for access, check that out!

    2. LilyP*

      I also don’t know what accounting workflow looks like, but if the 5-10% is a different new skill/piece of information every time and you’re not repeating the same mistakes or missing the same pieces repeatedly I’m…not totally sure that’s as bad as you think it is. Totally competent people run into things they don’t understand right away or need help with all the time. As long as you’re learning from whatever you’re struggling with and not repeating the same mistakes I don’t necessarily think that needing help on a semi-regular basis is a huge problem. Maybe I’m off-base for how accounting works though?

      1. LilyP*

        One practical thing I might suggest — start keeping a journal of everything you get stuck on with your projects and what the solutions end up being once you find them. Having it written down in one place might illuminate any gaps in your knowledge or skills you can work on more specifically, plus it can serve as a reference in case you run into similar problems in the future, both for the specific solutions and for general methods for finding help

  2. AlwhoisthatAl*

    Absolutely true, you’ve not been trained at all, it’s not your fault. She has tried to do your job for you and failed. Her fault not yours and worse she has trained you to accept what she does as correct.

    1. Tardigrade*

      I want to hug this OP, with consent of course. I feel like poor training is the issue, but I’m also concerned about the fact that the boss has an obvious “favorite” who seems like a crappy coworker given the way she treats OP.

      1. Lance*

        Yeah, this talk of ‘boss’s pet’ worries me about as much as the boss’s abject failure in actually training her employee. Her idea of ‘training’ being ‘do the work that’s needed at that time herself and make the employee sit there’ is not something I see as functional in any circumstance, except maybe on the rare occasion; certainly not every single time.

    2. Artemesia*

      Her doing the job while you watch can be a form of training called ‘cognitive modeling’. When the job is intellectual then watching useless, so the training adds the step of talking you through what she is doing. I don’t know if you can train her to train you, but next time you are 10% from the finish line, tell her that you just read about cognitive modeling as a technique to train people in the difficult work she does and ask if you can sit next to her and watch the screen as she ‘walks you through the steps out loud.’ It would be best if the task lends itself to that for you to actually be on the keyboard while she talks you through the steps and you enter and manipulate the data.

      The whole things sounds very frustrating all around but with a little training you could master most of this. You can’t learn something without doing it.

    3. LilyP*

      Also, if she doesn’t agree to be more interactive in training I’d be very tempted to excuse myself from those meetings entirely. It’s such a waste of your time to sit there and stare at the back of her computer monitors. I honestly can’t fathom why she doesn’t get that.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        It sounds as if the boss’s favorite has picked up some bad habits from the boss as well. So easy for that to happen! That snatching things back from you and saying “It’s easier to do it myself” sounds like she has failed to learn training from the same boss who is failing to train you.

        Maybe this person is the favorite because she happened to be able to pick stuff up from just watching the boss work? But most people are not like that! It’s not your fault that you are not like that, at all! I’m sorry this is so discouraging and disheartening for you. It’s truly okay to say stuff like, “Wait, can you show me how you got that number?” or “I don’t understand where you pulled that data from, can you show me?” or “I really want to get this so I don’t have to ask again–please take me through that step again, I’m not sure I followed it perfectly.”

        I really hope things get better for you!

    4. Anna*

      She should provide real training, letting you actually see what she’s doing, explain what needs to happen and how she makes it happen.
      Based on the past, she might not be willing or able to train you. Have you tried using a version control/tracking changes option? Most spreadsheet programs have something like this. You would save your spreadsheet version once you have done everything you can. If your software can track changes, enable that option before letting your boss or coworker access the file. If not, create a copy of your file with a different name. When coworker or boss have finished the task, you can go back and compare your version with the final, poke around what they did, what functions they used and so on.

  3. CrystalMama*

    OP, my heart goes out to you! This is my field as well and I am no spring chicken lol. My Path has been crooked getting here. Following my heart and intuition through setbacks is it’s own reward for me but I have also looked for Shortcuts through the woods when times were tough. I believe strongly in Intention and Actualization but as we all know accounting is often black and white not rainbow! Your letter to me shines with resilience. Your boss is not training you, she is not showing and she is not telling. You are doing everything right including searching for your next step and your best foot.
    Sending you strength!

  4. TheCupcakeCounter*

    If you can manage a project to 90% completion just by looking at something someone else did then you are doing really well!
    Even before I got to the end of your letter my thought was that is a really shitty way to train people – especially in accounting. I do a lot of training (cross-training and transition of duties) and step one is to have them sit with me a couple of times while I do it. BUT! They can see my screens and I talk through the entire process about what I am doing and where it is coming from. After a couple of times with me, I go sit when them while they do it.

    This isn’t on you.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I agree! It sounds like you’ve been figuring it out for yourself amazingly well. You should be proud of that.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      I agree! By now, I’ve trained quite a few people on various things in several different jobs. And what your boss is doing is not good or even adequate training.

      Here’s what I like to do when I’m training someone:

      1. Have them sit next to me, where they can see, while I do the task and they follow along with a job aid (if there is one). And explain what I’m doing and why I’m doing it that way as I go. I always encourage people to take notes. Generally I tell them to wait to ask questions until I’ve done the task once. And as I go through, I try to explain not just the “what,” but the “why,” and how this fits into the overall picture. Then I do the task one more time, while we talk through the process, and they ask as many questions as they need to.
      2. Have them perform the task while I talk them through it (usually telling them “don’t worry, I won’t let you mess up.”
      3. Have them perform the task a few more times, with the job aid and their notes, and me sitting there just to stop them if they’re about to make a mistake, and for them to ask questions if they get stuck.

      After that, if they feel reasonably comfortable, and I’m comfortable that they have the basics down, they get to do that task on their own, but I’m very clear with them that if something isn’t clear or they’re stuck, please come to me. I would always rather answer a question than clean up a mess.

      So what your boss isn’t doing isn’t really training, and it clearly isn’t working for you. It’s not because you’re stupid or not capable of getting it – it just isn’t getting explained to you in a way that works for you. That’s not your fault, and maybe not entirely your boss’s fault, either – training is a skill, and not everyone has thought it through or is any good at it.

      So – do try asking her to slow down and explain. Let her know you can’t really see exactly what she’s doing, and it would help if you could see the screen more clearly. Depending on the work, if it’s the same stuff, can you review what was done previously and try to reconstruct what she did that way? Not ideal, but might help you to some extent.

      Best of luck, OP, and as Alison said – PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS JOB DESTROY YOUR SELF-ESTEEM. It’s NOT YOU.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I’ve been doing some training of new software developers, both as part of my job, and as a volunteer at community events.

        I use your Step 2 a LOT. Even with good explanations and a clear view of what the trainer is doing (which it doesn’t sound like the OP is getting), people still miss things while they are passively observing a process. Once I make them type the thing themselves, that’s when I start seeing their eyes light up as they understand the concept.

        If Steps 1 and 2 go well, then Step 3 is where they usually start asking the interesting questions :)

      2. peachie*

        Yes, this is such a good system! I ended up in charge of a lot of technical orientation/training at my last job. I tried a few methods, but I had the most success when I set up several computers in a conference room with mine hooked up to the big screen and have the trainees follow along with an actual project example. Then, after one or two, I’d connect them to the screen and have them try to do a different example on their own. It made a huge difference!

        I know that doesn’t help, though, OP, since you’re not the one training. This sounds like a frustrating situation that’s not at all your fault. You’re doing so much to try to work through this, and it sounds like you have absolutely no support. But you also sound like you’re smart, self-motivated, and a hard worker, so you’re in as good a position as anyone to figure this out. Good luck!

      3. London Calling*

        Brilliant system, especially step 3. Doing the job yourself but with someone there to rescue you gives the confidence to develop the mental muscle memory, make the mistakes and learn how to fix them and crucially, feel safe while they are doing it. You don’t feel safe and that’s what’s chipping away at you.

      4. SpaceNovice*

        Can confirm this is the right way to do things. Even at a job where I was only able to do step 1, just actively walking people through the system, explaining what I’m doing, and letting them actively ask questions made a big difference in comprehension. When someone just gave them a powerpoint presentation where everyone was passive, absolutely no one remembered anything. (However, that powerpoint presentation had two slides that served as crib sheets that almost everyone printed out when I suggested it.)

        Training is supposed to be active and engaging, allowing you to ask questions–not only does it help you learn, but it can help the trainer realize where things can be improved. Once people knew what was going on, they suggested a number of amazing enhancements, large and small, that turned our system from an additional burden into a tool that actively made their work lives better.

        And that system was FAR less complicated than what you’re dealing with, most likely, and these were people that were Subject Matter Experts and incredibly intelligent. They spent weeks trying to understand the system themselves whereas I could effectively train one or more people in about thirty minutes. Knowledge transfer is incredibly important, and it only works if it’s done right.

        It’s not you, OP! Your manager needs some training on how to provide training. Too often, companies fall down on training their people and then wonder why no one knows how to do their jobs. This is definitely one of those cases.

      5. Arya Snark*

        This is exactly what I came here to say. I have trained for and been the trainer for several Excel processes and this is exactly how it has worked for me.
        If possible, it’s a helpful to do things via screen share so you can watch and hear the explanation at the same time.

      6. AnonEMoose*

        Thanks, everyone – blushing a little now ;-). Anyway, the other thing about training that’s tricky is remembering to include the things that are so second nature to me that I might not think to mention it. But these are also the things that someone new won’t know to ask, because they don’t have the background knowledge.

        It’s one of those gaps that many people don’t consider, but really need to if they’re training someone. I’m not perfect at it, but I do make an effort!

        1. Lance*

          As I see it, having the other person replicate the task can kind of cover those things that you miss; that way, if they in fact miss them, you’re right there to pick up that little piece they’re missing.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Yes, that does help a lot. The other thing I try to do is ask myself “What do I wish someone had told me when I started doing this?” That helps, too.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      I’ve trained a couple of people now (not in accounting), and my goal is usually to get them actually DOING the work ASAP. I learn some from watching people, but I learn best from actually doing it myself, and that’s been the case with most people I’ve trained. You (the trainee) are going to have to DO this job at some point, without me being there, so the sooner you get that experience, the better.

      Depending on the task, sometimes I have them watch me do it first, then walk them through it, but I get them actually doing it first.

    4. KimberlyR*

      This is how I train. I have someone sit and watch me, while I verbalize what I’m doing and why. Then I switch with them and have them do it. I will walk them through steps when needed, or prompt on what to do next, but I firmly believe that having the trainee actually DO the work solidifies the steps in their minds. Plus they can ask all the “how” and “why” questions that help it make sense.

      1. RB*

        Likewise! I actually like 3 iterations, if possible, if someone’s quite new to a process – one where I do it while giving a talk-through, one where they do it but with fairly active guidance from me, and one where they do it as independently as possible (with me there if they get stuck at any point). That usually seems to be enough – some folks are quicker at some parts than others, but it seems to keep it low-pressure.

    5. Dragoning*

      My entry level training in my current field involved:

      -Reading the instructions
      -AFTER that, watching my (peer) coworker do it
      -AFTER that, watching my (senior) coworker do it
      -AFTER that, doing it myself while my peer watched me and reminded me of things I missed.

      But it worked.

  5. LDP*

    Is there a way that instead of you watching your boss work on the spreadsheets with you sitting/standing near her desk, she could come to your desk and tell you what to do? I know for me I don’t really absorb how to do something until I do it myself. Depending on your boss, that might work.
    I know for a while when I was stuck in internship hell and couldn’t get hired on full time anywhere I was seriously questioning if I had gone into the right field. Do you have a professor that you could talk to about your skills? I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with a mentor who had worked with me before and ask her very candidly if I was cut out for the marketing world. Maybe a conversation with someone who has seen your work could help your self-esteem?
    Also, I completely feel for you with having a boss that won’t train you. I’m currently in that situation, and I’m having to make up a lot of things as I go. You’re definitely not alone!

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      YES! I do a lot of training for my client, and whenever possible I explain a new screen, then have THE STUDENT do some simple tasks to get a feel for the platform.

      Also, on a different track, if the OP has to “sit in [the boss’] office for an hour or more while she figures…out” the 10% that the OP couldn’t do, it sounds like the boss doesn’t know how to do it either! Just because the boss, who has what sounds like decades more experience than the OP, figures it out eventually doesn’t mean the OP can! I’ve trained/taught on every level, from kindergarten to senior corporate, and I can say with certainty that this boss is an abysmal failure as a teacher/trainer.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yep when I was a tutor our motto was, “if your (the tutor’s) hand is on the mouse, you’re not doing it right.”

  6. Sharon*

    Ugh, I feel for you, OP. I’m 54 and in a similar boat. About 7 years ago I transitioned from software development to business analysis. I’m smart enough to do the work, and have a very high work ethic, but I keep stumbling into environments where I don’t perform well. In some places I seem to have to fight with the developers to let me do my work (they have opinions on how things should be, and overruled me even though I was the “voice” of the customer), in other places I’m compelled to put out a poorer quality of work than I prefer. The quality issue is what I’m dealing with in my current place, along with abysmal training. Their idea of training me is to rip apart what I’ve done and make me do it over, simply because I didn’t describe things exactly the way they would have. They also tried to train me by explaining the topic as related to 50-year old paper/manual processes that I’ve never laid eyes on.

    I agree with you at some point it makes you think it’s you. It’s not, it’s just that it’s hard to find the right company environment.

    1. sarah*

      Do you work at my old company? :) I had extremely similar experiences as a BA (devs not following directions, everyone feeling they had free reign to rip apart my work, being forced to do a crappy job just to get it over the line)… ugh. I loved doing the work I did, but it was a daily journey of gaslighting – being constantly made to feel like I was never good enough.

    2. rubyrose*

      I did the same movement from software developer to BA. I had to train myself, but in my early development career there were no BAs, so I always had to do my own customer meetings/requirements analysis/documentation/testing/support.
      It sound like you are in an environment where BAs are not supported or valued by management. That is not case in the five places I’ve worked as a BA. Yes, there is the constant tension between customer needs/wants and development. But if the developer does not follow my requirements, I reject their work when testing their code. After a few rejections, management starts asking questions.

      1. Sharon*

        Yes, same background as me. I was a developer in a company that didn’t have BA’s or QA, so I always did all of my own requirements, development, testing, deployment, and often my own project management too. Unfortunately they also didn’t believe in certifications or training, so I have nothing to really prove I have all of those skills. But that was about 10 years ago now, so I’ve mostly overcome it.

        And yeah, management doesn’t support the BA’s very much. Like sarah describes above your post, it’s wall to wall gaslighting. I’m looking for another job, but interviewers always want me to describe my day to day to evaluate if I am skilled, and the day to day at this place is bizarre to say the least. I come away from interviews having given the impression that I’m clueless and inflating my skills. (because surely no place could be THAT bad, right? So it must be me.)

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        I find this interesting because where I work business analyst is a higher/overruling position than devs or at least a peer position; like, the business analyst “owns” the project and has the final say about direction. It seems weird to me that developers would be training a business analyst or criticizing/evaluating their work?

    3. Nerfmobile*

      As someone in a related field – that’s not a problem with how you’re doing the job. It’s a problem with the company culture of work between these two disciplines. There may or may not be quality issues with your output, I can’t say, but what those developers are doing isn’t related to the actual quality of your work.

  7. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Holy hell, OP, that is the actual worst “training” I have ever heard of. Please do not be disheartened by this. You have gone way above and beyond to try and understand what you’re supposed to be doing, and in my mind, that should speak very highly for you. The fact that you’re at 90% of where you should be, given this, is pretty outstanding.

    1. Aurion*

      Yeah, a training that consists solely of “watching” or “reading” without any explanation or hands-on component is pretty lousy training. I can understand if this was the initial step on the first day or three, but a year of this?!

      I don’t consider myself an exemplary trainer by any means, but every time I train someone on something I do it myself, I let them go through the steps, and I talk. A lot. Why we (or I) do it this way, why this step here but not there, etc.

      OP, if you’ve gotten to 90% by simply watching your boss work in silence, you are a lot better than you give yourself credit for.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It reminds me a lot of Dolores Umbridge making the DADA class read the Ministry textbook and not do any practical spells. The implication was, of course, “We don’t want you to really know this.”

        And now that I think about it, I wonder if that has become the case here, given that the manager’s pet is getting all the plum assignments.

        1. NextStop*

          And even Umbridge’s class sounds better than this training, since the textbook presumably explained what was supposed to happen.

      2. Orangie*

        OP, you mentioned that you have kids, so here’s an analogy for you: when you were teaching your kids to tie their shoelaces, did you take the shoe away, turn your back to them and tie the knot where they couldn’t see, and then hand it back to them and get annoyed when they couldn’t replicate what you did? Because that’s basically how your boss is “training” you.

      3. Lance*

        Even calling it ‘watching’ is a stretch since OP can’t even see the boss’s monitor to see what they’re actually doing, when they’re doing it.

    2. oranges & lemons*

      Yes, this really stood out for me too. Am I right in my reading that you can’t even see her screen, so you’re just sitting there watching her for an hour at a time without even knowing what she’s doing?? How does she think this will be helpful? I always struggled with math and physics classes where the instructor’s method was to just work out the problems on the board and assume we would figure out how they worked, but if you can’t even see the board, what’s the point?

    3. Amber T*

      OP I’m so frustrated on your behalf! You sitting in a corner silently while your boss does your work is not training you. Your manager sounds like a classic case of someone who was good at doing their job; therefore, management thought that could translate to managing people. We know that’s not always the case, and that’s definitely not the case here.

      On the topic of going back to your notes – there is literally no shame in that. I would have very little clue how to do a lot of my job without going back to the notes I’ve created for myself. And I’m fine with that. I’ve taken great notes, I’ve set up reminders and checklists and how-tos. Some people can keep everything in their heads and excel. I’m not one of those people, and it sounds like you’re not either. That’s fine!

      I also find it pretty incredible that you went back to school in your 40s-50s. That takes amazing dedication, strength, and smarts. You’re not dumb. Are you not picking up everything immediately? Ok. The training style you need is not being provided to you. If you had a boss that was providing training that you just weren’t getting, you would have to figure out how to navigate that. But you just aren’t being trained! That’s ridiculous on your boss’s part.

      I’m sorry, OP. Don’t give up. I don’t think this office or this boss is the right fit for you, but that doesn’t mean that this profession isn’t. Keep applying elsewhere (if you want) and take Alison’s advice!

      1. Dragoning*

        Yes, definitely. We’re encouraged here to go back to our work instructions if we can’t remember something. That’s why we have access to them even after we’ve trained on them.

    4. Boredatwork*

      This is a very common thing in my profession and sadly is how I learned how to do my job. 90% of the job, is to look at a thing from last year and make the same thing but you have to know the 10%, that is unique, and typically complex taking years of experience and in OP’s case company specific information acquired over years of exposure.

    5. Jadelyn*

      Can you even call it “training” when the boss’s strategy seems to be “if you’re nearby while I do it, I assume you will soak up the necessary techniques and knowledge by osmosis”? Seriously, this is a TERRIBLE way to manage someone!

      Honestly, OP, you *haven’t* been trained. You’ve trained yourself. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished!

      And re Boss’s Pet, she’s not only not helping you by demanding ridiculous turnaround and then taking it back to do herself if you don’t get it fast enough, she’s actively hindering your growth and development in your role, company, and new career. Even for stuff I could do in my sleep, it’s very rare that anyone demands that kind of turnaround from me (and I’m also doing a lot of spreadsheet- and data-related work), and if they do, it’s with acknowledgment that they’re imposing on my schedule and apologies for doing so. Just because a task could be done in a half hour, does not make it a reasonable assumption that you should get your deliverable back exactly 30 minutes after putting in the request, because people don’t just sit around all day waiting for Boss’s Pet to drop things on them so they can leap into action immediately.

      You’re in a mildly toxic workplace tbh. The culture of no-training-while-calling-it-training, then holding you accountable for things you haven’t been trained to do, demanding immediate turnaround, this is indicative of really bad management and poor culture. Don’t blame yourself for those things.

    6. Kj*

      I agree the OP is likely doing well considering the lack of support they are getting. I have trained interns for my job and I always made a point of showing them how to do something, explaining along the way why I did the things I did, then having them try it and giving feedback. That works well. What your boss is doing does not.

  8. BlueWolf*

    I definitely feel for you OP. I have been both trainer and trainee before. I have trained people in a few different job roles, and the training process should always consist of first showing (and explaining!) how to do something, and then giving them the opportunity to do the task themselves while the trainer observes and corrects as needed. I personally learn much better by doing the task a few times myself, so just watching someone do it and not explaining the process would be very frustrating. As the trainer, I can understand the impulse to want to do something yourself because obviously you can do it a lot faster than the trainee will be able to at first. But it is a small investment of time that will result in a lot of gain in the long run.

  9. Controller for Non Profit*

    I am a non-traditional accountant (BA in Fashion Design before I went back to grad school, and then fell into the accounting program), and I’ve been in the same boat as you… nice boss but terrible trainer, felt like I wasn’t picking up things as quickly as I should, etc, etc, etc. The things that helped were: asking for a play-by-play as people were figuring out the stuff I couldn’t (like Alison says above), pouring LOTS of extra hours in (I know this isn’t an option for everyone), keeping very detailed notes about where numbers come from and procedures (which it sounds like you’re doing), and checking and double-checking every step I’ve done to see if that triggers an idea about where to go next. Also, sometimes explaining the problem to someone else can help… just by saying it out loud sometimes I realize what the problem is. And if all else fails…. sleep on it! Sometimes I’m smarter in the morning! After a few years in public accounting and a few TERRIBLE jobs, I’ve been at my organization for 3 years and LOVE it. There’s hope! If you think there’s anything I can help with, reach out!

  10. Master Bean Counter*

    OP-You’re only a year in. At this point being at 90% is good. I’ve been in the field for years and still see the 2 year mark as when I should actually be able to wrap my head around everything. Accounting is complex.

    When you are sitting there watching your boss ask her questions like, “What formula are you using?” “what is the end information we are trying to come up with here?”

    Also your boss sucks.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Yes, I was going to say the same. Check your boss’ expectations as to what you should be doing – you’re stressing about only being able to do 90% of a project, but maybe that’s all she needs or wants you to do. Or maybe she’s only expecting you to do 80%, and she plans to finish the rest regardless. (Disclaimer, I don’t know anything at all about accounting! But in my field, it would be totally normal for one person to do 80-90% of a project, and have someone else finish the rest.)

      I would start with that first, and find out if you and she are on the same page about this gap. Then if it turns out that you really do need to improve your performance, you can start asking her how to do that.

      And yes, to better and more specific training regardless!

    2. oranges & lemons*

      It’s hard to say from the outside, but this description really sounds to me like a smart and conscientious employee struggling with awful training. LW, I feel like since this field is new to you, you’re placing a lot of the blame on yourself by default, but I definitely wouldn’t make that assumption.

    3. chi type*

      This is what I was going to say. 90-95% accuracy after only a year and zero training sounds pretty impressive to me!
      I agree with Alison, ramp up the job search, this place is literally making you question your mental health!!

  11. V*

    Oh no. The crush to your confidence about getting another job is terrible. Because your boss IS doing a bad job of training you and managing you. An exercise I found extremely helpful in learning to pitch myself for new jobs was asking people close to me to please tell me a few things they’ve noticed that I’m good at, and with that feedback to write myself up a list of my strengths and examples of when I’d demonstrated them. It feels weird to ask for compliments, but you can always offer to reciprocate. It helped me to feel competent again after some weird work situations, and to sell my competence to interviewers.
    I’m focusing on this aspect of the letter because I’ve very much been in the position where a manager made their whole team feel like we would never be able to be employed elsewhere, and it was absolutely not true. If you can refocus on what you’re good at and why you’d be an asset, there will be a company that wants your skills and is more than happy to give you the space/support/training to get going in the role. And I do think if your manager doesn’t up her game, you should look for a job that isn’t bringing your self-esteem down this way.

  12. Not a dr*

    Op, are there any peers or other staff who can help with 5%? Obviously you don’t want to take them away from their jobs, but they may have a better teaching style.

    Unfortunately in my experience the “just let me do it” culture is very pervasive in accounting, even in schools. So it may be hard to find someone to help who has any skill in teaching to others. But there are always outliers.

    And you clearly have work ethic, which is worth a lot. Keep applying other places, and ask questions about management and training styles.

    You don’t sound dumb to me, and I believe in you.

    1. Elizabeth H.*

      Not too helpful to the OP but I would love an AAM post focused on developing skills for training others on processes at work. My instinct is ALWAYS “just let me do it” (although I do always explain what I am doing, and then give the person a chance to do it themselves for the next iteration while I watch) and I am not sure what kind of techniques are especially useful for teaching things to others. I feel like I talk to much too. Maybe I will submit this as a separate question!

      1. Persimmon*

        Yeah, I struggle with the “just let me do it instinct” too. This would be a great question to ask Alison.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        I second this idea!

        Also, it sounds to me like you’re on the right track, basically. Showing and explaining, and then giving them hands-on practice is pretty much how I go about it.

        And don’t feel like you’re talking too much. For many people, understanding not only the how and the what, but the why, really helps them grasp the process and helps them figure out what to do when they run into stuff that’s outside the norm.

        The other thing I’d say is, try to break stuff down into manageable chunks , ideally with the next section building on the previous ones.

      3. Washi*

        Same! I really appreciated the recent letter about using quizzes to train people for that reason. One of the things I struggle with is how to check someone’s understanding/help them check their own understanding without seeming patronizing, especially if they are above me in the hierarchy.

      4. Kombu*

        Haha I have the opposite reaction! In 99% of situations, I learn and retain new skills best by googling “how to X” and then messing with X until it works. I have tried suggesting that a few times in situations when I thought that would likely lead to success, and…it did not go over well.

        1. econobiker*

          You are exactly right about having the learning ability via self-directed training. So many people don’t understand that continous learning or training is a necessity and not all training will come from a “classroom” or seminar. There’s the acronym JFGI! meaning Just Freaking Google It! that many people just freaking don’t or won’t into their skulls.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          I think it’s really situation-dependent. With what I do…you can’t really Google X and learn what you need to. And if what you’re trying to learn is totally new and you don’t really have the background to even know what questions to ask, that’s a different situation, too.

          But if it’s “how to use X function in Excel” or “where is this in Microsoft Word” then I’m totally with you. Just Google it.

  13. Free Meerkats*

    While the “training” is likely the root cause of most of the LW’s problems, some of that is on the LW. “Typically I would leave these meetings frustrated and confused, still not any closer to solving all of problems on my own.”

    At no point does LW say they told the boss that the “training” wasn’t having its desired outcome – learning. And this has been going on for a year. The LW needs to state, clearly and without equivocation, “This type of “training” doesn’t work for me, I need to do it with guidance.”

    And the fact the boss has a favorite who operates the same way leads me more toward this isn’t the place for the LW than the LW can’t do the job.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Very much this. Boss and favorite employee “get” the program they use. (Even though boss can’t/won’t teach it) So it’s much easier to hand off work to that person who does it the way boss wants.

    2. DCompliance*

      “And the fact the boss has a favorite who operates the same way leads me more toward this isn’t the place for the LW than the LW can’t do the job.”


      A frank conversation about expectations may help. LW’s boss may not be used to someone who requires this much training or this type of training even though is seems normal. A clear conversation about where the employee is, where the manager wants them to be, and how to get their needs to take place. Sadly, if the manager doesn’t initiate it, the LW may have to.

    3. Candy*

      Agreed. Also, are the chairs in boss’s office bolted down? Why not just scooch forward so you can see her screen if you’re sitting too far away? OP’s boss isn’t a great trainer but OP also needs to speak up more. There’s reason she can’t interject every so often “sorry I missed what you did there, can you walk me through it?” It’s possible the boss is waiting on her to ask for clarification on what she doesn’t understand and assumes all is well otherwise

  14. I Like Stripes*

    To reiterate what Alison said, because it may help to hear, this is not what good managing looks like! Sitting in silence is no way to learn! She should be walking you through the thought process. If she had done that from the start, and each and every time, you’d get two things: 1. Insight into how she works and what she expects you to look for and 2. Your own checklist on things to look out for or more complete notes so you can do it on your own.

    I’m in a different field, but there’s no way I go more than a minute or two in silence in a one on one unless one of us is reading something on the screen and needs a moment to finish. It’s ubreasonable for your manager to treat you like this when won’t approach it directly with you.

    Try not to second guess yourself so much. It sounds like you’ve gotten some imposter syndrome from this manager and office culture. You can do this!! And if you need to search to find a better fit, you can do that too!! I’m so sorry you’ve been feeling so down about work, I hope it gets better.

  15. Boredatwork*

    OP – I am a CPA. I’ll give you advice based on my experience and if you have follow up questions I’ll respond.

    1) Allison is spot on, your manager doesn’t know how to train people, and a lot of accountants don’t have any desire to help others succeed. Watching her work in spreadsheets doesn’t help you learn WHY there was a problem.

    2) Completing work 90% is a successful attempt and should be treated as such in the first 2-3 years. This isn’t BIG4 pubic accounting, it’s insane to expect you to have mastery in under a year. You’re not going to know all of the questions to ask and you’re not going to be able to complete everything perfectly. Sometimes the source data has an error or it’s a totally new to you and company specific thing. You should feel comfortable saying that you need help with the last 10%, and then get a detailed walk through of what was missing.

    3) The fact that your boss has to fiddle with spreadsheets for over an hour means that either you are making garbage workpapers, with no referencing and just completely illogical information OR you found a complicated question that requires some critical thought.

    4) When you turn in workpapers, do you get review comments? Does she correct your work and never tell you? I HIGHLY recommend saving/printing the version you turn in and then comparing that to what ever gets marked as final. Then you can painstakingly find the changes, it’s a pain but it’ll help.

    5) Don’t beat yourself up! I can tell from your ability to coherently write, desire to try and that you care about your work product that you will make a good accountant. It’s just debits and credits, keep applying and get away from your unhelpful boss.

    1. DCompliance*

      I was thinking about number three as well. If the boss is taking so long to figure it out, then it would seem like a truly complicated question that a person would need assistance on. If it is the work product overall that the letter writer produced, then the boss should be offering some overall feedback.

    2. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Ooohh…I didn’t think about your second point in #3. Yeah…if it takes someone with extensive experience an hour to figure out an issue there is no way that a first year accountant would be able to without tons of (good) training and knowledge/ability to get to the raw information. Granted if the issue is something the OP did way back when in the file I can see taking a while to unwind it but there still should be a “OP come see here…this is what caused the issue and here is how to prevent it in the future”

      1. Boredatwork*

        exactly! Op’s manager isn’t imparting knowledge about the issue. I mean OP could be making garbage WP’s but I have a feeling if her work was that much of a disaster, her boss would make that painfully aware to her.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      Great points. To your #5 point, I might add that it may be worth taking a look internally and deciding if OP really enjoys the type of accounting that she’s doing and whether she feels she is well suited to it. I realize that might be hard given limited experience, but if she knows anyone else in different areas of accounting, maybe a chat with them would help out. For example, it sounds like OP is in financial, but maybe she would enjoy/be better suited for audit or tax?

      And definitely don’t beat yourself up OP. I suspect the issue is training and a manager who doesn’t really seem to have great management skills.

  16. LizB*

    Oh, OP, I feel so bad for you. Your boss is the worst trainer I think I’ve ever heard of. There’s a strategy in teaching called I Do It, We Do It, You Do It: first you (the teacher) do the task while your student watches, verbalizing your process as you go, then you do another example or two with the student giving you the instructions and you correcting if they mess up, then the student starts doing it on their own. Your boss is stuck on I Do It, and isn’t even doing that part right. It’s honestly really impressive that you were able to get 65% percent of her (unexplained) process into your notes, and that you can get tasks done 95% of the way — you sound like an excellent learner and problem solver! I bet you would excel at these assignments if you had been actually taught how to do them, instead of being expected to straight up read someone’s mind.

  17. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    It’s not you. You are capable at accounting.
    You are not as capable using THE PROGRAM they use. It’s not about the work, it’s about using THE PROGRAM.
    You have a manager who will spend an hour or more trying to figure something out and then be frustrated with you because you can’t go back to your desk and replicate the thought process that she used. She’s not an expert at the program either, and she can’t teach.
    She has chosen as a favorite someone who will 1) is more comfortable with THE PROGRAM, 2) has more experience figuring things out USING THE PROGRAM.
    I would suggest this angle, (and forgive me for using basic and filler words, but I don’t know accounting)
    “Hey, I’m creating the Taxessuk spreadsheet and I need the results from column A to be divided by the total of the subtotals in rows 4 and 5. If I were doing it old school, the math would appear like this 250/(30+50)
    So I’ve translated that into the program’s protocol, but it’s not working: A7/(C4+C5) but it’s just not working. Can you please COME OVER TO MY DESK and show me what’s wrong?”
    I’m not yelling, I’m highlighting.
    Good luck.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Sorry for the typos. At work and as you may have noticed, when I start ranting, I get kind of crazy!

  18. Linda Evangelista*

    Oh I know how it feels to have a job destroy your self esteem, and I promise you – its THEM, not you. Of course, everyone has things they can improve on, but that’s universal. The problem is your manager and your organizational culture (I mean come on, your manager has a LITERAL favorite, who treats you like garbage. If that isn’t toxic then I don’t know what is.)

  19. DCompliance*

    I am not familiar with accounting, but when the letter writer states, “I’d get stuck at some point and go back for direction” is it direction being looked for meaning- “where do I text this project next?” or is it more like “how do I calculate this?”

    Either way, the manager should be explaining, not just sitting their in silence. However, having a better understand as to what the letter writer is asking for would help.

    1. Boredatwork*

      Typically you have a stack of workpaper and you have to re-create them with new data. Sometimes the data changes or has an error or NEW stuff. That’s why it’s hard to ask for help, it takes time to figure out which of those three it is.

  20. Liz2*

    Another question before you leave the office “Can I go over my notes with you so you can correct and update to make sure next time I can do it on my own?” and “I wasn’t able to see what you did with X, can you talk it through?”

    As an admin I’ve endured a ton of time having to pretend to be attentive while the exec just HAS to go over the letter or calendar thing I need them to look at rather than letting me go back to my desk and returning later, but I consider that part of the deal with some people.

    You need to lead the conversation and ask the questions to do your job, good luck!

  21. Mariiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiia*

    I feel for you LW. I’m in accounting and this was exactly my experience with my training…. my senior colleague would do work and I’d watch her and receive zero guidance and I’d berated if I made a tiny mistake. I think Boredatwork is right, accountants don’t like to help each other it seems and it’s such a pain!! You sound competent though and introspective and considering you went to school with this and know about theory and whatnot, I really do think it’s your manager/work culture’s failings that make you feel this way. Sending you all my empathy and wishing you the best. Please don’t be hard on yourself!!!

    1. Boredatwork*

      Mine too! But I was in public and it was much more vicious. Basically, you had 3 months to learn at an impossible pace or they’d stop even attempting to train you.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Off topic, but seeing your username, now I have that West Side Story song stuck in my head, LOL.

      Re the accountants not helping each other thing, I wonder if it’s some kind of fear of being expendable.

      1. Boredatwork*

        I’m sure that’s how some people feel, but typically we’re intentionally understaffed and every second you spend helping someone else is one more second you have to add to you day. That doesn’t sound terrible until it’s close week and you HAVE TO be done by a certain time.

        I have friends who spend all day helping and then work until 2am to do their actual work.

        1. Mariiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiia*

          I think I’m somehow on the flipside of this re: busy/understaffed. Our company is not doing well financially so therefore we have much less money going in and going out and with the recent downsizing, I have few expenses and payroll things to enter. This is all to say we don’t have much to do.

          I think in MY case the non-helping attitude is a toxic work culture thing where people don’t help one another (I had to report harassment from aforementioned senior colleague twice which is another story) paired with not wanting to be seen as expendable since we don’t have too much work to do. I’ve had the other team members take some of my busy work out of boredom even…. Agh.

      2. Queen of the File*

        I also wonder if it’s partly a personality thing? Obviously #notallaccountants but I work with several and in general I would say their communication skills lean toward expecting others to mind-read rather than being comfortable using their words.

        1. Natalie*

          I am an accountant, and one of the more aggravating tendencies I’ve noticed among my colleagues is an inability or unwillingness to attempt to translate accounting concepts into words, whether those words are accounting jargon or plain English. (And this is a field that loves its jargon, they came up with new words that basically just mean “left” and “right”!) One of my current bosses has an incredibly annoying tendency of just trailing off mid-sentence and apparently expecting that I will just understand what he was getting at. I’ve had other coworkers that cannot use a specific noun to save their damn life – everything is “it” or “they”.

          What’s odd to me is that most of my accounting professors did not struggle with this at all. I’m not sure where it comes from.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Ugh, nouns! I have a co-worker who can’t seem to noun. She comes over to my desk and starts talking about “he” and “she” and “it” and “that” and it takes me ten minutes of coaxing to get her to explain which of the many he’s and she’s of our acquaintance she’s talking about and what she actually wants me to send to them.

            1. Sandman*

              Oh my gosh, my engineer spouse does the same thing with the incessant pronouns! and so does our daughter. How can this be genetic? It’s maddening.

      3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        I work in accounting and I think it’s probably a combination of being continuously understaffed and being a bit awkward as people. I’m sure somewhere out there is an outgoing, people-loving accountant but all of the ones I know and work with (myself included!) are a bit awkward and went into accounting because we like to keep to our spreadsheets and aren’t the best with people.

        However, I can create a fantastic training document and have successfully trained people on how to do my job. So the OP’s boss still sucks in that regard.

        1. CMart*

          Hi! I’m an outgoing, people-loving accountant! My previous career was as a bartender, and my bachelor’s is in communications which makes me quite the curiosity object among my team.

          But yes, by and large my colleagues are smart, competent, quiet people who just want to keep their heads down and crunch some numbers in peace. Reading this thread makes me feel very grateful that everyone here is always willing to help each other to the best of their ability, but there is often a roadblock when it comes to people’s ability to articulate what they’re doing.

    3. MsMaryMary*

      Teaching/training is a skill like any other. Some people have a natural gift for it, but most people need to work to develop that skill and become better teachers. If you haven’t been trained well yourself, then it’s hard to recognize that you need to work differently. Personally, I didn’t think I received good training from my team at my first job out of college, so I made it a point to do better when I got to a position where I was training new hires. Unfortunately, some people take the opposite approach and feel if they suffered and figured it out, you should too.

      I also think that people who have a special talent (say, with numbers or coding) or who have been doing the same tasks for years literally cannot explain to other people what and why they do something. It’s like if someone who is a talented musician but not a talented teacher tries to explain to you how to make music. “I move my fingers and music comes out of the piano. So, uh, just do that?”

      1. Gloucesterina*

        Yes, there’s a term for talking about how people who are new to teaching usually replicate the teaching methods used in their own education but it escapes me at the moment. It sounds like OP’s boss was very likely trained using this mindblowingly ineffective method, and that experience is very possibly why (1) she thinks this is the best (or only) way to “train” OP; and (2) she (the boss) is evidently struggling with the problem-solving aspects of the work.

        Seeing your supervisor or teacher make lots of mistakes or hit a lot of dead ends on the way to figuring out the right or best process is only going to be useful if the supervisor/teacher is transparent about what’s going on. Otherwise, it’s actively misleading or confusing the OP or the student.

  22. voyager1*

    I wonder how much of this work is tedious and could be made easier. Accounting departments are nortorious in my experience for doing things a certain way even when there is an easier way… just because it has always been done a certain way and resistence to change.

    Don’t beat yourself up LW.

  23. Denise*

    I’ve found that a lot of companies (I don’t know if it’s most, but it’s nearly all I’ve worked for, including hopping around as a clerical temp) do not expect nor want to train employees.

    In fact, I think it’s a part of why so many employers ask for qualifications way beyond those actually needed for the duties of the job. They want someone they don’t have to explain things to or worry will get things wrong, so getting someone with experience beyond what is needed is the easiest way to ensure they don’t have to worry about that.

    I’m actually thinking about having a conversation with my current supervisor to explain that someone with much less experience and education than myself could do about 85% of what she wants my position to do, if she were to look for someone with a strong academic record and a couple of years of sector experience. I feel I could easily train someone like that to do what I do. But the training here is nil. Though the company will sponsor external industry and professional development trainings, there’s no expectation that supervisors will train employees for their jobs with this organization. Management is really a skill unto itself.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Yup. It’s the awful “you need to experience to get experience” problem. So many place just won’t train people now. I think part of the problem is more and more bosses don’t have a good understanding of what their employees actually do. I’m facing that at my current company. I remember on one of my first days here I had the following conversation with my boss

      Me: “Hey, which filing cabinet are the accession records in?
      Him: *blank stare* “What?”
      Me: “The accession records. You know, the records of each object that has been donated to the museum.”
      Him: *Blank stare*

      For clarity, accession records are *MAJORLY* important. I ended up finding out there 1) They didn’t have accession records 2) My boss really has no idea what my position is supposed to do or even the basics of the field. To be fair to him, he comes from a completely different field but it has still be shocking to me over my two years here finding just how much my boss doesn’t understand about my role.

      1. Denise*

        Yes, I agree! I’ve experienced that in my previous and current position. And the complicating factor is that managers don’t want to admit how much they don’t know because they fear it will weaken their credibility or authority. But if they were upfront about those knowledge gaps, they could probably better empower their employees to add more value to the organization through their own initiative. I’ve found myself waiting for leadership and direction that just never came; or in a poorly designed role that ultimately doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      2. LouiseM*

        Ugh, YES! I’m also in a GLAM field and have heard many stories about this. It doesn’t help that some people starting out in the library/archives field have only the MLS and no paraprofessional work experience. The gulf between what workers know and what their jobs require is just often too wide.

        1. Bella*

          I can see Libraries and Archives in the middle and maybe Museums at the end but I can’t for the life of me figure out the G.

    2. CityMouse*

      I do training and it is a huge amount of work. For me, training 3 – 4 people is easily a full time job. But my org recognizes that and outs massive amounts of resources into it. People don’t train themselves, especially when you need to learn a bunch of complex rules with complex exceptions.

      1. SarcasticFringehead*

        People have a really hard time understanding how much time training takes. Just because it takes me half an hour to put together a fancy animated powerpoint for you doesn’t mean I can train someone to do it perfectly with no follow-up questions in half an hour. And then management gets frustrated with how long training takes, and decide it’s because they’re getting bad candidates and hiring is haaaaaaaard so we’re just not going to replace this person who’s going to grad school and it’s going to be fine!

  24. Kisses*

    I just wanted to add that it doesn’t sound like OP is the problem here. OP, you are a strong successful woman who raised a family, went back to school, and acclimated to a brand new field. You sound amazing and I really hope things work out for you. Don’t doubt yourself!
    It seems you have a lot to offer.

  25. Emily*

    Someone you work with should be writing actual documentation describing your processes so that this documentation can be shared with new people for training purposes. This won’t entirely substitute for in-person training, but it’ll go a lot of the way, especially when something’s already been explained and you just need a little review of part of it. You can offer to assist with creating this by sitting with someone who understands the process, having them walk you through it/creating screenshots, and taking a lot of notes.

    1. MJChomper*

      I’m a huge fan of procedural notes and documentation and comprehensive training in general; training is one skill I feel confident in and I think the problem is that most people just don’t understand how to train. Folks who have been doing a job for years (and have loads of information in their heads) usually can’t effectively explain things to new employees while keeping in mind the fact that the person they’re training knows NOTHING (about new company’s procedures, etc) and doesn’t have the same information base in their heads that the trainer possesses. Many people have a hard time transferring the information they know over to another person who doesn’t yet know 1) why, 2) how, 3) when, or 4) with what final outcome something needs to occur. I have a pretty good system down and have been told that my training works.

      A few years ago I was freelancing in a casino’s [toxic, dysfunctional and horrific] HR department as their interim HR Manager for a month and was shocked to find out they had absolutely no training guide or procedural files typed up to help with their [high turnover] HR staff and basic admin training. They used various databases and detailed processes but they had NO material available explaining how to use the systems or how to go about handling the many procedures – so if a new person started, they’d get a half-assed explanation on how to use the systems or how to go about doing X and Y procedures, and if those new people weren’t meticulous note takers and the person who “trained” them left the company (which happened a LOT), the department then had someone who was barely competent (at no fault of their own) handling these necessary responsibilities. And there was nothing to refer back to for exact information. It was a vicious cycle and I started to understand why they were in such rough shape. It was dysfunction at its finest. During my short stay, I did my best to create a “Training” folder that covered the things that I thought were crucial. It was like plugging a damn with a sponge but I felt I’d be remiss if I didn’t create some kind of guide for whatever poor souls ended up there….

      Thinking about that place still makes me shudder.

  26. Christmas Carol*

    If it was possible to be trained to do something by just passively watching in silence for a year, I would be an internationally ranked professional athlete, rock star, Oscar winning actress, prima ballerina, race car driver, network news anchor, opera singer, and chef by now.

  27. Emily*

    Hello, OP! Your situation sounds very frustrating and demoralizing. I do want to reiterate what Alison and others are saying: your boss is doing a very bad job of training you (if you can even call what she does “training”).

    It sounds like you’re letting your job performance affect your self-confidence, which I understand – I’ve been in bad work situations before and started to question my own capabilities and aptitude. But doing poorly in one job doesn’t mean you’re incapable in general. In this case, it sounds like you haven’t been given the tools to succeed, and have actually done pretty well considering that you’ve had to figure most of it out on your own. I suspect that if you can get better training at this job or find a different job with a better manager, you’ll struggle less.

    1. Bella*

      My self-confidence at work owes a lot to one of my first jobs, which was in a good, supportive environment. It meant I didn’t view toxic work behaviors as ‘normal’ later on and gave me the confidence to resign.

      OP, please don’t think that all managers are this bad or the problem is somehow all your fault. I agree that it sounds like you need better training or a better manager.

  28. Naptime Enthusiast*

    It sounds like your manager also wishes she was still an individual contributor/subject matter expert rather than a manager. Obviously this isn’t your issue to fix and there may not be a way for her to step back from management at a small company, but please keep that in mind when she says it’s easier for her to do it herself. She wants to do it herself, because she prefers that to managing. It doesn’t make her a bad person, just a bad manager.

    I have this problem with my mentees, where it would take 5 minutes for me to track something down but they still need to learn how to find information and where to search, otherwise they’ll never grow in their role and I’ll be doing menial tasks for them forever. I like PP’s suggestions to have your manager come to your desk and explain it, rather than you looking over her shoulder while she fixes it. I’ve found that to work really well because I need to direct them on where to click and what to look for.

  29. econobiker*

    Note to the OP: you certainly describe that you are searching for training and assistance in ways that many people don’t even attempt like online forums and even youtube training. Good for you!

    The question is whether these are repetitive tasks with similar results each time or if the boss is always customizing the results. If the OP is always presenting the boss with an 80%-90% complete task that then takes another 1 to 1 1/2 hours working a spreadsheet then something is off either about the OPS skill set (needs more training ) or the boss’s results expectations (needs a lot of better clarification ). The OP should try to clarify the final deliverables for the project with the boss which then might assist identifying any additional Excel, etc skill needed. Excel, at least, can be difficult to learn if you don’t know the specific function or numbers gyrations required but once trained, you can possibly automate the work by reusing a template file, for example, for similar activities and projects. Often in Excel there are two or more ways to achieve a result also.
    Or, if uncomfortable with discussion with the boss about this,, try to reverse engineer the difference between the your project results and the final results in an offline (not using original files, copies only ) setting.

  30. Buckeye*

    I think it’s also worth noting that if the “pet” relationship your boss has with your peer exists in the way that it comes across in the letter, there’s probably other layers of dysfunction to your department outside of any personal shortcomings. I say this because it can be important to realize that that the dysfunction isn’t all on you and it isn’t your responsibility (nor do you have the ability) to make everything run smoothly. To a certain degree, you just have to work as best you can in the environment your boss has set before you. The kind of initiative you have described here (taking lots of notes, youtube tutorials, more studying, etc) is normally immensely valued by supervisors and I think you deserve to give yourself some credit for how hard you are trying to be the person your department needs.

    1. ExcelJedi*

      This. It’s bad enough that your boss was (apparently) never never trained to manage anyone, and doesn’t have much interest in it. Worse that there are such clear social hierarchies in the staff. I’m afraid the problem runs much deeper than just training.

      That said, it sounds like you’re doing everything you can, OP. It actually sounds like you’re very adaptable and picking this up quicker than you probably should, given the situation. A new job really does sound like the right direction, if it’s possible.

  31. Poniez R Us*

    This happens a lot in accounting. I think it’s because people do not set up their files so that they are easy to use and understand. People get used to doing things their way and when it comes time to explain the process, the 1+ hour meetings happen. It’s happened to me and I see it happen to others. Allison’s advice is great. From the technical perspective, it all comes down to:
    1. Manager is not good at explaining things, the files are too complicated to hand off and/or the process is convoluted. Sometimes accounting is not as straightforward as a textbook would have you believe.
    2. Your confidence in your abilities to learn and understand are important in accounting. Challenge yourself to understand the business. Do you understand how data flows, who owns it, how the service/product is accounted for? Do you understand how to use the systems? Think of it this way, 95% tells you that you have 5% to focus on. What does that 5% represent and is the impact of that 5% enough to determine what areas you need to develop to get to the 100%?

    Please keep in mind that accounting principles are basically the same wherever you go. How you apply those principles becomes difficult to understand when you are new to the business. Please do not be too hard on yourself. Accounting is tough and takes time and experience to get the hang of. If your projects got handed off to someone else, ask why. There could be areas of development you need to work on like timeliness, execution, etc. These could be goals to work towards. I think if you look at it like an opportunity to learn and grow, you will feel better. Your manager will never change but you can get the most out of this role and get something better when you are ready.

  32. Seal*

    Watching employees struggle or fail because their managers refuse to manage makes my blood boil. A former colleague went through this at his first job out of graduate school and was ultimately forced out of our profession because he had the misfortune to wind up with not one but two terrible managers. The first one was lazy and intentionally left him to his own devices, with no training or direction. The second one held weekly meetings that involved screaming at him because she claimed he wasn’t living up to her wildly unrealistic expectations that were completely out of touch with industry standards. He practically killed himself trying to do what he thought he had to do to be successful based on the scant direction he was getting, but after a year and a half, she fired him. The sad thing was that everyone else at the organization agreed that all he needed was a good manager and a good mentor and he would have been fine; sadly, he was afforded neither. The terrible manager got to stay because the one thing she actually was good at was sucking up to her boss. But she continues to have trouble filling his position because once word got out about her terrible managerial skills and what she did to this poor guy, no one wanted to go near her. Perhaps not surprisingly, she has no idea why people look at her sideways at meetings and conferences these days.

    OP – don’t let this experience erode your confidence! However nice your manager may be, she’s not good at managing.

  33. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Well, no wonder you’re wondering if you have brain damage or are stupid. Your boss is treating you like you are. That, alone, is enough to make anyone question their abilities. But you’re not. How do I know this?

    You’re asking questions about what you don’t know
    You’ve gone back to your notes
    You’re seeking a mentor
    You’ve watched YouTube videos to learn and improve your skills
    You went to your doctor to make sure you were healthy
    You wrote into Alison for advice
    You’ve made it a year and can complete 90% of projects…with the most ridiculous “training” I have ever heard of

    Please don’t question yourself, LW. Question your boss. Question the culture of your office. Question the bejesus out of the favoritism going on.

    Definitely keep applying for jobs! Once you land somewhere with a better manager and culture fit for you, I have confidence this self doubt will fade away.

    1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      Was trying to think of what to say and you nailed it right on the head. You are handling this really difficult situation absolutely perfectly, OP!

  34. Anonny*

    This letter breaks my heart, I could’ve written it a year ago.

    Here’s what I think. You aren’t the problem here. Your boss doesn’t know how to manage, and she doesn’t know how to train, and you need to either speak up about that and raise it as a major issue, or you need to work on your confidence, then your resume, and find a different job. (It’s REALLY hard to think about finding a new job when your current job has destroyed your confidence and made you think you aren’t capable of the work. Remember this: you ARE capable of the work, and you’re in a role where you’re not given the tools and resources to complete it successfully, and that should not prevent you from finding a job that values you as an employee and empowers you to do your own work and succeed.)

    When you are qualified for a job, and you start working, you may have the skill set and the education to GET that job, but in many cases, there’s no way you’d know how to do that specific job for a specific company, in the way they want it done, without someone telling you or at the absolute very least, providing you with a resource to find the answers. Any manager who refuses to show you how to do something, then expects that you know it anyway – THEY ARE THE PROBLEM. I wish someone said that to me when I was on the absolute verge of a nervous breakdown last year.

    My boss was a nightmare. (Fortunately, he got fired.) I had no onboarding, no training on our systems or processes, nothing but a half-day overview of the high level goal of the job. I wasn’t introduced to clients, partner teams, stakeholders, I didn’t know how to conduct the most basic tasks in the way they were expected to be done. I was told “if you have questions, you can ask this person,” but I didn’t even know enough about the job to ask the right questions. (Like, I know a project manager has to create a schedule for a project. I did not know who our vendors were, how they got assigned, what their SLAs were, what the established turnarounds were for each stage of the process, who reviewed things, how long they took for approval, how many rounds of changes our agency allowed, how long the vendor took to complete the deliverable once approved, etc.) I’d get feedback like “you’ve been here 2 weeks and you’ve messed up every schedule, what do you expect someone to hold your hand? you’re a project manager, i thought you had experience, why can’t you create a schedule?” A year of situations like that – over and over and over, every single day I felt like I couldn’t get anything right and didn’t know how to do anything. I struggled because I had to figure out every damn thing on my own by making embarrassing mistakes. I was a SUPERSTAR in my previous job, and felt absolutely stupid and worthless at my current job… until my boss was let go and I realized I wasn’t the problem.

    Now I’m an expert in my role. (I skimmed over some of the changes that happened after he left, for brevity’s sake. I learned to be more confident, spoke up about training gaps, learned to ask more questions and advocate for myself in ways I couldn’t do when he was constantly telling me I was a drain on his team and a low performer and a real disappointment.) Now I’m able to help new people learn in ways that I wasn’t able to. I’ve mastered our systems and processes, and made improvements to them, and documented them for other people. I’m well liked, I’m trusted, I’m confident. I could’ve been all of those things a year ago, but the boss at the time made me feel like I was an idiot because HE didn’t provide the tools or resources for me to learn my job. It’s taken a long time for me to stop feeling like that was my fault, my shortcoming. Your comment about brain damage almost made me cry. I almost checked myself into a hospital last year because I was suicidal. My professional success was so tied in with my self worth, a year of someone making me feel so stupid and incapable really took a toll on my health.

    I see a lot of similar things about your situation in your letter. I don’t know if your situation will end up anything like mine, but I just want to tell you, over and over… YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM HERE. I hope you are able to find success, at this job or a different one.

    1. IvyGirl*

      Are you me? I had this exact same experience. Except my boss quit, the VP above them was fired, and my interim manager became an offsite consultant who belittled me.

      I quit with nothing lined up to save my sanity. I made sure to hoard all of my vacation days so I had another month’s pay to help bridge the gap until I found another job.

      OP – you are not the problem – at all.

    2. MJChomper*

      OMG so much of your comment is my life from 4 years ago, I had tears in my eyes reading your story.

      I was a superstar at my job of 15 years, then I was wooed and romanced by another company (and stupidly took their offer). At the new job, my boss became a monster (180 degree personality change from the person i had met with about the job). I was called stupid, clueless, dumb, “effing idiot,” spoken to rudely all day every day, screamed at, told he “didn’t like my face” (!!??) and after a year of this abuse I had no confidence and felt I was the worst, most pathetic employee with zero skills and I was convinced I was worthless. I hated my life and hated myself and was doing reckless, stupid things in my private life to help me deal with my loss of control in my professional life. I had always been so wrapped up in my work and my self-worth and happiness had always been so connected to my success professionally that I truly didn’t know how to function in my new reality.

      I’m reading all of these comments as if they’re written to me – because sadly, the effects from the above situation from 4 years ago have lasted much longer than I thought possible and I still have low confidence and I still question my abilities despite having been in my profession and specific niche for 18+ years now. I often wonder if I was never actually good at my job, and maybe my first company (where I was for 15 years) just thought I was amazing but they were fooled by me the whole time. Maybe I sucked and they didn’t know what a stellar employee was. I still have these thoughts daily and I don’t know if I’ll ever regain that confidence I once felt. It sucks so so much.

  35. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    I’m a little older than you OP and have a perspective that may help. I am much more fluent in spreadsheets bc I was an early programmer and was in on the development of 1-2-3 at a young age. Most my age were full adults when pcs became available; it’s those in their 40s now I think who learned spreadsheets and word processing in depth bc that’s all that was available to most users. And then computing exploded and younger people got more general training. If your original career didn’t include spreadsheets, you may think your knowledge is advanced but it may be behind your supervisors, and she may just think you are too old to get it. Of course that isn’t true, and good managers know that you can teach almost anyone how to do almost anything if both student and teacher are motivated, but since she won’t teach you I think you just need instruction on spreadsheet analysis for accounting. And maybe a year from now it’ll take you 10 minutes to find the problem it took her an hour to find LOL. Good luck!

    1. Indie*

      This :
      “good managers know that you can teach almost anyone how to do almost anything”
      And this:
      “a year from now it’ll take you 10 minutes to find the problem it took her an hour to find LOL”

  36. Elizabeth West*

    Oh wow, I totally could have written this letter in 2016.

    When Exjob changed, I went from being a rockstar to feeling EXACTLY the way the OP feels. My old boss was hands-off but available, patient, and very very good at coaching–after a week of training meetings, she handed off the data matching to me. I made three mistakes the first month-end that it was mine and none thereafter. NONE.

    When NewBoss came in, I got vague assurances that my best skills would be utilized, NO communication about where the newly merged department was going, and very little time to even speak to her (she was so overbooked it wasn’t even funny). She assumed I knew how to read install contracts (I didn’t; they weren’t even accessible to me before the merge) and assumed I had familiarity with all the things the consultants did (nope, though I’d tried to gain that knowledge). She gave me very little guidance but said that asking questions meant I “required handholding.”

    Overall she was a nice person, OP, like your boss, but her management style and my work style were wildly out of sync. I didn’t need handholding–I needed TRAINING.

    I was basically thrown into a whole new job with no orientation and a manager who expected me to already know it. We had a week of meetings with the new department and I understood NOTHING anyone said. My sole contribution to those meetings was writing stuff on giant sticky notes and putting them on the walls. To top it off, I do have a processing issue that affected my ability to do the new work she wanted. Yes, I developed an attitude, mostly due to anxiety, but looking back now, I can see there was no way I could have succeeded even if I’d been a total Pollyanna because the job (and the manager) was truly, deeply no longer a fit for me.

    I echo what Alison said, OP–if you did well in your program, then it’s not you. It’s this job and this manager. Not every job will be a fit. It’s not necessarily the career. I’d keep applying to other jobs, because I don’t know if this manager will change her ways and actually train people.

  37. Indie*

    Take it from a career change teacher. Many people suck at teaching. Some of these people get jobs managing and training people even though they suck at it. You can spot these people by;
    – The phrase ‘Ill do it myself’, gee why didn’t I think of that when my class was being tested?!
    -Speaking to their trainees as though they are stupid. All skills should be pre installed into the brain, duh! They believe in natural ability not teaching! Because they suck at it!
    – Saying ‘I told you’ or ‘I showed you’. Neither of these things will impart information. It’s not teaching anything.
    – Being harder on career changers than grads. They know that older accountants tend to know more and just believe natural ability is amplified by age. Without any need for teaching, or even being present in that field!

    I would just escape OP. She’s showing you outright contempt and it’s based on her own very faulty (and frankly idiotic) understanding that you’re in no real position to correct.

  38. Anonny*

    sometimes I read a letter and series of comments here and think the problem would best be solved* by the employee sending the AAM URL to the boss. “I have a problem here at work I’d like you to talk about, it’s documented here. Let’s meet after you’ve read it.”

    *”best” meaning most satisfying resolution, not necessarily most effective

    1. Khlovia*

      Totally agree and if we hadn’t had to take the cat to the vet today I would’ve beaten you to it. Applies to about 98% of the letters posted, especially after there’s been time enough for a good string of comments to have accumulated. “Say, My Favorite Problematic Person, I found this really interesting discussion online! You’ve got to read this; I think you would find it really enlightening!”

  39. TheHamsterGirl*

    First of all LW, this is a tough situation and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it, your manager is not a good trainer.

    My one thought though is about your relationship with your bosses “favourite.”
    The idea of referring to her as your bosses “favourite” or your bosses “pet” when you give no indication of her getting unfair perks of any sort is a bit tough. This woman is doing well at her job… that’s not favouritism and I worry that calling her “the favourite” or “the bosses pet” and discounting her frustration in you as being solely related to her age and “inexperience” may be tainting your interactions with her. This perception of her might even have contributed to her attempts to train you not going well.

    I’d recommend taking a step back and evaluating that relationship as well.

  40. CPA#40025*

    CPA here. Have worked in a variety of jobs including doing training (some accountants and some clerical only) on billing software. When I was learning the software and at a former job where they had set up the most awful, poorly structured and unsustainable budgeting system (they dumped it within the year after I was gone), I used a capture software to record the screen moves (Snagit, I think as I remember) and then repeatedly played the video. It was extremely helpful.
    That said, in current job and former job mentioned, I did not have the best trainers but I had enough experience to realize it was the trainers and not me. It is hard when you are in the midst of a dilemma to see what is really going on.
    Another thing, a lot of what I gleaned was from looking at prior workpapers. A lot. Not that your predecessors did everything the best way but with more experience you will spot the areas where you are okay to make changes or need to make changes.
    Keep your head up. You will succeed.

  41. CityMouse*

    Hugs to OP. I feel so bad you are worried about brain damage over a work activity.

    A) I train new people myself and I agree that this is so not how you do it
    B) even if you just can’t do this one thing, that doesn’t mean less of you as a person or worker. There is some stuff I am just terrible at (My childhood stutter comes back when I do public speaking, for instance). For years I put myself through painful situations to try to “fix” what was wrong with me even though I found a career that didn’t require it. I have learned that I can work on some aspects of myself, but some stuff is just shoving a square peg in around hole and it made me literally pull out my hair.

    Keep job hunting. Find something that doesn’t make you crazy. You are not a failure for not .managing this one thing under bad circumstances.

  42. TardyTardis*

    I had that boss. She would much rather have been doing my job than her own, and she ran through several accountants both before and after me before she finally found one who could read her mind to her satisfaction. Your best bet is to find another job, because I very much doubt she will change. Sorry to be so bleak, but this was my experience with someone like that.

  43. JustAThoughtMrFox*

    OP, couldn’t agree more with the suggestions to study Excel on your own. I don’t think it’s possible for an accountant to understand Excel TOO well. Pivot tables, vlookups, SUMIF are good places to start.

    Another suggestion I haven’t seen here – develop your critical thinking skills. That’s what your boss is doing when she’s reviewing your work (she’s not telling you how she does this, which is a whole other issue). A fun way to work on critical thinking skills is with logic puzzles. They will help you learn to think through incomplete information to reach conclusions.

  44. Starbucks Girl*

    The fact that your boss has an obvious favorite is a big red flag. I’ve seen this a few times before and it always indicates a bad manager, or at the very least an inexperienced manager. Furthermore, it sounds like she has absolutely no idea how to train an employee, and doesn’t seem to care either. I’d say it’s pretty likely that you’re a decent employee and she is actually the one who is bad at her job.

    Even for those who are properly trained, being able to complete 90% of tasks on your own within a year is really good. In your case, it’s absolutely remarkable! So please don’t let this get you down. If you get another accounting job (with a better boss) and find you are still struggling, then you can start to re-evaluate your career choice. In the meantime, have some confidence and pride in how far you’ve come in such a short time.

    Best of luck!

  45. Granny K*

    Seeing a lot of great comments on this thread. I would love to hang out and have cawfee with you people. Additionally, note that sometimes managers/senior team members hate it when you ask questions because They Don’t Know The Answer! Or they kind of know it, but they can’t really explain it. Turns out breaking down information into bite size pieces is a skill that has been relegated to Whole Teams of people (sometimes called: training) that can give you information in a cohesive manner. This doesn’t sound like what’s happening with the LW. Please keep breathing and truly look for another job. If you are crying on a regular basis over your employment, it’s time to move on. I hope you will send an update soon.

  46. Mephyle*

    It reminds me of sailboarding ‘lessons’ – when we were teenagers at the lake in summer, one of the gang who already knew how to saiboard tried to teach the rest. His method was to say “Watch how I do it,” and then he would sail out of sight and reappear a few hours later.
    Let alone that one needs to learn by doing, one needs to also see the process being done.

  47. Lauri*

    OP – I think this is so an accounting thing. My past two bosses have been the exact same way. Both jobs had issues and why I’m currently looking. Here’s what I learned so far.
    – Don’t assume they know how or are comfortable training people. A lot of times accountants can prefer their spreadsheets to human interaction.
    – I’ve taken the initiative to say that I learn better by doing, and could they talk me through it while I complete it? It slows things down, but I’m able to take notes and sitting where I can see the monitor.
    – Is this her pet’s first job? She’s molded her into what she wants. Had a manager like that, and I would ask questions because there are multiple ways to do something, but since she was familiar with the company way to her it was the only correct way. Asking questions made me look bad in her opinion because of her inexperience.
    – End of year and the audit are hectic. I’ve worked in departments where if you don’t go home stressed out and crying than coworkers are saying that you aren’t trying hard enough. Do you best, and text sarcastic comments to your friends.
    Welcome to accounting, it’s really not the job, but the coworkers and the bosses which are in every job.

  48. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

    I’m back in school now for accounting actually! You don’t really mention exactly what your work is – but are you getting hung up on the analysis side of spreadsheets? How to do things? Or actual accounting information? I think narrowing that down will help you figure out how to proceed as well. I think the conversation Allison recommended with your boss would also be useful, although like she said, it opens up the possibility of her saying she’s not satisifed with your work.

  49. AccountingIsFun*

    OP, please don’t let this shake your self-confidence. It is a challenge for ANY newbie to handle a fiscal year end close while having an audit going on at the same time. This is especially true when your struggling with some of the tasks (I kind of assume it is reconciliations, which can be challenging but are so crucial to both year end close and audit). I agree with asking your manager to actually talk you through the steps you need to do to complete your reconciliations, but if talking isn’t something that is easy for her, maybe checking about starting a project would help you. One thing I always had my struggling folks, and mainly myself, work on was a flowcharting project. It would be a point where we would flowchart our process – for instance, bank reconciliations. This project killed 3 birds with one stone. 1st, it helped the person to truly understand the process from beginning to end, knowing where all the pieces come from and how to fit them together to get a clean reconciliation. 2nd, it is an amazing document for the auditors. They can then easily see the process saving them the step of having to document processes. Finally, the documentation became a great training tool for newbies coming in to the department. They are quickly able to pick up on how to bring a project from beginning to 100% complete. If they can’t, they then get to update the documentation to bring it up to speed. Ask your manager if there is any process documentation that you can use and update to match current processes to help with year end and audit as well as training yourself. Often documentation of processes falls by the wayside because it feels like busywork, but honestly, it can save so much time and aggravation for employees and auditors that it is something that is actually a cost savings. If you are super keen on this, do a quick NPV on it – cost savings for your manager and auditor vs your time.

    Good luck, and remember that practice and theory are often very different, though they get to the same place.

  50. Bea*

    Eeeeh my heart paused a beat reading this because it’s heartbreaking to see on the flipside. I feel like your boss does fail at realising she needs to try something differently but at the same time I’m worried that you’re finding these potholes so frequently. I’ve been self trained my entire life and then plopped next to a person fresh from school, my eyes glaze over in a way. Once you’ve done things so long it’s hard to break it out to show others.

    I really wish I could see the things you’re struggling with specifically. It took me forever to crack some spreadsheets and it’s all about reverse engineering their formulas at times. It’s not something you can easily train anyone to do that’s not intuitive.

    This isn’t because you’re not a smart woman. You are. However I’m painfully going to state that some jobs aren’t for everyone even with a strong schooling.

    Perhaps you’re better suited for a different scale of accounting instead of staff accountant work. Even if it’s to wet your whistle and get comfortable in your experience. I feel it’s possibly biting off more than you can chew.

    1. AMT27*

      The thing with spreadsheets is, no matter how well you did in school, or try to learn excel on your own, or whatever, they are all so unique that it’s really difficult to be able to interpret a new spreadsheet properly without investigating all the formulas etc. In school you might use basic spreadsheets for problems, but in a real life situation they are always SO different from what you encounter when learning. I feel like a lot of the learning done with Excel comes simply from exposure, and time. It becomes really difficult when you are given complicated spreadsheets right off – like being tossed into a choppy ocean when you just started to learn to swim yesterday. It’s quite overwhelming.

      1. Bea*

        I totally agree, I’ve been plunked down in that sea before it’s hell! I’ve never done any schooling on them, I got cranky when I was showing someone one and sure I did things the long way. They focused on my longer technique than what the damn thing was for, then was salty they didn’t know what the thing was for and how to read it. Gah.

  51. Beatrice*

    I have done what the OP’s boss is doing, and I’m trying really hard to do better after trying to learn and watching others try to learn from someone far worse. Being great at a task does not make someone a good manager or a good trainer. :/

    Here are some of the reasons why I do it, and from what I’ve seen, much of it rings true with others:
    1. Sometimes I know things well enough to do them, or figure them out, but not well enough to articulate the process to someone else very clearly. That means I barely know what I’m doing and it’s definitely not the fault of anyone coming to me for help.
    2. Sometimes I know things SO well, that I leap to answers using thought processes I’ve used so many times that they’re second nature to me and I have not thought them through in so long that I fail to find the words to explain how I arrived at my answer, and I don’t remember the learning path I took to learn what I know now, so I can guide someone down the same path. That makes me a poor trainer and a poor subject matter expert – it’s not on the person I’m supposed to be teaching!
    3. I’m working on this and it’s hard to admit, but I get an ego boost out of being The One With The Answers, The One Who Can Do Things, etc. I’ve been a crappy trainer because I didn’t want to give that up. (Except TOWTA, TOWCDT has a hard time taking vacation or getting a break….) I have also caught myself thinking that I’m smarter than other people, and and struggling to trust people with the full scope of my knowledge because I’m afraid it will be misused or misapplied or someone will break something and not know they broke it. Again, this is mostly on me, and partly on my company for depending on people who will make super-human efforts to support complex stuff that doesn’t have a clearly defined process. We enable each other.
    4. I used to have a habit of building processes for myself that require extra steps or mental gymnastics that I’d never ask someone else to do, because doing things that way made things easier for people around me and I wanted to please them. I’d choose to do that instead of making perfectly reasonable requests of other people. I hate to ask other people to do all the extra steps though – so I avoid accepting/asking for help with that stuff, because accepting help either means making monstrous requests of my helpers to deal with complexity they shouldn’t have to deal with, or undertaking the monstrous task of streamlining the process into something sane, which is more work than just continuing to do it myself. (I realize this is crazy, and I’m working on it.)

    I hope this little bit of insight is helpful, OP.

  52. nonymous*

    regarding the 1hr+ fixing of spreadsheets. Is it possible that your “style” of structuring the workbook is different from the style in use by your boss and coworker? I used to work with someone who would take any spreadsheet and immediately reformat them to her preference (no template, she would just manually change stuff) before answering any questions – she literally could not intellectually process the workbook contents without the structure in place. Without seeing the details of the activity, it can be hard to distinguish between activity that your boss needs to process and actual issues of content. If you can look at the before/after of what she does, that might lend insight. And if even only some of what she’s doing is reformatting, it’s absolutely worth exploring if there is a template that you can use (or create) which will address the formatting stuff. This will both save your boss’ time and make your work look closer to hers. Depending on your workplace, either ask her if there is a template you should be using or create one on your own and ask for feedback separate from any data. Even if all she does is silently “fix” it and send it back to you, you’ll now have a working template.

  53. AMT27*

    It definitely sounds like you’ve not been trained properly. However, spreadsheets are also a language of their own in a way, and some people just find them easier than others – I love them, but I’ve had coworkers who struggle with the same spreadsheet after ten years. Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle, or maybe if you were actually taught how to approach it and do what you need to it would all be easier.

    The other side of this is that many staff accountant jobs are vastly different – as you look at other jobs, I’d examine what it is you like and don’t like with your current position. Some companies and positions rely heavily on spreadsheets; some accounting jobs are basically data entry; some are client-focused, etc. If you find a position that contains less of what you are currently struggling with – spreadsheets or a particular program – it might be better for you. You’d possibly find your groove once you are doing tasks you can excel at, and once you are feeling more confident and stable with your work its easier to take on new challenges and grow. It’s really difficult when the vast majority of your job is a challenge, and it sounds like maybe your current position is either not quite the right fit or it just isn’t providing the right support for you to thrive (or a combination of both).

  54. I'm A Little TeaPot*

    OP, there’s a thing that happens sometimes where someone is SO GOOD at the technical, but SO BAD at training and explaining and slowing down and generally anything non-technical. Accountants are very prone to this (not all of us, but enough). Your boss is this. She’s technical. She has a lot of learning to do in the non-technical stuff. And it’s hurting you.

    For those of us who are the technical people – either stay out of roles where you need to do the nontechnical a lot, or work really hard on learning the non-technical. It’s not fair to the people who you’re harming in someway otherwise.

    1. Bea W*

      This happens in my field as well, and it didn’t work out so well when one of technical people was given non-technical and managerial responsibilities. Even before then she was not who you wanted to go to with most questions or to deliver training or explain something to non-technical people.

      It was even worse for me as someone who is good at the technical stuff and good at translating it for people in non-technical roles. She got all the credit while I did all the actual work OR I got to clean up whatever giant mess she created in the non-technical world. That’s what we call lose-lose.

      1. Bea W*

        I forget to mention I also ended up informally training her direct reports. This really wasn’t my job, but not having them properly trained impacted my job, and I just thought it was crappy to leave people struggling unnecessarily. Unfortunately our mutual boss refused to address the issue beyond reminding Ethelberta’s reports to go to Ethelberta for these things. Super unhelpful to Ethelberta’s team, Ethelberta, and me!

  55. De Minimis*

    I did a similar career change to accounting, except somewhat earlier [in my mid-30s.] I had similar issues, and I think weak training and/or supervisors who won’t really train or otherwise are poor at communication is unfortunately super common in the accounting field. I think you are doing well if you are getting things to 90-95%. I’d just want to examine that final portion…is it the same thing or type of thing every time, or is it something different?

    But this may just be something you’ll need to try and stick out for another year or so and then try to find a different position. And you may find that things are better after that first year or so….that’s generally been what’s happened in my last couple of jobs.

  56. Data Miner*

    I’m a corporate accountant and before that, a public auditor. When I’ve coached people, I start by explaining the business process, then the accounting treatment and then how to audit the accounting (if you’re an auditor, that will be part of your job; if you’re a corporate accountant, you’re likely to be audited!).

    It’s clear that your boss is a turd, but you could try being more assertive to ensure you understand those three areas, especially the business process. You can use this as a reason to learn from your coworkers, i.e. other people whom you can listen to besides your boss. “Hey Susan, I’m having a tricky time with this debt calculation. Since you helped with the debt offering, can you help me understand what the prospectus says about accruing interest?” Even if your company isn’t huge, try to leverage your internal network (I have someone I go to for excel help, another for tax expertise, etc.) because this relieves your boss from being your one-stop-shop for all knowledge and shows you’re resourceful in trying to problem solve issues. This won’t resolve everything but may make you more comfortable knowing who can help with what, other than your boss.

  57. Escaped The Asylum*

    Oh, I know exactly how this feels, and this could have been me writing this letter.

    I was hired for a particular position and the person who trained me behaved in this manner. She would have me sit at her desk while she did one task after another and barely explained the steps to me. These tasks were to be my responsibility, but she refused to give them up and I really felt that her “training” method was passive aggressive. My boss would have meetings with me to discuss the behavior, and even though she tried to resolve it, the situation failed to change for the better.

    I later left the company out of sheer boredom and also because the company was run poorly with a high turnover.

    My advice is to look for another job. Don’t give up. And know that this is your bosses cross to bear, not yours.

  58. a human*

    Not everyone is meant to reverse engineer a spreadsheet, an application, business rules, or a business process. And even for those of us that prefer that–in my case my retention is better — well, not every situation is reverse-engineerable or worth the time to do so.

    There are some pointed questions that may help. You can ask them yourself first.
    1. Are the changes she is making the same every time? Or is she tweaking a formula, rule, or process because of some undocumented (verbally or otherwise) requirement specific to that project?
    2. How much of that remaining 5-10% completion a factor of
    – driving excel
    – accounting knowledge problems
    – something specific to the industry of the business
    – something specific to the yearly cycle of the company you’re in
    – something specific to the knowlege gritty about the company you’re in (in my world this tends to be data structures, categorizations of things, etc)
    – missing communication or misunderstanding regarding the project
    – flat out inaccuracy (proofreading/mistyping things/not applying formatting accurately)

    I try to tell people that an Excel formula (or even a sql query) is a way of answering a question. So you can also ask yourself if you’re asking good questions, and if you know how to put together the means to answer some really common questions.

    There are lots of ways to do accounting. Not every place uses Excel as its main tool. And if you’re tweaking formulas for “known” processes all the time, that suggests the processes aren’t very mature. At a certain point, you should be able to use a template or * really good* boilerplate for a lot of it.

    I am not an Excel whiz (more a database person). But I am guessing there has to be a way to compare changes in an Excel doc short of clicking every cell.

  59. Clever Name*

    Everyone has commented on the crappy training technique, but what stuck out to me as well was that the boss is taking an hour plus to figure out the last part. Like she’s not looking at the report or whatever and saying, “Oh, what you need to do here is x, y, and z to finish up.” Now, I’m not an accountant, but this is striking me as odd. Am I missing something?

  60. Xarcady*

    If the boss, who should be able to do the work, still takes an hour or more to figure out that last 10%, then OP, you are not doing badly at all! it’s not like you are taking that last 10% to your boss and she whips out an answer in 5 minutes.

    But I agree with everyone else that this is not a training method that has any degree of success.

  61. Boy oh boy*

    I wonder if your boss might have created such an unholy mess of spreadsheets and systems that it is extremely hard to teach and document. This happens all the time.

    Accounting at a retail business like OPs is often very complex and fast moving (stock, leases, cash, suppliers, staff costs). People create their own ad hoc spreadsheets for accruals or stock and suddenly it’s 30 meg and 47 tabs and no one else can make it work.

    I have seen enormous lease accounting or warranty estimate spreadsheets that nearly made me cry.

    Others have said it but I will repeat: accounting is HARD. I have three years at big 4 and felt like OP every day until about two years in, and I had great managers and trainers. I’m now a management accountant at a large business and after a year I just about feel happy that I know what I’m doing with their systems!

    Also most accounting systems (SAP, JD Edwards, etc) are very user-unfriendly. At best they are hard to learn.

    It is not you. The job is hard, and your boss is bad at training and bad at documenting.

    1. Boy oh boy*

      OP, I hope you see this: two tricks that will help you so much. First, in Excel, use Contol+[ to jump to the cell a formula references, even if it’s in another file. It works less well on formulas like VLOOKUP but if you are figuring ou someone else’s sheet it’s a great timesaver.

      Secondly, go to View->New Window. It opens a second view of the same workbook. This is brilliant for large multi-tab sheets.

      Good luck!!

  62. bopper*

    Also your boss may have some ridiculously complicated method to get what they want in the spreadsheets and it could be automated/simplified.

  63. GreenDoor*

    I am an accountant so I totally get the “it’s easier if I just do it myself mentality.” By and large, we accountants tend to work better when we can just be left alone to do it. Now that I manage people (not in accounting) it has really helped when others have specifically asked me “can you explain x without all the techspeak” “can we create a checklist for y” “what are you basing your raitonale for z on” “what is the objective we want at the end of this” kind of questins. My head works very logically and I’m process-oriented. I sometimes forget that other people work better when they have a picture or when they understand the underlying reason why we do Q instead of P or that some people need to understand the end goal in order to understand the preliminary steps.

    So I would suggest asking more specific questions, being specific about where she starts to lose you, or asking her to explain something in a way (a picture, step by step, use less acronyms, etc.) that clicks better with you.

  64. Plague of frogs*

    Uggghh, your department sucks and they are wasting company money. I have been there. In my last job, I didn’t get any basic training–not even, “What tools do we use and how do we use them?” I had to wander around and ask people, and fortunately they were helpful, but still I didn’t come up to speed for a year or so. Which was a huge waste of time and money.

    I suggested to my boss and his boss that we do basic training for incoming people. I gave them a list of things that everyone should get trained on. They just told me they “didn’t see the need, people just figure it out.” But of course, neither of them used the tools or even knew what tools we used. (Literally). I am much happier now that I have moved on.

    At least your boss knows how to do the stuff herself, but she’s a terrible teacher and, frankly, not a great manager.

  65. DJ*

    Sounds like the manager doesn’t know how to train. Can they have someone who can train to be your go to person. Can you ask to sit next to her so you can see what she is doing on the screen? Do you have an employee assistance program you can go to to chat about some training how to leave options.
    I wouldn’t mention your concern that you thought may have had a brain injury due to a medical event to your workplace. You did the right thing checking this out with your doctor to find it’s not the case. I did that when I was in a job where my colleague was rude and inpatient due to not wanting to work with someone jointly and not being kept in the loop. Years later I still experience the impact on reputation as my manager latched onto that and bankers me for everything even after I disclosed my colleagues behaviour, suggested a clear split of duties and asked to be included in planning and implementation meetings.
    Maybe also worth looking for another job in the same field in a new company that has better staff induction and training methods

  66. Lauren*

    My first job out of retail was very hard for me. Using excel and not finishing things very fast was a real problem. I felt like I hadn’t been using my brain at all EVER. It is a bad feeling, thinking others were very annoyed with me. They were upset at how long I was taking, but impressed that when I was done with a task – it was done very well. I had no idea though. Maybe they are upset that you are not fast, but are fine with your output and that you are not expected to get everything 100%. The favorite may be doing it at 100% or may just be faster. AAM is right, you are not being trained though. Talk to your boss.

  67. OP*

    I can’t thank Alison enough for not only posting my question but also answering with such understanding and great solutions.

    I wanted to thank all of you for taking the time to post your thoughts and suggestions. I am so appreciative and grateful for your responses. I’m very relieved to read that it may not be me entirely although I am happy to take responsibility for my side of the street. When I wrote to Alison, I was very concerned about my competence. The intention of my email was to pinpoint the problem so that I may progress with my career, develop skills, shift careers or whatever else I need to do to change something that is not working. After reading many of your comments I have much to think about.

    Thank you, thank you, accountants/CPAs/Controllers out there. There’s an aspect to this profession I hadn’t realized until I read your comments: a year is not really all that long. That’s only 12 closes, 4 tax filings, 12 recon attempts, 1 EOY & 1 audit. Each one of you have given me some very helpful tips and many excellent approaches as well as insight into the profession. I would really like to go through and respond to each and every one of your posts with further details. The posts I’ve understood the most are the methodological approaches – those are very helpful. As someone posted, “I wish I could have coffee with all of you and talk shop”.

    I wanted to answer a few questions that might help provide the requested additional information to some of the respondents.

    A) I made the career change based upon the recommendation of my former boss who was a controller. She
    thought I had a knack for it and encouraged me to pursue the change. Graduated with a 4.0
    B) Most of the tasks within the first 3-4 months were similar after which I started doing new and different work
    C) I took something to my boss during 2 heavy annual accounting activities that occurred simultaneously. She
    did comment that the problem was very difficult. Also, much of what I’ve been working on in the past 4
    months has required going back several years with little documentation or clear trails to follow. The
    approach I have been using is deduction or process of elimination. So, I think it’s hard, but cannot confirm
    this since I’m uncertain “what’s normal” for the field.
    D) Sometimes I get reviews and sometimes I do not. Yes, my boss does correct my work and sometimes she
    tells me about it and sometimes she does not. Yes, yes, yes, I save copies of my boss’ work and the work of
    my predecessor so I can trace the formulas and try to “detective my way through it”.
    E) My work consists of several different hats, which is fortunate for me because I am exposed to a variety of
    different tasks such as: GL work, some FA work, some tax work, A/P, A/R, analysis, project processes,etc.
    Because I was & have been so lost I did start documenting everything to trace the problem. In addition, I’ve
    started a series of formal process documents with screenshots and how-to steps for the company. This way
    someone else can find their way too.
    F) Excel is my main tool. I think I’m an intermediate excel user? Pivots, nested formulas, tables, graphs/charts,
    formatting, CSVs, text modifications, date/time manipulations, rudimentary formulas: vlookups, match,
    sumif, sumifs, countifs, etc. Statistical trending, forecasting, etc.
    G) In the past month or so I’ve begun to get a little more assertive concerning my needs as a productive
    employee – thanks to reading AAM – which in turn prompted my email for further guidance.

    1. RB*

      That is a lot of different accounting “hats” to wear. It also sounds like your Excel skills are not the issue. So, between the boss and the sucky co-worker, it’s almost like you’re being set up for failure, which is a real thing that can occur in jobs. Let us know what happens if you have “the talk” with the boss.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      I see you’ve managed to land your first accounting job in the land of undefined roles. There is good news here, after two years you’ll be able to move on to anything. The bad news—You’re constantly going to feel lost for a while longer. With no defined rolls or separation of processes, things are a bit mad. Questioning your sanity in this case is normal–heck it’s even expected.
      Now onto the bigger issue of how to ride this out for another year…Continue to soak up as much as you can. Question not only your boos, but people from other departments on what it is they want and how they want to see it, also ask them about what they do. Try to wrap your head around the bigger picture. This will help more than you realize. One day not to long from now things will finally start to click. When they do, redesign the spreadsheets so they work better, then take them to your boss and explain what you’ve done. Look for the small improvements. Every time you make a small improvement the bigger ones get easier to do. But most importantly look for the accomplishments that you can list on your resume.

  68. Empty Sky*

    Daniel Goleman calls this the pacesetting style of management, and argues that it has a negative impact on the workplace in the long term. This post is an excellent practical description of why.

    OP, you might try Googling those terms and reading up on the typical workplace dynamics to see if they look familiar. A characteristic of this style is that it can make people lose faith in themselves and doubt their own competency. It’s not necessarily true and you might have been doing just fine in a different environment.

  69. RB*

    I’m an accountant (regional gov’t) and this was painful to read. We have a sucky accounting system so we do an awful lot in Excel. Would it help you to take a community college class in intermediate Excel?

    Also, you mentioned a certification in accounting. That doesn’t require as much accounting education as a BS in Accounting so you didn’t start your job with the same knowledge base as someone who studied it for four years. Would it help you to take a community college class in Accounting? You wouldn’t have to take the lowest-level class, you could take the intermediate or advanced one since you’ve already got some accounting know-how.

    But definitely have the talk with the boss.

    Good luck!

  70. Melissa*

    I work in science, and there’s a pretty consistent model of training three times, where 1 ) I do it while explaining the process and you watch and takes notes, 2) you do it and I coach you through any problems, 3) you do it on your own and I watch without comment to make sure you’re not doing anything terrible. I think you need some of step 2 in your workplace training – it sounds like your boss will hate sitting and watching you, but I think it might be the most effective way to get her to teach you that last 10%.

  71. Mad Baggins*

    OP, you sound just like me in my old job! I saw my coworkers running circles around me, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I couldn’t do what they do. Was it my inexperience in a new field? Were they not training me right? Was I not asking the right questions? Was this role/field not a good fit? Was I just a dumb person who was never going to succeed at anything in life? As I got more and more frustrated, like you I blamed myself and thought that I was the problem. Please do not do this, please be kind to yourself!!

    The real problem is, your boss/coworkers are able to troubleshoot a problem and figure out how to solve it. You should be learning how to (1)diagnose the cause of the problem, (2)narrow down and choose a solution (from possible solutions you know of), and (3)how to execute that solution and test its success. It sounds like you’re going to your boss at one of those steps (probably #1 or 2 since it takes so long for your boss to figure it out) and your boss is just doing the rest of it for you instead of saying, “Well, it looks like an ABC problem, because of DEF signs. When I see one of those, it could be caused by G or H, so I try J solution first, and then K if that doesn’t work.” That way you learn how to fish, you’re not just given a fish and you’re trying to look up “how to fish” on YouTube!

  72. Easily Startled*

    Hi, OP,
    I’m in a similar position – I’m mid forties and entered Corporate Accounting about six years ago. I’m now a senior manager with several staff – and, honestly, after a year as a Staff, I’d expect you to complete your work accurately and timely. It sounds like they are quite frustrated with you and you are quite dejected.
    Instead of focusing the “blame” on the boss and the “favorite,” focus on what you can do to change the situation. For starters, the “favorite” is likely so because she is reliable and accurate.
    Ask questions. Take notes. Ask more questions.
    After a year there, the onus is on you to learn it.

    I believe you can do this!

  73. KR*

    Hi OP! Does your company have some sort of screen sharing software like Lync or Log Me In? Sometimes people I’m working with will share their screen with me when I have a question and either they will look at what I’m doing and walk me through it, or they’ll do something on their screen that they want to show me and tell me what they’re doing as they’re doing it, or explain what we’re supposed to be looking at. The accountants do it, my manager does it ( I am not an accountant but my work is primarily with money ), the people in charge of bigger picture financial tracking and forecasting do it. Maybe your manager would be able to do something like this.

  74. HRM*

    Just wanted to let you know that I can relate to this. About two months ago I moved into a new job and struggled significantly for the first 6 weeks and still struggle at this point because the person training me was awful. I was stressed to the point of crying everyday when I got home from work because I felt like an idiot. Similar to you, my trainer would often just do things for me rather than explain and she would get frustrated if I asked questions. She would frequently give me short answers – for example, for this check requisition you have to enter GL code 1234 but then wouldn’t tell me where to find the other codes or where to find the check req template, etc. so that I could apply the same process to similar things in the future. I was constantly having to ask where to find documents and reference materials and she would get snippy with me. Luckily for me, I’ve been in this field for about 7 years so I had more of a basis to help me get through. My job is also not nearly as technical as yours, which I’m sure helped. All this to say, this isn’t your fault – your trainer sucks, and you’re in a difficult position. I managed to muddle through the last 2 months and it’s starting to get incrementally better and I have faith the same thing will happen for you.

  75. Just Peachy*

    Just wanted to chime in and say that you’re not alone.

    I had a boss just like this in my first job out of college. I was never trained even remotely. She handed me huge projects from day 1 with zero explanation, then become frustrated with me when I couldn’t find my way to the finish line. She’d instruct me to just email the project over so that she could finish it herself, never to be discussed again. You are not the problem, OP. You can’t be expected to know how to do things that you’ve never been taught. From my experience, I moved onto a new job where I WAS properly trained, and found so much happiness. I’m actually praised for my work, and for being a quick learner. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes finding a new job with someone who is willing to actually train you effectively to succeed in your job.

  76. WorkRobot*

    I’m so sorry to hear all this.

    This isn’t about you. You’re insightful, intelligent, and inquisitive.
    It’s about your manager not knowing how to train—or manage, for that matter.

    I agree that you should be assertive in getting the training you need. It’s for you, and your peace of mind, and nothing is more valuable than that.

    You can do it!

  77. jo*

    OP, I am late to this thread, but I want to share a little story that backs up Alison’s main point!

    I do bookkeeping in an industry where the accounting processes are very specific to the industry, and you can learn it on the job (as I did) rather than going to school for it. Twice I have left a job doing this work, and both times I was asked to train a replacement. The 1-3 hour stretches I would spend training her left me with almost no voice and guzzling water because I had talked so much during that time.

    THAT is how you train someone to do accounting tasks. You yap, yap, yap while you demonstrate. You answer questions. It is tiring. But it pays off, and your manager should have done it in the first few weeks after you started–or found someone else willing and able to train you, if she didn’t feel up to it. You’d probably be in much better shape now if she’d done that part of her job.

    1. jo*

      Also, I don’t mean to imply that my work is significantly similar to OP’s work as an accountant with a degree and certification, because they are miles apart. OP is a lot more advanced than I am. I meant that when you’re training someone to do work they ultimately will perform alone, silently, on a computer screen that makes their internal thoughts difficult to discern … you have to be very verbal in order to help an observer understand what on earth you’re up to.

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