the people I train keep failing — am I the problem?

A reader writes:

I’m fairly positive I’m the jerk in this situation and I’m worried I might be throwing another new hire under the bus. I know I need to be better at training but I’m not sure what else I can do.

I was promoted from a coordinator job to a new position. Due to structural changes in the organization during that move, I was still covering my old job and was burning out quickly. Luckily after six months, management was able to hire someone to take that role. I was tasked with training the new hire, Lee, and I’m not sure how well I did. On paper the position was entry-level, but much of the work was intricate and requires extensive knowledge of the systems our office used.

I had never trained anyone before. I thought Lee took to training well, and they commented often about their 25 years of experience in the field and that they had no trouble stepping into the job. However, I found out quickly that they were resistant to adapting their work to our systems and lacked some basic skills necessary for our organization’s work.

I found that Lee had made considerable errors within their first two months with the company, i.e. destroying a document signed by international clients which had to be submitted the next day to meet a deadline and releasing confidential information to an outside vendor in direct breach of a client’s contract. They also showed signs of being overwhelmed and upset as the duties were far more than what had been explained to them. Initially I was sympathetic and stayed after hours to help them complete administrative tasks and spoke with them about what could be done to help restructure their workload.

I encouraged them to speak with our manager over their concerns, as they had explained that during the hiring process, they questioned the overtime expectations and were told by management that it was not likely. This was incorrect, as I was consistently working late and through lunch to get tasks completed. Lee had seemed agreeable to reaching out to our manager but apparently never did.

After another chronic issue came to light with Lee’s work, I admit that I was showing frustration, which I know is unacceptable. A few months into their work, they began to show concerning behavior in interacting with me. They would go to other colleagues for clarification on tasks, but these colleagues had no experience so I would be included in email chains where they had tried to go above me. Or colleagues would call me with questions with the employee on the line, acting as a mediator of sorts. It was weird and caused a bit of confusion as people with no background in the work had to stop and look at the instructions available to Lee to answer their questions.

I had to continue to check their work as mistakes were occurring in work presented to clients. I was then informed that Lee had gone to our C-suite to request a meeting and filed a formal complaint that I was “henpecking” them. Our direct manager was included in this call and was directed to talk to me about my behavior. During that two-hour call with our manager, I explained what had been occurring and the chronic issues and failure to complete requirements. I stressed that I was still producing all project schedules, which had been assigned to Lee, but Lee had refused to complete training and had pushed it back until we closed for quarantine. This surprised our manager, and they asked that I share emails and screenshots of my work to clarify that I had been attempting to train on scheduling, and that Lee had disregarded my requests and was not doing the work assigned to them.

This resulted in our manger speaking with C-suite to clarify the issue and then with Lee. C-Suite and my manager had me work to put together all issues I had found with Lee’s work so an improvement plan could be made. After less than 10 days on the plan, Lee quit and cited me specifically in their office-wide farewell email stating that my “nitpicking” style had forced them out.

I again took on the old job and my current role until a new coordinator could be hired. Luckily the position was filled quickly and just the loveliest person was hired on, Quinn. I put together a binder for their use with every manual and troubleshooting tip and trick I could think of. I studied your “how-to-train” articles and guides and felt like I was prepared to give them the best start. Now after another six months, Quinn is still struggling with the workload and asked to meet with me near tears and admitted they’ve fallen two months behind. I agreed to take on scheduling again while they got a better handle on the rest of it. Our manager asked to know what the meeting was about, and I was straightforward due to my prior experience. I voiced that Quinn is able and willing to work, it’s just a lot for them to complete each day. The next day I saw Quinn get pulled into a meeting with our manager and HR and since then Quinn has been cold to me all week.

I feel like a low-life tattletale but I’m not sure where to go from here. Quinn is a lovely person, just maybe poorly suited for the work as they voiced the same questions about our systems during training and even months after I had ceased overseeing their work. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken some of their work either, but I kept quiet because I know they were willing to work but just got behind. I honestly unsure if this is just a couple of bad hires or if I’m the issue in this equation.

I wrote back and asked, “Do you think the workload in that job is manageable for one person? Have you seen people before these two do it successfully (without seeming completely stressed and burned out)?”

I may be answering my own question, but before I took the position there were three employees who left pretty quickly for various reasons. Though of the last two employees who did well, both moved into my current position and then one continued on to the next tier in the organization and the other left starting her own company on great terms.

I view the workload as manageable for someone who is very detail oriented, able to keep on eye on moving parts, and can manage accounts simultaneously. From the two I trained, I assume the hardest aspect to adapt to was the specific programs we use, or that at times there can be small projects and administrative tasks that accumulate quickly.

My workload increased during the last two years, because by the end of my tenure I was acting as coordinator and unknowingly doing the workload of another employee who had gradually turned everything over to me (which actually helped me get the promotion in the end so hey).

I want to offer to restructure some of the coordinator work, but as my current duties expand our manager doesn’t seem open to that option. The manager is allowing it for now as we have a backlog to sort through but I’m not sure they’d agree to that long term.

Yeah, you’re not the problem here! Or at least there’s nothing in your letter that indicates that.

It’s possible that the problem is the workload, but I can’t tell for sure. Normally if you’ve seen other people do the job well and handle the workload fine (including yourself), I’d say the workload isn’t the problem — but it might be a job that takes a specific sort of person to do it well, and the hiring has failed on that front. But you said the workload increased during your last two years in the position — and if the workload is now much higher than when others were doing the job, their ability to succeed with a lower workload doesn’t tell us anything.

If I were your manager, I’d want to figure out: Is the workload the problem? Or were these just the wrong hires? (I’ve found commenters on this site tend to default to believing it must be the workload, but the reality is that we can’t tell from here. I’ve seen average-workload jobs overwhelm the wrong hires.)

That’s really a question the manager needs to figure out. You can offer input though, from your vantage point as the last person to do the job successfully and the person who’s been watching the new hires close-up. What do you think is a reasonable workload? And not a reasonable workload for someone who’s been doing the job for two years, but for someone who’s new? Based on your experience doing the job and watching Lee and Quinn, do you think the right person could do it all … without high levels of stress? If not, you should push that perspective with your boss.

All that said, Lee almost definitely wasn’t the right hire. They lacked the skills necessary for the work, made significant errors, resisted using your organization’s systems, and refused to complete training. They did have a legitimate beef if the job was different than what had been sold to them — and that’s something your organization needs to fix if so — but regardless, they sound like they’re weren’t the right person for the role, in a way that training couldn’t fix. (Also, repeatedly telling you they had 25 years of experience and no trouble stepping into the job is … odd. And sending an office-wide email with their grievances when they left is not an awesome sign about their judgment.)

It sounds like over time Lee came to take issue with your oversight and guidance. It’s possible that could be legitimate (since I have no idea what your style is — maybe you are unreasonably nitpicky or deliver feedback unkindly or so forth), but it’s also possible that Lee just took issue with being corrected all the time, even though those corrections were necessary, and thus grew to dislike or resent you.

But you didn’t do anything wrong by sharing your concerns about Lee’s — or Quinn’s — struggles with your manager. In fact, you probably should have looped in your manager much earlier on. When you’re assigned to train someone and you see serious problems, you’ve got to make their manager aware — they’re counting on you to alert them to stuff like that, and they can’t manage effectively if they’re unaware of what’s unfolding. Similarly, you shouldn’t agree to take over parts of someone else’s job (like the scheduling) without informing your and their manager, who may not want you to do that — and need to know if it’s happening.

That said, the manager also should have been checking in with you regularly about how things were going. The manager seems strangely absent in much of this, and it sounds like you’ve been left to make it work on your own. But that’s not your job, so you’ve got to pull her in more.

If Lee/Quinn/whoever resents you for doing sharing your impressions with your boss, they’re not being realistic about how training works. It can help to tell people up-front that you’ll be keeping your manager posted on how training is going so it’s less of a surprise when you do, but some people will resent it anyway. All you can do is be fair with your feedback (to them and to your boss) and be transparent with all parties.

Ultimately, though, it sounds like you’re carrying the burden of figuring out how to make this work when (a) you have a different job to focus on now, (b) it’s your manager’s job to deal with and she’s paid for that — you’re not, and (c) you don’t have the authority to do what it would take to solve this anyway — you’re not the one selecting hires, managing workloads, giving formal feedback, etc. Ideally you’d do a brain-dump with your manager of everything you’ve concluded about this role — what’s working, what’s not, whether the workload is manageable, the key skills to look for in a hire — and then leave it with her and keep your mental energy on your new position.

{ 185 comments… read them below }

  1. Washi*

    OP, is the pay for this position a fair market rate, given the level of organization and attention to detail needed? A job can be entry-level in terms of not needing a specialized background to do it well, but can still be very demanding and require a higher salary to attract the right candidates.

    But to your main question, you don’t sound like the problem! The workload/hire quality mismatch is not of your doing.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      Yeah, I see three problems here.
      1. Hiring for “entry level” or non-specialized workers when you need high attention to detail. You may get lucky, but if you want high detail you need to pay for it.
      2. Workload for people experienced *with the company system and history* is hugely different than that for new hires. Possibly up to 50%, or more, in some jobs.
      3. Expectation for training time on both sides. If there are many unique and company-specific tasks it can take 3 months or more to train new hires (especially if some of the tasks don’t come up often).

      1. Some Internet Rando*

        I had the same thought…

        When you wrote “On paper the position was entry-level, but…” and then went on to describe the amount of training and the amount of time a person would need to be working, I think you identified the problem. In no way does this sound like an entry level position.

          1. Raine*

            Agreed! It might be an entry-level role on paper – but the person that gets hired in needs to have a solid 2-3 years of experience handling similar roles with detail, confidentiality, documentation, etc. I think where some of the error may be happening is that there’s a perception that anyone can be trained to do this work. You need someone who is not only willing to handle deadline-driven, must-be-fussy-about-details kind of work, but who can handle the pressure and confidentiality, and who can communicate when they don’t know what they don’t know.

            The other part – and this is something I’ve had to learn training others – what seems to me as “basic info” is not always evident to others, e.g. client confidentiality, asking before destroying documents, corporate office norms about reporting structures. Someone who is given this type of role and allowed to make decisions about their work may make a lot of assumptions that actually should be spelled out so they abide by the company’s rules and guidelines.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              It may have started as an entry level role, but then the employee grew with the position, and the amount of work and level increased gradually. So to replace an experienced person, they’ll need to hire an experienced person. Hiring someone entry level and expecting them to pick up years of experience in a month is just going to make everyone miserable.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          That bit stood out to me, too. In conjunction with the information that the first successor messed up a major client relationship by mishandling a document – that’s a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of an entry-level person.

          This situation offers a lot of opportunity for speculation, which I try to avoid. But if the LW is thinking about it … maybe this is a case where the LW became so skilled at the role they were the only one to understand deeply that it is now a huge step up from even a suitable new hire. Plus, it seems that the suitability of new hires has not been guaranteed – maybe because the hiring team doesn’t understand what a tall order it is to step into the role (“it takes a special person” – and the parameters that make up this level of “special” are poorly defined).

          In any event, I see a LW who is not the problem here. But who is not being adequately supported by their own manager.

      2. Paulina*

        Yes, these, especially #2 (which interacts with the others). Detail-oriented work with many moving parts has an extremely steep learning curve. Such jobs often need to be partitioned for new hires if they’re going to have a chance to learn any of it; it’s a rare person who can dive into many interrelated changing details on unfamiliar systems and not be completely overwhelmed, and even then they’re going to be a lot slower than someone who’s experienced (especially experienced *and* very good at that type of work).

        Meanwhile, feedback on errors can often look like picking at many low-level items, because the work is so detail-oriented, and such feedback can be demoralizing. Work like this is difficult to learn and hard to teach. So even if there are issues with OP’s training, doing that is also an excessive expectation by what sounds like overly uninvolved management. Bringing someone new into roles like this needs to be carefully structured.

    2. Beth*

      I’m also wondering if this is part of the problem. This doesn’t sound like an entry level job–it sounds like something that requires both high speed and high accuracy, the ability to juggle a lot of different priorities on a daily basis, the ability to pick up new things very quickly, and a comfort level with working with important materials and deadlines that are integral to the company’s success. I think of ‘entry level’ as ‘something someone new to the workforce could step into and probably succeed at,’ but this role sounds like something where even if there isn’t a specific certification or other concrete marker of advancement required, having some experience in the field and in the workforce in general is probably important for success.

      I’m wondering if it being marked as ‘entry level’ (and, I’m assuming, on a pay scale that matches that label) is leading the kind of candidates you really need to skip applying. If this is being advertised as something it’s not–which your experience with Lee makes me think it might be, as he complained that the overtime and the duties didn’t match what he signed up for–that could explain a lot.

      1. RC Rascal*

        It’s possible they have confused “entry level” with “non-management”.

        Entry Level should be a job for someone with less than 2 years work experience. There is also such a thing as Experienced Entry Level, meaning entry level for the organization but requiring 2-5 years full time experience doing something else.

        Then you have Individual Contributors. They don’t have direct reports, and may or may not have high skill requirements.

        1. Daffy Duck*

          Exactly! Individual contributor roles may not be part of a management track, but detail-oriented employees are highly prized. It sounds to me management is greatly underestimating what is needed for this role (and likely pay also).

          1. Raine*

            Oh, yeah. I’m a senior project coordinator and I’ve seen job descriptions similar to this role posted as “entry level” with minimum wage salaries or just above minimum, as if that somehow makes up for the insane amount of juggling and focus required to not lose one’s mind while handling this type of work. Most people who start this type of job as true entry level, with no prior experience, and succeed at it tend to be of the type who are personality/skill/ambition fits for it – but the amount of work and the expectations for success need to be calibrated accordingly, or you will burn out that individual so hard they will never want to do a similar role ever again.

            1. TardyTardis*

              I’ve had that job at ‘entry level’ and if it hadn’t been for the Golden Benefits, would have looked harder for something else (though for a rural-ish town, that’s difficult).

    3. LW/OP Here*

      I apologize I wasn’t more involved with the discussion as I was pulled into a last-minute project when this went live. Which, in and of itself, highlights some concerns expressed below. I wanted to highjack the top comment to bundle in some answers to questions I saw. As always, the commenters are incredibly insightful with their observations. I wanted to thank everyone for their time and frankly illuminating some issues I should’ve considered about not only the situation by my current position too. I absolutely agree with Allison’s determination and her suggestions, I’m going to try to incorporate these moving forward.

      1. Workload/Overtime:
      Addressing the question posed by Allison and others. My manager was aware of the overtime as I was often the “first in-last out” in the office, with her right with me. I still take on the odd job that needs to be done in a crunch. In our area of work, we have strict deadlines so I’ve always taken a “do the work that needs to get done” attitude so that I can smother any possible fires that pop up. From my discussion with my manager after Lee, she was aware of the work demanded of the position but hadn’t touched base with either Lee or myself on if that work was manageable for one person.

      Prior to Lee joining, I approached my supervisor to see if an unrelated position could have the duties split but was met with less than positive results at that time. I think I need to go back to my manager and address this directly, even though my past interaction was less than pleasant. Allison and commenters were correct that she should have been notified earlier and asked for direction on the problem before it became an issue.

      2. Entry Level:
      To the commenters who questioned the “entry level” description; you were spot-on in determining that while in the position I had inadvertently expanded many of the duties. I’m of the impression that my manager and the hiring team believed the position to still be entry-level and that there was no need to delineate the work assigned to it with the right hire.

      As for both Lee and Quinn, both were retired and came to our company out of retirement with a wealth of experience in this niche field. I believe the hiring team took this into consideration when filling the role and may have mislabeled it as something that was “easy” work with their backgrounds.
      I think commenter MK painted the situation out perfectly that the role had “grown to something you really need experience and/or special skills for” which is why they chose retirees interested in rejoining the workforce at a nonsupervisory/entry level position.

      3. Training/Hiring Process:
      I was not involved in the interviewing/hiring process for either and when I tried to offer some insight in the period between, my manager was not responsive. Frankly, from our interaction I was concerned I had overstepped in trying to address the overtime comment as her reaction wasn’t positive.

      My manager is very hands off in day-to-day activities and she had no direct involvement with training with either Lee or Quinn. I wasn’t performing check-ins with her during Lee’s training for that reason, and after my experience with her after Lee’s complaint I was a bit put-off that she had agreed with the complaint without checking in prior to the reprimand.

      It was not explicitly expressed that I was responsible for supervising Lee or Quinn after training, but I was held accountable for their performance. The strict deadlines and governmental oversights applied to our organization, means that if one part fails it can be domino effect if not caught early.

      Personally, I wanted to make sure that both Lee and Quinn were comfortable and set up to succeed as I myself had no formal training when I joined. I’ve had no training or mentoring since, even in my new position. Our industry is characterized by a sink-or-swim/high stress environment so it’s not uncommon from what I’ve seen.

      I was concerned that there was a disconnect between what the hiring team advertised and what the role required while I was training Lee. Which is why I involved myself in their work as much as I did and created the reference tool for Quinn. I wanted to make the environment my team worked in as cooperative as possible, as this wasn’t the environment when I joined years ago.

      This bleeds into the issue that if work needs to be done, then it doesn’t matter if it’s not a formal responsibility of that particular position-it needs to be done to meet compliance. I had thought the reference tool would be useful, but as many commenters suggested I think developing a program with measurable expectations is what needs to be done moving forward. I’m definitely going to incorporate NotCreativewithNames’ advice too. I especially liked michelenyc’s training schedule with a time frame on expectations.

      4. “Systems”:
      As to the “systems” that were referenced. To clarify I used “systems” in my letter to denote both colloquially how the company operates and the various proprietary software my company developed for our use.

      To touch on commenter EPLawyer’s question; after an unexpected illness years ago, I created a series of detailed manuals and guides on both the proprietary software and functions required for my role. I’ve jokingly called my “If I Get Hit by Another Bus” book. It was actually the basis for the manual I created to hand off to Quinn when they joined as a reference tool.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Wow – there’s A LOT going on here. Much of what’s going on is a mess. So, you are held accountable for the results of the new hire’s training output, but you have no say in who’s hired in the first place? Yeah, that’s not helpful. And your boss brushed off your input as to what the role actually entails now (the fact that it’s no longer truly entry-level) and the specifics of your training concerns? I don’t think the new hires are being set up to fail, but you might be.

        OP, is there someone above your boss you can approach about these issues? Because you really need to help write the job ad; sit in on the interviews to ask detailed, specific questions about the software used (or its equivalent since you said what you use was created specifically for your group) and what environments they’re used to working in (cultural fit sounds very important here); and you need assistance with training – or at least to have someone checking in regularly to make sure that if there’s an issue with a new hire’s work, you’re not left to your own devices to fix it.

        You also need to create a skills test for interviews based on the work you used to do. Candidates can work on an empty computer in your office (if you guys are back in the office – it may be harder to do it remotely if not) and use your systems for a timed exam. You can give them a cheat sheet of instructions upfront about how to use certain tools within the systems, but watch how long they take to navigate around in it and complete your assignment (and if they didn’t, was it a speed issue? A comprehension issue?).

        Good luck, OP. This sounds a mess.

        1. lou2rou*

          my ex boss was like this. She told me my job was outsourced, but they hire an overseas remote staff , and most people except her complained about the staff work quality (because they were really not from that field) and I think she stomach it because the staff salaries was cheap. As soon as she thinks the staff grasp it (note she didnt and they pretty much ignored my complaints), I was put on PIP. So I advice OP to get out.

      2. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

        As others have commented, you are definitely not the problem here, OP. It sounds as if your manager doesn’t have your back.

      3. Beth*

        With all this…I’m pretty comfortable saying the problem isn’t your training, OP! You documented everything, offered training, and made yourself available for support. The issue isn’t that–it’s that the job has a very wide scope, requires a lot of work, and needs a certain kind of person to even have a chance at success, and it sounds like management and the people doing the hiring are either failing or refusing to acknowledge those factors. They’re going to keep failing to find people who are a good fit until they either 1) acknowledge the full scope and needs of the position and do a dedicated hunt for someone who will be good at all of them, or 2) reevaluate the role and split out some of what it’s spread to include to others in the company.

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        Assume a new hire will need about 50% more time than you did for at least the first year. If you were working overtime and lunches by the end of your tenure in that position, they need two people.

        I don’t think it’s you, and good luck!

      5. MsSolo*

        Something my manager found helpful in persuading higher ups that the hiring requirements had changed since we last hired for a role was doing before and after process mapping. We’d gone from 3 reports a month that could be produced in a couple of clicks to 16 that required matching and manipulating lines of data from multiple spreadsheets for each one. People in the role had grown and adapted, but there was no way you could bring someone in at the level we’d started at and expect them to perform at the level we were performing at.

      6. TRexx*

        You should also request to be a part of the interview process for these new hires, especially since you will be the one supervising their work and understand exactly what they will be doing.

        I’m a bit surprised they haven’t asked you to be a part of the interview… Understanding you’re busy with your daily work, but having a say in who you spend endless hours training and then retraining is a bigger time suck for you. It also may make it seem (on the outside) that you’re the problem even if you’re not. Also, you should suggest changes to the job description, if you think it reads too entry level.

        It also seems that your manager may not be as supportive of your endeavors to have someone be successful in the position. It sounds like they may have the mentality of “just get a body in the chair” or more eloquently said quantity over quality- so that’s not ideal for you as the trainer.

        I’m wondering if the manager respects the position or finds it to be important to the company’s overall success. If so, the manager should be receptive of your thoughts on restructuring the role. The role may have grown too large and complex for someone new with no experience with your particular company’s systems as well, which would be like hiring for a unicorn…

      7. Yikes dot com*

        Oh gosh, I am not an ageist in the workplace, but hiring retirees for entry-level roles that require high speed and using proprietary software because they have “experience” is a terrible strategy. General experience and industry contacts are a boon, but if what you need is someone to complete specific operations tasks in a very specific way, general industry experience isn’t particularly helpful (even in a niche industry). It sounds like the only experience that is relevant here is being trained on the propretary systems or whatever tool is used for scheduling. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hire older workers and applicants from that background shouldn’t be considered, just that using it as a search methodology is a terrible idea. I would argue that the norms for how much an entry-level employee should be responsible for, the volume of work, and the speed that they are expected to complete it have changed dramatically in the last 10 years. It could be like walking into a whole different world if they left the workforce before that. It sounds like both Lee and Quinn were completely overwhelmed by the amount of work and level of accuracy expected of them, probably because when they entered the workforce “entry-level” meant something completely different and responded like regular humans. Lee thought there was something wrong with you and externalized it, Quinn thought there was something wrong with her and internalized it. I wouldn’t be suprised if you find the only way to staff this position is to split it into two jobs or find a relevant lateral move from within the company.

  2. Dust Bunny*

    It kind of sounds like the company is calling this–and probably paying as thought it is–an entry-level position and it may not actually be an entry-level position. They might think of it as such, but it sounds as though the required skill level and experience required to adapt might not be realistic for an entry-level employee. That’s not your fault, either, LW, but the company may need to adjust how they think about and advertise the position.

    1. Sunflower*

      My eyes got very wide when the position was stated on paper as entry level yet Lee had 25 years of experience(!!).

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, there’s a serious disconnect here between what they advertised and what is actually required for the role.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          I esp. noticed that Lee & Quinn were retirees rejoining the workforce. This isn’t unusual nowadays, for a variety of reasons. I work with a lot of people preparing to retire from their current employer, with plans to take other kinds of jobs or start businesses. But the facilitator of a retirement seminar I attended pointed out that employers sometimes tried to lowball salaries for retirees returning to the workforce, as if retirees just want to keep busy or pick up a little extra pin money. It may be that your mgmt thought they could get a bargain by hiring all that experience and background for cheap by presenting a highly skilled job as entry level.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        ” but much of the work was intricate and requires extensive knowledge of the systems our office used.”

        That doesn’t say “entry-level” to me.

      3. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

        Maybe they’re meaning “entry level” as “individual contributor with no supervisory responsibilities” not “you can do this right out of college”. Which is…. not clear.

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          That’s not what entry means though. I have 30 years of experience, working in a very c0mplex and demanding role, and I am an individual contributor with no supervisory responsibilities.

          1. serenity*

            Yeah, “entry-level” and “individual contributor” are vastly different things and should never be conflated.

        2. Massmatt*

          I think it’s more likely they define “entry level” as “we’re not going to pay much”. Combined with their either being clueless or deceiving the new hires re: overtime requirements and this sounds like a systemic management issue.

          Alison is right that we don’t know for sure about the workload but it also sounds to me as though this is at least 1 and 1/2 jobs. The first person just sounds like a very bad fit, but the second (described as lovely and willing to work) was 2 months behind after only a few months on the job? That is very weird.

          It’s not normal to have a role (especially one described as entry level) be this unfillable and require this much work from the person that used to do it after they move on. What is the boss/manager doing during all this? He seems clueless.

      4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        We have a word for that; it’s “normal.” The only reason it only requires 25 years of experience is that people with 50 years of experience retire.

      5. TCO*

        It’s quite possible that the role isn’t entry-level. But it’s also possible that Lee, despite their years of experience, isn’t a great employee. If someone with 25 years’ experience is working in roles advertised as entry-level, it might be because they have trouble successfully getting or succeeding in more advanced positions.

        1. Beth*

          It does sound like Lee was just plain a bad fit for the role, but Quinn sounds like a hard worker who’s open to training and invested in doing the work well. There’s such a thing as people being poorly suited to the work, of course. But there’s also a thing where if otherwise good employees are ‘poorly suited to the work’ of this particular role, you may have a highly specialized role on your hands. Maybe it’s too big a job for one entry-level employee, maybe it requires skill or experience that needs to be taken into account when hiring, maybe it requires an exceptional employee and needs to pay accordingly to attract talent–but one way or another, this sounds to me like a bigger issue than just Lee being bad.

        2. Black Horse Dancing*

          I don’t know if Lee was a bad fit or not–more that OP’s company flat out misrepresented it to her. Lee may have wanted a slower paced job (25 years experience) and therefore looked at entry level and this job isn’t. Add in Lee was told little OT and OP states she herself worked a lot of extra, I think the company is really sandbagging the new hires. The company needs to plan for a year transition with this role or split it into two.

    2. MK*

      It’s possible that this used to be an entry level position, but has grown to something you really need experience and/or special skills for. In my father’s small bussiness, keeping the books started out as something the partners did themselves, evolved into needing a bookkeeper and is now a job for a qualified accountant. And it hasn’t really grown in size, but in the level of complexity of the work.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I bet you’re right. I bet this role was established when the systems were a lot simpler and were realistically manageable by an entry-level employee, and they’re not any more but the mindset hasn’t caught up.

      2. Daffy Duck*

        This. I bet OP is an awesome employee and the management doesn’t recognize how much skill the job they are hiring for takes.

      3. hmmm*

        I was just thinking that. It seems like OP grew into, grew with the company and expanded the position. Those “little things” add up and sometimes are a whole other job! It might be that management naively still thinks this is a entry level position.

        1. Massmatt*

          Ding ding ding! The boss/manager gave inaccurate assessment of the overtime required and does not seem to be at all involved with the training or how the replacements have been doing. Really it seems everything is taking him by surprise, his only impact seems to have been scolding the 2nd replacement for leaning on the OP, souring that relationship. And the OP mentions a coworker gradually shifting work to her.

          Likely steps for a solution are removing this job from the existing manager to get a realistic assessment of the skill requirements and realistic job responsibilities (and what they are worth), and hiring the right person/people with the required skills.

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          Agree with this. LW is probably very capable, and started out as entry level, but picked up a lot of seemingly small but kind of complicated tasks over time. Now people underestimate how much she handled with a smile, and think she can be easily replaced. They probably need two people to replace LW, neither of whom should be a complete newbie.

          Also, frankly, although there was no outright indication of genders or sexism in the letter, I would not be surprised if LW is a (younger?) woman, and Lee was a (older?) man who bristled at being constantly corrected by a woman. Just like “bossy” is a negative word that only gets applied to women, likewise with “henpecked.”

      4. Luke G*

        My exact thoughts! The OP took the job when it was small/entry level and grew with it. Their pay may or may not have grown alongside it- the fact that Lee was willing to take it on with 25 years experience implies the pay probably wasn’t too terrible.

        But if expectations and training are all calibrated to an “entry level” job, even a really great hard-working employee could easily get swamped by the idea that they’re supposed to step in and handle this job readily, when it’s really the job on paper + the additions of the OP’s whole tenure.

      5. TootsNYC*

        also, if the OP has been absorbing duties and expanding her hours, the company may not have a realistic picture of what the job has evolved into.

    3. Kiki*

      Yeah, I think the expectations for this role need to be more clearly defined and discussed with hiring managers. These excerpts from the letter set off alarm bells for me:
      duties were far more than what had been explained to them.
      they questioned the overtime expectations and were told by management that it was not likely. This was incorrect, as I was consistently working late and through lunch to get tasks completed

      I don’t think LW is necessarily doing anything wrong, but it sounds like this position may be a lot for one person, especially for one person who is new to the company and doesn’t have experience with the extensive systems used in your office and is expected to jump into the role relatively quickly. Obviously I don’t know exactly what the role entails or how LW acclimated to it, but it seems like the role grew as they were in it. Sometimes it’s easier to have a handle on things when it’s gradually building to a higher level instead of jumping in day one with that same high workload.

      From this letter, it really seems like LW needs to pull in a meeting with your manager and the hiring team and discuss the expectations for this role, perhaps consider hiring more support, or trying to hire folks not at the entry-level.

      1. EPLawyer*

        If you were consistently working through lunch and overtime, then a huge part of the problem is the workload. Which the manager is not seeing because you worked through lunch and overtime yourself, then when the new hires struggled, you took over parts of their job. if you make it easy for managers to ignore a problem — they will. Not necessarily because they are bad managers but well they are not all knowing, if they don’t know a problem exists they can’t really address it.

        I also wonder about the ‘systems” your office uses. Are they so intricate that they really should be reviewed and updated to something more streamlined? What happens if you — heaven forbid — you get hit by a bus? Who explains the systems then to whoever takes over?

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Note, especially if LW often worked through lunch and overtime BUT often did not accurately reflect that on their time card / schedule reporting (…she didn’t say that, but this is also an employee who seems to have just rolled over when a colleague dumped most of their job on her, so…).

          Alison often notes that this is one of many reasons not to work a lot of unauthorized or silent overtime; your supervisor then has an inaccurate idea of how much time really is needed to do the job.

  3. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

    The manager of the position should have been checking in with you periodically – like once a week or so — to get training updates and it is shocking that didn’t happen. Twice.

    1. Jimming*

      Yeah, the manager is strangely absent in this process when you’d think they’d be more involved. I agree with Alison’s advice to loop in the manager about everything so she can manage the new hire effectively.

    2. AspiringGardener*

      Or the OP should have given proactive updates/concerns to their manager – the fact that the manager only heard about this from OP once Lee raised it up the company is concerning.

      1. Observer*

        Sure, the OP should have been giving updates. But the manager should have been asking about this stuff the first time, and the second time they should have told the OP up front that they need to keep Manager in the loop.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          I esp. noticed that Lee & Quinn were retirees rejoining the workforce. This isn’t unusual nowadays, for a variety of reasons. I work with a lot of people preparing to retire from their current employer, with plans to take other kinds of jobs or start businesses. But the facilitator of a retirement seminar I attended pointed out that employers sometimes tried to lowball salaries for retirees returning to the workforce, as if retirees just want to keep busy or pick up a little extra pin money. It may be that your mgmt thought they could get a bargain by hiring all that experience and background for cheap by presenting a highly skilled job as entry level.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

        Sort of. That’s the kind of thing you know to do when you are more experienced and the OP had never trained anyone before.

        You need to train someone to train! The manager is entirely absent here and that’s where I’d put 100 of this.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Yes yes yes. No offense to OP, but if they were new to training there might have been holes in the training. It’s one thing to ba able to do a job, and something else to explain and guide someone to be able to do it themselves.

          I also wonder now whether Kee & Quinn saw the big disconnect between OP and Mgr and that could be a chunk of their frustration and unhappiness with the job. And even if a new hire turns out to be the worst in the world, if tbe job wad seriously misrepresented, it’s enrealistic and unfair to lay all the problems on the newbie.

    3. michelenyc*

      I agree with you completely. I started my new position remotely on November 2nd and my VP has been checking in with me anywhere from 2-3 times a week. I was sent an on-boarding/training schedule for my first 30 days and it included what their expectations are for 30, 60, and 90 days. I am so impressed with the way they have handled everything.

  4. Uranus Wars*

    So one thing that stood out to me, though, in regards to workload was: during the hiring process, they questioned the overtime expectations and were told by management that it was not likely. This was incorrect, as I was consistently working late and through lunch to get tasks completed.

    I know people are sometimes not great at positions, but it really does sound like they might need to split this position, or at lease reassign duties across a couple of current positions.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Let me elaborate by saying to OP: you are not the problem here. It is definitely another factor – including your manager not getting regular updates. Quinn may be a great person but him getting two months behind so soon in his tenure without his manager noticing is kind of a big deal; at least to me!

      I think you have taken the right course of action in both situations.

      1. AspiringGardener*

        I disagree – it sounds like their manager is very hands off. Whether that’s right or wrong of that manager, it’s obviously the current situation. OP should have raised it up as an issue for their manager, at least just for awareness. In any job I’ve ever had, my managers would have been very disappointed if I had an issue this serious and didn’t let them know.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — and I also wanted to ask: OP, does your manager know how much overtime you’ve had to work, that you’ve been working through lunch, etc.? You sound like someone who just keeps your head down and does what feels needed without complaining about it, and that can mean your boss doesn’t have a full understanding of the actual workload — which could lead to candidates being given wrong info about it too.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Sadly, I think this may be exactly what happened. I can’t see them advertising this position as an entry-level role that doesn’t require overtime when it sounds like the person in the role needs to understand how to navigate a complicated system, take on a high volume of work, and be able to switch between multiple disparate tasks a day.

        I’m wondering if OP sat in on any of these interviews. If she hasn’t, she needs to.

        1. Bostonian*

          Yes! There have to be some disconnects happening during the hiring process. As someone who has deep knowledge of what a person needs to succeed in this role, OP should be involved in the interview process.

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          OP definitely should be involved in the hiring process. Sitting in on the interviews is a good start, but they might want to take a look at the job description they’re using to get candidates too. My team gets a co-op from a local university twice a year, and the last few rounds have had a lot of not great candidates. My coworker and I (who have the most interaction with the position) were finally able to look at the job description, and no wonder the candidates were bad – the posting was awful! Full of HR jargon and not at all highlighting what the job was really about or calling for the skills really needed to do the job. We completely redid it and what do you know, this round’s group of candidates were highly qualified and full of people actually interested in doing the job!

          So OP if you can, I think you really need to be more involved in the hiring process, since you work closely with the position and will be the best in guiding the process to select a good fit.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            That’s a really good point. OP should be all over the hiring process from start to finish, especially if she’s expected to be responsible for training the new hire.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Had to explain the difference between advertising for ‘data entry clerk’ when what we actually needed was a data ‘analyst’ to our HR. They just heard ‘databases’ and were all ready to send out an advert for a basic-rate low-skill entry job when what we needed was someone who could interrogate the data across multiple databases and give a full analysis.

          Which I’ve kind of work you need years of experience in.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            I saw one similar to this, when what was needed was a “database administrator” (DBA) i.e. essentially a sysadmin-type for databases who could do things like performance tuning, security audits, production monitoring etc — but for some reason it was taken to mean “someone who maintains a database” such as inputting membership details onto a data input screen and occasionally running a pre-built “monthly membership report” in Access or something like that.

            HR and the external agencies couldn’t figure out why we kept rejecting all the resumes/CVs (as this was in the UK) and implied that it was us being ‘too picky’ and that we should be more realistic about who we would be able to recruit for the salary offered.. and on reflection they were right about that part.

      2. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I was also wondering about the possibility that the company wants an entry-level, simplified version of what OP was doing but no one communicated this appropriately. I think there are a lot of communication blackholes in this whole process and OP needs to get with their manager ASAP to figure all this out.

      3. Kiki*

        Yeah, I’ve definitely seen situations where managers are very confused because their new hires aren’t able to do what one of their employees was able to do in 40 hours a week, only to find out that their former employee was secretly working 60 hour weeks. It’s never good for the longterm health of a business for employees to do secret work “off the clock.” It also isn’t good for employees, but I’ve found the “business health” spin to be more effective with managers.

        1. DireRaven*

          Exactly. If I were responsible for employees, I’d want to know whether or not the position has expanded beyond what a single employee can handle in a regular work-day/week. Then, if it has, and all bottlenecks affecting the work have been cleared (such as the person who does the tasks (Employee A) prior to Employee X getting them is not getting them to Employee X until close to the end of the day and they must be completed before Employee X goes home or if Employee X is overcomplicating the job or just spending all day goofing off and then has to work late to get the work done – or worse, Employee A is goofing off or overcomplicating the job) and it is determined to not be the result of a “crunch period” the decision must be made whether to scale back expectations of the position (I really only need the reports monthly, not weekly and only really need these inputs…), reorganization of the tasks between employees (if only a few things that can be easily split and absorbed), or hiring another body – whether part time or full time.

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      This really jumped out at me too! If you had two years’ experience under your belt and were still skipping breaks and working overtime, that is very telling about the workload. If you hadn’t previously, I think that you really need to break that down for you manager, that this is clearly not a 40-hour position. Depending on how far over the 40 hours you went, it may actually be a 2 person job. It’s hard to know from here, but I do think this is something you need to break down very clearly so whoever has the job knows what they are getting into.

      I also think that it’s possible because you’ve waited to say anything, it goes from a “yeah, this part of the job is kind of tricky” straight to “this is a real problem and I now have to take over tasks” with nothing in between. Your manager could be seeing this as a bigger failure than it actually is, and as such may come down harder on Quinn than you thought would happen. This isn’t your fault, but it is something to know about your manager.

      Also, yeah, don’t take back tasks without talking to your manager first. And really, if it is clear there is too much work for a new person to take it all on at once, say that as well. It sounds like you have complicated systems that take a while to really become comfortable using so there may need to be a longer ramp up than anticipated with tasks added in gradually, rather than starting everything at once.

  5. Dave*

    It can definitely be both a bad hire and difficulty in training. Though usually the bad hire and workload issues make the training piece harder to identify. On Lee saying you were nitpicking it is possible that it got so bad you had to offer so much guidance and critiquing everything comes across as nitpicking unintentionally because at a basic level they couldn’t do the job, didn’t do it well long enough, that you were just in crisis mode trying to fix everything. (I am totally projecting from my own experiences of bad hires coupled with a high workload job.)

    1. Haha Lala*

      It’s also possible that, since Lee mentioned 25 years of experience, that Lee is older or has been in the industry longer than LW, and Lee took exception to being trained by someone younger. That wasn’t mentioned in the letter, but that could easily contribute to Lee being more sensitive to any criticism from the LW.

    2. Idril Celebrindal*

      I have to say, with Lee having 25 years experience and using the term “henpecked” relating to OP, I am having trouble not reading this from a sexism/gender discrimination angle. I know OP was very careful to use non-gendered pronouns so I’m trying not to focus on it, but it looks so much like male ego bristling at being told what to do by younger woman or female-presenting person. I have literally never heard “henpecking” used outside of the context of misogyny.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I was thinking this too. Is Lee an older man and OP a woman, or younger woman. Henpecked is typically only used to describe women, and sometimes nitpicking is used more for women (at least that’s what I think).

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        That does sound a little sexist and ageist, though. It MAY be what happened, or it may be that a new trainer had their own challenges in communicating effectively with Lee.

  6. Sam*

    How much of this work to help your replacement get caught up is being explicitly made your responsibility? It’s hard to tell if you’re taking on this work out of a formal obligation, or if you’re doing it because…? It’s hard to tell if you’re responsible for supervising your work as well as training them, but your behaviour comes off as if you are – or at least as if you think you’re being held accountable for their performance.

    Otherwise, I’d make sure to loop in your boss the second that you’re working on something outside of your formal responsibilities, especially in this case where it’s having significant business effects *and* taking up a bunch of your time.

    Also, if you were working through lunch and consistently staying late, I’d take another look at that workload!

  7. Jellyfish*

    I was once in a similar position. I was a coordinator, and did an acceptable job of it. The company moved me to another area, and I was tasked with training my replacement. It’s very likely I was a mediocre-at-best trainer, but the new person also was not the right fit for the job. I did everything I could to run interference for them with others in our organization who were less than constructive with their complaints, and defended them to managers who wondered why they hadn’t immediately mastered all the moving parts of the job.

    When management finally confronted them, the new person got very defensive and would not accept legitimate concerns about their work. Management ultimately let them go. Despite the fact that I’d been one of their biggest defenders, the new person absolutely blamed me and acted like I set them up for failure. Once replacement v2 was hired, I think management had some (probably valid) concerns about my ability to train people, and that also made certain interactions more strained than necessary.

    I don’t have any brilliant advice, and frankly I wasn’t a great fit in that job / company, but you’re not alone. Knowing how to do a job doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be great at explaining it or training another, sometimes people just aren’t a good fit, and coordination jobs are often more thankless and complex than they appear from the outside.

    Are there others who could be involved in the training, or could you work with management to create a more comprehensive program with measurable benchmarks? That might at least help everyone get on the same page in regards to how much there is to learn and the time it hypothetically takes to do so.

  8. Charlotte Lucas*

    As a former trainer, I agree with the posts above. Also, not everybody works out. I trained customer service reps. Most people wouldn’t think that’s a very complex job, but it was one that required a high level of knowledge regarding government health benefits where the CSRs did a lot of the legwork to resolve issues. While also being able to communicate well with both medical providers and beneficiaries. Most didn’t feel comfortable in the job until they had done it at least 6 months. And many just didn’t work out. Not a reflection on me, but often a reflection on hiring practices & management expectations.

  9. 3DogNight*

    Your role sounds like it may have been a boiling frog situation. Meaning you put the frog in a pan of cool water, and gradually turn up the heat until it’s boiling. The temperature change is so gradual, you don’t notice until it’s too late. From the description, it sounds like you were doing the job of 3 people, plus the one that gradually handed over their work, too. That’s too much work for a single person. If I’m misinterpreting that, and it is just one role, with the gradual addition of the other persons work, it is still too much for one person. You were able to do it because you were already experienced when the frog boiling happened. A person new to your organization isn’t going to have that advantage.

    1. 3DogNight*

      Came back here to add, you are not the problem. Management allowing the role to get to where it is, and not hiring the right people, and paying them properly, is the problem. At least from my POV.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      We had a role like this in my org a few years back. The role expanded and changed based on the person doing the job, who had a unique set of skills and interests. When he left the job, we went through a couple of new hires for the position that didn’t work out. Eventually, management had to take a good long look at the job and decided that it didn’t make sense for all of those tasks to belong to the same job and they split it into two positions. The people who’ve been in those jobs since the split have been great. Sometimes, companies don’t do the work of looking at the job when an employee leaves to make sure it makes sense to keep the job exactly as it is, and that makes it so much harder to find the person who would be successful. I think this is what OP’s company needs to do now.

      1. Ama*

        Honestly one of the deciding factors when I left my last job is that they were about to design a new role for me (my role at the time badly needed to be split in two), but because of my personal interests and skillset, they were going to let me retain my favorite project, which really didn’t make sense with the rest of my duties. I was already kind of ambivalent about the new role (I was starting to realize I didn’t see a long term future for myself in that sector), and thinking about the administrative mess they were about to make to keep me happy for maybe another year or two made my head hurt. So I found a new job, they redivided my role into two jobs that actually had some logic to their division and seem to have been doing well with that structure ever sense.

    3. Birdie*

      This was my thought. OP had this stuff added gradually, after they had already mastered aspects of the job, and they were STILL working through lunch, etc. to get things done. Of course a brand new person starting with no prior knowledge is going to struggle. OP’s workload was that time-consuming even with the institutional knowledge and experience they already had, and OP says the issue with Quinn wasn’t skill or capability (unlike Lee) – the amount of work was just too great for her to keep up with. Those two points make me think that workload is definitely a problem here and that it’s going to be nigh impossible to find a single (entry-level!) person who would be successful out of the gate. And that’s especially true if the employee hasn’t been given accurate expectations about the job and workload.

    1. AthenaC*


      Listen here – if you’re going to do things that cause significant liability issues, you’re going to get “henpecked” until you show that you can be trusted not to do those things. You’re probably not going to like it, but I am not here to be your friend. TFB.

    2. Miss Demeanor*

      Yeah, we need to unpack that one some more. Lee continuously cited his own experience (which was lengthy!) and yet couldn’t grasp a job which, by his own account, should’ve come more easily. Sounds like some pretty major gendered deflection of his own incompetence. Not on the OP.

      As others have said, it does sound like the job is more than a lone person could handle, except for that Magic Someone. One of my dearest friends is a Magic Someone who can somehow pack 10 hours of work into 8 and then go for a 5-mile run after. When she vacated her last job, the person who stepped in struggled for a few years until they left. They were perceived to be incompetent, but it was really just that my Magic friend had set the bar inhumanly high.

      OP, is there any room to push the reset button on this position? When my org hired me, it was actually their second go of the position rewrite. They’d posted the original position after someone vacated, but the candidates they had didn’t work out. When they took a look at the position as written, holding it up to outlined needs and overall organizational strategy and mission, they realized it wasn’t right. Is this something you can do? I know one of the knock-on effects is that the untenable situation you’re in may last longer, but hopefully you can also address that with leadership.

      1. Lana Kane*

        I once managed an employee who was that Magic Someone. They easily handled an inordinate amount of work that usually took 2 people to handle. (For the record, I don’t make budget decisions and have no control over being able to hire more people). When she got promoted, my usually reasonable manager wasn’t happy that their replacement wasn’t able to handle the work alone. It took me a while to get it thru to them that Magic was a unicorn, and we shouldn’t expect that level of work from others pretty much ever again. Eventually we were able to add a second person – but as awesome as it can be to have a Magic Someone, they can also inadvertently cause issues down the line with setting precedents (and budgets) accordingly.

        1. Miss Demeanor*

          For sure. Frame the job for the org’s needs, not for the person currently filling the role. I have a Magic Someone working for me as well. I try my darndest to make sure that my expectations for productivity and output are clear to both them and the rest of the org.

          1. Miss Demeanor*

            Edited to add: the reason I am clear about my expectations to them and to the org is so that the org understands that this person is extraordinary, and that anyone coming into this job next won’t be as talented and productive (which is okay!).

        2. Twenty Points for the Copier*

          I was this person and have seen firsthand the issues it’s caused as we’ve tried to hire a replacement. Partly I stink at training people and it’s not until replacement #3 that we figured out what to do better. Partly the position is too big and requires some specialized skills and abilities – not everyone can be fast and accurate and learn a whole bunch of different systems and the way things work in our specialized field. Partly the workload increased pretty massively from when I was still learning the job to when others were having to learn it – there wasn’t the same amount of time to step back and figure things out that there had been.

          I think in the LW’s case, it’s also that she was working extra hours in a way that doesn’t seem like a reasonable expectation. And that Lee was a lousy employee to begin with.

          There’s a lot of things going on here. LW may not be great at training – training people is HARD (at least it is for me). But if that is part of the problem, it’s only a small part of it.

    3. SarahKay*

      Yep, that stood out like a sore thumb to me too.
      OP, it sounds very likely that there are problems with how the company has structured and ‘sold’ the role to applicants, but there is for sure a problem with Lee. Not least, presumably, a bruised ego that with their 25 years of experience(!) they were having to take directions from you and were still not succeeding.

    4. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      That word alone shows that Lee would be a terrible employee in any role, and not merely because of the astonishing amount of sexism. I’ll bet those 25 years of experience are full of unnecessary conflicts with coworkers.

    5. LKW*

      Yes – that word stood out like a giant misogynistic red flag. Per the OP this job required a high degree of detail and needed someone to understand and manage many moving pieces. “Henpecked” and “Nitpicking” indicate that Lee was absolutely not a detail person and was angry that someone he saw as his inferior was calling out his shortcomings; “henpecked” in particular is gendered and if used to describe a man would be similar to saying something akin to “throw like a girl” or “sissy” – which is also absolutely unacceptable in the workplace or really at all.

      1. juliebulie*

        And if Lee had 25 years of experience, assuming they were continuous years, that only goes back to 1995 which was already a couple of decades too late for using the word “henpecked” in anything more recent than a 1960s sitcom.

    6. Nanani*

      Between that word and the reminders of all that vast experience…
      Makes me wonder if the trainee just has a problem taking direction from LW for demographic reasons – and this can happen even if they are both in the same demographic. Internalized bigotry is real.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Interestingly the OP did also use the word “nitpick” in relation to the complaint Lee made originally (before writing the going-away email) so it seems that it was deliberately used!

  10. LabRat*

    Lee using the word “henpecked” to describe feedback on their work also made me pause. In my head, that’s what 50’s television show husbands call themselves when their wives ask them to do things, not at work when their trainer corrects their work!

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Yup. I appreciate all the effort OP put into gender-blinding, but that (gross, arcane) word alone made it hard not to assume some things.

      1. Starbuck*

        Using they/them pronouns for someone isn’t necessarily gender-blinding…. I know it seems very unlikely that two employees in a row are both non-binary or using they/them, but it’s also not impossible. And just because Lee sounds like a sexist dinosaur, well, people who use he/him don’t have a monopoly on misogyny.

    2. tiny cactus*

      Yep. I definitely got the vibe that Lee figured by virtue of their 25 years of experience, they should just be able to sail through this job without any effort, and they came to seriously resent the OP for being better at the job and for recognizing that Lee was failing at it (And possibly due to some gender-based bias? That word choice does give me pause). From how conscientiously the OP comes across here, I am doubtful that they were actually overbearing or had unrealistic expectations.

    3. Blagosphere*

      Yea, I actually had to google the word when I read it. Not a term that is commonly used in workplaces today – or perhaps ever?

  11. Diahann Carroll*

    Quinn is a lovely person, just maybe poorly suited for the work as they voiced the same questions about our systems during training and even months after I had ceased overseeing their work.

    OP, are these systems actually systems, like a CRM or something, or are you using “systems” colloquially to mean how your company operates? Because if it’s the former, are candidates for the role being given a skills test in the interview process to make sure they can use the systems?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This stood out to me too. At my company we use some proprietary software that’s trainable but takes some time, and we don’t really test for aptitude. I don’t know how we would do it, but there has to be SOME way, because one of my peers is completely clueless.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, my mom works in insurance in a life insurance division working on legacy software that’s, like, a billion years old. My mom is the only person in her entire department who knows how to work this software because the underlying language is no longer taught. If she were to ever get promoted into another position in the company, they would have to interview her replacement and do a skills test to ensure the person hired could work this software, which is going to be difficult for the above-stated reason. Her managers have blocked her transfer requests because they too know this.

        If you have complicated systems/software needs, you have to figure out how to skills test people on it. I mean, I once interviewed for a position where they asked me to use InDesign in office to create a flyer based on their prompts/instructions in 30 minutes, so skills tests can be done if you think through the exercise(s) ahead of time.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          What happens if your mom wins the lottery? Her department heads are walking a tightrope, here.

            1. linger*

              If your mother’s management is aware of the problem, why haven’t they made her job Documenting the Legacy Systems?
              And/or having others work on transferring that information to a newer system, so that Legacy System can eventually be decommissioned?
              If the business is supposed to endure more than a few more years, ignoring both of those solutions is true head-in-sand ostrich pose. Though maybe they’re planning on splitting their life insurance business out to another company instead.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                They’re not getting rid of that business – it’s the company’s most profitable division. And my mother has documented every single thing she does in numerous formats over the 13 years she’s worked there, she’s trained her counterpart (who 10 plus years later claims to still not understand the systems, but that’s a whole other problem the company is aware of and is ignoring), and she’s trained and people a level above her on her processes and systems to serve as her back-up for when she’s out – no one knows how to navigate these systems (so they claim).

                Her company is also cheap, and they refuse to buy a new system to move their legacy policies (she’s been bringing this up as an option for 12 of her 13 years – no dice) because they know they’d have to hire more people to move what’s in their legacy systems and all of their paper files (of which there are thousands going back to the ‘50s).

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I’d assume you either need to be hired with the experience needed, OR go on actual training (with a qualified trainer), if your role is heavily dependent on being competent with complex software. Sounds like neither of those are happening here.

      1. LQ*

        But if the complex software is proprietary with only the folks who use it being experts at it…who is going to train them other than the last person who did the work. This makes sense for Photoshop to say that you need to come in with experience or go to professional certified training. But like, here is this company’s home-baked software/system/process/series of excel spreadsheets and macros – you don’t get professional full-time trainers. You get the person who was here before. That’s what this sounds like.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Even proprietary software is usually created by an outside vendor that would have someone familiar enough to train a person in the basics, unless the software is also obsolete and no longer supported, in which case the company probably needs to just start over with a new system because that’s not a sustainable business practice.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      My organization is like that, both in custom software and in processes, protocols and a specific hierarchy and way of doing things.
      I’m highly experienced in my field but three years in still feel extremely frustrated by this because it can just grind you down and sucks so much time. Even worse, so much of it is “unspoken” or undocumented which just becomes impossible in in a large organization.

  12. AthenaC*

    I totally get the self-doubt. I can think of several situations where I’ve run myself ragged training and helping people that, looking back, would not lift a finger to help themselves. In the thick of it, I kept thinking, “Well they just don’t get it yet, so I must be doing a bad job teaching them. I’ll work extra and help them now while I continue teaching them.” In all likelihood, I was overcorrecting for the crappy, unsympathetic training I myself had when I started. Not sure if that’s something going on with you, as well.

    It seems like there are other issues as well, though. One thing that jumped out to me with Quinn – you gave your manager a progress update regarding their training, and it sounds like your manager jumped right from there to a Stern Conversation with Quinn where your manager threw you under the bus. I’m assuming that because that’s the only explanation I can think of for why an otherwise “lovely person” would suddenly go cold to you. Is your manager at all supportive or are they undermining you?

    1. Quinalla*

      I remember questioning myself after attempting to train and get someone acclimated (that I had worked with before at another company!) and it just didn’t work out. I luckily had someone senior to me talk me through it and let me see for myself I had done everything I could to set the person up for success, they just weren’t doing their part. I’ve trained a lot of people and usually they do well, sometimes they don’t, but in the past it was clear when it didn’t work out that the person wasn’t suited for the job/task or didn’t really want to learn – wanted to stay in their comfort zone. This one stumped me quite a bit. Not sure if you have a mentor you can discuss it with further as well, but it sounds like your training is not the main issue for sure. Maybe you can work closely with your manager going forward and make sure to eliminate any doubt on the training and show them how much work this job really is as they don’t seem to get it.

    2. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*


      OP the cynic in me is saying don’t be your usual conscientious helpful self going forward.

      Instead loop your manager on every ask going forward and get their agreement on time, workload and every angle on do this. Be agreeable and helpful with your manager’s comments but keep deflecting “oh my training could be better? What do you suggest/what training courses for me to do better do you have absent manager?”.

      Shift responsibility back to where it belongs but also most importantly cover yourself in this situation – often people like to project blame on to another target so it’s “I’m not rubbish at hiring or understanding what managing is, it must be so and so’s training”.

      Use your skills and attention to detail to deftly deflect this back to where responsibility belongs – sounds like you’ve done your best in good faith but distance and deflection are your friends here.

  13. NotCreativewithNames*

    I agree that it doesn’t look like OP did anything wrong here and that it’s more likely NOT a training issue but an issue with the job itself. I would suggest though as a trainer myself – for your own piece of mind – something that has helped me a lot. Whenever I train someone I have a clear agenda that they get in advance. During the training I take notes on it and then at the end, I email the agenda plus notes to the person and their supervisor. The notes are usually key points that I made or a good question that was asked and answered. I say if you have any questions about any of this or need these items reviewed again, please reach out. I am transparent about this from the beginning and I do it in new hires and ‘one off’ trainings. When it’s a group (and we are in person) and there is a lot to cover, I’ve had people keep their own copy and check mark or initial next to every item that was reviewed.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      You are taking notes and not the trainee? I don’t agree with this approach. Taking notes while being trained/taught is very important for retaining the information, so the trainees should do it. You could review their notes, because you seem a very generous person, but not every trainer would.

      1. Lana Kane*

        This doesn’t sound like learning notes. It sounds like the trainer’s overview of what they covered that day, and what stood out. I think it keeps the training organized and transparent.

        1. NightOwl*

          This is how I interpreted that comment too. I believe the trainer takes notes based on the agenda/schedule, whether the training is on track, etc. The person being trained is likely encouraged to take their own notes during training and when working on tasks along the way.

  14. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

    Does LW identify as a woman and Lee as a man? Because Lee’s criticism sounds to me a lot like “Jane is being abrasive and bossy telling me what to do, even though I have carefully mansplained her *repeatedly* how to do her job”

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, I admire LW’s dedication to preventing gender bias in the interpretation of their letter, but sometimes the behavior just speaks for itself. Especially when the word “henpecked” is used.

    2. Myrin*

      I mean, that’s the constellation that came to my mind as well, but I also think that we should respect OP’s explicit use of gender-neutral language which was probably at least in part meant to discourage speculation like that.

    3. Observer*

      It wouldn’t shock me. But it could be a lot of other isms at play. Or Lee just not being a nice person nor good employee.

  15. Khatul Madame*

    It’s not clear whether the OP was part of the hiring process for Lee and Quinn. They should have been.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      It wasn’t stated, but I read clearly between the lines that OP was not. (OP, can you clarify?) “Management” hired Lee and then OP got “the new hire” (Lee). And then the position “was filled quickly” and Quinn “was hired”. And about the overtime, Lee wasn’t expecting overtime, but OP only knew second-hand about that discussion.

  16. ellex42*

    While it’s clear the industry is completely different, the work I do (minus needing overtime to complete all tasks – we’re not on deadline, thank goodness) sounds very similar: incredible attention to detail is necessary, keeping track of a lot of moving parts, using multiple different types of software.

    I’ve met some very experienced, intelligent, and hard-working people who just can’t do this work (or sometimes just don’t want to when they find out all it entails). It really does take a particular type of person to dive into complex, detail-oriented work. 2 people failing at it isn’t that surprising, especially if the reality of the job isn’t being laid out from the start – and it really does sound like this job is being misrepresented to candidates.

  17. Bernice Clifton*

    Did the LW’s manager make it clear that the LW was expected to not only train, but provide feedback and give progress updates on the training? I feel like that could have helped the new hires understand that it was totally within her purview to do what she was doing.

  18. Bob's Your Uncle*

    No offense OP, but your company sounds like a terrible workplace.
    ” Due to structural changes in the organization during that move, I was still covering my old job and was burning out quickly. Luckily after six months, management was able to hire someone to take that role.”
    So you were doing both things for SIX months? And of one them being so demanding that you had to work lunch hours/overtime?
    Then you had to train the new hires, who apparently had been misinformed about the workload? And on top of that, the manager has no idea what’s going on?
    Yeah, you’re not the problem.

  19. Lana Kane*

    I think this encapsulates the issues inherent with having the person who trains not be in any way involved with the hiring. To be clear, I don’t think they should necessarily be a part of the actual hiring process, but their input should be sought when trying to decide who the ideal candidate would be (and what skills are non-negotiable vs nice to haves).

    OP, I agree with Alison that your only mistake here has been not to loop managers in sooner. However, after the Lee situation, I understand why you didn’t. The way your letter reads to me, it sounds like Lee’s word was taken immediately before consulting with you. That, and the apparent carelessness of the way hiring is done at your company, makes me concerned that this will keep happening.

    Do you feel comfortable having a conversation with your manager about crafting a list of skills that are must-haves? On top of that, talking about the way the role is presented to candidates. I’m wondering if at your company the position descriptions and hiring are solely in HR’s domain (ie, done by people don’t know the day-to-day of the roles).

  20. lazy intellectual*

    It would be helpful to know exactly what the job function is, but based on the letter, it seems like it’s a manager problem. It’s also a recruitment problem, but if your manager was competent they would probably Ben better at recruiting. Basically, OP, your manager sucks. They are not putting thought into your job roles, what functions they are supposed to entail, and how much to pay (particularly, they seem too inclined to underpay people given you were doing two jobs at one point.)

  21. Brett*

    If a highly qualified person with 2+ years direct experience in the systems was working late and through lunch to keep up with the workload, there is absolutely no way the workload is manageable for one entry-level new hire.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yes! And I wouldn’t be surprised if OP is a rockstar who can do 2 or even 3 people’s workloads, and the company is perplexed why no one else can do what they did.

  22. Sarah894*

    I had to read this twice because I wondered, “Am I Quinn??”. But I have not gone to my manager close to tears……yet. I am in a very similar position right now. The previous employee lasted 6 months. The one before that, maybe a year. This job should be split between 2 people. The workload is NOT sustainable for 1 person. My boss is used to putting in a ton of hours. She has been here over 20 years and this is the first and only place she has worked out of college. She is on autopilot and does not realize this is NOT normal. The workload, the hours, the constant request for more is not how healthy, well-balanced companies operate.

    I advocated for another FTE, she asked someone higher up, and was turned down. So they will end up having to fill this position again at some point. I wonder what the cost of constantly struggling to fill a position is vs having 2 happy people work for you.

  23. Des*

    I couldn’t agree more with the last paragraph. Why is OP trying to do a second job for free? Training someone is fine, but having to do their work for them really is not your responsibility, nor is managing them.

  24. LKW*

    LW – I don’t think this is a you problem. But the challenge for you is that you have so much knowledge and so much experience in this role, and that you had the boiling frog experience where someone else just transferred their work to you without you realizing it, is that your perception about what a person can accomplish, especially a new person, is not set correctly. It took you years to develop the level of proficiency that you have now.

    So if you really want to solve this problem or help your manager solve this problem, because it is ultimately your manager’s problem to solve, then you need to break down the role into learning/competent/excelling or novice/capable/proficient estimates – what does it take a novice to do the work, what does it take for a proficient person? How long does it take for someone to gain competency and how long does it take someone to move from competent to proficient?

    I think Lee was an anomaly – someone who didn’t really care why things had to be the way they are, sharing confidential information and not managing compliance is a lack of understanding about role basics, not proficiency.

  25. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    OP, you are the frog in the boiling water.
    “C’mon in, the water’s fine…once you get used to it.”
    I agree that Lee was a bad fit. I also think to a certain extent that Lee got sold a bill of goods.
    No, there’s not a lot of over time, if you’ve been here a decade, push your work off on people like OP and people like OP don’t speak up about it.
    It is an entry level job if you do what is listed on the job description and don’t absorb all the work that hasn’t been done because 1) we’ve had an open position; and 2) we don’t care who does what as long as it all gets done by the staff we have right now.
    TL;DR: It’s not you, OP. It’s the company. There are better ones out there.

  26. Observer*

    LW, the problem is not you – and it is.

    What I mean is that the problem is not that you are a poor trainer. It sounds like bad hiring and equally bad management is what is going on here.

    However, you ARE making some significant mistakes.

    1. You need to loop your manager in much earlier. In fact, you should be reporting even if all is going well.

    2. You are stepping in to do work that is not yours anymore. Do NOT do the work for Quinn – that’s THEIR job. If it really is too much for someone suited for the job to do, then advocate for another person in the role. If it’s a matter of Quinn (or whoever) being tasked with work that’s not theirs, tell them NOT to do it, and MAKE SURE YOU MANAGER KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. Whatever the problem is, do not do the work! It’s not your job and it is NOT your responsibility to make sure that your old function is being filled. This is completely management’s job.

    3. Reset your attitude. Letting your manager know about issues and deficiencies is NOT “tattling” or “throwing someone under the bus”. You *certainly* did not throw Lee under the bus, not matter what they said about the matter, so there CANNOT be an “again”. And telling your boss about Quinn’s struggles is not close to throwing them under the bus, either. Especially in response to a direct question! If Quinn is being cold to you, that is not a sign that YOU did something wrong – Either Quinn is immature or your manager handled things poorly (or both), but YOU are not the issue.

    PS Lee sounds like a first calls jerk.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      Yes, this. It also sounds like perhaps OP’s manager is making this into a “tattling” situation when it’s not. It sounds like OP goes to Manager to discuss a problem w/ Lee/Quinn, and Manager then pulls in Lee/Quinn in a sort of “OP said that this happened” kind of way. Which feels sort of secretive and tattle-y. Shouldn’t Manager coach OP on how to handle the situation or sit down with everyone involved?

  27. Mr. Jingles*

    „On paper the position was entry-level, but much of the work was intricate and requires extensive knowledge of the systems our office used.„
    There we have the problem I‘d say. Recruiting offers an entry level position that has developed into a mature semi-senior position. As long as management doesn’t understand that and hires accordingly, the new hires will fail and worse: feel like they’re set up to fail.
    They get told to expect work one person could do easily, not to expect overtime and it’s entry level. Then they land in a highly stressful situation, needing to gain tons of knowledge and learn to use highly specified programs and as it seems have lots of responsibility and there’s high risk of screwing up majorly.
    If it was me in this situation, I’d feel as if LW royally screwed me and somehow kept something vital from me which is the reason I struggle now with what at I‘ve been told is an easy position. The new employees can not know that LW does their best. They have to trust what they’ve been told and from their side it must feel as if LW let’s them fail.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      interesting though that Lee had 25 years experience? either way, it does sound like the company doesn’t know what they need perhaps??

  28. TimeTravlR*

    I agree it sounds like workload. I used to wear myself out to get it all done (I have since learned I don’t have to do that!). When I left my previous position (partly due to burnout), my supervisor there (who would have to pick up the load until a replacement came in for me) told her supervisor, “I am not TimeTravlR, so get those expectations out of your head!” When I heard that it was when I realized, I do not have to be all things to all people and sometimes you just have to either stop doing it or tell someone you need more help. Maybe this is a person and a half position??

  29. CatCat*

    I also wonder about the support OP has received to provide training. Any professional training on how to provide training other than OP reading some articles?

    I ask because I was in a situation where I was tasked with training someone very green and in the end, felt like we’d both been set up to fail when she didn’t make it through the probationary period. I was not given any real guidance on what *I* was exactly supposed to be doing or reporting to our manager. I did the best I could, but ultimately didn’t really know what I was doing. (I don’t think it was *just* me, but also some out-of-sync expectations from the manager for someone as green as she was… they were hiring entry level, but not REALLY hiring entry level). Honestly, the whole environment was kind of “sink or swim” so I just wonder if something similar is happening here and what support OP has received to successfully train someone.

  30. Annony*

    It sounds like these employees are being set up to fail. Not because of your training but because the job they were told they were hired for and the actual job are not the same. If they were told the job is doable without overtime when in reality overtime is often required, that is a problem. If a job is billed as entry level (and paid as entry level) but actually requires extensive internal knowledge, they are going to fail. Your training cannot save them even if you are the best trainer in the world.

  31. boop the first*

    Internal hiring sounds so risky for the employee… Everywhere I start, I always start out with a handful of coworkers, and because I have such a high tolerance for BS, it quickly whittles down to just one person, and because it’s always repetitive work, you can get pretty efficient within a year.

    And then I eventually reach my limit when the boss gets pissy during busy season even though the job was traditionally shared between 3 to 5 people! Argh!

    There’s no training out of that situation. It’s always a disaster until they throw more humans at it.

  32. JustKnope*

    I so fully agree with Alison’s point, and other commenters, that if you expected this new person to take on ALL of the tasks that you had gradually accumulated over your time in the role, you’d be setting the new person up for failure. In my first job, I took on a lot of responsibilities over three years that weren’t necessarily entry-level, but it was necessary because we were losing team members. When I left, they redistributed all of my tasks across the team – and the new entry level person had a scaled-down version of the job until they had been there at least six months. It worked out really well for all involved. Also, it is truly bonkers to me how much time, energy and thought you are putting into training these two people when you have a whole extra job yourself! Your manager needs to be much more involved.

  33. Too Many Hats*

    I work in the public sector and something that often happens is that over time, due to budget problems, one person will accumulate the tasks of 2-4 jobs. They can manage it because they’ve been doing it forever, took on the tasks over time, and built a system up to handle it. But as soon as they leave, their replacement will fail. There’s just no way for anyone to be thrown in, or even gradually eased in, to the workload. Often whatever coping mechanisms they put in place are specific to that person and aren’t replicable.

  34. Bookworm*

    It sounds like it’s definitely not you. If both trainees and the trainer (meaning, your predecessors) all left quickly then it seems like there’s a reason or the job(s) have high turnover.

    I was in a position that I had no way of really researching this, but I found out that at least two of my predecessors had lasted 6 months max. Don’t know why the left (my immediate one completed the work as far as he could go, left his keys in his desk and emailed his resignation that night, even leaving behind his coffee mug that he never bothered to pick up) and when interviewing with other offices in the same field (who would have worked with Awful Job as a client or vendor), apparently this was a common experience.

    My point? It really sounds like it’s not you. Sorry you’re going through that!

  35. In my shell*

    OP is clearly ALL IN and experienced, but even OP still had to use a lot of OT, so how could a new employee – ANY new employee even a perfect hire (which these clearly were not) – possibly make this work?

    1) the position needs a complete review for required KSAs
    2) the position needs a complete review for workload distribution/ responsibilities
    3) a search party is needed for the manager
    4) OP needs accept that asking for help/proactively communicating concerns is not a failure
    5) HR needs to overhaul their hiring process
    6) HR/Management need to assess opps for training for these challenging work systems

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think you’re right. It’s not any ONE thing.
      Lee was possibly just a bad hire, or the position or systems became so frustrating they couldn’t stand it.

      But the job needs a reevaluation.

  36. HR in the City*

    I have been in this situation at my current workplace. I was promoted. Someone was hired to replace me a month before a new boss was hired & started. I trained the person but she absolutely refused to ever follow any of the direction that I gave her. She spent her time insulting the work I did and was doing through an employer provided chat program to another coworker (different story for a different day). At first my new boss was listening to me and was originally going to fire the employee in their probation period. Then I was told that the person was staying so I just needed to butt out even though I had provided proof that the person lied to our bosses face. Okay I did. Lucked out and this person ended up quitting but it sounds like the job she left for she was quickly terminated from. Sometimes people just don’t want to take the help they are given and will lash out. I will say that the person in the role now is thriving and more than willing to ask me for guidance or questions. I swear we still sometimes find things that this person messed up two years later.

  37. JSPA*

    The company need to hire two people, for at least 6 months, if they want new people to do the job at speed. One can be a temp, handling the less complex parts of the job; but they need two people.

    The company needs to not lie about overtime.

    The company needs to hire people for attention to detail combined with flexibility, and pay the premium required, to get that.

    OP needs to understand how high-level they became, over the course of their tenure, and not believe it’s possible for one new person to be expected to do the entire job without error.

    Also, OP, is this a…PHYSICAL binder? Binders are important hard-copy ultimate backup devices, and it can be useful to have a paper table of contents and a document with physical tags in front of you, for some tasks; but they’re not anywhere near as real-time searchable as a PDF.

    1. LW/OP Here*

      I made a physical binder with tabs/index and created a PDF version with bookmarks. I found during training with Quinn that when they asked a great question or wanted clarification on an item, that it was easier to update the binder/PDF so we could both look back to it and touch base if needed. Quinn preferred the physical binder and I often saw them using it day-to-day and adding their own notes to it.

  38. LCH*

    i had such a job, trained my replacement, heard they left about 3 months later (i was no longer with the company), and the job eventually had to be filled by someone who had done it before me. some companies and jobs are ridiculous like that.

  39. Sparkles McFadden*

    This is not actually a one problem letter. There’s a lot here:

    – It is likely the OP took on additional challenges and this was never acknowledged. I am the type who likes to learn new things and be busy, so I get it, but this is no longer and entry level job.

    – Consequently, the role changed, but management does not seem involved enough to realize this.

    – Lee sounds like a problem employee all around, so is unrelated to the situation with Quinn. The lesson to be learned from the Lee experience is to document things along the way and loop management in earlier. Even if in cases where there is not problem, management should be apprised of where you are with training someone new. It’s a good way to be sure everyone is on the same page, expectation-wise.

    – OP is likely able to handle a larger workload than a lot of people. Sometimes, things look manageable to someone with a unique skill set, but the situation is not one the average entry-level worker could handle.

    – If the OP is working nights and through lunch and management does not know this, that’s a huge problem. When my group would get an unmanageable amount of work, I would send my manager a list of how I was prioritizing things, stressing what would get put on the back burner. On the rare occasions when management would say, “It all needs to be done now!” I would explain what extraordinary measures needed to be taken and negotiate some reward for the staff. If the excessive workload continued beyond what was reasonable, I’d stand by the prioritized list. My staff would worry about things not getting done, and I’d say “Sometimes you have to let the car hit the tree. Management will not address a situation that doesn’t cause them some discomfort.” Over performing and not letting anyone know how much effort is going into the work leads to a situation like this.

    – I’m guessing Quinn’s cold manner is not because she feels OP “tattled” but because she was told “OP never had these problems.” This is 100% speculation, and I apologize if I am reading too much into things, but this is a dynamic I have seen before. Someone wears herself out to be a star performer, and people not willing to do the same, get little guidance beyond being told to be more like the person who is working 16 hours a day without saying that’s what’s going on.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m guessing Quinn’s cold manner is not because she feels OP “tattled” but because she was told “OP never had these problems.” This is 100% speculation

      On the subject of speculation about Quinn’s change in attitude — as an alternative take, I’ve been part of a dynamic like this where the person was… not cold, exactly, but acting different and I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, and it turned out to be because manager and HR had intended the meeting to be about ‘Quinn needs to perform better’ sort of thing, but during the meeting it got turned back on to the person training them due to training being inadequate/ineffective etc, and ‘Quinn’ was promised at the meeting that the trainer would be ‘taken to task’, and ‘context’ given to Quinn that the trainer had similarly ‘failed’ the previous person in the role.

      Not saying it’s the case here, but is another scenario I’ve seen which showed up with a similar presentation to the one described in the OP.

  40. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I think workload is quite likely at least part of the problem. I would also guess that the job is being specced incorrectly and I would imagine that the salary offered is simply too low to attract the kind of person the job really requires. So perhaps it’s not that the hires are bad, but that with the spec and the salary the way they are, the company is never going to attract the right person.

  41. --*

    No advice here for OP, but oof, you have my sympathies on being called out in someone’s burn-it-to-the-ground resignation email. In my case it was a trainee who accused me of racism out of the blue in front of a bunch of managers. This of course sent me into a spiral of self-doubt, wracking my brains to figure out what I had done to make someone feel this way, and beating myself up for it.

    With a couple years’ distance from the event (and with evidence that refuted the specific allegations), I can recognize that the trainee was just dealing with wayyyy too much stress (they had medical and personal emergencies happening at the same time) and I ended up being the scapegoat. But when you’re still in the thick of it, it really, really sucks. Sorry you’re going through this.

  42. fhqwhgads*

    I soooooooo identify with this LW. In a previous job, I was the fourth person hired into a particular role, quickly outgrew it, and got promoted. As did the third person right before me. The next four? Five? people hired into that role did not meet what I thought were the company’s standards, and definitely weren’t my standards. A couple of them complained that the standard was unreasonable, they needed more time, and in particular seemed to take issue with me expecting them to be as good at it as I had been, as quickly as I had been. Luckily, we had very measurable objectives. When management went and looked as those measurable things they found out not only did I, and the previous 2 people before me meet the stated standard, we actually got to certain targets in HALF the time these newbies were given, and regularly did twice the work. It pretty much killed their argument that we expected too much too fast, since they were both slower in terms of how long it took them to get to the point of no longer being “in training” and how long it took them to complete the actual tasks. They really genuinely thought they were overworked doing half of what their predecessors did, and we predecessors had not felt overworked or burnt out – until we started to have to do half our old jobs plus our new jobs as the new people just never quite got fully up to speed.
    It took too long for management to realize these were bad hires. They couldn’t wrap their heads around how they got it spot on with the first four of us, and how (a couple years later) they got it so wrong with basically every new hire after that. It was weird. And draining. I don’t work there any more.

  43. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    Lee sounds like one of my new coworkers (and like some other people I’ve trained). They puff themselves up to their coworkers to hide their inadequacy. Bragging about how good of an employee they are, how good their work is/will be. And then failing to deliver.
    They really annoy me, since they also talk a certain way, loud and pushy.

  44. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t think the OP is at fault or even a bad trainer. But I do think there is something not in alignment with the “systems” your company uses compared to what people in similar roles at other companies use (OP mentioned those systems three times!).

    I don’t know what those systems are, but it sounds like this is a difficult thing to learn or transition to, causes delays that make the new hires fall behind, which leads to frustration and ultimately giving up!
    It must be terrible for the new hires if this is the cause, and other than a adjustment in learning time, or having some lightened workload until they do pick it up, I’m not sure what else could be done? But your manager needs to ascertain if that is the cause, and try to accommodate the training or skill needed.

    I sympathize because my organization is like that too, and the many internal systems, protocols and hierarchy are very difficult to navigate for outsiders coming into the company, and it’s very easy to get frustrated because of it.

    1. lazy intellectual*

      I’m also wondering what is up with the training system. It seems like they don’t really have one.

      I know OP says they developed a booklet for Quinn after Lee left, but it’s worth taking some time to really think through how they want to train new hires.

      Also, is it possible to outsource some of the training on company databases and such to HR? Sometimes in larger companies, HR has a Learning and Development division that trains new hires on company wide software, templates, etc. Then you can focus on job-specific coaching. Also, do regular check-ins with the employee to see how they are doing and give them time to ask questions.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’ve worked for several large companies (3k+ employees), and none of our HR departments or T&D teams have ever been tasked with this kind of training. At best, they’d do an orientation to teach new hires where to find company policies on the intranet and how to login to any training portals we had; however, systems training was always left to individual managers in individual departments/divisions.

        1. lazy intellectual*

          Fair enough. I brought it up as a possibility because it seems like OP is overwhelmed with doing both their job and training new hires, but it can be more work than not.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I took the “systems” thing to basically boil down to “institutional knowledge” and/or “internal protocol”. Sounds sort of like a we always do ABC, never AC never AB, and definitely not D, because long-time-lesson-learned-reason-that-may-not-be-obvious-but-please-take-my-word-for-it-because-a-lot-of-review-went-into-this. Kinda thing.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Only the OP clarified that “systems” meant that AND proprietary software the new hire would have to use.

  45. Bob*

    My impressions:

    You are not a bad trainer.
    The job is too much for one person.
    The learning curve is rather steep.
    The responsibility of the position is very large.
    There is lots of overtime.
    The hiring team is either not good at their job or they goofed twice. Or both.

    Its not entry level.

  46. Karak*

    This letter makes me angry (but not at you, OP).

    Your management is falling down on the job. They’re lying to new employees about the workload, the hours, the type of work, not creating documents and procedures for very important work, not reviewing or checking new employee’s work, and given you two jobs for years?? What the hell is the manager DOING? Why is any of this YOUR role??

    You give the new employee the binder, you train for X amount of time (and this is a matter of WEEKS, not MONTHS), you then make your email available for questions and stop doing the work. Stop checking it. Stop checking in on how it’s going. That’s the manager’s job. If the new guy shreds a document and costs the company millions of dollars? Not on you. If nothing gets finished on time? Not on you.

    How the HELL did a workload fall months behind and the boss didn’t notice OR fix it?

    I don’t blame these new employees for turning their anger on you. They’re being left to twist in the wind by the actual people responsible while you, not their boss, manage them and report them when they fall short on an impossible task. Managers are paid to deliver shitty news BECAUSE it inspires this kind of resentment.

    Honestly, OP, this sounds incredibly toxic, and I think you need to draw a hard line in the sand or ask for a metric ton more money. And tell them to pay the new guy a hell of a lot more money, and stop lying about the damn job when hiring.

    Both you and the new hires are in impossible positions. I hope this gets better for you all.

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