my employee keeps saying “at my last job, we did it a different way”

A reader writes:

I have an employee who has worked for us two years now. She is constantly starting a ton of sentences with the words “at my last job…” This is becoming a huge annoyance to many people. I can’t understand how, after two years, she is still making this comparison between our way and the way they did it at her last job. What is going on here? She is an otherwise good employee, but this hang-up about how the last place was perfect must mean she thinks our way is messed up!

I have tried talking to her about it, and she just says, “Well, that is how I am used to doing things at my last job.” I explained you have to take the things you learned in the past and apply them to new ways/jobs. But still, those words “at my last job…” keep coming out!

It’s always interesting to me when someone does this because this is one of those behaviors that’s so universally joked about/held up as a Thing Not To Do, even outside the relatively narrow world of career advice.

Of course, it’s not that you can never refer to how you did something at a previous job. Often that kind of knowledge can help solve a problem or improve a process at your current workplace. It would be weird if you could never refer back to how a previous workplace did something.

The problem is when someone does it constantly and it’s irritating people, which is what seems to be the case here.

But that makes it trickier to talk to someone about it, because you don’t want the message to be “don’t ever speak up about a useful idea from your old workplace.” You want them to bring some nuance to it and be able to figure out when it’s appropriate and when it’s not — and by definition, someone who’s doing this all the time may not be able to navigate that nuance.

In any case, I’m wondering how direct you were when you talked to her about it. It’s good that you explained that she needs to adapt to new situations, but it sounds like you may not have directly told her that this is becoming off-putting to people and she needs to rein it in. Any chance that you tried to be diplomatic about it and didn’t directly tell her to stop? That is an incredibly common way that feedback conversations go wrong — the manager is thinking they were crystal clear and is frustrated the feedback didn’t stick, when they actually softened the message so much that the employee didn’t hear what they really intended to say.

So it might be worth taking another stab at it now and saying something like, “We talked about this a bit before and I apologize if I wasn’t clear enough. When you so frequently compare we have do things to how you did them at your last job, it alienates people here and gives the impression that you think we should do things just like your old job did. There are times when it might be helpful to share an idea from your last job and I wouldn’t want to shut that down — but I do need you to be more aware of how often you’re making the comparison and scale it way back. It’s something I’d expect to hear occasionally — maybe a few times a year when it’s relevant — but not regularly.”

And if she again responds by telling you that she’s used to doing things a different way, then say, “Well, you’ve been here two years now, so I hope our way feels more familiar to you at this point! Regardless, I do want you to rein this in — because it’s coming across negatively, and I don’t want that to impact you or others.”

And that’s true — it’s really in her interest to shut this down, because it’s probably causing coworkers to roll their eyes at her, if only internally, which isn’t good for her reputation or people’s desire to work with her.

{ 328 comments… read them below }

  1. Kimberly Ferguson*

    Maybe explain to her that by using the phrase “at my last job” she should say “I think we should try this”. It helps her own the work and doesn’t depend on the tacit approval of a nebulous “last job”.

    1. KarenT*

      I like this phrasing. I think where people run into trouble with saying “at my last job” is not just that it can be constant, but also that it can have an air of “my last company was so much better, why aren’t y’all doing things our way?”

    2. SignalLost*

      It doesn’t even read to me that’s she’s suggesting solutions here. It sounds like she’s being told to turn the button with her left hand and she’s doing it with her right because that’s how she did it at her old job. Like, she’s literally not learning this job’s processes because she’s still using her old job’s processes.

      1. McWhadden*

        Well, if she wasn’t learning their processes at all she wouldn’t be a good employee and LW says she is.

        1. Observer*

          I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people do not think she’s a good employee. And, if this keeps up, that negative opinion is likely to spread.

      2. Frustrated Accountant*

        I am the letter-writer here. She actually doesn’t come across as offering solutions, she has a tone of handing our orders (not her role) and gives the impression her way is the correct way because that is how she is used to doing things.

        1. Let me sleep another half hour*

          If I was her co-worker, this would really get on my nerves. I’m open to reasonable suggestions, but not in this manner.

        2. Free Meerkats*

          She’s not offering solutions, just complaining that it’s different than the way she wants to do it? And she’s basically ordering other people to do it her way?

          Time for a hard shut down, then. “Esmeralda, the words “At my last job” shall never pass your lips again here. If they do, it’s a write up.”

          1. SignalLost*

            I was about to say this. This is not a good employee. (I said it anyway, because it bears so much repeating, especially if she’s giving orders!)

        3. a1*

          I said this below, too, but it sounds like this phrase is more a symptom rather than the whole problem. I still think Alison’s advice is right to talk to her, much more directly, again. And the subject would be more on overall attitude.

        4. JSPA*

          Is she generally, naturally really hard-wired? (Gets irked if she has to park in a different space or lot, or take a different bus…protests if the Tuesday meeting has to be moved to Wednesday…Always uses the third stall on the left…complains that three day weekends confuse the flow of the rest of the week?) Is she the sort of person to mistake “the way of doing things I was taught” for “THE way of doing things”? Does she seem distressed or anxious in response to having to navigate alternatives, or accommodate people who do things in a range of different ways?

          If so, she may not be handing out orders, per se. She may be operating under a dualistic, “one right way vs all the other wrong ways” view of the universe, and be presuming that (just as she’d feel terrible straying from that One True Path) others want to be reminded/informed of same.

          If so, there are some roles that will fit her really excellently. There are others where, for her to excel, she’d have to “surface” those tendencies (become aware that they are hers, rather than something everyone does; become aware that hers are distinct and noticeable, not always in a good way; and commit to mindfulness, and to not vocalizing her default reactions until she’s worked through them. But this may not be the simple problem / modest change / small “ask” that it would be for you.

          I can’t (for now) come up with a way to guide her effectively without overstepping into psychoanalyst boss or not-a-doctor-but-playing-one boss or parent-boss territory (which are much greater faux pas than reminding people that at old job, the spare copier paper was kept under a cloche, where it would not get dusty). But if you have in-house career development and counseling people, perhaps you can suggest that she work with them, to finish completing her transition from old workplace to yours.

          Alternatively, she could be fascinated by alternative ways of doing things–the sociology, the process variations. (I do that, and recognize that it’s legitimately annoying for others who don’t see variations as one of life’s treats.) If you get the sense that’s what’s going on, I’d deal with it like you’d deal with any other minor time-suck at work that’s based on one person having a fascination that they’re foisting on others. “Erminaleigh, I notice that you like to mention and discuss differences in how we do things, versus other places. We’re generally comfortable with our processes and practices here. Bringing them up out of interest therefore becomes a distraction. It can make people feel scrutinized, analyzed or even attacked. I understand you mean well, but moving forward, I need you to be mindful of that pattern, and not share comparisons when you notice differences in our practice or process.” If she doubles down on “you could do it differently,” I’d go with, “Our processes are intentional, not accidental. Unless you notice something dangerous–not merely different–I need you to keep that awareness to yourself. All of us have memories of how things are done elsewhere. We would get nothing done here if everyone discussed every way the [copier paper can be stored].”

        5. Tired*

          Then she should indeed be told that she is no longer at her previous place of employment, and it is off-putting for her to continue to bring it up. We all compare things when getting a new job but most of us are not arrogant enough to imply that the place currently paying us doesn’t know how to do things. Shut it down.

    3. joriley*

      I agree with this. If she’s referencing her last job because she thinks something from it has value, she should present it as an actual idea rather than just “you know, this is a thing that some people do… just throwing it out there” (which is essentially what she’s saying).

      If she’s just saying it to say it, she needs to cut it out because it’s not adding anything to the discussion. One way for her to approach this might be to ask herself what response she’s hoping to get by bringing up these things.

    4. Kaaaaaren*

      I actually suspect she may be using “At my last job…” as a way to offer an opinion about what she thinks they should be doing without having to boldly state “I think we should…” Basically, I think she’s using it as a way to speak up/not speak up at the same time.

      I think lot of people – especially many women, and myself included – are uncomfortable speaking up at work, for a variety of reasons ranging from simply shyness to bad experiences with doing so in the past, and things like this help making it feel safer. But, I agree that it’s annoying, makes her look bad, and she needs to stop doing it.

      1. Artemesia*

        Odd but perhaps true. ‘What if we tried it this way?’ is so much less off putting than ‘at my last job we. . .’

        1. Kaaaaaren*

          Absolutely. She should probably just… not make any suggestions of any kind for a while to give people a break. But, once she’s ready to start again virtually any other wording to make a suggestion besides “At my last job…” would be better.

          1. Cat Fan*

            She may just be mentioning the way they used to do it her last job because she’s trying to understand why it’s done a certain way at the new job so she can learn it better.

            1. Sam*

              Agreed – I’ve been guilty of using this phrase, generally I was trying to understand why something is done. Also I think it provides justification for why something way may work better – similar to “I’ve seen success when XYZ is implemented in this way “.

              1. PhyllisB*

                I have used the “at my last job we did…” to my supervisor, but I also said “this is my frame of reference, so I understand if this can’t be the way we do it here.” Never had any negative feedback. Sometimes I got “Hmm….That’s a good point. I’ll look into it.” And other times, “I see what you’re saying, but we do this because…….” It depends on how you say it.

            2. boo bot*

              I was thinking this – that she just means, “I’ve never done it this way!” or “I didn’t know you could do it this way!” 0r something similar, but she’s phrasing it terribly.

              Regardless, the advice is the same – she needs to know how she’s coming across, so she can stop. At MY last job, everyone would have been really annoyed by this. (Also at all of my other jobs.)

            3. Someone Else*

              That’s true but I’d normally expect that kind of reaction in the first 2 months of working the new job, not 2 years in. If she’s been there that long and still framing everything in the context of her old job, that’s problematic because unless it’s specifically in a “this was faster/easier/simpler/I think is worth trying” type of context, it sounds a whole lot like she’s been resisting getting accustomed to the way things work at this new job. It’s just not that new anymore.

      2. A New Level of Anon*

        Yeah, we have someone on our team who, for reasons related to personality and probably culture of origin doesn’t feel comfortable actually suggesting that we try something new but instead drops a lot of declarative statements about what was done in the past. Rather than being helpful and conflict-avoidant, it just comes across as incredibly irritating and officious, even though she likely doesn’t mean it that way.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        This is a good insight. She may be someone who has been discouraged from offering suggestions based on her own ideas/thoughts/brain power and is therefore saying “at my old job…” as a way of doing that…even if it wasn’t actually something done at Old Job. Because yeah the whole **”pushy/demanding/emotional/aggressive woman…” thing.

        **I have lots more adjectives, but I think I’ve made my point… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    5. Random Commenter*

      I don’t know, something about “at my last job…” used in excess makes me think of when children in school tell substitute teachers “our teacher always does…”. And in that case what follows can either be true or not, but what the child is trying to do in this situation is to use the authority of the main teacher to try to tell the substitute how they should run their classroom.

      I think the problem with abusing the phrase “at my last job…” unless it’s seldom and in the cases Alison states above, is that it comes off like the employee hasn’t really internalized that THIS is their job now. Or that is how it seems to me at least.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        I would agree. I was laid off from my last job; wasn’t able to say goodbye to anyone. Had been there for ages; and then when I found a new job I moved. And it only took a few weeks to find the new job – so it was a massive whirlwind of emotions. It took a long time to internalize that I wasn’t there any longer. Didn’t take two years; but I’m also the type of person who gets used to change (even if I go kicking and screaming into it) fairly quickly. But even with that personality quirk; it was a good year or so before I was comfortable. I could see how she might still be uneasy, especially if she didn’t voluntarily separate from the last job (or even if she did). She may also not feel comfortable in the new position.

      2. Jasnah*

        Or if you’re a teacher/babysitter/childcare giver, when the child says, “My mom always…” I always respond “I’m not your mom.”

    6. Free Meerkats*

      At this point, it might be best for her to just shut up for a month or so. No matter how she starts the comment, her coworkers are going to hear “At my last job…”

      Lay low and plug along for a month or so, then if she sees things that could be objectively done better the way they were at her last job, use this language.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I had a good friend (and manager) who would say “At [former place of employment]” to introduce explanations of how that organization handled certain employment policies (my employer was younger and hadn’t documented a lot of their processes/norms). It drove everyone nuts and definitely alienated the other managers.

      I agree that all of the following intros would be much better:
      “I think we should try [explanation]”
      “What if we tried [suggestion]?”
      “I’ve seen our peer organizations do [suggestion]; what if we tried that out?”

      1. JustaTech*

        We (briefly) had an HR manager who would say “well at [serious rival company] they do blah blah blah.”
        I really wish someone would have taken him aside and said “look, there are some bad feelings about [serious rival company] and the things they have said about our company in the press. Could you please not keep bringing it up? A lot of people are taking it personally.”
        (Apparently he did some outrageous things and got fired; I wasn’t in the office then.)

      2. TheMonkey*

        I like the “what if we tried…?” or “have we considered trying…?” At my current place of employment, oftentimes we’ve already considered whatever it is the person is suggesting in situations like this and for whatever reason it didn’t work out.

    8. CM*


      There are different reasons people can say this. If the reason is because she thinks it’s a better idea to do it the way they did it at her old job, it’s worth having a conversation about why she thinks that and why other people do or don’t agree.

      Another way to try to dig into this is to ask her in the moment, “Are you saying you think it would be better to [do whatever they did at the old job]?” And then, if the answer is yes, ask why.

    1. SometimesALurker*

      Honestly, watching that as a kid helped me learn that “at my old school…” was a phrase that could get annoying quickly if overused, and I think I was much more self-aware about that phrase when I switched schools in fourth grade than I would otherwise been at that age. :)

    1. Allison*

      I know it’s off topic but I thought the same thing! Only I thought it was Arnold for some reason, thanks for reminding me!

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I went straight to Ellen Tebbits, where she had to tell her best friend Austine that everyone was sick and tired of her saying, “in California we did X.” But they were fourth graders, so I guess it doesn’t apply ;)

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        I thought about this one too! She eventually did tell Austine to go back there if it was so great.

  2. Anononon*

    Any other millennials getting Magic School Bus nostalgia? “At my old school, we never….”

    Seriously, though, it’s bizarre that this is still happening two years in. How can she be used to doing something a certain way when it was two years ago??

      1. Amber Rose*

        Oh yes. It was literally what was in my head as soon as I read the title of the article.

        I haven’t seen that show in decades, it’s amazing how that stuff sticks with you.

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed, the two years part is what really threw me too.
      If it was her first couple weeks, I could definitely see the comparisons – things are done a little differently everywhere and there’s an adjustment period. And honestly, if it was only a couple weeks, I might even suggest OP just shrug it off as “some people take longer to adjust to change and our procedures do have their own odd quirks” and let it go away naturally…but two years is well beyond that point.

      1. Wine not Whine*

        I’ve a very dear friend in a hobby organization who got his start in the group out on the West Coast. He’s been in the Midwest for 20 years now, and it’s *still* “when I was back in XXX…”
        We’ve gotten to the point at times of interrupting him in chorus with “…the Land of Milk and Honey From Which All Good Things Come.” Fortunately he takes it in good part and is able to laugh at himself!

    2. Allison*

      For real though, the fact that it got on everyone’s nerves taught me NOT to do that, in school or at work, at least not to excess!

      I’ve said it a few times, but only in meetings where people were trying to solve a problem or figure out a new approach, and I’d offer up how we did it at my old job and whether it worked, or whether it didn’t, but we could try it a different way and see if that works better.

  3. PBH*

    A new employee did this, on his first day, by attempting to take over a meeting the CEO was running. He lasted a week.

      1. PBH*

        A coworker/friend later married him. I found out he was “special” in many ways. Truly a nice guy overall just the cockiest human being I have ever encountered. Would give you the shirt off his back though.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          Because it’s really better than the one you have there…but he’s such a nice guy and so sincere in his belief that he knows best. Yes, I am related to that same (type of) guy!

    1. Artemesia*

      An iron law of the universe. Shut up in meetings your first week on the new job and observe what others of your status do before wading in.

  4. Antilles*

    And that’s true — it’s really in her interest to shut this down, because it’s probably causing coworkers to roll their eyes at her, if only internally, which isn’t good for her reputation or people’s desire to work with her.
    It’s also in her interest (and the company’s) because it’s clearly turned into a boy-crying-wolf scenario: She’s talked about Old Job so much that even if her idea is a legitimately great one worth borrowing, everybody else is going to mentally write it off/tune it out as ‘ugh, yet more Old Job did it this way’.

    1. Putting out the positive*

      This is so true. I currently have someone who does this in my department also. She also does tasks her own way instead of the way she has been trained. I try not to micro-manage her, but every task I give her and show her how I want it done, is done how she wants it done. If you get the same result is it okay to let them do it their way? I feel that if you are new and trained to do a job a certain way, that is the way it should be done.

      1. Long Time Lurker*

        Is she literally getting the same result? Is she keeping up with her workload? Then let it go. In quickbooks you can either use the drop down date menu or type in your dates when running your reports. If my boss was like “you are required to use one way even though it makes No Difference to the final report” I would be looking for another job.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Here’s my litmus test. If the way I do it is different from my coworker’s, will my coworker be able to pick up where I left off if I have to hand it off for some reason? If I change the order of steps or use a different program, process, can my coworker pick up and continue using the original, official procedure? If not, no, you can’t do it that way. If yes, then it probably doesn’t matter.

      3. Frank Doyle*

        I think it probably depends on how new is “new,” but generally speaking, if they are getting the same (accurate) results and not spending more time or resources doing it, you should let your employees accomplish tasks in the way that works best for them. Of course if they’re going to miss things doing it their way, or it takes longer, or it’s unsafe in some way, they should do things the way they are trained.

      4. LKW*

        Reasons why it wouldn’t be ok can include: Need to maintain accountability, chain of custody, capture key decisions & decision makers, ensure compliance, confirm conformance, risk of introducing errors or reduction of efficiency. But if none of this applies and the results are equivalent or superior, I say have at it.

      5. Frustrated Accountant*

        I am the letter writer here. While she does get tasks done, it takes her longer because she is constantly second guessing, over-researching and questioning everyone else’s work and experience. She has created a lot of hard feelings because of her constant distrust in co-workers.

        1. SignalLost*

          Still not a good employee. Reframe that in your head now; because your comments are screaming that she actually isn’t a good employee, she’s nice outside of work tasks or she’s friendly or she’s always willing to help out, or whatever, but that sounds really inaccurate, even if we all know that person who makes work a great place to be while being terrible at their job.

        2. Antilles*

          This context makes it much, much worse than if it was just a verbal tic or casually mentioning her old company. Like this elevates it from irritating eye-rolling behavior into a serious problem with her ability to function in the team.
          Questioning others’ work and experience just because we did another way at OldJob is Not Okay.

        3. ildi*

          “While she does get tasks done, it takes her longer because she is constantly second guessing, over-researching and questioning everyone else’s work and experience. She has created a lot of hard feelings because of her constant distrust in co-workers.”

          That doesn’t sound like an “otherwise good employee” to me and the problem goes deeper.

          1. A New Level of Anon*

            This sounds like someone far too inflexible to be capable of their job. I don’t understand why ongoing behaviour like this is tolerated when it’s honestly not that difficult to find job candidates who take some responsibility for shoring up their soft skills.

      6. Le Sigh*

        I think it depends on what “getting the same result” means, exactly. To one other commenter’s point, is this a matter of just using a drop-down or short-cuts, or other small things you shouldn’t micro-manage? Or when she decides hers is a better way, is she skipping steps she simply deems not needed, but actually are? I could see someone new in my company thinking those two extra copies aren’t a big deal, but they are a big deal to people here who deal with database documentation. Because it’d be one thing if she said “hey, I’ve been doing it the company way, but I think I have a simpler way to ensure we have the database documentation,” and a whole other if she just chucked it because it seemed unnecessary.

        And it’s about more than short-term results. Is she showing good judgement overall? You might both get the same result now, but if she’s simply skipping critical in-between steps or taking twice as long to do the work, you might be building toward a much bigger problem longer-term.

        1. Frustrated Accountant*

          It’s an Accounts Payable position. There are not many different results to be had!

          1. Le Sigh*

            Sorry, I think I nested badly. This was a response to Antilles, who noted that she has a person she’s trying to train who isn’t following the training entirely.

            Though even in accounts payable, where you should all in theory get the same result, it really can matter how you get there. People need leeway to do things how things work for them, of course, but I’ve had coworkers who don’t ask questions or try to learn why we do something, decide it’s not needed…and come to find out six months later we have a huge backlog of invoices or something. Or stuff didn’t get into a database as needed. Or they take three days longer to do something, etc. I’m very open to rethinking how we do things, but ask! Don’t just assume that because we got the same answer, everything is fine!

          2. Perse's Mom*

            I’d argue that alienating her coworkers and probably a lot of other people she comes into contact with in her working environment is also a result, and not a good one.

  5. Scotty_Smalls*

    I went with a friend to Universal Studios Hollywood. And after every ride she’d explain how it was different from Orlando. Plus she hated all the hills. It got annoying in a few hours, much less 2 years!

    1. Random Commenter*

      Why do people do this, seriously.

      I went with a friend to Italy and the whole trip he kept going on about the other places in Europe he’d visited (mostly France and Germany, which I’ve never been to).

    2. Le Sigh*

      When I was 12 my parents moved me across the country and I wasn’t happy about it. I did a lot of the “back in my home state” stuff that I’m sure annoyed my classmates. I missed home state terribly. But I was 12 and eventually I got used to things, got over it, and got on with life.

      Two years as an adult with a (likely voluntary) job change feels … a tad much.

  6. BRR*

    I had a coworker who did this for a very long time. Sometimes it was a criticism and draining because they had difficulty acclimating to any new process. But I finally figured out that sometimes they meant it as, “At my last job we did this thing this way, how do we do this thing here?” Now I don’t know if that’s what is going on here, especially after two years, but my coworker did this for well over a year.

    1. Blue*

      I’m new in my job, but if I say “at my last job, we…” that’s usually what I’m getting at. But unlike your coworker, I try to limit the number of times I say it, and I try to be explicit about what I’m trying to learn. So I might say, “At my last job, [thing] would’ve caused x, y, and z problems. How do you avoid those issues with [thing]?” It’s actually been a fairly effective way to get a more complete picture of what happens here and how/why it works the way it does (which, by default, means I now have fewer questions to ask because I better understand the context.)

    2. Admin of Sys*

      I was guilty of this for a while at my new company (I’ve mostly stopped after a year and a half, I think) But my last position was 10yrs long, so there was a definite adjustment to get out of old habits. I mostly used the phrase as an apology/explanation for having trouble catching on to the new process. A ‘Sorry I keep forgetting to send in the weekly reports, at the last job it was monthly’ sort of scenario.

  7. WellRed*

    I wonder how many of her current coworkers think, “maybe you should go back to your last job.” This should have been shutdown ages ago.

    1. Psyche*

      Yeah. I think that it needs to be pointed out to her that saying it so much makes it seem like she is unhappy here and would prefer to go back to her old job. She should only bring up how they did things at her old job if she legitimately thinks that it would be an improvement to change how they do something. And just because it is more familiar to her is not a good reason since that would not help the team as a whole. If it is cheaper, better, more efficient then it should be pointed out and discussed. If not, then it is irrelevant.

    2. Mimi Me*

      Right? My kids just started a new school in a new town this year. The new school is a lot different than what they know and they’ve been pretty verbal to the kids at the new school. One of my daughter’s classmates, tired of hearing her compare and contrast schools, told my daughter “well you’re not at the old school so shut up about it!” It was a huge wake up call for her. She didn’t realize she was doing it to this extent. I think that what this co-worker needs at this point – especially after 2 years!

    3. AKchic*

      That is exactly how I feel just *reading* about this. 2 years is 1 year and 10 months too long to be hearing “at my last job” as much as I suspect everyone is hearing it (if it’s become enough of a problem to be writing in about).

      I know how I would react. Especially on a bad day when my filters aren’t exactly working well. I can only admire the restraint of every person working with this employee.

    4. Flying Fish*

      I would have such a hard time not saying, “So why did you leave? It seems like you prefer things there.”

    5. brighidg*

      Having a co-worker who does this (after two years of starting at current job) I sometimes “jokingly” tell her that it sounds like she really misses the place. I don’t think she gets it.

  8. Sloan Kittering*

    Omigod this is me (except it hasn’t been two years). I bite my tongue every day, but the problem is … my new job does things in a *really stupid way.* They generate waaaaay too much paperwork and documentation – over things that nobody needs to ever use again. Everyone here was raised only in this organization so they’re all infected by this thinking – I’m the only one coming from a peer organization. I’m constantly trying to find new ways to say, “my last (much bigger and better organized) organization didn’t feel the need to keep this level of records, so I really don’t think it’s necessary.”

    1. samiratou*

      Maybe find ways to tie it back to why it’s not a good idea in general, vs the previous job? Eg. Creating these records costs the company $X in time, wasted paper, wasted space, wasted employee time/money maintaining them. By doing Y, we could save $Z and still get the same benefits without overdoing the record-keeping.

      Or loop it back to some sort of “industry best practice?”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        This. If there are objectively good reasons to do things differently, bring those up, without mentioning that your old job already figured that out.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah, I need to find a way to do it that doesn’t just make me sound lazy, like I just can’t be bothered to keep up this intricate recordkeeping system. Maybe there’s even an element of truth there haha!

          1. MuseumChick*

            I think you could frame it as “streamlining”

            “I was thinking about how process for the X reports. Do you think we really need five copies of each one? If we were to just save a digital copy and a hard copy it would really reduce the amount of time we are spending on this and really reduce the amount of filing space we need.”

            1. Auntie Social*

              Yes. You could start the conversation with “which departments get these five copies?”, so you can try to understand the system. Then you could offer to give them digital copies and you keep the hard copies in your department, or whatever. But I’d make sure that I understood who gets what copies, and why.

            2. BF50*

              Inefficiencies cost money. Streamlining a process is in the best interest of the company, not just because you are lazy. Small changes can add up to significant cost savings, on the balance of tens of thousands a year.

              If it saves 5 minutes of your time each day and you are paid $50k a year, that’s $520 in savings on just wages. You could argue that the savings are higher, but let’s stick with that. It doesn’t seem like much, but if you are saving 5 minutes a day for a small department of 5 people, that is $2600 a year.

              If you find 5 ways to save 5 minutes a day for 5 people, assuming the $50k salary, that’s $13000 saved a year.

              Stuff like this usually saves more than 5 minutes and the investment in efficiencies pays of quickly.

    2. Ophelia*

      Are there industry standards you can refer to that would point to the potential for rethinking their systems/making them more efficient without specifically calling out OldJob?

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        This would be a good idea. I’m in the nonprofit sector so things are all over the place, but maybe I can find something so at least I’m not saying the dreaded words “at my last job!”

        1. Anon From Here*

          all over the place

          Yes and no? There are some very standard best practices in nonprofit governance, financial recordkeeping, and the like. I’ve put a link to a list of excellent secondary sources in my username.

          Maybe you could suggest (deep breath!) a consultant to come in, do an analysis, and give advice.

    3. A tester, not a developer*

      We frame it as meeting compliance (external) and/or audit (internal) benchmarks.
      Is there a legal requirement to keep XYZ records? If so, how much and for how long?
      Is someone from within the organization going to be using or reviewing these documents? If so, when? And how much detail will they need for the documents to be useable for them?

      …which is how we discovered that documentation that my area thought was useless is being reviewed by another area 12-18 months after we’re done with it. We managed to streamline it, but we still produce it – and at least now we know why.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      Maybe instead of saying “at my last job,” you could try playing up the effectiveness of electronic records and concerns about the environment with printed paperwork. Spin it as wanting this company to be more efficient instead of comparing it (negatively) to other companies.

    5. Observer*

      In addition to what samiratu said, perhaps you could actually ASK why they are generating all of this paperwork and documentation. Maybe they are being stupid, but maybe they have a reason for this. If you ask with an open mind, then if you hear something that doesn’t add up, you can suggest doing it differently. But “My old place was smart and you guys are stupid” (or even “My old place did things the smart way and you guys are doing it the stupid way”) is not going to be very effective.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I’ve definitely asked. They say, “well it’s important to document our process” or “we want to make sure we can show our due diligence.” But to me, if the records are mostly for internal use, I’m not sure why they would be so long and duplicative.

        1. Observer*

          It sounds like they are worried about audits.

          Instead of dismissing the answers, you could ask some followup questions like “Who do we need to show that we’ve done due diligence? What are their requirements?” Then you could also suggest a more streamlined way of doing it where it makes sense. So, if it’s purely internal, you could suggest that perhaps one form would be adequate instead of 4, etc. If you get a lot of pushback about how this is not “practical” or “not possible”, you could then say that “At the old place we were able to do this.”

          But in some cases, it really does make sense to have this stuff, even if it’s also a pain.

          1. Cheryl Blossom*

            Yeah, this was my first thought. It reminds me of my old job (ha!) where we kept records going back 20 or 30 years (including some on floppy disk!) because we worked with school districts and Boss wanted records of everything in case of audit.

      2. Auntie Social*

        My assistant Jane hated sending files to storage, didn’t like the record keeping that went with it, her old firm didn’t do it that way, etc. Except–her old firm was much smaller, and we had clients at the firm who had had multiple attorneys for different matters. She told me that she had “streamlined” the information we saved before the file went to dead files, and fortunately the universe told her she was wrong before I got a chance to. We got a call that a client needed to review a file, but couldn’t tell which file he wanted from the info Jane had saved. So instead of using our retrieval service, I sent Jane to storage. In the heat. And I had our messenger drive her, but not help. It took her four hours to locate the file, and she came back looking like she’d been working in the mines. I told the messenger to bring back four of the most recent boxes of files for Jane to re-index. Eventually it all got done. To her credit, she didn’t complain. So please ask about what you perceive as a cumbersome procedure–there may be a really good reason for it.

    6. BethRA*

      Why not just drop the reference to “my last (better, cooler) organization” altogether and focus on the cost/benefit of what you’re suggesting? It comes off as focused on where you were, not where you are.

    7. Bea*

      I had to stop people doing unnecessary paperwork before. It was a throwback from someone prior who insisted on it. They were actually creating more work and possibility for human error.

      If you’re drawing on past experiences to enhance productivity it’s okay to say “I’ve done it This Other Way previously. Is that something we could try? It reduces the work involved and saves time to focus on other tasks.”

      It’s about being constructive and viewing it as a living process, procedures do change if people are willing to allow them to

    8. Tragic The Gathering*

      I feel the same way. Been here 6 months and some of the ways they do things here are SO backwards and make no sense. I am constantly kicking myself for having “at oldjob we…” fly out of my mouth too often.

      Trying to just implement changes where I can and make suggestions without specifically mentioning OldJob, but sometimes it feels like the idea would have more credibility if it was tied to another organization not just “an idea I had this morning.”

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yes! That’s my problem. I feel like if I just say “I don’t think we need this,” or “I don’t understand the point of keeping all this,” that doesn’t sound as official.

        1. Anon From Here*

          Do you have an office-wide policy on document retention and destruction? If not, your lawyers/auditors could give your management some written legal guidance on what you truly need to destroy, keep (and for how long), or generate in the first place.

    9. Super dee duper anon*

      I’ve been there too at my last job. I tried my best to keep “at my old job” out of it and just stick to “I think we could do x instead for these reasons”, but it was tough. Most people there above entry level had only ever worked there and it created a very limited, homogenous work force. Culturally, new/fresh ideas were not encouraged.

      Now, at my current job, my boss seems to value the fact that I’ve seen our work applied in slightly different flavors of our industry. He seems to appreciate when I say “well we did x at firm A and Y at firm B, I think x (with any nec. stipulations) would be most applicable to us”. Or “we did n, at my last firm, but I don’t think it’s necessary for us to do that for these reasons”.

      I kind of think the key to whether “at my last job” is appropriate is if the person clearly understands the nuances of the situation and is making an applicable/relevant/good faith suggestion vs. someone who is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and is trying to suggest using past job methods in situations where it’s clearly different/not relevant.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah I also think maybe it’s literally the phrasing “at my last job …” that automatically triggers a negative response, and that if you just tweak the wording to “in my experience X or Y” you can slip in a few more opportunities to raise things this way …?

        1. Wine not Whine*

          Yes, exactly. “At my old job” can instantly raise a defensive barrier that’ll keep a good idea out. Even “well, I’ve seen it done this way and it had these benefits. Do you think we can take a deeper look at it?” allows room for buy-in.

    10. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      That must be really tough!

      I think you might want to come up with a code phrase that only you know “Hmm that’s interesting, have you thought of X”, “Hmm, filing your post it notes, I’m wondering if that is an industry standard practice”, ” I wonder how other companies manage those bingo card archives, usually there’s a records retention policy”

      I hear you though, even in my own company when we merged 3 separate companies there was a huge difference in standard practice. The running joke was Company A has too many rules, most unnecessary and cumbersome, Company B has some rules, but not evenly applied and inconsistent, and Company C has no rules and is the wild west. We found this to be true and consistent for just about everything. It was a challenge to bring everyone together and we had a firm rule in our group. We did have to ‘ban’* the us/them language, because the group just wasn’t moving past ‘the old way of doing things’.

      *ban as in strongly discourage

    11. Elle*

      I’ve started using lines like:
      -I’ve seen it done successfully in this manner, could we try that here?
      -Of course not every solution works for every problem, but this is one way I’ve seen this problem solves in the past. Is there a reason it wouldn’t work for us?
      -Or just straight up pretending the idea came from my own head, not from past experience. It seems like it works better to explain to people why its a good idea than it does to tell them I’ve seen it before and it worked then. If you’re worried you’ll look lazy for saying “but I don’t want to spend all my time filing” you could phrase it as “if we could make the filing process more efficient, it would free up my time so I could work on X improvement project”

    12. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ooo, you definitely have to drop that. I have been at organizations that do stupid things, hire someone from a peer organization, and then the person from the peer organization keeps comparing processes in a way that makes people resentful.

      It sounds like you’re appealing to outside authority to bolster why your opinion or approach is valid. First, I’m side-eyeing your colleagues for making you feel like you have to appeal to outside authority (they obviously hired you for your experience, among other things). Second, it would make sense to come up with a more concrete and focused way to describe your concerns and objections. If you can focus on industry best practice, on how to satisfy their narrow concerns while being mindful of the cost/benefit analysis, etc., I suspect it will go over better. They still may be recalcitrant, stubborn, and stupid about things, but at least you won’t have engendered bad will for invoking your prior employer.

    13. Liz*

      Same for me. I know it’s annoying, but I keep thinking… they explicitly have told me MANY TIMES that they hired me to help them figure out how to do things more like my last company, so why aren’t they listening when I actually share that information? If the person in this letter was hired under similar circumstances, they probably feel like they aren’t being listened to and their feedback isn’t valued, perhaps because everyone else in the organization is so entrenched in The Way We Do Things Around Here that they haven’t paused to consider that maybe there are other ways to do things.

      In my experience, the phrase “at my last company…” slips out way more often when I’m being presented with a (bonkers, inefficient, costly, risky) way of doing things rather than being given the opportunity to participate in a conversation and decision about how we do the work. I want to help, and management tells me they want that help, but they need to make space for me to offer that value. I guarantee if they did that, they’d hear a whole lot less of “at my last company…” from me.

      I agree that some of that is because of how this person is phrasing their feedback, but I think long-term employees could turn this behavior around by demonstrating a bit of curiosity and questioning their status quo, opening up the door for this feedback to come up in ways that are more palatable to others. For example, maybe the OP could make room in meetings to say, “some of you have worked in other organizations — how has this problem been solved there?” or “what other ideas have people seen or heard about in other companies?” or “how do our competitors solve this problem?”

      1. Little Miss Crankypants*

        “Same for me. I know it’s annoying, but I keep thinking… they explicitly have told me MANY TIMES that they hired me to help them figure out how to do things more like my last company, so why aren’t they listening when I actually share that information? If the person in this letter was hired under similar circumstances, they probably feel like they aren’t being listened to and their feedback isn’t valued, perhaps because everyone else in the organization is so entrenched in The Way We Do Things Around Here that they haven’t paused to consider that maybe there are other ways to do things.”
        I’m rowing the same boat with Liz. Why hire me for my expertise and 20 years of experience if you’re only going to Keep Doing Things the Old Way? (And I do mean old. Like 19th century old. We’re working on hard copy, fer chrissakes.)

        But nope, they don’t want to hear about digital workflow or Track Changes or anything too new-fangled. So I want to gouge my eyes out everyday after re-writing (yes, by hand) hard copy edits onto, yes, hear me–another hard copy.

        Sigh. I’ve got to find another job.

        1. Liz*

          I hear you! Every day: “Ugh, we really need to modernize things around here! ”

          Good luck finding something new!

    14. NotAnotherManager!*

      I totally get this – a couple of years ago, I did a stint in another department within my own organization for about 8 months, and I was (INTERNALLY) appalled at how wasteful, convoluted, and overworked their processes were. And, being an extremely niche department, there was not a lot of opportunity for new blood to come into it. Where it became a huge problem was that the group got about twice as busy seemingly overnight (hence my secondment), and their bloated processes created tons of necessary OT and client billing, the latter of which the attorneys cared about very much. THAT was the point of entry to start changing things – we had to bring down client costs. Absolutely no one gave a shit that Department Y (or Competitor Firm) did it another way because Department Y/Competitor Firm was clearly not as special or good as their department.

      I was also totally new to the department’s work, so I asked a lot of questions about the how/why of things because I needed to get my work right, and that gave me a lot of information about what they were actually trying to achieve. Once I knew what the goal was, that made process improvement suggestions much easier because it wasn’t about their crappy process, it was about getting a crushing volume of work done in an efficient manner.

    15. Jojo*

      I could be that the level of documentation is required by the contract. At mine it is. And it must be kept for th he life of the contract. We kill a lot of trees with our paperless system.

  9. Amber Rose*

    Would it be rude to just point out in the moment “this isn’t your old job however, and there are many things we need to do differently.”

    It’s not so much the rolling eyes (which, don’t get me wrong, are rolling right out of heads) but she’s giving everyone the impression that she’s completely inflexible and resistant to change, which is not an awesome impression to give people if you want to go anywhere in your career.

    Also you really don’t want to be associated with a constantly complaining elementary school girl if you are an adult. I’m sure she’s working with at least one Magic School Bus fan.

    1. Holly*

      I think the concern is that OP doesn’t want this person to feel like she can never share an idea especially if it might be helpful, but the way it’s being framed is really grating and uses up any capital she had to suggest things.

    2. MLB*

      I agree, LW needs to be direct. I might even start making a note every time she says it, so if the more direct approach doesn’t stick you can prove to her how often she says it.

  10. Observer*

    You may also want to point out to her that 2 years in she should be at point where she has gotten used to the way things are done here. Maybe not to the “I could do this in my sleep” point, but enough that saying that she’s “just used” to the way OldJob did things makes her look like she’s incapable of learning new things. That’s REALLY going to hold her back, even if she has no ambition. Because even in the same position, things change. The software, the equipment, the rules, the clients etc. are all things that change, and require people to learn new things. If you can’t you are in a world of trouble.

    1. theschnauzer*

      Yeah, I had the same response. I feel like, as a manager, it’s reasonable to say something like “You keep on mentioning that you prefer how you did things at your old job. I’m confused – are you not happy here?” Or “Yes, I understand that this is how you used to do things at your old job. However, it’s been 2 years now – are you still struggling to adapt?”

      Regardless, this is ridiculous.

  11. LadyL*

    Eh, I don’t think it necessarily follows that because she’s comparing it must mean the last place was perfect or she thinks you guys are wrong.

    I tend to think this way, in compare/contrasts, because it makes sense in my brain to organize information that way, but it doesn’t mean a preference for one over another. Usually I just mean, “Last job had me do X, but you’re saying do Z and I don’t fully understand the reason for the difference and if I’m going to be able to do Z on my own next time I probably need to know why it’s preferable over X or Y or anything else so I can make good choices in the future”. It kind of sounds like from your letter that’s what’s going on, she’s trying to understand the differences so she can independently do her job So it may be more of a brain tic or an anxiety thing than a put down to your office.

    Not denying that it’s annoying, I recently just got spoken to about this habit myself in my workplace. And definitely not denying that there’s a way to do it that may indeed be suggesting she’s unhappy with your office’s style. Just throwing out there some of us have weird brains and how it comes across may not be how it’s intended.

    1. Fulana del Tal*

      A letter similar to this came up recently, about someone getting in trouble for asking “why?” too much. While asking occasionally while about a process maybe acceptable constantly asking why is going to annoy your manager/coworkers.

      1. LadyL*

        Yup, I got told I was asking too many questions at the same convo as the “stop comparing stuff” conversation so I remember that letter. I dunno what to say other than some of us aren’t complaining, we’re just dumb-dumbs. Now I keep my questions and my comments to myself, although I still don’t understand anything about the job environment or how to correctly operate within it.

        1. Cheryl Blossom*

          There was a lot of advice in to the LW asking too many questions that wasn’t just “keep my questions and my comments to myself”. Knowing when to ask questions, how to ask useful questions, etc., is important. But constantly asking “why do we do X?” combined with “but at Old Job we did Y instead” is going to make it seem like you’re just unhappy.

          1. LadyL*

            Not trying to be petulant, I just genuinely thought I was having really good back and forth conversations with my host teachers and it turned out the feeling was not mutual. Since I clearly am not coming off the way I think I am, I thought I should just shut up and step back for a bit. I’m obviously not reading them right, or understanding them correctly, or expressing myself well, and I have no idea how to fix it so I figured I should just be quieter until I figure it out.

            Actually I think this thread has helped me realize maybe the issue is my strong preference for school over work, I feel like school has trained my brain to think and communicate in a certain way that is not preferable in a work environment.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              I think that’s a super valid takeaway! Early in my career I was very confused why I was such a great student but my bosses didn’t seem to think I was a great employee. I had a lot to learn about the different elements of success in the work world, they’re really not the same – and yes, asking a lot of questions may be a great example! School is there to teach you, and your learning experience is the outcome they care about. Work is typically there to make money.

        2. Holly*

          It’s really all about framing, not keeping questions to yourself – especially if you’re concerned that its going to impact your performance. You could always say something like “hey, I know you’re pressed for time so I don’t want to always be asking you questions about X, but I think it would be helpful for me to understand it more because Y. Is there a resource you can point me to, or do have any recommendations?” Depending on your work culture, that still may not work 100%, but it offers something constructive rather than seeming like you’re questioning everything.

    2. WellRed*

      But two years in? At that point, she should be enmeshed in the no-longer new job. At this point, if she truly needs that context, she should keep it to herself. However, to me, such constant comments smack of unhappiness.

      1. LadyL*

        Can I ask why it comes off as inherently negative? I guess to me that it doesn’t follow that noting differences between places means you must be prizing one over the other.

        1. LarsTheRealGirl*

          I wouldn’t say noting a difference is inherently negative. Starting a job and saying “oh wow, at my old company we used to do it THIS way instead, how interesting” is one thing.

          But noting multiple differences, regularly, over 2 years means you’re trying to get the new company to change based on that information, because you think the other way is better. (Otherwise, why keep bringing it up?)

        2. Cheryl Blossom*

          Obviously there are differences. But if you’re talking about them all the time, it seems like you’re hung up on Last Job.

          I mean, think of it this way: there’s probably a difference between your current SO and your ex. But constantly telling your current SO that “ex did things this way, not that way” is going to make it seem like you would rather be still dating your ex.

        3. Anononon*

          It’s irrelevant information, so if someone keeps saying it, it follows that those listening are going to read into why they keep saying it. The only time I can see it useful to use the “at my old job phrase” is if someone is questioning whether a certain path is feasible, and the fact it worked somewhere else can help indicate it is, depending on the circumstances.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m a person who doesn’t think comparing things is bad, but I have also gotten in trouble because all my coworkers felt that I was denigrating them (I wasn’t, but it doesn’t really matter if that’s how they’re perceiving my comments). For example, I always approach things from a “how can we do this better?” mindset, even when I think we’re doing pretty damn good. I have learned, however, that other people think that asking “how can we do this better?” inherently suggests that we are currently doing things badly.

          Similarly, the conduct OP is writing about comes off badly because most people perceive the reference as an inherent comparison about why OldJob was better and NewJob is worse. It doesn’t always start that way, and it doesn’t matter if a person never suggests that the other process was/is better. After 2 years of comments, people start to resent the references as a form of put down of the current employer and its practices, even if the speaker has no intent to suggest one is better/worse than the other.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Sorry, I realized my aside was clumsily phrased. I meant to say, “it doesn’t matter if I didn’t intend to denigrate them” because they were perceiving my comments as denigrating. (Impact v. intent)

          2. Dust Bunny*

            My father compares things, or adds suggestions to things, constantly and the hint is definitely that the thing in question could have been better/more extreme/some other thing. Nothing is ever OK the way it is. If I had to work with somebody who compared things all the time, my hackles would be up all day, every day.

        5. Fulana del Tal*

          Because at some point you have to accept that this way things are done. At two years it’s going to come off as job dissatisfaction or a failure to grasp job functions.

        6. Khlovia*

          What lifted my eyebrows was that OP’s employee, two years in and *after being coached*, just doubled down, as if she hadn’t heard a word OP said: “Well, I’m just used to doing it oldjob’s way.” No attempt to support the concept that oldjob’s way was more effective because of A, B, and C; just that it’s what she’s used to. It’s about her, not the company or the work or the intrinsic merits of one process over another. And given the context of *two years later*, there’s an unspoken message of: “And no matter how long I last here, I intend never to make any effort to learn any other way.”

      2. Frustrated Accountant*

        When she first started and being trained, she said a lot “yes I have already done these things at my last job”. It wasn’t until after several months that she started turning it in to this comparison and just started saying “at my last job…” or “I’m not used to doing it this way”. I have said to her numerous times that I appreciated your experience but we have a different way of doing things and I need you to focus on that. She gets visibly frustrated when she doesn’t get “her way”!

        1. Oranges*

          Okay, yeah, no. You might get frustrated when things don’t go as you think they should but… that seems to be an everyday occurrence. Not good and not a good employee trait.

    3. Cheryl Blossom*

      Also, since I didn’t reply to this above: “Just throwing out there some of us have weird brains and how it comes across may not be how it’s intended.”

      Perception is EVERYTHING in the workplace. I don’t always want to be at work, and I don’t always want to talk to my coworkers. But I smile and make small talk because I don’t want their impression of me to be “oh, Cheryl doesn’t want to be here”. There’s lots of comparisons I could make between Current Job and Old Job, but I don’t talk about how this accounting software is different from the one I learned on (forex) because that’s not something my coworkers need to know. They do need to know when I have a question about how to do things in our system, but not about how it compares to my Old Job knowledge.

      I guess my point is this: just because you’re thinking a thing doesn’t mean it’s good or productive to say it.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Maybe compare it to if you had a new boyfriend, and he frequently said, “My last girlfriend did X or Y.” For most people, that would seem like he was at the very least comparing you two, and more likely wishing you were more like her!

      2. A New Level of Anon*

        Yes, this, completely.

        And seriously, we’re all adults, I consider it my responsibility to learn how to be a good professional communicator even if it means doing things that may have not once come naturally to me. Most of my colleagues take on that responsibility as well. So what’s the deal with the people who choose *not* to self-edit or shore up their communication skills and expect that everyone ought to just put up with it?

  12. The Original K.*

    I had a boss that did this for the entire year she was with the company. The stuff she was talking about was impossible to do at our company, for a number of reasons, so it was just pointless. I can understand doing it right as you start, just trying to get the lay of the land (“at my old job we entered invoices like x, do we do it that way here?”), but after TWO YEARS, this employee should be more than used to doing things the “new” way!

  13. Auntie Social*

    That kind of comment makes me think that she’s not happy at this job. Satisfied people don’t compare job scenarios too often, they just get down to work. And constant “at my last job” remarks make people automatically tune her out when they hear them, so she’s actually less likely to be listened to if she did have a good idea. If I were her manager I’d sit her down and ask her about her last job–maybe she can get some of that out of her system. I’d also tell her it appears that’s she’s not too pleased to be at this one, which means that co-workers are less likely to think of her as one of the team and more of an Eeyore. And if she keeps comparing this job to her old one, maybe that’s really where she belongs, and she needs to admit that and go reapply at her old firm.

    1. Frustrated Accountant*

      I have tried to sit her down and talk. She basically just states that other people don’t know how to do their jobs. It’s exhausting.

      1. Fulana del Tal*

        Then it’s time to have another conversation about how this job may not a right fit for her.

        1. Frustrated Accountant*

          Yes, a reduction in that position is being considered. I appreciate you posting my letter and your advise BTW!

          1. Observer*

            If you are in the US, please don’t call it a “reduction” – call it what it is, which is a firing for poor performance. You really don’t want her to be able to show that “reduction” was a pretext.

      2. Khlovia*

        Ay yi yi. So, basically, Will Not Be Coached.

        In a last-ditch effort, maybe point out that actually, she is the one who doesn’t know how to do her job, since doing her job *at your company* means doing it *your company’s way*?

  14. RabbitRabbit*

    Aaaaaah. I have a colleague who does this. He’s been at our institution for at least 5 years now, and I swear at least a couple times a month in meetings he’ll say, “well, at Llama Herding Inc we did / we had / etc.” and at least half the time that’s not something that is even possible to implement at our site. Between that and his ‘jokes’ about doing things that would cause chaos, I find myself pre-emptively dismissing many things he says.

    And I have had another colleague, senior to me (but not to him in the org chart) who has told him at least once, “this isn’t Llama Herding Inc, though.”

  15. Greg NY*

    Here’s what I would say: “Both of us always strive to find best practices. When you change workplaces or even managers, you find that sometimes it was done better in/by the old one, sometimes it’s done better in/by the new one. If you feel that the way it was done in your last workplace is better than how it’s being done here, tell me about it and lay out why you think it should be done that way. At the same time, you have to realize that sometimes a way you were used to is not as good a way as the way it’s being done here. After two years, you should be used to both ways. Make a case for the way you used to do it and I’d be happy to implement it if it’s indeed a better way. For everyone, both managers and those that report to them, doing things the best way sometimes means doing it a way different than the way you’re used to or the way you might personally prefer. Even if you truly feel it works well for you, it may not work well for the team as a whole, and the ultimate decision is about what’s best for the team, not what’s best for an individual employee or manager.”

    Depending on their reaction after they’ve made their case for their way of doing things, I might add that some workplaces and employees are not a good fit, and it’s not the fault of either one. Also, while you should always strive to implement best practices, if your hands are tied by someone else, such as in a government agency, you could say that that you are on their side and would like to do it their way, but cannot (and explain the reasons). In that case, it would also come down to fit.

    1. LarsTheRealGirl*

      But sometimes even that can be exhausting to hear over and over again. Not everything has a best or better way, and if it does, it’s not always worth the switch, or even the discussion/justification of why it’s not worth the switch.

      Say your company prints all purchase orders in landscape format. New hire says, “well at my old job we printed in portrait format and it saved a page of paper every now and then.” Okay. Maybe we’d even get some minuscule savings out of the x sheets of paper we’d save. But I’m not going to spend hours or days redoing templates to save that. And I don’t really want to spend even 10min reviewing that proposal and explaining why.

      Sometimes the the answer is: this is just the way we do it. Someone, at some point, had to make a decision and this is what was decided. Unless it’s really a time/cost/effort detriment, it will stay this way.

      For an employee who’s shown an inability to gauge what is and isn’t appropriate to always comment on, I don’t know that I’d open the door to “bring me all of your ideas”.

    2. Frustrated Accountant*

      A lot of her reactions are her clearly being annoyed or irritated that she isn’t getting “her way”. She has even made comments to me that other people don’t know what they are doing, even though those employees have worked her a lot longer than her and are more respected. She questions everyone’s education and experience too!

      1. Rosamond*

        I’m sorry to pile on with other commenters, but it sounds like you need to let this person go. I had someone just like this a few years ago, up to and including the questioning the expertise of very experienced and respected employees. It culminated with her telling me in a 1:1 meeting that she was unhappy with her job and that I, her boss, needed to make it so she liked it better. I’d been trying to coach her up till then, but that was the end of it. My response in the moment was to tell her that she needed to go find another job she liked better.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I wouldn’t recommend Greg’s approach. It’s far too much to tell a new hire pushing back for his/her own preference, and won’t likely shut down future pushback. Give someone an inch, they think they’re a ruler.

      My new hires have occasionally pushed back with ‘At my other company we did such and such…’ because hey, it happens. I tell these folks that I understand they did things differently but that I expect them to work with our process through several cycles – 6 months at least – and become very familiar with our processes. It’s a job requirement in my book, and I tell them so during the interview. I let them know that I will explain how and why we decided on our process so they can truly understand – that’s a reasonable thing to share – but I plainly state that I am not open to changing anything. After living with our process for several months, if they can find an improvement – and not a cosmetic change – only then will I be open to discussing changes. In the interim, if they tell me ‘We used to do it THIS way…’ I will remind them of our initial discussion. No one ever pushed to the point that I needed to be more formal and, to be honest, didn’t ask to change anything after they worked with the process. So there’s that.

      However! OP, if one of my team ever did what you’re describing, I would have a Very Serious Talk with them. Comments like that are disrespectful and insulting, and I wouldn’t let it go.

      1. Jojo*

        I’m the boss and I said so. Sometimes that is the only reason you can give to an argumentive employee.

  16. Bea*

    As someone who has had to draw on past experience to build procedures for young companies, this wording still gets on my nerves. Unless she’s advising or advocating change, it’s just her hard wiring. After 2 years I’m pleasantly able to forget how the “other place” did things.

    I would assume it’s a tick that unless formally addressed she’ll never try to work on herself.

  17. Seifer*

    At my last company (ha!) I had a coworker/supervisor that did this. Every time she’d assign me something, she’d launch into an explanation that I didn’t ask for, that always started with, “you know, when I worked at Other Company…” She’d bring it up in meetings with our boss, and sometimes in meetings with the departments. Except… she’d been with the current company for 38 years. No one ever nipped it in the bud because our boss was an unconfrontational nightmare, and honestly, my coworker was a nightmare too. It was easier to just… resignedly let her speak her piece.

    The more I think about it, the more I’m like, OP please take Alison’s advice, your report could turn into my old coworker!!

      1. Cheesehead*

        How was any of that information even relevant after 38 years? I mean….computers! Automation! 38 years ago, people still used IBM Selectric typewriters!

        1. Seifer*

          Oh, I know! But it was… I’m trying to think of a way to make this less identifying haha. I guess, basically, she’d argue standards. “At Other Company, the teapot design standards were x y z, but for some reason we do it a b c way here… I guess that’s okay but you know, when I worked at Other Company, they were so much better about…”

          At that point I would be internally screaming because that would launch a 20-60 minute diatribe of How Things Were at this magical Other Company. And as soon as I managed to escape from that, she would go straight into our boss’s office and say to him, “you know, Seifer doesn’t get a lot of her work done because she spends a lot of time talking, I think you should keep an eye on her.”

          1. Lance*

            Here you would think the boss would have a much better measure of how much work you get done than random, nosy coworker (who I question how much she gets done if she’s spending that much time and energy on irrelevant activities).

            1. Seifer*

              It’s funny if only because she complained that I was talking too much… when she was the one that was talking AT me and getting huffy if I ignored her or tried to do work while she was talking. And my boss took her word as gospel. Despite the fact that I got all of my work done and more.

              It was very satisfying though, to know that it took two new hires to replace me. But oh right, I never got any work done. *Sips tea*

          2. Observer*

            Even with standards, 38 years is a LOOONG time. Like, maybe safety standards, styles and social mores have changed so that 38 year old design standards don’t really work any more.

            38 years ago, no one was worrying about the energy efficiency of most major appliances, today they do. 38 years ago, refrigerators in anything but white were either “high end” or noteworthy. Today, colors are totally non-remarkable. etc. My point is that it’s not just changes in how we use technology that we are looking at. Standards have changed all over the place.

            1. Seifer*

              Oh man, I know. Thankfully none of this wasn’t that important; we weren’t engineers, and the standards she was arguing were more along the lines of, “at Other Company we preferred this font versus that font that we use at Current Company, and I just hate it because when I was with Other Company, it was more of a font for emergencies instead of just regular labels…” Which of course made it even more frustrating that she would talk about this for literal hours. We’d go with Current Company standards in the end, but that’s hours of my life that I’m never getting back.

          3. Blue*

            I had a coworker who’d been working at our organization for about 45 years. I don’t think he’d ever worked anywhere else. But it had changed DRASTICALLY in that time, especially the last five years or so (which is when we worked together), and he literally couldn’t have a work conversation without bringing up how things used to be and how much better they were then. He’d inevitably trail off, sigh, and dejectedly say, “No matter. It’s not like that anymore,” before discussing something actually useful. It didn’t seem worth messing with because he was on the verge of retiring, but holy cow it got old.

        2. SignalLost*

          When I was in college studying programming, one of my teachers really liked to tell us about how programming worked before I was born (which happy event was 1976, and I was in his class in 2009, so….). It was the least annoying thing about him, but at least with that stuff, he was just a huge nerd who wanted to share. That did not make it relevant content.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I heard a variation of this, from someone who’s also worked at the same place for 30+ years: “you know, when I worked at Current Company in the 198xxx when dinosaurs roamed the earth, The Boss Who’s Long Retired and his Boss Who Died Of Old Age Ten Years Ago, used to do things this way…” followed by a 20-30 minute diatribe. Every single meeting. Everyone just rolled with it.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      For people name dropping their old companies after so many years, are these really well-known and respected companies? Maybe they’re just trying to cash in on the “pedigree” of having worked for X Company (like people name-dropping famous universities decades after they’ve graduated). “Don’t forget, *I* worked for X Company so I’m familiar with the gold standard of doing things!”

  18. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Well, you can only be as direct as possible with her, as AAM suggested. Is this her second job? I am wondering why she is so entrenched in the way her prior employer operated. Maybe she really does think her current workplace is messed up, but needs coaching on how to constructively frame and suggest improvements/changes, which must include why her suggested way is better for the company. Although I generally agree that one shouldn’t frequently refer to one’s prior job, the work environment can actually encourage this. Below are some situations that promote this, although perhaps this doesn’t apply to OP’s situation:

    1. A company, especially a start-up, constantly looks outward at similar companies to determine how to do things. The inexperienced, unsure start-up staff determine how to do things based on what other similar companies do. So the question “How do other companies handle this?” is constantly asked. When staff do not have sufficient experience and leadership skills, this type of copy-catting can be rampant. So this environment encourages employees to bring up prior jobs, since there is so little certainty.

    2. A company is such an outlier or non-traditional in the way it operates (especially dysfunctional operation) (and there may be a level of distrust among employees), that one feels the only way to justify what is normal or standard is to bring up how it was at one’s prior job(s).

  19. Buona Forchetta*

    I had a similar experience with a coworker, who started too many conversations to count with, “At my last job…” Her manager (on the same level as me) talked to her about it but she pretty consistently used it for the 2+ years she worked at my company. It turned into a running joke that she was in on, as in someone would ask her, “But how did you do this at your last job?” before she could say it. It definitely affected how people worked with her, so I could never understand why she didn’t stop.

  20. Uh oh*

    I unfortunately have to say I’m guilty of this. I’ve been at my current position about a year, but was at my last position for 7 years. It was a formative experience for me where I worked my way up from assistant to senior manager. I don’t use it to complain about how my company does things, but when things go poorly, I will say something like, “At my old job, we used X solution and for the most part if worked really well. Maybe we could try something like that.”

    1. Auntie Social*

      You might skip the “at my last job” part, and just say “I’ve used X solution with some success, would you like me to implement that?”. “I’ve seen this situation before” is better to my ear than “At my last job”.

    2. Bea*

      This is the proper use of the phrase. And given your position it’s appropriate. You’re using it as a “in my experience doing it this way is better for Reasons.” instead of just sounding like you’re complaining constantly.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I disagree that they should still be using the phrase “at my old job”. If the idea is good, it should stand on its own. Saying instead “how about we try __” or “in my experience” it comes across so much better with no implication that Old Job was better/smarter/more efficient. It also has the benefit of the speaker sounding like they can come up or adapt good ideas instead of making them sound like they’d rather be working somewhere else.

        1. Blue*

          I’ve also had some luck saying, “At [previous, very prestigious organization]…” which is really effective with certain individuals who care about status. But you have to know your audience for that one…

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah I’m beginning to think some of this may be as simple as, make sure you don’t literally use the words “at my last job,” (or “at X company,” where X company was your last job). I have the same problem – see above – and I’m going to make sure to always say, “in my experience X,” or “I’ve seen Y work well” and see if that gets me anywhere.

        3. Auntie Social*

          Yes–you want to sound like you can think on your feet. And in this case, you’re just remembering—hardly had to wake up a lot of brain cells!

          1. bonkerballs*

            This seems really silly to me. If you have knowledge of a better procedure, obscuring where that knowledge comes from (your old job) or making it look like it’s your own idea as opposed to an old procedure you were used to so you can “prove” you can think on your feet just seems like a lot of subterfuge for no reason at all.

            If you’re Phoebe from the Magic School Bus then yeah, it’s probably time to cork it. But if you’re simply using your experience to help fix a problem, there’s no need for all that runaround. And if you’re someone who’s going to judge someone simply for using the phrase “at my old job” when they’re offering up actual advice on how to fix something, then I think you’re more of the issue.

    3. CM*

      Yes, or even better if you say, “I’ve noticed that process X causes a problem. I think the problem could be solved if we try Y. I know other companies do this and it works well to solve the problem. Have we thought about Y?”

      And then you have to be open to people saying that they disagree that any problem exists. Maybe they don’t care that llama grooming takes a week even though you know it could get done in two days.

      But overall, the solution is to tell people to stop making comparisons with their old job, and focus on problems and solutions affecting their current job instead.

  21. Kat in VA*

    I have an amusing – although not really related to the topic – corollary to this.

    I worked for AmazingCompany for four months as a temp, doing maternity backfill. The lady came back, they couldn’t find a spot for me, everyone (as far as I know) was sad, I moved on.

    Five months later, Maternity Lady decides to leave, they bring me back on full-time permanent.

    So sometimes a situation will be brought up during my previous tenure, and I’ll preface it with “When I was here before…”

    Not useful to the subject at hand but kind of funny regardless.

    Not so funny is when people say, “Hey, you were doing this/knew this/knew my name when you were here before…” and I haven’t come up with a tactful way of saying, “Well, yes, but I was a temp then and situations were coming up 9 months after my scheduled end date /only talked to you a handful of times / didn’t commit to memory because, y’know, TEMP” yet.

  22. CandyFloss*

    Maybe people could stop letting such minor things irritate them. God, I would love a life where someone at work saying that too often for my liking was a big problem.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not a minor thing if it’s impacting how she’s perceived at work and how adaptable she appears to be. Of course her manager will be concerned about that.

      But even if it were a minor issue … who cares? Whatever issues bother you about your job, someone else might say that they’d love a life where those were their biggest problems. It doesn’t make your concerns unworthy of discussion.

      1. Lance*

        And even besides that, different people have different things that annoy them (to varying degrees, no less), and ‘get over it’ is far, far from some catch-all solution, even if those annoyances aren’t actively hurting anyone.

        Not saying they should be brought up every time, mind you, but yes, if several colleagues are taking issue, it’s probably worth putting some sort of stop to.

        1. Frustrated Accountant*

          Yes, it has been several other co-workers getting the brunt of her “at my last job” comments! She has even been bold enough to tell other people how they should be doing things. Despite me telling her that isn’t her role!

          1. Lance*

            Oh lord. She’s actively telling people how to do their jobs? Now that’s a whole big issue all on its own.

          2. Observer*

            Add another item to the list of things that need to stop or she’s out. It’s bad enough that she’s telling her coworkers what to do and how, but to continue to do so after your boss told you to stop? WAAAAY out of line.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Last Job should be told to get over it [the last job] before her coworkers are told to bend to her irritating will. Sorry, no: She’s the thorn here.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      This may be minor to you, but that doesn’t make it less important to someone else. I’ve always appreciated the phrase, “Just because someone is starving somewhere doesn’t mean you’re not hungry now.” That same sort of thought applies to your comment.

      1. LarsTheRealGirl*

        My favorite take on this is: saying you shouldn’t feel sad because someone else has it worse is like saying you shouldn’t feel happy because someone else has it better.

        1. Khlovia*

          Oh, I like that version. When I was fighting with my jerkbrain nonstop for decades, the best I could ever come up with when jerkbrain slapped me around with “Some people have REAL problems!” was “Okay, but that doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to mine.”

    3. Mommy MD*

      It’s not a contest on whose problem is worse. I’m directly affected by one of the worst terror events since 911 and I don’t go around saying this nonsense. It’s a problem for the LW and the employee who goes around spouting it every day. She’s alienating her coworkers and driving everyone crazy. It’s not the biggest problem in the world, but it’s a problem. And it’s not nice to demean someone because their problem is not as big as your problem. It’s important to them.

    4. LizB*

      If you don’t want to read about people having problems, perhaps an advice column is not the best genre for light reading?

    5. Wedlocked*

      I hope you get that better life soon. You sound deeply unhappy.

      But it’s important to recognise that just because someone else’s problems are not as bad as yours, which must be pretty awful to make you feel that commenting like this is appropriate, they aren’t unworthy of recognition and help. No one has to pass a “your life must be this crappy” test to be allowed to write to Alison.

  23. Deryn*

    I’d be curious to know if she’s using this phrase to make suggestions, or just a conversational habit. Knowing that might inform how you approach it. If it’s the former, it may be functioning as a qualifier or justification – she might be trying to make the point, “I feel that this other process would work well, and the reason I feel that way is because I used it at my old job, where it worked well.” If you think that might be the case, it might be worth asking her to think about what in particular made that process/whatever function successfully, and focus on that. Or reassure her that you trust her judgement and that she doesn’t need to qualify her suggestions – if you do trust her, that is!

    (Even a switch to something like, “In the past, I’ve had success with [whatever it is]” lessens the comparative connotation while still getting the point across. I’m not sure I would necessarily suggest this specific word choice to her, in part because it seems nit-picky but also because I think it has the same potential to become obnoxious if she uses it at the same rate as “At my old job…”)

    If she’s simply bringing her old job up a lot in general conversation (unrelated to specific work tasks), it might be that she’s a bit of an awkward conversationalist, and “work in general” feels like a safe topic to talk about at her workplace. I know I’ve done this before (at food service jobs though, mainly, rather than my office job) especially when I was new. Saying something like, “Back at XYZ Restaurant, we actually had a specialized machine that would clean the [whatever equipment], it’d be cool if we had that here,” was just a way to make conversation with people I had just met until I knew them well enough to open up more interesting topics. I’d hope that after two years she feels comfortable making small talk with the rest of the team, but it’s harder for some than others. If you feel like that’s the case, maybe trying to find a different topic that you are both enthusiastic about to use as a “default topic” might cut down on her bringing it up so much.

  24. Elemeno P.*

    I moved from one location of my company to another, so I have often been the “Old Location did it like this” person…but I was also specifically hired for my perspective on Old Location, and my job is to find best practices between Old Location, New Location, and Other Location. Sometimes New Location has the best system, sometimes Old Location does, and sometimes Rival Company blows all our locations out of the water and we try to figure out if their solution works for us.

    We also hire people from Rival Company for their perspectives (and they hire our people for the same reason), and there’s definitely a difference between people who bring up how Rival Company did something in context and people who clearly think Rival Company was better (and do things like exclusively use Rival Company’s lingo and practices after multiple years). Most of us respect Rival Company and visit it often in our time off, but there’s a certain limit to how much you can sing its praises before it sounds like you just don’t like our company.

  25. Anon anony*

    What if *everyone* at your office says this though, but usually when you’re comparing companies or duties? (You’re not describing something that needs changing, just how practices may differ between your current company versus one that you used to be at.)

  26. Former call centre worker*

    Is it possible that her old company actually did have much better processes and she’s just not expressing that well? Just a thought!

    1. Bea*

      That’s always a possibility. She could stink at delivering ideas for change.

      It depends drastically depending on a lot of variables. Are they using the same software? I almost lost my cool on someone with grand ideas of Fixing This Thing that was impossible to implement without new software and a complete warehouse overhaul. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars plus more in labor costs so that production wasn’t stopped dead etc.

    2. LGC*

      I mean…possibly? But from what the LW writes, it seems like this is pretty regularly that she’s saying this! At the very least she should prioritize what’s most important to improve.

      I guess to expand on that, even assuming that LW’s company is uber dysfunctional (pun intended), the employee can’t change everything that’s wrong in one fell swoop. I mean, there are things that I think could be done better, but if I spoke up about everything I know I’d be perceived as complaining about everything.

      (I mean, I already am. And I do hold back on quite a few things.)

    3. Cheryl Blossom*

      Possibly, but if she can’t get her point across in a way that doesn’t alienate her coworkers then that’s still a problem.

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      Even if that’s the case (and I say this as someone with this problem) it’s weird that she’s still stuck on this delivery after TWO YEARS. I’ve been here less than three months and I’m trying to cut it out.

    5. Holly*

      It doesn’t matter whether her suggestions could win her awards or are completely garbage, it’s impacting how her coworkers are viewing her, and the framing is causing her suggestions to be disregarded completely.

    6. Frustrated Accountant*

      I am the LW and her position is Accounts Payable. There are only so many ways to skin that cat…she just wants things to be her way or no way and makes no attempt to side her disgust with coworkers.

      1. ildi*

        I’m just going to throw this out there, but if you were my manager and she was my coworker and I heard you describe her as an otherwise good employee after two years of the behavior you’ve been describing here, I would consider you the bigger problem at this point.

        1. Frustrated Accountant*

          When I say “otherwise good” I simply mean her job gets done. I know that is not all that makes a good employee. Clearly, that was the wrong choice of words to describe her and this situation.

          1. Observer*

            Yeah “gets her job done” is only PART of being a good employee. Perhaps if you more consciously redefined the term in your mind, you’d have an easier time moving forward.

          2. Jojo*

            She does her job well but her constant b##ing and harping on how great her old job was creates discord.

      2. Khlovia*

        I am not now nor have I ever been a manager, so, you know, tablespoon of salt; but honestly the situation sounds kind of PIPpy to me.

      3. Bea*

        I’m screaming. As an accountant, I’ll toss any clerk acting like this. But I’m a hardass and have purged too many poorly ran systems to accept “at my last job” crap on that level.

      4. LGC*

        Well, THAT escalated quickly.

        At this point, you REALLY need to talk to her, because in the best case scenario she’s just annoying you (and yeah, I’m assuming the best case is that this is an innocent tic and you’re reading bad intent) and the worst case is that she’s actively toxic to your office. (I’m inclined to go with her being toxic.)

        Personally I wouldn’t think this is PIP worthy yet because I feel like PIPs shouldn’t be your first step in most cases. But yeah, if she sounds like she’s actively disgusted with your work flow, that’s a MAJOR problem.

        Basically, she needs A Serious Talk, a few days to improve, and then discipline.

    7. Tired*

      Much better for that company doesn’t mean much better for this company. Better to get the lay of the land and keep quiet before coming in all know-it-all-ly.

  27. Blue Eagle*

    No need to “apologize” for not being clear enough. Better to say “we talked about this before and I don’t see adequate improvement from you since that time . . . .”.

    Not that I’m against apologizing if you made an error that causes a problem, but apologizing in this circumstance – – – none of my male bosses ever used that terminology related to lack of clarity. Their terminology was something like “perhaps I wasn’t clear enough but . . . .”.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

  28. boop the first*

    Having a mild version of this at my workplace currently! It’s not so much annoying, but rather it’s causing our secretly-insecure boss to delegate “experiments” to me that take up a bunch of time. At so-and-so’s last job, instead of using one product, he used a more “professional looking” product to finish a food item. So now I’m experimenting with recipes to change the finish of a food item that doesn’t really need changing. Instead of opening a bucket and spreading it on, now I have to cook something on the stove every time. This is well and good for a big business, but in a tiny business that is inadequately staffed, I don’t have an extra 20 minutes to finish the least-popular food item at the last minute every morning. I can’t wait to see us crash and burn during the busy season after all of these cosmetic, old-dog changes.

    1. Not A Manager*

      If your boss is actually insecure, maybe you can co-opt her by telling her the truth. “These experiments actually take a lot of time to implement, and the outcomes are generally very similar to our old methods. I’m afraid that the cost to us in terms of time and materials will outweigh any benefits, especially when things get busier.”

      Or you could do that with each experiment, pointing out that making the glaze from scratch doesn’t change the product very much and will interfere with your processes during the busy season. If you do that, you might want to pick one or two changes to praise, so that you don’t appear to be quashing everything.

  29. Elle*

    I struggle so much with not using that line. I was specifically recruited to current company from old company, because current company wanted to implement systems I had worked on at old company. So on the one hand, its literally my job to help them do things “like we did it at my last job” but on the other there’s just no way to phrase it without turning people off.
    I’ve started using lines like:
    -I’ve seen it done successfully in this manner, could we try that here?
    -Of course not every solution works for every problem, but this is one way I’ve seen this problem solves in the past. Is there a reason it wouldn’t work for us?
    -Or just straight up pretending the idea came from my own head, not from past experience. It seems like it works better to explain to people why its a good idea than it does to tell them I’ve seen it before and it worked then.
    Its kind of annoying to have to tip toe around these things especially because current company is really really bad at the system and old company was world class. But it really is true that there are tons of smart people at my new company who have already thought of doing things the way old company did them, and figured out a good reason it wouldn’t work here.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      +1. Maybe OP can make this suggestion to their employee to at least reduce the amount of eye-rolling she’s encountering.

    2. Polly Sprocket*

      Agree! I used to have a coworker who would do the “At my old job” thing alllll the time – our manager successfully coached her to start saying, “One way I’ve seen this done before…” instead. People liked the coworker much better after that intervention!

    3. Elle*

      I’ll also add.. I think it’s one of those things programmed into females that we can’t just own our ideas. We have to give them more ‘power’ by saying “so and so had the idea” or “we came up with this together.” I can see how “at our old job” can be a manifestation of that.
      Potentially the letter writer could coach the employee on how to speak confidently about her ideas without leaning on crutches.

  30. 2horseygirls*

    I admit to doing this in the only time in my career that I changed jobs into the same industry (real estate office administration). It was very hard not to do it, but in hindsight, I can see it was not the best way to come in.

    It was challenging going from an international company with established processes and best practices that worked across the US as well as in different countries, to a small regional company that felt they invented real estate (bless their hearts).

    I should have realized that it was not going to work when, on my fourth day there, I pointed out that the data pull for the newspaper advertising was transposing the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the ads, and was told “You have trust issues, and need to believe in your coworkers.”


    I don’t have trust issues – you have a dysfunctional data feed. Oy.

    1. Bea*

      Yikes, what a nightmare where “heywe have a glitch!” is made into “you don’t trust your coworkers”.

      I trust my coworkers. Technology however is a fickle jerk who cannot be trusted.

  31. Trek*

    We had a meeting with big boss once and a newish employee stated the same thing, ‘Well at my last job we did’ and it wasn’t relevant to what we were discussing she just pointed out that it was different. After she said this the third time the big boss replied with ‘Maybe you should go back to your old job.’ Dead silence. Never happened again.

  32. bunniferous*

    When I hear this from someone I am always tempted to say, “You aren’t at OldJob anymore, you are here. ”

    Personally, it depends on context and tone to me whether it is obnoxious or not, but sounds like if after two years this woman is still saying it….oy….

  33. H.C.*

    My boss’s boss do this all the time too; thankfully, their old job is in a different state & we’re in local government, so I frequently fall back on “well, things operate differently here because of [law/policy/constituents/etc.]” to curtail some of that.

  34. MechE31*

    We have a pretty high ranking manager who constantly says this is how we did it on a different program. The issue is that we’re on a program that has vastly different requirements than the previous program.

    The hard part with him is that probably 25% of the ideas are good ones, so you don’t want to completely discourage it, but he should be at a point where he understands the requirements.

    I try and not to do it unless it’s a specific problem that can highly benefit from such or we’re specifically discussing how to solve a problem a previous company already solved.

  35. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Hmm, I feel bad about disagreeing, because at my old job, no one ever disagreed with everyone in the room ;) but I’m honestly surprised. Every place I’ve worked, we’ve had people who came there from successful, growing, or otherwise interesting, companies, and everyone usually felt comfortable sharing interesting ideas from their previous workplaces. (Not proprietary information, but details about how the processes were organized and so on.) I was called on in a meeting once or twice and specifically asked to tell how thing X had been done at company Y where I had worked previously.

    It’s an old job, not an ex-boyfriend. It’s a new job, not a new boyfriend. I believe OP when she says that this particular employee seems to be taking things to a ridiculous level, but I also agree with Alison that mentioning an old job or jobs could facilitate a productive exchange of ideas, and so am having a hard time understanding the uniform “never talk about the ex, err, old job” in the comments.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I don’t think you can *never* say it, (and Alison doesn’t say never say it), but after two years this verbal tic is still so common that OP notices it? And thinks others in the office notice it?

    2. Cheryl Blossom*

      There’s times to bring up how things were done at an old job…but ideally you should be talking about why this idea is a good one, with more reasons than “Old Job did it this way”. I mean, if it’s that good of an idea, the fact that Old Job did it that way shouldn’t even factor into the decision.

      Additionally, these are “sometimes” conversations. If you’re regularly referencing Old Job (especially after 2 years!!!! at your current company!), you just sound like you’re hung up on that job and would prefer to be working there.

    3. Yes Minister*

      what you describe is very different in tone and context to what the OP describes.

      No one is saying OMG NEVER. If that’s your takeaway from the comments, maybe try re-reading, because that’s not what people are saying.

    4. Bea*

      But you’re being asked in this situation. They’re looking for feedback and to keep evaluating the process.

      In this case the OP is hearing this about mundane processes that can only be improved upon so much.

    5. LGC*

      I mean, I agree with you, and the people being absolutists about it are a little misguided. (However, that’s fairly common, and most of the non-Phoebe comments aren’t saying that you can NEVER compare things between jobs.)

      Context matters – to use another example, it’s far less terrible to cry at work because you just found out a close family member died than because the copier jammed. In general, like Cheryl Blossom noted, it’s a “sometimes” thing to do, and there are situations where it’s more inappropriate and others where it’s more acceptable.

      The LW did clarify a LOT of detail in the comments, though. And specific to her case, it sounds like the employee saying “At my old job, we did X” is the smallest issue LW has with her.

  36. Cheesecake 2.0*

    I work with a very high level person who came from another university about a year ago. It’s kind of a running joke that his former university must be a magical perfect place because he frequently starts conversations with “Well back at Oregon State….” and then describes how it was better/easier/nicer than here.

    1. Mrs. Fenris*

      In academia circles in veterinary medicine, a person from UPenn can get called a “PennWe” because they start so many sentences with “Well, at Penn, we…”

      1. Anon From Here*

        As someone who lived and worked in Philadelphia for 15 years, I can confirm that this anecdote is almost certainly 100% true fact.

  37. it_guy*

    The most obvious question to ask the employee is: “If it was so great at your last job, why did you leave?”

  38. Sam*

    Across a few past jobs, I’ve noticed that some firms/industries use that phrase frequently to the point where it’s normal. For example, I heard that phrase none stop at an architecture firm but in a government agency – not so much.

    1. Anon From Here*

      Maybe in a government agency, “at my last job, we did it a different way” is more like, “in Soviet Union, the different way does you.”

  39. Gumption*

    I’ve two of these in my past career.

    One of them, he was just trying to be helpful, I believe, but his delivery only made him annoying to the one he said this the most to. He was otherwise a very nice fellow!

    The other, years later, would so often point out about how they did things at OldJob, but it was never a “how about we try this?’ but more of a poorly masked criticism of the current workplace and a latent wish of “if only they would listen to my ideas.” She was very prone to dumping her opinions on you on “how things should be done,” secretly expect it to be done her way but never take ownership of her suggestions. She wanted to run things without being responsible for running things, which was a very odd thing. “This is how is SHOULD be done but I’m NOT telling you to DO that…”

  40. Frustrated Accountant*

    I am the LW and I wanted to point out a couple other details. This person is in an Accounts Payable position, so there are not a lot of things we have not all discovered yet on how AP is supposed to be done. Next, in meetings a couple times she has written down “orders” for people to do (not her role) and in very curt manner told people that she thinks they need to audit their work more often. She has also displayed distrust in her co-workers abilities and has questioned their education and experience. I will point out that she herself does not have an Accounting degree but several years experience. Ya know, at her last job!

      1. Czhorat*


        Having dealt with that kind of toxicity, I’ll say that there is little more frustrating than support staff who think that they are in a position to give orders, rather than support. This is especially true if they are new support staff and going rogue by creating new procedures based on their whims and not a clear, well-reasoned direction from the company.

    1. Khlovia*

      I am getting an image of her as someone who was in her last job for so many years that she accrued a kind of respect or deference or reputation as the go-to person for answering new employees’ questions, simply from having her posterior in the chair for so long; and now suddenly she’s the new kid at or near the bottom of the totem pole. And she can’t adjust. But that shouldn’t be her colleagues’ problem.

      1. Khlovia*

        And if so, then then her attitude of “disgust” and “distrust” of her coworkers at your shop illuminates why she never got promoted to a managerial position at Oldjob.

      2. Bea*

        She’s an AP clerk. She wants more respect than is warranted it sounds like.

        Even if she’s done it for 35 years, it’s an entry level job. There’s no “wow you know all the tricks, you’re wisdom is priceless!!”

    2. The typo*

      Yeah, your letter really focused on the lesser issues then. Forget about her “at my old job” habit, she’s got much bigger problems you need to be focusing on.

      Frankly, she sounds like a nightmare and probabky you should just fire her.

      1. Rosamond*

        Yeah, I commented elsewhere that I’ve fired this employee before, and this conversation is making me kind of crack my knuckles and go, “All right, let’s do this again!”

    3. Observer*

      They say that only 10% of an iceberg shows above the water. That’a bit what your letter is like – totally the tip of the iceberg.

      So may out of line things here….

    4. Free Meerkats*

      Given all your additional details in this thread, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a letter here titled, “My manager won’t get rid of a bossy coworker who thinks her old job was better.” :-)

      Start the process today. Not a staff reduction, but fired for cause.

  41. Mrs. Fenris*

    I said this many times in my first few months at my current job, but I finally made a conscious effort to stop. I worked at my previous job for a really long time, and it was not easy adjusting to a number of processes at my new job, so sometimes it was “oh, oops, I did that this way because that’s how we did it at Oldjob.” Sometimes it was “oh, hey, I had a couple of cases like this at Oldjob and here’s what I did,” and once in awhile it was “this process that you aren’t sure is going to work? Here’s the process we had a Oldjob, and here’s what worked about it and what didn’t.”

  42. AdminX2*

    I used to be guilty of this! I had to have it gently knocked out of me that continuing to compare out loud is not a good thing. I still say “I have worked at places which do X” when training systems or explaining a process, but I’m much better at listening to the culture and taking NOTES for process improvements.

  43. Anon16*

    How common is this? I did this initially at my new job (first two months), but it was meant to be purely conversational/observational. (For instance, we had an open-office plan at my last workplace, my last job was located in a city so I used to window shop during my lunch break, etc.).

    It wasn’t said in meetings, just in offhand conversations with employees occasionally. (It was also my second job so I guess the differences were probably more interesting to me than anyone else…)

    I’m curious if this is widely “wrong”/ a faux pas or if the context is pretty heavy here. This is the first time I’ve heard this might be bad.

    1. Anon16*

      I’m also a little taken back by some of the hostility of the comments, because as someone who used to do this, the intention is *really* innocent. There’s no comparison or judgement on either workplace.

      1. Graz*

        That may be be so, but it generally comes across as judgement and that will affect how your colleagues see you. Impact, not intent. Knowing that is valuable.

      2. AdminX2*

        I think, as with most things, it’s the pattern and becoming part of your persona, rather than just idle chit chat or constructive focused comments. Plus it’s grating to be reminded where you work might be the “lesser” place so needs to be deployed carefully.

      3. Jojo*

        After 2 years at new job, it is no longer a new job. New job should have your entire attention after 2 years, instead of concentrating on old job. First 2 or 3 months this fine, after that it is redundant what old job did.

    2. Argh!*

      I think everybody does this. It’s more of a faux pas in a workplace that doesn’t have a lot of turnover. If others have worked at several other places, they may join you in reminiscing about their favorite coffee shop or the museum across the street from where they used to work.

      We all experience a bit of culture shock in a new place, and our brains are constantly rewiring from old-way to new-way for a jillion tasks. People who don’t understand this need to get over themselves.

      But…. after a long while, it could get irritating if it’s still going on especially if it’s work-related.

      1. Anon16*

        This was my take….the idea that it’s a faux-pas seems really context-specific.

        I’ve had conversations with coworkers about old jobs (old policies, crazy former bosses, idiosyncrasies, etc.)

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Ahh, yes, I see the difference now. There’s the “here’s what worked for us in a similar situation at Old Place, should we try it here?” and the culture-shock talk that you are referring to – “oh my god, this place sucks, everything is so dumb, you guys are doing everything wrong”. The first one is productive, the second, not too much.

        There was a new coworker I had once at an OldJob, who was from the same home country as I was, and so he and I met, and went out for lunch together a few times. All he did during our lunches was complain how terrible our workplace was at doing everything. Never suggested a way of doing it better, mind you. He liked to ask me, “so why do you do production support? Wouldn’t it have been easier if you guys had just written good code, then it’d never break, and you wouldn’t ever have production issues, and so would not need a support rotation?” I never knew were to even begin answering that. We stopped having lunches together pretty quickly, because I just could not do it anymore.

    3. Someone Else*

      It is VERY common in the first two months of a job, and that early, isn’t necessarily a sign that the person can’t let old job go, or is resistant to learning how new job works. It’s very understandable that it might be very difficult not to slip into saying this periodically when you’re super new. But it shouldn’t be constant and it should taper off so that by 2 months in, it barely happens and then stops.
      OP’s coworker is a problem because that tapering never happened; she’s been there two years and is still doing it with great frequency. So I’d say, the type of snark OP’s colleague is getting is reasonable given that context. If you got the same amount of snark for doing this occasionally during your first few weeks at a new job, but not since, that would be unreasonable.

  44. Argh!*

    I’m that person!

    I encounter “We can’t do xyz” all the time, and the reasons are always BS. It’ll take too much time, our software can’t do that, or there will be “unintended consequences.” The true reason is that nobody here wants to change anything. I try not to start with “well, in my ten years of using this software before I came to this dump, I had this capability and never had one instance of [terrible thing] happening.”

    The most annoying person I work with is an IT guy claims he knows more about our software than anybody (here) and what it can do (here). I called him on his BS, appealed to my boss, and was eventually able to get authorization to do something very simple. He’s never worked anywhere else, so who is he to say something can’t be done? Software is supposed to make the end-user’s life better, not validate the ego of Mr. TechHead.

    It may be annoying and something to shut down, but there could also be a problem of reluctance to change things for the better. If good people feel the place is not as good as other places, the end result would be a culture of mediocrity and provincialism.

    Funneling ideas through the boss is rather patronizing but it solves the behavior problem without shutting down innovation.

    My current place gives huge financial rewards to the change-nothing people, and I haven’t gotten a raise in two years. Yes, I’m looking for another job, but I’m afraid my resume will look bad because of the limited opportunities to innovate and contribute here. Apparently, my main job duty is to ensure that the old-timers feel good about themselves no matter how frustratingly stubborn and uncooperative they are.

    1. Elspeth*

      Yes, but your situation is a totally different situation than the OPs. They work in Accounts Payable and new coworker is rude to others, and thinks she should be able to do her work the way she did it at old job. Talking about her old job (of two years ago!) and telling her coworkers they need to do things HER way, rather than the process that new company already has.

      1. Auntie Social*

        Especially when she hasn’t been hired to supervise/manage others, she’s just another AP clerk. No one died and left her in charge.

  45. BananaPants*

    A colleague still says, “We did it this way at OldJob”, or “At OldJob I could start a project on my own” after 5 years in his current role. It’s tiresome and he doesn’t seem to realize how bad it makes him sound – OldJob isn’t paying him anymore, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he talks.

    He even name-dropped his old employer in an all-hands meeting when complaining about a company policy that he felt hampered his ability to do his job. The executive running the meeting threw down the gauntlet of, “If you’re not happy with how we do things here, I’m sure that OldJob is hiring.” He STILL didn’t get it!

    1. BananaPants*

      Note: the way this colleague says it, it’s clear that he thinks the policies/practices at OldJob were better. I think that’s why it grates on people so much.

    2. Argh!*

      The next time, tell him you “know” someone (me) who feels the same way. I went from a job where I had a lot of autonomy to one where I have to ask my supervisor’s permission for even the tiniest of things, and because we all have to do that, my supervisor doesn’t get back to us in a timely fashion and new ideas just die here.

      My slogan “As long as the check doesn’t bounce that’s all that matters.”

      (Of course that isn’t all that matters to me, but I have to remind myself that I’m not independently wealthy)

  46. boo bot*

    Another place where the dating analogy provides perspective: “With my LAST girlfriend we did it a different way!”

  47. Jojo*

    I used to say this is similar to my old jud except we called a as c . It helped me learn new job by finding similarities. We had a guy hired after me still saying that after a year. I told him if he liked his old job so much he should go back to it.

Comments are closed.