my coworker thinks she trained me more thoroughly than she did

A reader writes:

I started a new job three months ago. I’ve worked for this organization for about a year now, the first nine months being in a temp role in a different department.

One of my new coworkers has the same job title as me, so it was her job to train me. I’m in a newly created role, and I don’t think she’s trained anyone before. We spent a couple hours going over what she thought my job duties would be.

Now I’m running into a recurring issue where I’ll either make a mistake or ask her a question about something that she thinks we went over during training, but that I have no memory or written record of. Sometimes it’s probably just a lapse in my memory or because I’m working on something for the first time, but there are other things that I’m certain we didn’t discuss.

One time I said, “Hey, I think you mentioned this but we didn’t go over it in detail, can we discuss?” She replied, “I’m pretty sure we already went over it,” and I don’t really know how to respond to that if I disagree. She also tends to give very brief case-by-case answers when I ask questions, so sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to try to figure out SOP.

I can tell she’s getting frustrated with me, but I don’t know what else to do — if I don’t remember and it’s not in any of our documentation, I have to ask questions. Arguing about whether she trained me on something feels petty and unproductive. Our other coworkers can see that I’m making mistakes and I don’t know how this is affecting their opinion of me.

Is she the only person who can train you?

Some people are really bad at training and shouldn’t be training others, or at least not without a lot of oversight. For the sake of this answer, I’m going to assume that she’s the only one who can train you, but if anyone else could do it, consider trying to make that happen instead.

Meanwhile, though, there are two possibilities here:

1. She did cover this stuff with you, but you didn’t retain it all. That could be on you (maybe you didn’t take solid notes or fully pay attention) or it could be the completely normal and expected reality that no one remembers everything they learned while being trained for a new job because there’s too much to retain it all.

2. She genuinely didn’t cover the things she thinks she covered.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter which of these it is because we still end up in the same place: You need more training. (Actually, I’m going to correct that: If you didn’t remember things because you didn’t take notes, it’s important to realize that now so that you take better notes going forward. But we still end up with you need more training.)

I suspect the most effective way to approach your coworker will be to assume that it’s #1, even if you’re sure it’s #2. There’s no point in arguing with her about what she did and didn’t cover — let’s skip past that and get to the part where you can talk about what you need to know now. And it’ll be easier to skip to that if you give her the benefit of the doubt (which she might not deserve, and which she’s not giving you) and just assume that sure, she covered it, but you still need to go over it now.

You could say something like this to her: “It’s definitely possible that we did go over it — there was a lot to take in at first, and I’m sure I didn’t retain all of it perfectly. Now that I’m more settled in and have a framework to put the info into, I don’t think that will happen going forward. I do want to let you know that I’m checking my notes and our documentation before I come to you, so that I can minimize how much I bother you. But sometimes I’m really stuck and need some help. I think that’ll be short-term though.”

You could also say, “Is there someone I should ask instead of you?”

But if that doesn’t solve it, at that point I’d consider talking with your manager and asking whether there’s someone else who could be your point person for questions.

{ 121 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    Giving case-by-case answers is a bit of a red flag for me, because case-by-case is not an overall picture. That a procedure works for one example doesn’t mean that it works for all of them; it’s like giving somebody the answer 2% at a time.

    I rather suspect that the trainer knows how to do this but hasn’t realized that she’s not conveying the big picture and is forgetting to communicate a lot of steps that she knows so well that she no longer notices them.

    1. Zephy*

      That jumped out at me, too. Especially if the trainer is either explicitly saying “in this case, we’d do X,” or not explicitly saying “in cases like this, such as Example or Example, the process is Y.”

      My guess is that you and Allison are right, this person is just not good at training. Doing a thing and teaching someone else how to do a thing are two separate skills, and it’s easy to forget that.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yup, I’ve been in charge of training, and I try to avoid case-by-case examples unless necessary – and then I’d explain “In general we’d ABC, but this is a special case because BLAH, so please XYZ instead.”

        I think I tend to annoy my trainees by over-explaining, reiterating the relevant rules/policies/procedures each time they ask a question, sending emails with any patterns I’ve noticed in their work, etc. – but, when I was being trained, I found that useful to help me remember, and filed away such notes for later reference.

        OP – it sounds like your trainer might not be very good at training, but also, if you’re not doing so already, try to:
        -Keep detailed notes of anything she tells you aloud, and read through them later
        -File away any emails/written communications answering your questions, so you can refer back later
        -Ask open-ended questions when applicable
        -If possible, try asking questions with proposed solutions; like rather than “How do I handle X problem?”, try “X is a problem, should I ABC or DEF in this case?”
        -If you have written training materials, check them before asking questions (if you don’t – try making your own! A collection of written-down instructions is useful to both you and your organization.)
        These are all things I wish my trainees would be better about doing! Even if she’s not a great trainer, you can be a great trainee – and if you can demonstrate that you’re making a genuine effort to learn, and your colleagues are reasonable people, it’s likely that any mistakes you make will reflect poorly on her, rather than you (at least while you’re new).

        1. Beckie*

          I strongly second the suggestion of writing up your own training materials, based on what you’ve learned so far. It’ll make it easier for you to pinpoint the areas you’re missing, so that you can proactively go back to your trainer (or to someone else) to fill in the gaps.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yep, I do this at every job. I warn them beforehand that I will take copious notes and ask a shit ton of questions but I frame it like “Hey, I won’t have to bother you later unless something is really weird or we didn’t cover it somehow.”

            My notes and write-ups go into my procedural documents, which are great for anyone later who has to cover me (and I update them if processes change). Or if I forget how to do a task I only need to do sporadically. I’ve had jobs where I was required to do this, but I do it on my own anyway because it helps me learn.

            1. JulieCanCan*

              You’re my dream employee! I wish everyone would do this – it’s crucial when first starting and something so many folks are not good about doing, unfortunately.

              Yes, all organizations should have procedural documentation for every position they hire for, and in a perfect world every new employee could simply slide into their role, use their Procedure Folder, and seamlessly replace their predecessor. Ahhhh…to dream……I always tell people they need to have procedural documentation so specific and clear that if everyone in the company died and a temp was called in to carry their responsibilities for a month, the temp would be able to know what they needed to do from A to Z without issue.

              It really sucks when you’re placed with a crappy trainer, because training is obviously your way to get solid footing in a world you might not know anything about. I’ve had quite good luck with amazing trainers who were organized, patient and who truly seemed to want me to succeed. I appreciated it even in the moment because I myself usually hold positions that are responsible for training, and I know how hard it is to be a really good at it. Only one time in my life I’ve had an atrocious trainer who just couldn’t train if her life depended on it. She was mean, impatient, a bully, bad at her job, horrible to me and others, lazy, and she made me *hate* a job I would have otherwise enjoyed (I had done the same job somewhere else, but in a slightly different area of the same industry.) It got to the point where I stopped asking questions and tried learning everything on my own, but it was such a detail-heavy, intense role that I eventually sunk so deep into a hole that I was fired. 26 years of successfully working in full-time jobs, and I was fired from a job I had done for 12 years somewhere else! It was insane. I had never been fired, ever, and it was even worse that I was fired from a job I had done for over a decade at another company. Part of me was relieved because it meant I didn’t have to deal with my nightmare coworker, but the shame and embarrassment was overwhelming.

              Sorry to ramble, I have such strong opinions about training and how important it is. I truly feel that some people should not train. Some people are great at it and have that ability to put themselves in the shoes of a new person, always remembering the new person doesn’t possess any knowledge about the job they’re going to be doing. On the flip side, some people are horrible at it – they can’t reconcile the fact that the person they’re training doesn’t hold the same eight years’ worth of knowledge and information about the job that they (the trainer) possess, and they train in a disorganized, shoddy fashion with no chronological system or order.

              Training makes or breaks it for a new employee much of the time. When a company has people training who shouldn’t be, they’re either going to get employees who are horrible at their jobs or have very high turnover, or both.

              1. Not A Morning Person*

                Thank you for your description of the differences between good and awful trainers and your commitment to how good training is so necessary. This is a great argument for people who say, “anybody can train” and it’s just not true.

              2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                Late to comment, I know, but this so struck a chord when I first saw it today.

                Thank you for acknowledging that crummy trainers exist. In my job I was stuck with one who talked as if she were on a recorded loop. Questions did not register with her. She just talked until she decided she’d said all she needed to say. She was inarticulate, unfocused, skipped from Subject A to Subject B, and gave other new hires more detailed, and sometimes even contradictory information from what she gave me. I wouldn’t even say it’s a case of someone who can do a job well but isn’t good at explaining it to another. From the beginning she acted as if it was a major annoyance for her to have to deal with me, even though the boss said repeatedly that she was supposed to be training me. Her little power game, she knew it all and would only divulge what would take the bottom-rung stuff off her by giving it to me. She’s transferring out of my unit soon. Not soon enough.

          2. Chinookwind*

            I second this not only for the reasons stated but also as a CYA. My supervisor doesn’t want to cross train me on dealing with invoices but has been forced to. He treats it either like it is to difficult and it would require too much time to show me or like it is so simple that I don’t need to write down steps and procedures (his comment from day 1 when he tried to convince me that it wasn’t necessary).

            After having an issue when he had to leave on a family emergency, our boss told him he has to cross-train me and so he has, but in piecemeal fashion. He will tell me that procedure A applies all the time and then will get angry a few days later when I didn’t do procedure B for this vendor. He will change how he wants things documented but be very, very particular in how I staple them together. He also sounds gleeful when he finds mistakes from others but heavily denies that he ever makes them himself (I have quietly fixed them as I go along because it is not worth the hassle). Or he will just fix them and then mention it in passing a few days later without giving me specifics about what I did wrong.

            Due to the boss’ insistence (and my supervisor’s self awareness, courtesy of his wife and daughter, that he is a horrible teacher), I have been able to get him to slow down to let me write things down. It paid off when he then claimed I was doing something wrong and I was able to ask him, in a confused tone, why these new instructions don’t match what he saw me writing down and could he clarify which way is the preferred method.

            It really is hard to argue with a written record of your own words. :)

    2. DaffyDuck*

      Being a good teacher takes a lot of skill and good communication skills, in addition to being able to see processes from other people’s point of view. If someone is good at a process it doesn’t mean they can teach it effectively! In fact, I argue that someone who picks up new concepts easily is often poor at teaching others – they don’t grasp how things can go wrong or assume everyone thinks like they do.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This is very, very true. I’ve been told I have a knack for training people, because I’m good at explaining things well – but my one weakness is that if it’s something I picked up fast or am super practiced at, I will sometimes forget to explain steps because I literally don’t *consciously* remember those steps existing. They’re part of a subroutine to me, so I tell someone [do subroutine] and assume they already know what that entails. Which is not an ideal habit in training someone.

        If I slow down and keep that in mind, I can still be a good trainer – but I’ve learned the hard way that training is a very, very distinct skill from just *being good at* something.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Hah – I have the opposite problem. My executive dysfunction (ADHD) means that things that most people think of as subroutines get broken into many, tiny steps in my head, so I tend to explain things in excruciating detail.

          1. No Mas Pantalones*

            I document things that way (especially training documents) because my ADD (no H, sadly) makes my brain go a lot faster than my mouth and I’ll make large leaps from one place to the next. My friends now say, “Show your work, honey. You skipped a step or 12.”

            1. Marie*

              My adhd husband does that during arguments. I’m a quick study but not *that* quick. Suffice it to say, our conflict resolution skills are on-point.

        2. bonkerballs*

          Yes to the subroutine!

          I was training someone recently on a pretty complicated process and I had written out excruciatingly detailed instructions for her because I knew it was complicated and also something that could really screw other things up if she did it wrong. Her supervisor came up to me later in an absolute panic because the instructions showed 32 steps and she thought it was completely untenable for us to be doing this process that was 32 steps long over and over throughout the day, assuming that meant the process took hours to complete each time. I had to explain that it wasn’t really 32 steps – for me it was four steps (4 subroutines that encompassed all 32 steps) and it was something I could do in less than 5 minutes, but for someone bran new to both the process and the software, they would need instructions on how to do each of those 4 steps.

          1. Chinookwind*

            This is exactly why the documentation for the temp covering the phones is 4 pages long (when supervisor said it wasn’t necessary). Yes, all she is doing is answering phones and taking deliveries, but there are many variables and we have an ancient phone system (where I am the office voice mail box) and there are so many ways someone can go wrong if they don’t don’t know a few of the details.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I can do that “subroutine” thing as well, but I have had to onboard a ton of freelancers, and so I learned early on to write them down. That way I don’t forget them.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I used to worry that I wouldn’t be a good teacher because I learned so quickly that I was afraid I wouldn’t comprehend where the problem was.

        But it turns out that because I learned algebra SO quickly, I was bored waiting while the teacher tried to explain it to the other kids. So I just listened to the whole exchange and, like the know-it-all I am, tried to figure out how I’d explain it better. That helped me see where the other kids were misunderstanding, or where the teacher had left something out that I’d filled in on my own. And I ended up being The Explainer for that class.

        And it’s turned out that I spend a lot of my day job thinking about what could go wrong, and contingencies, and how could people misunderstand, and so that’s not my problem.

        But I genuinely worried that it would be.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I also wonder if she either got saddled with a training job she didn’t want, or took on training job that she thought would look good on her resume. The LW does say that she thinks the trainer hasn’t done this before, so I wonder if she got any guidance or if she either got thrown in the deep end or jumped in voluntarily and is now just as much in over her head as the trainee.

      1. Zephy*

        It looks like the person doing the training isn’t a trainer, per se, just the only other person at this company that does OP’s job.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          If she’s doing the training, she’s the de facto trainer, whether or not she’s an official trainer.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. The times I have seen this one, is when there is a resentful trainer. The person wants extra pay for training or they refused to train at all and the boss said, “Wrong answer. You ARE training this person.”

        OP, you say that the two of you spent several hours going over what she thought your job would be.

        Okay there’s lots wrong here.

        1) I have never had a job that I could learn in several hours. I am having difficulty believing she thoroughly trained you and I don’t even know your setting.

        2) …what SHE thought your job would be? oh boy. If you have the same title why is she guessing at what your job is? Okay, well this can happen, so we move to the next step in logic: if she was unsure what to teach you, why didn’t she just ask the boss?

        3) Her wrap up should have been instructing you how to solve some of your own questions AND who you should go to with questions. Since she did not tell you who to go to, that right there is incomplete training in my opinion.

        In short, OP, watch out for workplaces were asking questions is made difficult for fake reasons.

        In the meantime, write down as much as you can so you have more notes to work off of- each time she does give you an answer keep track and vow not to ask that particular question again.
        One thing I have done with reluctant trainers is point blank say, “I don’t want to keep asking similar questions over and over. So in general terms, when x happens, what do I try on my own to do so I don’t have to keep asking you?” This is a good question for trainers who are not forth-coming.

    4. Blue*

      Fully agree. I’d also be surprised if this person did any real preparation for the training to make sure they were covering all the critical bases. If they had, she’d presumably have her own notes of what was and was not covered, but that’s irrelevant at this point.

      Anyway, I found myself in a very similar training dynamic last summer. What worked best for me was to say, “Would you be willing to walk me through this process one more time? I know we touched base on this, but as I get into it, I’m finding a lot of variations on what we discussed and I’m not completely confident I’m handling them all correctly. I really don’t want to bug you every time to confirm I’m doing the right thing, so I’d like to go through it once more and talk about some of these variables so I can make sure I’ve got a good grasp on the big picture and don’t need to waste your time with more questions moving forward.” Contextualizing it that way for her and then her seeing that those conversations made her life demonstrably easier went a long way.

      1. TootsNYC*

        YES to the idea that the trainer should be working from notes as well.

        I actually have an extra copy of my constantly evolving notes that I give to the person I’m training, and I ask them to make their notes on that if at all possible, so my instructions and their emphasis and context, etc., will be together.

  2. 1234*

    I’m so grateful that on one of my first days here, my boss literally said “We know we are giving you a lot of information and we aren’t expecting that you will remember it all. Please come to me/us with questions.” I was trained by the girl who was leaving this job to pursue grad school. I was basically her shadow for the week and wrote down step by step instructions on how to do things that are now second nature, and had her check up on things that I was doing to make sure that I was doing them correctly.

    The trainer in this scenario needs to show a little compassion – even if he/she did go over it with the OP, it’s not always going to stick the first time. I like Alison’s suggestion of asking if there’s someone else to go to for questions.

    1. BRR*

      This is how I approach training. Especially if it’s someone’s first week, there’s so much being thrown at them they should not be expected to retain everything.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        “Especially if it’s someone’s first week, there’s so much being thrown at them they should not be expected to retain everything.” Totally. My first week at CurrentJob I totally remembered having been shown things but later on couldn’t remember how to do them nor who had shown me! (At a company under 14 ppl, that was pretty ridiculous.) Fortunately they are nice here and totally got it that I had a lot in my brain and the person who showed me showed it to me again.

        The trainer here also needs to realize that the point is not “get the Things shown to OP” but to make sure OP knows how to do the Things and that the Things get done. Communication works both ways and if the person receiving the communication isn’t retaining it, then the person emitting the communication needs to change their approach.

      2. goducks*

        Me too. When I train someone brand new, I set the tone by telling them that my goal for today’s training is to make them familiar with the process and how it fits into the big picture, but that I’m not looking for 100% retention since they have so much they’re learning all at once. I’m satisfied when they walk away from that initial training with a generalized familiarity of the process. I’ll often joke, “You don’t even know where all the restrooms are, so I don’t expect you to master this process first! All I hope is that later when you’re asking clarifying questions that you’re able to say things like ‘I seem to remember that we talked about this somewhere in my training, can we go over it again?'”

        (That doesn’t hold true for an established employee learning something new. I expect there to be some applied knowledge to build from there).

    2. Rachel*

      Agree everything won’t stick the first time. A general rule of thumb is to expect it to take up to 3 times.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, I’ve had to train two co-workers; I KNOW I am not a perfect trainer, but I also know there is a LOT of info to retain – so I’ve told them both, please come back with questions or if we need to go through something again, you will forget things.

    4. TootsNYC*

      “We know we are giving you a lot of information and we aren’t expecting that you will remember it all. Please come to me/us with questions.”


      I do this always. And sometimes I literally say, “I’m not going to give you all the details this first time, because you will not remember them, and I don’t want you to be distracted from the bigger-picture stuff that I want you to learn now. Here’s the way this procedure fits in the framework, and here’s a list of steps, and the first time you have to do it after this training, please come get me, and we’ll do all the specifics then.”

  3. Engineer Girl*

    Wow. I’ve been the victim of one of these. And it was definitely on them.

    The next time she says “I’m pretty sure we covered this” you can say:
    “Neither the documentation nor my notes shows. this. Can we go over it again?”

    Also ask for her training notes. If she’s a decent trainer she’ll have them. If she doesn’t have notes then that is proof that she’s doing things in an ad hoc manner and you’re not getting trained right.

    If she does have notes then copy them. Then compare her notes against yours to see if there are gaps. If there are gaps then ask for more training.

    Finally, create policies and procedures for your own benefit. Then work to get them accepted. That will be a value added activity for your organization and help the next person.

    I can’t tell if it’s you or her. I’ve seen problems on both sides. But when you’ve created comparison notes with hers it will be a lot easier to go to the manager. Especially if she has no training notes. The manager needs to know it isn’t working and real procedures need to be developed.

    1. Jess the Kat*

      This is fantastic advice. I’ve been in this situation as well too, and it’s so easy for the trainer to say, “I’ve showed you this/that., and for the manager to assume that is the case at face value and say, “you’ve been trained on that” and trust the word of the trainer.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Yeah, honestly, that’s terrible teaching/training methods. It reminds me of a horrid teacher I had in high school who would yell at people – “Why don’t you understand this yet?!” Um, because you didn’t teach it to me yet.

      I’d definitely avoid mentioning “Not sure if we covered this” when asking questions, because ultimately, it doesn’t matter – if you don’t remember, and you don’t have written instructions, you need to go over it again. But try to get it written down – asking over email, if possible, is helpful because then you can save the emails in a special folder in your inbox to refer to later. (I still have an email folder full of training emails from when I was new at the job, and always instruct trainees to make one for themselves.) If she tells you verbally, keep careful notes, and refer to them later – don’t expect yourself to remember verbal instructions.

    3. JulieCanCan*

      Yessss!! As I read this letter I thought “I wonder if this trainer had a list/training guide with the main aspects of the job, why each responsibility was necessary, provided an org chart (how this role/department fits in, who to go to for what issues, etc), and procedural information for everything this role is responsible for?”

      All the trainer would need to do if they’re the defensive type who doesn’t seem to want to be training is look at their training notes to see if each main point is checked off or dated to confirm she did in fact go over it, and when.

      I can’t imagine training someone without documentation of everything I needed to cover, including not only HOW things are done but WHY things are done. Also important are where to find answers to common questions new people will ask in their first 3- 6 months in a role, how to find information they’ll need when no one is around to ask or help them, and common issues new people deal with and what to do when they come across them.

      I mean, I could go on for hours here, but I won’t. This trainer is most likely irritated that they have to train – and let’s face it, training when you don’t like to train and are busy and are bad at training REALLY SUCKS. For both the trainER and the trainEE. But it’s for everyone’s benefit to train thoroughly and kindly. A crappy employee is the weakest link and will make life hellacious in the long run when they don’t know what they’re doing. This trainer needs to suck it up, do a good job, and train OP like they’d want to be trained themselves.

  4. Hermione's Twin*

    I’m going through the same situation here at my office. Senior admin is a terrible trainer who trains in bits and pieces, but never shows me the full process from beginning to end. I check my notes, I check other places, and when I finally give in and ask her questions, she tells me I need to dig in and “try harder”. I suspect she is withholding information on purpose so she can retain her position as the “senior” admin. I have finally resorted to asking questions via email so that she can answer as she has time (there is a lot on her plate) and so I can copy our boss.

      1. DaffyDuck*

        Arrg! I hate knowledge hoarders! You run into them everywhere – folks who slow down/limit things because they won’t let someone help move it along frustrate me no end.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I think sometimes I’m an…unintentional knowledge hoarder? I’m not trying to sabotage anyone or be the only person who knows things, it’s just that I’m not very patient and often I run into situations where “let me show you this [again or not]” will take too long so I default back to “here, just give it to me and I’ll do it” because it’s faster. Which perpetuates knowledge hoarding, even though that’s not what I’m trying to do. So on behalf of that accidental subtype of knowledge hoarders, I apologize.

          The intentional passive-aggressive knowledge hoarders, though, they’re on their own.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Training is an investment. We spend a bunch of time now in order to save huge amounts of time later, as they are able to pull their own weight. Oddly, you could end up having more time to do what you need to do rather than less.

            Added bonus, sometimes the trainee bails us out or even saves us from getting into very hot water. Trainees can tend to do that because they remember our help earlier.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I am so the opposite. And I find that it makes me MORE “powerful” in the office. Being “the person who can explain everything clearly” is major, major reputation cred.

        (I have to be sure not to dump too much at the wrong time)

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      Are there other admins you can go to? They don’t necessarily have to be on the same level, but chances are they can probably help you out without setting you up to fail. However, do keep up on the paper-trail emails. I suspect she’s doing this on purpose. Sounds like you and I work with the same type of person.

      When I started current job, former admin took another position in the team. Her idea of training was to hand me a 5 inch ring binder that she called the Admin Bible that had “everything I could possibly need to know” in it. A few years before I started, it would have been great, but by the time I got there and she gave me the stupid thing, everything was out of date and/or obsolete. Training is also not her strong spot (nor is not being a complete chonch, but that’s another story). I’m 4 years into this job and still learning things I should have been taught in my 1st week. When the person explaining the task asks me who “trained” me and I say her name, 100% of the time they roll their eyes and say “oh, no wonder you don’t know.”

      1. JSPA*

        I hope this falls under “gender term awareness” not “terminology nitpicking,” but if I remember right, it’s at least unofficial policy to avoid using female body part slang as slang for someone / something stupid & irritating.

        1. Zephy*

          I have never heard anyone refer to any body part as a “chonch” and I’d really love for that to continue.

        2. No Mas Pantalones*

          Wait–what?! My friends and I have always used it in place of jerk–like an unpleasant and often malicious person–not as slang for ladybits.* Is it slang for ladybits? Omg, I’d never use that term to describe any body part! Okay, so that’s being deleted from my vocabulary now. ….BALEETED….

          * I do hope “ladybits” doesn’t fall in the same category. I quite love the term and use it in reference to my own; it has a happy and reverent meaning in my head.

          Ugh. Thank you for telling me, I appreciate it. I don’t want to be “that” person.

          1. Shad*

            I’ve never heard it that way before, either. Perhaps that was just based on the assumption that it was a euphemism for another word beginning in c?

            1. Lisa*

              It dedinitely is. A former male friend of mine used it when he spoke derogatorily of someone’s ladybits.

          2. Stormfeather*

            FWIW, like Zephy, I have never ever heard of body parts of any type being referred to as a “chonch,” and have in fact not heard that term at all.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, if you’re going to write SOP documents, you have to keep them up to date. At an old non-profit job, we called them CYAs–cover your ass, lol.

  5. Rey*

    I’m training new employees right now, and I repeat “We want you to ask questions” every day. I can’t imagine working in an environment that does exactly the opposite. Shaking my head…

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It works both ways though. Yes it’s good to ask questions, but if the newbies aren’t making an effort to write things down or using other methods to remember how to do things, that’s a problem. I’ve worked with people like that, and it’s very frustrating when someone’s MO is to run to you as soon as they can’t remember something, instead of trying to figure it out for themselves first. You need to walk the line between training properly and hand holding. Give them the tool to help themselves and then make them use those tools and become self sufficient.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Agreed – there’s definitely a balance needs maintained. You need people to function independently – but you also need them to have the resources to succeed if they come across things they’re unsure of.

      2. Gymmie*

        Indeed. I’ve had bad employees that either had to be told things over and over, and also would ask questions that they should have attempted to figure out on their own. However, I also love good questions and like to coach and share.

      3. Kella*

        This is true, but in the case that a trainee is not becoming self-sufficient the way they should be, you need to train them how to do that too. That’s where you say, “I need you to check x and y documentation before coming to me,” or “I need you to take detailed notes when I teach you something,” etc. Even if the problem is with the OP not being self-sufficient enough (which it doesn’t sound like is the case), responding with “We went over this already,” and then shutting the conversation down is the best way to make sure no work gets done. If someone doesn’t know the answer and they don’t know how to find the answer, they are going to come to you for the answer until you teach them to do otherwise.

      4. Kitryan*

        Oh god yes! I just had someone ask me how we formatted entry type X and I said, ‘what could you do to get the answer without asking me’, he correctly said that he could check a similar existing entry of type X. I said, ‘then please do that’ and he said it was quicker to ask me. I said ‘Not for me’. Added context for the level of irritation displayed in my answer: he has been doing this job for about 4 years and I have been doing it for nearly 6. My ‘seniority’ is, at this point, primarily a function of his inability to learn, remember, and expand upon his skills — because he keeps asking me instead of exploring and finding answers on his own.
        In my darker moments I think he is the person in the Shel Silverstein poem who does not want to wash the dishes – If I am aggressively incompetent then Kitryan will carry me and I will never have to properly learn my job!

        1. Kitryan*

          However, to circle back to the OP, yes, at this point, I would be taking notes on anything you’re taught (if you weren’t already) and after revising them yourself, having them reviewed by the crappy trainer. Then you both have a record of how you believe you were told to do the procedure *which she has approved* that you can turn to for your actual work and for CYA if it comes to that. And when she trains you on just the specific instance of a task, try asking (if you haven’t already started to do so) ‘is this the usual way that task X is done or does it change depending on Y?’.

      5. LQ*

        I had someone like this who would for every single tiny variation of a problem come to me for answers. I’d been moved off the team and was much, much busier and so I often wouldn’t have time to give him a full answer right then so I’d give him a hint, like 1 sentence or sometimes just a word as I ran between meetings “column settings”. Weirdly that worked great and he started to email me just asking for a hint explicitly. He had enough of a direction that he felt like he could get at fixing it based on a framework for another problem, he just didn’t understand which problem framework to use. So …hints.

    2. Samwise*

      Yes, and I circle around to my newbies periodically to see if they have any questions. Also email them or pop by when I’m on a task that they may not know about.

      1. Marie*

        You’re a good person. I had to entirely self teach at my current (highly technical) role. My therapist is trying to encourage me to “imagine life if you had a different job” which is therapy-speak for “seriously this job has almost nothing going for it”. Unfortunately I have never had a long tenure in my 5 years of gainful employment, so I’m torn between making it to the 2 or 3 year mark here OR finding a more functional environment. Imagine that.

  6. 1234*

    While I posted my experiences above, I’ve also been in one of these situations in the past and people were at times annoyed that I had to ask clarifying questions.

    That company had the mentality of “they work here now so they must magically know/understand our internal processes and procedures” and unless you asked questions, nobody was going to tell you something was “wrong” or “you assumed incorrectly” or that it was caught on important things like Financial Documents. =\

    1. Zephy*

      Uuuuugh. At a previous, very short-lived job at a veterinarian’s office, their “training process” was mostly “watch training videos provided by the software company, describing features we don’t use at all and features we do use in a different way than the training demonstrates, for a full 8-hour workday.” I had to derive general workflow guidelines from first principles, more or less. Pretty sure I got fired for getting frustrated with everyone’s reluctance or inability to tell me how to do my job. I don’t know why it was so impossible for someone to tell me the general route that patient files took through the office, for instance. I was a receptionist, that’s almost the entire job, is moving patient files from one place to another.

      1. 1234*

        What happened when you pointed out to them that the training video was not an accurate portrayal of what you were using the software for?

        1. Zephy*

          Oh, they told me ahead of time that they do things differently but that watching the videos was the closest thing to a “training regimen” they had.

          It’s a small wonder I stayed on as long as I did (all of…a month). Dysfunction Junction, indeed.

  7. Lobsterman*

    OP is being gaslit and needs to be careful to care for themselves properly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, maybe. But it’s more likely that the coworker is just bad at training and overly cranky about being interrupted with questions. That’s a lot more common than deliberate gaslighting.

      1. Lobsterman*

        I admit that my life experience tends towards the basic problem being the abusive humans in my life.

        But still.

      2. Marie*

        Honestly, I’ve had enough therapy at this point to accept that a lot of gaslighting, manipulation, and general mistreatment is not deliberate. People act out of things like insecurity, anxiety, shame, jealously; they don’t lie in bed scheming about how to mistreat others. They walk around poorly managing their own mental health which then manifests as abusing those around them.

  8. the elephant in the room*

    My manager and I received some training on a new process from a contractor we hired and kept screwing up or forgetting how to do things. So we decided to (with his permission) record the conversations for those moments when we couldn’t remember. When we went back to review the conversations, we discovered the reason we weren’t understanding was because he was literally giving us a different answer for the same question each time we asked. Which made us realize we would need to figure it out ourselves, but also helped us feel less crazy. So there’s that.

    Anyway, my point is, maybe see if you can record the conversations so you have something to go back to later? And that way you can also honestly say that you revisited the conversation, but X wasn’t mentioned (if it actually wasn’t).

    1. 1234*

      At any point, did you go back to the contractor and say “When we asked you about step X, we noticed on Tuesday you said to do Y and on Wednesday, you said to do Z. Which is it?”

      1. the elephant in the room*

        Whoops, I missed this. And we did. He would run circles around the question until we were so confused and exhausted we just wanted the meeting to end. Ultimately, he was a terrible choice (that my manager and I both recommended against before we even started the project, but we were ignored) and the company is now suffering major consequences for hiring him.

  9. Chrome*

    When I trained my replacement after a promotion, I recognized that there was a truckload of info to go over and there was no way to remember it all. The job was also highly case-by-case with lots of little exceptions and unwritten procedures, so I knew the learning curve was going to take awhile.

    There was one particular infrequent task that she kept having to ask me how to do. After the third time of showing her, I nicely told her that I was ‘pretty sure’ we’d gone over that and asked her to check her notes, but that if she couldn’t figure it out I’d walk her through it (again). When she couldn’t find any info about it, I made sure she took notes on it this time. Problem resolved.

    When I left her on her own for the first time, I was careful to say “Hey, I’m going to go do my work for a bit but I know you’re going to have a billion questions. I want you to interrupt me.” It was my first time really training anyone but I remembered how frustrated I was with all of it when I first started.

    1. Zephy*

      > The job was also highly case-by-case with lots of little exceptions and unwritten procedures, so I knew the learning curve was going to take awhile.

      My last job was kind of like this. Before I transitioned into that role, I helped my former department lead develop a training manual for the software we used, with screenshots and arrows and explanations of what goes in each box. The role I moved into was a more specialized version of the one I came from, so I wrote up my own manual as a sort of appendix to the original, with more appendices with commonly-encountered special cases.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes, yes, yes, I’m such a fan of manuals like this. It’s saved my skin in my first career altering job. Thankfully my boss requested it be made by the person I was taking over for and I carefully kept it updated and cared for my entire time at the job.

        Sadly it’s not the norm in my experience, I have been tossed into jobs where there’s no training at all and thankfully I’m able to hack it fine and enjoy it even. It’s always on my “projects” list as soon as I am settled into a job, I transcribe all my notes into procedures and process documents so that the next person has it ready.

        Another sad note is that I have seen them go unused or snubbed by people at times. Those tend to be people that end up getting fired for not being able to figure things out though, go figure.

        1. 1234*

          Another sad note is that I have seen them go unused or snubbed by people at times.

          Happened at Old Job. New Finance Girl didn’t seem to want any training from Current/About to Leave Here Finance Girl after . “Annie was unwilling to listen to me and wants to think she knows it all or to do it all on her own. It came to the point where Big Finance Lady From Head Office emailed me to basically ask ‘What is Annie doing? This isn’t how we do things here.'”

        2. Kitryan*

          I have given someone very detailed step by step instructions, and when I got to the step where they were to try it on their own and I reviewed the results, I would find errors on things that were covered thoroughly in the instructions.
          When I asked about their process to figure out the issue, it turns out they weren’t using the instructions at all and were trying to do it from memory. Best I could figure, it was some sort of hold over from school, where looking at the book/your notes on a test would be ‘cheating’.
          I now explain that the job is ‘open book’ as part of my training procedures.

          1. TootsNYC*

            the funny thing is, some professors/teachers have discovered that telling people, “you can bring one sheet of paper with any writing on it you want,” actually makes people learn the topic better. The process of deciding what to write, and how to write it concisely, is a really effective learning process!

        3. Asenath*

          I had nothing when I started except for firm instructions from the boss to bring X up-to-date. Everything else was either new, or cobbled together from work a couple of other people were doing (which they were very glad to be rid of). So I developed a manual of my tasks – but when I went on vacation, the person who was helping out if necessary (we don’t get actual replacements if we’re away, mostly work waits until we get back unless someone thinks it’s an emergency) didn’t follow my procedures, which she had, so when I got back, I had to untangle what she’d done…. Oh, well, I did my part by preparing instructions, which I am planning to update before I leave. I’ve seen others find out months into a new job that there are actually tons of computer files, email records and other information that they hadn’t known about.

          Write everything down – that’s essential, particularly if your trainer tends to miss things.

  10. Steve*

    I’ve noticed most jobs are “sink or swim.” They never say this in the interview of course. You either “get it” or you don’t. It just seems like employers don’t want to spend much money on on boarding. I’ve worked in technology where I basically taught myself how to prospect for leads. Then at a musical instrument company where no one knew how to prospect for leads and most of the business was built by establishing relationships at trade shows. My third role was as a loan officer at a brokerage. Since we were bringing deals to different lenders it was virtually impossible to know each lender’s guidelines. I struggled for months in this role and at one point thought it was just me until I realized the huge turnover and how few people last a year at my former company. They have a few “hardcore closers” and everyone else is just keeping a seat warm.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Anyone tasked with training needs to have additional patience and ability to work with people. Some people need to be told a couple of times to really have it ‘stick’, it doens’t mean they weren’t listening or aren’t capable of learning. Most roles have so many details that you’re certainly not going to pick them all up within a couple weeks or even a couple of months of training.

    This is why I make it a point to always tell people I’d rather them ask me the same question 8 times and do the thing right 8 times than to stumble and mess up each time because they’re not well practiced enough. Some processes only happen at random intervals or are so sporadic, I’d be driving myself into the ground like Rumpelstiltskin having his meltdown every day if I didn’t have a firm grasp on being able to accept other’s will always need a certain amount of assistance until they’ve been in their role for a year or even more.

    1. DaffyDuck*

      Yes! Plus, it always takes much longer to teach someone how to do something than to do it yourself. Unless you are carrying boxes from one side of a store to the other, having someone to train doesn’t make the process go faster but slower until they are able to work without oversight or (many) errors. I so wish managers would understand this.

    2. TootsNYC*

      there’s also the fact that some people grasp one explanation, but not another.

      You have to be able to tweak how you explain it (once you’re sure that they didn’t say “what?” because they just didn’t hear the words). And be open to the idea that YOU chose confusing wording, changed which noun you used, etc.

  12. Olive*

    I had a similar situation when I was training for the job I’m in now. It was 2 months of hell for me. My trainer, Lea had been doing her job for a couple of years so I guess she thought anyone could just come in and do it. She’d give me info and that was it. She hated repeating herself so when I’d ask a question she’d give me this frustrated look and either say “why don’t you write these things down?” (I would but she went through everything too fast) or she’d say “haven’t we already gone over this?” It got to the point where I was walking on eggshells around her and I no longer wanted to ask questions so I was screwing up a lot. And then she’d say, “if you didn’t know, why didn’t you just ask? That’s what I’m here for.” At the time, I was too concerned that I was overly thin-skinned so I dealt with it but eventually ended up breaking down in front of my supervisor telling her I felt like I wasn’t hacking it. She told me they wouldn’t have hired me if she’d thought that and that some people are just not good at training others, that made me feel a little better because at least then my manager knew what was going on and wouldn’t hold it against me when I made too many mistakes. And she did try to explain to Lea that people learn in different ways so she needed to be more receptive to answering questions regardless of whether she’d covered them once or not. It didn’t really fix the issue because Lea didn’t think it it was a problem so towards the end i’d only managed to retain about a fraction of what I was supposed to be doing and after Lea left I spent a good couple of months trying to retrain myself to do the job. It was hard but well worth it because I was able to make it more my own. It also helped me when it came to training others.

  13. Spreadsheets and Books*

    At my last job, I was trained appallingly. It was largely done on a need to know basis, so if my manager needed something from me, I’d get trained on that task… and nothing else. It took a solid year for me to be up to date on anything. No one was frustrated with questions, but it was such sporadic training that I’d often forget or be unable to interpret my notes because I don’t remember that task I was showed in passing a year ago. I think it absolutely affected my success in the job. I’m very lucky that my manager at my new job is wonderfully detailed and has been A+ about training.

    Under the circumstances, I’d recommend that OP write every single thing she’s taught down, even in casual catchup sessions. Every detail, every topic, nothing omitted. It may also help to vocalize during training sessions that you need to write everything down and ask for a second to catch up as necessary to make sure this possibly negligent manager understands that this isn’t a case of bad notes (and to make sure it’s truly not a case of bad notes on OP’s part). If this trend continues, it will be very handy to be able to pull out your notes and point out that no, this material was not included.

    1. Samwise*

      And if she’s going too fast, say, oh, please hang on a minute, I’m taking notes. And ask her to repeat anything you missed because she was going too fast. Slow her down. If she’s even a wee bit smart she’ll figure out that it’s faster to go at a slower pace and not have to repeat.

  14. SAHM*

    I literally had this happen at my first “real job” post college. The Executive assistant (who I was supposed to be assisting as an admin assistant) told me a few things but was too busy to actually teach me how to do things. Then when I would get emails asking me to do things, I would ask her how and she’d say “Just google it!” In an exasperated tone. It was also way more technical/internal stuff so a basic google search probably wouldn’t have helped me.

  15. dramallama*

    I’ve been in a lot of these ‘train your coworker’ situations, although it sounds like OP’s situation is a little more formalized. In a lot of the instances where I was giving/receiving training to/from someone with the same job as me, it wasn’t something that anyone was instructed to do, just a reality of excessive turn-over and an expectation of the ‘good team-players’. It might be good to check in with either your boss or the co-worker herself just how much she’s really expected to help you out: you may be expecting her to get you completely trained while in her mind she’s only responsible for giving you a run-through and then answering a few questions. If you’re both working from different expectations about what level of training you’re supposed to receive, then it’s no wonder you’re getting frustrated with the lack of help while she’s getting frustrated with how much help you’re asking for.

  16. cmcinnyc*

    What jumps out at me is the way Trainer Coworker has been shutting down Newbie Coworker. Either Trainer is (for whatever reason) unwilling to continue in this role, or Newbie has been judged a lost cause and a time sink. If I was the OP, I wouldn’t waste any time trying to repair this relationship with the trainer. I’d go straight to my manager and talk about my performance, where I’m having trouble, what training I think I need to get better–as thoroughly but concisely as I can. If Manager redirects me to the same coworker, I’d be very blunt in telling them that s/he seems to have given up on me and is very curt with her answers or only answers case by case leaving me in the dark re SOPs. I wouldn’t lead with that, though. I’d lead with the focus firmly on myself, my work process/product, and what I need to do about it. If you’re being written off, you need to show up with no excuses and assert that you intend to rock this job and here’s what you need to do that. You should learn something from the manager’s response about where you stand generally that will help you get what you need regardless of this particular training relationship.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      Brilliant response!

      OP, document everything your “trainer” says to you (and tone behind it) when you ask for clarification on whatever specific topic. You may not need to use the documentation, but it’s always a good thing to have on hand, just in case. It will likely also make you feel better.

      Definitely talk to your manager. In the meantime, are there other people you could go to for answers?

  17. AKchic*

    I have trained people before. She should have a general manual of everything she’s trained you on if she was in any of the job she’s training you on.

    Please write out all of the things she’s trained you on already. A step-by-step “In Case I’m Travelling The Universe” Guide. It will help you.

    I have been “trained” by people that didn’t like training, and I’ve also been trained by people who liked the power they had from training, but didn’t want to actually give away the knowledge they had, so they only gave compartmentalized “in this situation” “case by case” information. It was hard to actually do the job because I didn’t have all of the information I needed. This may be the case here, and it also could be that your trainer has so much information that they truly don’t know what information is actually needed and never took the time to write down all of their knowledge and when they try, they have a system overload of their own and give up trying because they can’t organize it properly.

    Keep track of what has been told to you, both verbal and written. This may be a case of mismatched expectations, but I’m thinking it’s more that your trainer doesn’t know how to train and may not want to give up all of the information.

  18. Torrance*

    A lot of criticism seems to be falling on the coworker but I’m struck by the ‘the same job title as me’ line– that means they’re peers, right? Shouldn’t any intensive training be done by a manager or company trainer? Was the coworker given leave from her job to provide training, or was she supposed to provide training on top of completing her own tasks?

    1. iglwif*

      Everywhere I’ve worked, most training is done by peers, because that’s what makes the most sense. (Often several peers, dividing the tasks up as appropriate, rather than just one.) Managers tend not to know the day-to-day details of every individual job well enough to be appropriate trainers on them all, and a company has to be pretty enormous to have (or need) dedicated trainers!

      The manager should of course relax expectations for the person doing the training–that is, accept and expect that while they’re training the newbie, their own work will not get done as quickly as normal.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Seconded. My company always has newbies trained by peers, or only-slightly-above supervisor-types. My manager does NOT know how to do my job, not the nitty-gritty details that my trainees need to know; he used to do this role, but hasn’t been involved in the day-to-day for years, and the correct methods change constantly. And with my current trainees, their in-office manager has never done this work (he’s part of a different ‘team’ in the company) and while he can guide them on overarching legal frameworks, he has no idea how to do the actual job.

        I’d also wonder what training materials the coworker was given when she started in the role – the company should have *some* materials previously developed. If not, then yes, the company may have set both employees up for failure.

    2. $!$!*

      I thought the same thing—same job title but a totally new job role that was just created for OP sounds like a recipe for confusion all around

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Why would managers train the employees? They aren’t doing the day to day tasks and that deeply involved in those aspects, so it makes more sense for a peer to train a new hire.

      Also most places don’t offer “intensive” training at all, this sounds like they’re just training in the standardized duties and procedures.

    4. Asenath*

      I’d expect any training to be done by someone at or somewhat above the level of the newcomer, since that’s the person most familiar with the tasks. Not every employer has company trainers – I’ve never encountered one, although I’ve attended sessions organized by larger groups (like professional associations), by the employer on special policies (say, there’s a new employer-wide policy on copyright, or harassment or something) and been given time off and registration costs for short workshops on things like specific computer software.

      I don’t think we do particularly well with transition – sometimes people leave before their replacement arrives, and if their time overlaps, the newbie might spend a few hours sitting with the departing employee *while she does her own work* trying to get up to speed on things. That’s why I have created a manual for my job, and am updating it. My replacement may or may not find it useful, but at least I’ll have tried to do the right thing!

      And my managers (well, I’m not sure that’s the right word; the assorted people I do things for) don’t have much idea what I actually do day to day, especially as I do things for a lot of people, and certainly don’t use the software I do – at least, not all of it, and not in the same ways. As long as I can answer most of the questions thrown at me and produce the required information promptly, I’m doing fine in my supervisor’s eyes, even though no one but me really knows how I do it, or what else I’m doing at the same time.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I’m a manager who trains my people directly during their initial training period. Because their peers are busy doing the actual work.

      HOWEVER, there is no part of the work that I don’t personally do from time to time. And I like to be able to put my authority behind some of the procedures, bcs they look fiddly to other people but are important to me.

      But I wouldn’t expect all managers are like me.

      1. Asenath*

        That would be the difference between your workplace and mine ” there is no part of the work that I don’t personally do from time to time”. The people I report to have very different work than I do – much more, um, don’t want to get too identifying – technical. I do clerical work. The skills don’t overlap.

  19. AndersonDarling*

    There is one other possibility, the trainer doesn’t know what she is doing.
    I once received terrible training that lasted 2 hours, but it was training for an entire full time financial role. Later when I would ask questions, all she would say was “We went over this and I don’t have time to go over it now.”
    Eventually, I found out that she didn’t know how to do the job and was just scraping by with excuses and minimal output. She honestly could not train me and she was hoping I would just figure it out.

  20. merp*

    Slightly different situation, but I have a coworker who seems to routinely forget that they haven’t communicated all the parts of a process out loud, or that I wasn’t on that email the other day, etc. I usually do what Alison suggests here and give them the benefit of the doubt, and if they’re easygoing enough, sometimes *gently* make joking comments about not being able to read their mind. It helps to remind them to be more thorough and we have a chill enough collaborative relationship that it’s taken well. May not be your case though, if she seems frustrated.

  21. Alanna*

    I’m a web developer, and whenever I’m starting a new project or a new job, and someone is showing me the ropes – usually going over the project and the code and how things work, I always take notes but I also:
    A) Ask if this is documented somewhere (it should be if it’s important enough to tell someone). If they say no, I offer to write up my notes and use them as documentation for the project, so then I’ll know if I’ve got it all straight when someone reviews them.
    B) I ask any questions I have, but I also say “I’m sure I’ll have more questions once I dive in!” I feel like this helps prepare the person and sets me up to feel more comfortable asking inevitable questions later.

  22. starzzy*

    This reminds me of my first job at Taco Bell.

    I was a 16 year-old girl who was polite, respectful, and generally known to do very well in school. I think this resulted in my managers doing less training for me than they did with other new employees. I either looked like I knew what I was doing or they thought I would be able to figure it out. Wrong and wrong.

    As one example, this was during the time they introduced value meals at Taco Bell and they put me on as cashier without training me how to ring it up. I literally asked, “What are all these new buttons?” and they just laughed like I was telling a joke and said it was for the value meals and didn’t elaborate. Because they didn’t say anything and pressing the buttons did nothing that I could see, I figured the computerized till just recognized a value meal and would deduct accordingly. Again: wrong.

    I rang people up as normal until one family asked why their total didn’t match the value menu. My manager got involved and THEN I got trained on the new buttons.

    That was the hardest job I’ve ever worked (and lowest pay I ever got). I still have Taco Bell stress dreams and I only worked there for 4 months 24 years ago.

  23. Megasaurusus*

    I had mulitple co-workers responsible for training me. Some were fantastic, some were incomprehensible. Some people really resented anyone bothering them with questions and I was really frustrated. I resolved to take as much responsibility for my training as I could on myself. With the most incomprehensible people I would take notes, I say “hang on a moment, I need to right this down” and make sure I am taking all the time I needed to. I ask the most clarifying questions I can at the time and then I go back to my computer and type up my notes in Onenote immediately, and then I email the notes to the other person asking them to look it over and make sure I’ve understood everything correctly. Retyping the notes solidifies the learning in my mind and having them in Onenote keeps them in an easily searchable place and serves as my own job manual till the tasks become rote. Receiving confirmation from the training party that my steps are correct eliminates the possibility for errors and misunderstandings. It might seem a little onerous and I hear the occasional irritated sigh while I take the time it takes to take proper notes, but it works for me!

    1. Marie*

      I use one note similarly. It is my Bible.

      Alas when I sent detailed, illustrated (annotated screen grabs) training notes to the trainer for review, she failed to read the document and just said “looks good”. I found errors in that document five (5!) months later and had a ton of rework. It was awful. My trainer was long gone from the company by then. Hello high turnover!

  24. LSP*

    Although I’ve been at my current job for over 4 years, I am being brought in to help develop training on process I actually know very little about. In some ways it’s helpful, because from the outside, I can see the gaps. Up until now, this process has been in the hands of a small group of people at my company, but as the company has grown significantly in recent years, that group needs to be able to pull in others to help, thus the training. What I’m seeing that is a bigger problem than anything else is that one person in particular is the sole holder of so much knowledge, much of which is not only not on a shared drive, but exists entirely within her own head, that no one could possibly be expected to pick up on the whole process without significant help from this one person. I am trying to get her to understand that having redundancies for her knowledge is not the same as making her redundant, and trying to gently get this information out of her brain and onto a page.

    I very much wonder if OP’s trainer is someone who is so deep in the weeds that she’ll really need to tease out the details of what she needs in a very strategic way to get what she needs from her. That’s not ideal, because an experienced trainer would have already walked through the process before training someone else to make sure everything was covered. I actually have doubts this trainer is going to be able or willing to take the time to do that kind of work, so if I were OP I’d just let me manager know I’m still unsure of certain processes and ask if there’s someone else who might have more availability to train me on them.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      You are a golden resource! Someone who knows the company but not the process is IDEAL for designing training.

      An idea with your sole knowledge holder: You deserve to go on vacation! The company needs to keep working while you’re relaxing. You’ll still be the expert, but the companies needs to have intermediate people, too.

  25. Michael Valentine*

    I am someone who wants the details and also the big picture I can apply to multiple situations, and having to pull teeth for answers would be tough, so I understand your frustration. My current boss tends to get a little too narrow with her answers, so I’ve learned to ask the same question in various ways to suss out what I can generalize so I don’t need to ask again. I also keep a lot of notes!

    I’m actually a technical trainer, and so it’s part of my job to know something A to Z along with all the unwritten tacit stuff that can be hard to convey. I’ve learned that trainers are experts, but not all experts are good trainers. But even great trainers have blind spots. I’m a fan of using multiple people as resources, if possible. I learned one peer who had trained me was very wrong about one thing. I would never have known that without having someone else tell me that.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Oh gawd, training is a really specific skill. Most experts are terrible trainers, at least of beginners, although they’re often fine with intermediate people who already understand the field in general. It’s *hard* to remember how a beginner will think when you’re an expert.

      (And yup, I’ve worked as a tech trainer as well. I use a lot of the same skills in my technical writing, especially when I’m writing up procedures.)

  26. neeko*

    I feel like this often happens because supervisors don’t realize how much of a lift training someone is. I’m assuming the trainer is also expected to do their other job on top of the training. It’s a common and terrible practice.

    1. dramallama*

      Totally agree. I feel like it leads to so much stress and resentment for both the trainer and the trainee.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      For one thing it’s exhausting. You do get thanked by the trainee most times but not so much by the boss. And usually if you ask for more compensation for your extra effort, level of trust, etc., the answer is no.

      ha! I remember training one person who kept going around saying, she wanted a professional trainer to train her. We were an NPO, that was going to happen right after pigs gained flight.

      Since I never had anyone say anything like this before, I thought it was very strange. In the end, I really could not train her because she was not prepared to listen. She flubbed along until she couldn’t any more.

  27. mf*

    Training a new employee is really taxing. It’s necessary, but still, it can be a burden on the employee who’s doing the training. My recommendation would be to do whatever you can ease the burden on your trainer:

    1. If there are other people who can answer your question/train you, try going them with questions. Try not to lean solely on your trainer if possible.
    2. Research the answer for your question BEFORE asking your trainer.
    3. Compile a list of your questions and relay them all together once a day in a one-on-one meeting or email.
    4. Talk to your manager. “Boss, I think my training is taking up a lot of Coworker’s time. Is there anyone else on the team I can work with in order to take the pressure off Coworker?”
    5. If the tasks you’re being trained are “hands-on,” trying doing some practice runs and ask your trainer if you can run the results by him/her. This will help you become proficient faster and will demonstrate to your trainer that you’re being proactive in trying to learn your new job (which ought to buy you a little good will!).

  28. Becky*

    This is somewhat timely, and an excuse for me to ask my own question. We have a newbie at work and I’ve been the designated trainer. Based on my past experience, I feel like I’m a decent trainer in that I’m able to convey what needs to be done and how to do it–without losing my patience. However, this newbie made me realize the people that I’ve trained in the past either had limited experience and were therefore receptive to my suggestions–or just weren’t argumentative in nature.

    On one of her first days, for example, our system wasn’t working and so I recommended a manual alternative. She responded: “I shouldn’t have to waste my time doing that. The system is supposed to work.” This morning, I was trying to show her to process something electronically, and because she had used the software before, she said: “This is how I would normally do it”–which was totally foreign to me and resulted in me not being able to respond to her subsequent questions.

    I’m trying to check myself and see if she was being rationale in both scenarios (the system WAS supposed to work, and there was nothing wrong with how she preferred to do it as long as she got the job done) and these aren’t early signs of a problem employee. She’s hired through a third-party staffing agency and this is the first time I have some say on whether or not a temp worker is working out, and having this kind of power scares me a little. Should I give her more time to adapt? Should I trust my gut and pull the cord immediately?

    To bring it back to the original topic, while I don’t consider myself the perfect trainer, I’m generally open to feedback and don’t mind explaining something over and over again until the trainee gets it–as long as he/she has a good attitude. This newbie, however, has caused me to hesitate and not want to explain her anything unless it is absolutely necessary or she specifically asks about it. (After all, who wants to try to be helpful and end up being essentially told, “Thanks, but I don’t really need your help”?)

    1. Marie*

      I’ve been a newbie in a place that was doing almost everything with big inefficiencies. I bit my tongue for the first few months, then I chose one critical area to push hard on. That effort failed so I resigned myself to maintaining a healthy emotional disengagement from the job. It’s hard to come in with a lot of experience and accept that NewCompany is just bad at what they do, and by extension, my career will not grow while I’m here. I took a bunch of night classes in a technical field to get my growth in other places, and am now plotting my escape. I genuinely miss giving a damn about my place of employment.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      > She responded: “I shouldn’t have to waste my time doing that. The system is supposed to work.”

      Rude. It would have been reasonable to say “Can we not train me on the manual process until I know the usual process? I’m already having to pick up an awful lot in a short time.” But does she think that if the system isn’t working she just won’t have to get anything done?

      > “This is how I would normally do it”

      It’s legit that some companies/departmetns don’t use software as efficiently as others, because they all have different histories. A good answer would be “Okay, that’s great that you have experience with the software. Let’s teach you how we are doing it here, and when you have OUR processes down, let’s look at your way again. You might have really good stuff to teach me!”

      She’s causing you to be hesitant to give her info she will or might need? She’s awfully arrogant, and I wouldn’t want to work with her, myself. Nobody knows everything, not even professional trainers. Talk it over with your boss. I’d cut the cord.

  29. Amethystmoon*

    This is why organizations need to thoroughly document their procedures. Of course, even if they do, there is no guarantee the trainee will read the notes, but it will help the ones who actually want to learn their jobs well. And yes, I know not everyone learns by reading. However, it does help to have a reference guide available. In my last job, I had a few notes and screen shots that the previous person sent me. I had to create a training manual myself.

    However — that being said, there is a point at which certain basic questions really should be referred to in notes, for sure a good year into the job. I had a coworker who, while I didn’t train him, clearly did not pay enough attention to the training we both received and also didn’t want to read his notes, and was still asking me basic questions after 2.5 years in the role.

    For example, our shared e-mail address that we both got work to do was named after the codes on the items we processed. This was given to us on day 1 of training and in the documentation as well. 2.5 years into the job, he literally asked me what the item code was. I kid you not. This was not the only example I have where he clearly didn’t comprehend the training and really shouldn’t have been in the position as long as he was.

  30. frustrated*

    any thoughts on what to do in a similar but opposite situation, where an employee is getting defensive about making mistakes and blaming their errors on lack of training (i.e. “this wasn’t in the training!”), but you have extensive documentation and training manuals to show that the procedures were indeed covered? it’s a strange situation to me as a manager who really doesn’t mind going over materials multiple times and expects things to be forgotten and need to be relearned. I don’t know if it’s better to point out that the information is in our handbooks when they get combative about it (because they state it in argumentative tone) or ignore the defensiveness and focus only on the work process at hand.

  31. Richie Rich*

    Or 3. She is doing it intentionally aka sabotage. It happens. Either to seem essential to you in your day to day activities since you won’t be fully independent & confident in your role. Or to make you seem unsure and unconfident to others.

Comments are closed.