exec cries with delight every day, no one reads my how-to guides, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Executive is crying with delight at seeing people back at work — every day

I work at a medium-sized nonprofit that recently started mandatory in-office work a few days a week. There were obviously some people who would strongly prefer fewer in-office days (or none), and others who are fairly neutral about being back. But, confoundingly, our COO has been moved to tears with his enthusiasm for being back around people. Daily. Every day, the COO cries with delight at seeing people and faces and “being able to express (his) appreciation” for the office.

This isn’t normal, right? What (if anything!) should I (or anyone!) say to him? I’m genuinely worried about him, because this seems both out of character and, generally, a very extreme response to … the office. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine office, but it’s … an office.

He’s also not hiding his irritation for people who have continued to wear masks in the office and has made comments about how unnecessary they are now, but that seems easier to dodge, somehow.

Nope, it is not normal to be overcome with tears daily from delight at seeing coworkers. I could see it happening once! It’s been a hard and weird two years for people; it makes sense that someone might have a lot of emotion at such a visible display of moving closer to something like normalcy, or just at the human connection. But crying daily takes it to a new level. Does he otherwise seem his normal self? Are others noticing and feeling concerned? I don’t think you need to take any action since there are presumably people better positioned to check in on him if needed (unless you’re peer-level or close to it) but it’s definitely weird.

That was going to be my whole answer until I saw your last paragraph. His hostility toward masks … is maybe connected. Is he intentionally performing delight at seeing full, unmasked faces as a way to make some kind of anti-mask point? Or is his irritation at masks more a result of his overwhelming delight at again seeing the full faces of those who aren’t in masks? I don’t know — but either way his irritation with people trying to protect themselves and others isn’t a great sign about where this guy is at generally.

Read an update to this letter

2. No one reads my how-to guides

I’ve been at my job for many years and have a hefty knowledge base. I was trained, of course, but there are many details and quirks and processes that I’ve figured out by myself over the years. I often make how-to guides, sometimes because I just want to, and sometimes because I’m asked to by my manager. They’re usually documents with step-by-step instructions, with screenshots and drawn notations. I enjoy doing it!

My problem is that no one seems to read them. For example, a new coworker asked me to explain a process to her, so I made her a quick guide with instructions and pictures. I found out she asked another coworker to help with the exact same thing a few days later, and never said a word to me to indicate that she didn’t understand or still had questions.

I have some trainees in my department who are meant to essentially do what I do. They have access to plenty of guides, cheat sheets, and even a handbook with all kinds of information about our department. They never refer to any of these. I’m distracted constantly with questions about things that can be easily looked up. If I email them with a project and explanation of what’s expected of them, I’m peppered with questions that are all answered in the original email.

When I was learning the ins and outs I would have killed for reference material like this, and I prefer to try to research and solve my own problem before involving someone else, which is why I got motivated to create the materials in the first place. We all have different learning styles so I totally understand that a written guide isn’t for everyone. I even know I can be too wordy and consciously try to make my guides as succinct as possible. I’m starting to feel like I’m shouting into a void. Is there any point in continuing to make this stuff?

Yeah, a surprising number of people don’t read or appreciate stuff like this! Part of it is that they often want something much quicker (like if your guide is eight pages because it includes a screenshot of every step, you might have better luck with a half page of text in bullet points) but part of it is because people are lazy and don’t like to look things up.

Whether it’s wasted effort is a good question. I have seen a lot of amazingly detailed, beautifully thorough 100-page “how to do my job” manuals left behind by hyper-organized employees for their replacements which then rarely got used, despite representing years of knowledge. So: will your how-to materials get used if you’re on vacation or otherwise not available, or will there always be someone else willing to answer questions so people don’t need to read written instructions? If it’s more the latter … it might not be worth the time you’re putting into it now (which wouldn’t mean don’t do it at all, but it might mean changing how much you do or how detailed you are).

The bigger question might be whether there’s a culture issue on your team around training/initiative/learning. Is it a problem that trainees are peppering people with so many questions, or is it okay? If there’s a sense that people aren’t learning the job as well as they need to or are interrupting others too often, you might need an organized push with your colleagues to be more disciplined about directing people to try to find answers themselves first, since the materials exist. (On the other hand, the fact that these materials didn’t exist until you created them might be a sign that trainees are doing exactly what they were intended to.)

3. Acquaintance of acquaintance won’t stop sending me pushy emails

I work in a very sought-after UK government job that takes me all over the world. I’ve recently been helping out my old secondary school with some careers events and such, in case any pupils are interested in a similar career path. This has been done via contact with an old teacher, with whom I have a good relationship.

The teacher recently gave my contact details to another ex-student who happens to sit on the school board of governors, by means of an email introducing us, because this other ex-student is interested in my line of work and how he might break into it. I did not give my permission for my teacher to share my details, and I sent him (teacher) a gently worded message asking him not to do so again without checking.

Since then, Mr Ex-Student has sent me six emails asking if I have time to speak to him, despite me already replying saying I’m extremely busy at the moment and I will let him know when I have some free time. It’s true, I am very busy, and what little free time is for me and my friends/family. To repeat: in my last message I made this clear and asked him to wait for me to get in touch. He has just written again asking if I have time to speak to him.

I was already not super keen on speaking to this man. My career is extremely competitive to get into, and there are lots of people out there who are interested in it. I don’t know this man, and he is not of interest to me personally or professionally as a contact. Initially I just found it a bit irritating that my teacher passed on the details without my consent, and I was intending to try to speak to Mr Ex-Student at some point. Now I’m annoyed by his ignoring of both the hints and my explicit request to let me get in touch. By this point I am definitely not feeling kindly inclined toward him and do not wish to speak to him at all.

I could just ignore him, but for the sake of my teacher I would like to send a polite message explaining that I won’t be helping out, mostly because he has been disrespectful of my request to wait for me to contact him, but partly because — guess what — I don’t owe him anything! It feels like he thinks he is entitled to my time and knowledge, and that is really ticking me off. I would really appreciate your advice on how to handle this.

Because you want to say something for the sake of your teacher, I imagine that means you want it to be more polite that what this guy really deserves. I’d say this: “Earlier I explained my schedule is fully booked right now and asked you to wait for me to get in touch. Since you have continued to email, at this point I ask that you pass me by; I will not be able to make time to speak.” And if you get any emails after that, ignore and/or block him.

It’s also worth letting your teacher know how this man conducted himself so he knows not to connect him with others in his network.

4. Can we re-hire laid-off staff without posting the job openings?

At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to lay off a number of staff. Many of them were amazing, great people and it was agony to have to lay them off.

Fortunately, things are turning around, and I am now able to rehire some of them.

We have a policy of always posting openings internally and giving preference to current staff for any openings. But what about when we want to rehire someone back to their old job? Do I (legally or morally) still need to post the opening, and let other staff apply for it? Somehow it seems different when it was an involuntary layoff situation, and the outstanding employee we let go is eager to return.

Unless you have an internal policy that says differently, there’s no legal or ethical requirement that you post the openings. You can go ahead and offer the jobs to your former employees if you’d like to. And if you do have an internal policy that says differently, it’s worth talking to whoever has the authority to grant exceptions, because this isn’t the type of situation those policies are typically created to address.

5. Should I “read the room” and drop out of an interview process?

Within my company an opportunity that intrigued me opened up. I’m perfectly happy with where I am now, all things considered, but this was a bit of an opportunity to advance in a field where they don’t open up that often.

I had a great interview. Then radio silence for two weeks. Figured I didn’t get the job, shrugged my shoulders, and kept working. Got a message that they were still discussing it. Two weeks later, I get a message that they’re going to have a final meeting that day. More silence. It’s been almost a month since the interview. I’m at the point now where I am involved in long-range planning for my current position, and I keep getting new long-range tasks that, were I to actually get the new gig, would have to be reassigned.

And maybe I have an attitude problem about it now, but I almost feel like maybe I should pull out of consideration for new gig, and just tell them that upon reflection it doesn’t seem like a good fit. Clearly, they’re unsure about me in some way, and it almost feels like I’d be doing everyone concerned a favor if I ended the agonizing so they could hire someone else. My husband thinks that won’t look good. I feel like it shows I can read the room. What do I do?

You’re not reading the room correctly because it’s unlikely that they’re agonizing about you. It’s more likely that their process is dragging out for reasons that have nothing to do with you — higher priorities that need their attention, decision-makers who are away, questions about the role itself or the broader team, interview schedules that need to be coordinated with multiple people, etc. Also, keep in mind it’s only been a month, which isn’t terribly long when it comes to hiring.

If you’re interested in the job, don’t let the length of the process start messing with your ego. It’s very unlikely that it’s about their assessment of you at all! (Although even if it is … that’s okay. Employers are unsure about strong candidates all the time for one reason or another, just like you might have your own uncertainties about a job or a manager. It’s not personal, and many of those candidates go on to be happily hired.)

{ 633 comments… read them below }

  1. Data/Lore*

    LW2- I made manuals as soon as I got used to my position, and with every change in duties updated them. One is all the information that is relevant to the job (even some of the more uncommon stuff) and one that is process oriented, intended for training. Not that anyone uses them- I have had occasion to train several coworkers over the years, always remind them of where the manuals were before any absence longer than a day. Still got calls (my position was, at the time, one that required I be on call for major issues that could not be solved by checking the manuals) asking about something that was detailed in the manual, and as I transition out of my role to a new one I expect similar. It always came down so “I *only* learn by doing”. Which I have my own opinions on, but this is neither time nor place for me to share those lol

    Good luck- if you want to pare the manuals down to a process guide Visio can be fun to play around with. But it is really unlikely, especially if the people you work with are anything like the ones I have worked with in the past, that anyone will refer to the manual first.

    1. Fran Fine*

      It always came down so “I *only* learn by doing”.

      I don’t understand this. I only learn by doing too, but I still read instructions first or watch someone demo a task for me before I do it myself. Doers go out and find solutions and put them into action – your colleagues were just lazy and wanted to be spoonfed and handheld through these processes, lol.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I agree. I also learn by doing, which means that I do search for the information and then I do the thing while looking at the manual until I can do it by myself. (sorry for the tortured grammar to make my point). Those people don’t learn by doing, they learn by passively being walked through things (or don’t learn, more likely).

        1. tangerineRose*

          “Those people don’t learn by doing, they learn by passively being walked through things (or don’t learn, more likely).” This!

          I like well-written documentation that is up-to-date and accurate. It’s usually not easy to find.

      2. matcha123*

        Same here. I firmly believe in “practice makes perfect,” which is why I am also big on “doing.” But! I was also taught to try to find the answer first before asking. Obviously a person shouldn’t spend a whole day trying to figure out the answer to something relatively small, but if they ask for help they should (imo) outline the steps they first took and that failed.

        I have made small manuals for new people in jobs of the past. I don’t know if they were ever utilized. I heard from one person that the file I’d left for how-to on processes was deleted from the shared files folder.

        The situation OP2 is in sounds like a culture issue, however. But maybe there are a lot more people who like that one-on-one than I expected.
        In my soon-to-be former job, a senior staff member was adamant that people go to her and her only with questions. Even though much of our processes had long since been streamlined and making changing was a no-go and ensuring that current and past versions matched perfectly, everyone was expected to only go to her for clarification. It was frustrating for me because her answered changed depending on whom she was speaking with and she was very vocal about being the “best” and “only person who could do xyz.”

        Big fan of manuals and materials that can be seen and shared with a lot of people.

      3. Medusa*

        Same. My predecessor at my current job left me very detailed notes that I’m still consulting all the time before I ask people questions.

        1. Commenter*

          Yes! My predecessor left a super detailed manual and I used that thing for YEARS (especially since it’s a one-of-its-kind role at the company – there were questions that no one could answer about this wonky system that she managed).

      4. HB*

        Oh man do I have some thoughts and feelings on this. I’m in Tax so when you come into this job you typically come in with a certain amount of knowledge about accounting and tax law, but when you start doing returns there just… isn’t a lot we can do to train you. I mean we can train you in certain processes, but actually learning how to translate client data into a return is something you can *only* learn by doing. You start doing it, and you ask questions when you get stuck, but you’re expected to try to figure things out on your own based on what’s been done in the past. The problem is this method may work very well for people who already think a certain way, and lets everyone else flounder. It’s very prone to a survivorship bias mentality (this is the way I learned and it worked) and overall just… isn’t very efficient. So I’m actually in the process of trying to create a reference manual to help bridge the gap, but I don’t know how to teach people how to think the way I think. I have a coworker-whom I adore-but whenever she comes across something she doesn’t understand and I help her, I’m usually able to figure it out not because I’ve seen it before, but because I work the problem differently than she does. She usually responds with “Well how was I supposed to know that” and the answer is typically “You weren’t” but she also should’ve been able to figure it out the same way I did. And this isn’t an intelligence issue or a laziness issue – she’s very smart and works harder than almost anyone I know, but she’s prone to getting stuck on things where she’s trying to work the problem forward rather than backwards. Anyway, it’s something I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about because I’d like to figure out how to train people in a more efficient way.

        1. I was told there would be llamas*

          Yes, I find myself saying, “what did we do last year?” a lot, lol. Start with SALY.

        2. Software Dev (she/her)*

          Yeah I’ve run up against this before. I’m a fairly intuitive troubleshooter, so I can sometimes problem solve on applying first principles and seeing how situation X is similar (but not identical) to situation Y, a problem I’ve solved before. Some people don’t seem to think like that! If situation X is not identical to situation Y they get stuck and can’t work out next steps.

          The frustrating part is I can’t really explain to them how I would fix it—I generally just go and fix it myself and even afterwards have a hard time explaining how I did it/why that was the problem. It’s why I’m a terrible trainer/mentor/manager, a skill I’d love to get better at. I also like to go fast (thanks ADHD) and so slowing down to explain things is hard for me.

        3. Reluctant Mezzo*

          This is why I’m glad the tax place I worked had practice sets to be run through before the dear public invaded our lovely office. Some of them were crazy (though still not as crazy as a couple people we actually had, day trader, looking at you). I’m just I’m out of the biz before having to deal with crypto…

      5. Lacey*

        Yeah, I learn best by doing, but a step-by-step guide is awfully helpful to that process!

        I’m baffled by people passing these things by, because I would kill for a guide that let me learn to do things without having to bother another human being!

      6. Spencer Hastings*

        I’m somewhere in the middle, I guess — I can have a process explained to me and think I understand it, and then when I’m alone with the task actually staring me in the face, with actual client data instead of a simplified example, I realize “oh, I actually don’t know whether to do X or Y at step 3.” So I go back to the person for clarification. It probably drives everyone nuts.

        If I were smarter, I might be able to anticipate these questions and ask them during the initial training (“some of the clients I’ll be doing this for are X and some are Y, so how does that change what I do at step 3?”). But often I only realize it’s an issue once I’m in the middle of doing the thing.

        1. Fran Fine*

          It’s not an issue of being smarter – you don’t know what you don’t know and can’t ask questions upfront about things you’ve never seen. I think this is more about people having been trained and having supplemental guidance material, but still bypassing the latter to ask questions about things that are clearly spelled out in that material if they’d thought to look there first.

          1. Data/Lore*

            Yep, this right here. The position I am vacating isn’t hard, but when I moved into that role there was nothing written down for training, I had to figure it out myself- which I can do, but the industry I am in has peaks and flows, and peak is not when you want to be trying to learn a new process by just doing, which is why I compiled the manuals, and why I have recommended people trained to “back up” the primary person in the role use them to stay fresh on processes. Frankly, as long as you get the process down, anyone, regardless of degree, experience, or perceived intelligence can succeed in that role (and it’s not an entry level position). But most of the people I have had the pleasure of training tend to use “I can only learn by doing” as a justification for why they didn’t check the manual while the primary was out and either did something wrong or just didn’t do it at all.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          I’ve trained a lot of people on a lot of things over the years, and what you’re describing is pretty much something I expect when I turn people loose to work on their own with actual data. My usual training method is to demonstrate and talk through the process while the person either follows along on a job aid or takes notes (or takes notes on the job aid). Then I have them practice a few times while I talk them through it (usually with the assurance “Don’t worry, I won’t let you screw up!”), and then they work it while I watch and stop them if they’re about to mess up. And then we talk about the mistake they almost made, what the correct process is, etc.

          Then when they start working on their own, I encourage them to come to me if they’re not sure about something, because sometimes stuff is just weird. For me, one of the most challenging things about training is remembering to tell people things that are super ingrained for me, but not obvious to a new person, and they don’t have the experience to ask yet. I try to explain at least some of the “why” of what I’m doing what I’m doing, without overwhelming them (a delicate balance). It sounds to me like you’re running into that “stuff they know, but don’t think to say, and you don’t know to ask” sort of gap. I don’t get irritated with that at all. I DO get irritated with people who don’t even try to figure it out, and/or who just ask me every time, instead of learning for themselves.

        3. PeanutButter*

          To agree with what everyone else is saying, there’s a BIG difference between “Uh, I’m stuck at Step 3.” and “Step 3 seems to be written as if clients will always want to have X done but I remember from the previous training it’s sometimes going to be Y. I looked at the directory structure and meta data of the sample files, but didn’t see anything indicating which one was correct. How should I tell which option to do?”

          I LOVE specific questions, it really helps me figure out where my documentation needs polishing, and gives me an opportunity to pass on very specific knowledge that I might not otherwise think of. The vague “What do I do now?” when I have no idea what they’ve tried or what resources they’ve already consulted just leads to 20 questions while I try to suss it out.

      7. Blarn*

        This is also b.s. Some people may learn BEST by doing, but almost everyone CAN learn through imitation, trial and error, and following instructions. It’s also good for brain plasticity— to learn in ways other than the ways that are easiest for you. I feel LW2 so much. I give students extremely clear written instructions, go over them live, and then half of them don’t read or refer to them. I’m careful about easy formatting and not overdoing it, too.

        When my elderly parents got a new TV/DVD / cable system that confused everyone (multiple remotes, etc), I wrote a brief, stepwise, illustrated set of instructions for getting the History Channel back after a power surge, error etc. I will never forget my sister saying “(Grandchild) messed up the TV and we couldn’t Blarn on the phone, so I tried these instructions she’d left, and they *totally worked*!” Tone of amazement.

        1. Rolly*

          “This is also b.s. Some people may learn BEST by doing, but almost everyone CAN learn through imitation, trial and error, and following instructions.”


      8. A Feast of Fools*

        Same. I learn by doing the instructions that I’ve just read / watched.

        And then I am doubly grateful for those instructions if months have passed since I’ve done The Thing and I need a quick refresher.

      9. Lenora Rose*

        I learn by doing, but this doesn’t actually affect the form of instruction much: If I’m shown by another person, then I watch what they do then do it while they watch. If I have a manual, I read the instructions, then do the instructions I read.

        It CAN take longer with the manual the first time through, sometimes by an order of 20 minutes vs 2-3 hours, but it also tends to be learned more deeply, and the length of time it takes the first time isn’t close to what it takes later. I think what a lot of people do is look at how long it takes to do it the first time via the manual and assume it always will take that long to consult the manual (where in truth later on, I find I can flip directly to the page, paragraph and sometimes sentence I need to double check, and it goes super fast)

        And besides learning it more deeply the first time through, I’ve also noticed that if I’m being shown, the person training me sometimes takes shortcuts or does bits themselves (I’m also guilty of this when training) even after they/I in theory passed the task over to the new person. When that happens, it’s probably quicker, again, but then I don’t always have the full feel for the process in sequence. If I work with a manual, there’s not one step that happens If I don’t do it (at least I have yet to have a manual which does the work for me), which makes it harder to forget them (if I am reading attentively).

    2. Just read the manual!*

      I can relate to LW2! I trained a new person a few years ago for a specialized position. I was the only person that could answer questions, so to prevent them as much as possible, I made sure the training was thorough with many hours of one-on-one time, and he’d have everything he needed to succeed like a step-by-step manual. He also took a ton of notes so he wouldn’t forget anything. It didn’t stop the endless questions, and often the same ones asked two or three times. One day, months into his new job, I realized that he just found it more convenient (for him!) to ask me. I finally had to tell him that I wanted him to reference the manual and his notes to find the answers, but if he couldn’t find what he was looking for, he could come back to me, and I’ll help him. The questions stopped for the most part. He simply didn’t want to take the time to look things up until I forced him to, and he didn’t seem to like to read. I say this because coworkers complained that he didn’t read emails all the way through, so would miss things they needed. Two years later, he left and I trained the new person who appreciated having the manual to reference. I only heard from them when they were really stuck. It certainly made my busy workday easier!

      1. londonedit*

        I can also relate to this! Right at the beginning of my career I worked on reception for a small publishing company, and there was a ‘Reception Bible’ ring-binder with information on just about everything that could possibly come up while working on reception. The previous receptionist had already left by the time I started, so I studied the ‘Bible’ and would always consult it before asking how to do something. When I moved into an editorial job in the same company, I totally updated the information and added extra pages with info on other issues I’d run into. Of course, because I was still physically in the building, I was constantly getting calls and emails both from the new receptionist and from other people asking me where X and Y were, how Z worked, whether I’d done A, B and C, whether I could just fill in on D because the new person wasn’t sure, etc. In the end my boss (who was generally fairly awful but got this one right) had a word with people and told them that I had a new job to learn and I wasn’t to be bothered with questions about reception.

      2. Shiba Dad*

        Yeah I can relate too. At an old job it was easier for coworkers to “ask Shiba” than to spend a couple minutes trying to figure it out for themselves or looking at any “how to” documents I created. I also coul dgo on a tangent on how I really couldn’t train people, because training was overhead and overhead was Satan incarnate, or something.

        On the bright side, “how to” documents I created for end users (customers) were used and appreciated. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this. Often it literally *is* faster, for the individual who needs help, to ask a targeted question and get a targeted answer – the issue is that it’s often not faster for the organization overall or particularly the expert being asked. Manuals are so infrequently used that I actually think there’s something wrong with the way they’re constructed or something; they’re just not meeting the need for security and assurance that new people are looking for. I also think every time I’ve made a super-process-y manual with screen caps of each step, it hasn’t been flexible enough to keep up with minor system changes – unless I’m extremely dedicated to maintaining it.

          1. Mockingjay*

            I’ve encountered two facets to LW2’s problem.

            1) Reference materials are a support mechanism – a memory jogger. Too often companies substitute guides for hands-on, dedicated training and SOPs. This is why user guides that should be short, quick reminders end up as several hundred pages.

            2) Company culture. You can provide training backed up with excellent guides like yours. But if the company culture isn’t one that holds people to a training standard, or is collaborative in which people don’t mind asking/answering lots of questions, then guides and instructions will go unused.

            I get a lot of similar questions due to both 1 and 2; as I’ve noted in comments here, I boot them back to the asker. “Sorry Fred, I’m in the middle of something for boss and can’t stop; please check the manual or the help video library on SharePoint.” I’m not unsympathetic to my coworkers’ needs, but I’ve learned I can’t single-handedly make up for training lacks across a 25-member team. I post a lot of stuff and send out frequent links, but I can’t spend all day answering individual questions from 10 or 20 people and still complete my own work.

            1. MilSpecs*

              Ideally, user guides should be an adjunct to training materials, and access to all materials should be distributed during dedicated training sessions, with subsequent targeted training sessions scheduled at periodic intervals after the initial training session. It also helps to have trainers or subject matter experts scheduled to answer questions so no individual employee is slammed all day with questions from trainees. Many companies don’t have the resources to do any of these things themselves, which is why we have technical writers and corporate trainers – which companies often don’t want to pay for, thinking “Anyone can write” or “Anyone can train.” Therein lies the problem. It’s often penny wise and pound foolish.

            2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

              All of this. Also a couple of other things I’ve seen push people away from using written references:

              1. If a new person is anxious about making mistakes (or there’s a culture of blame in the company as a whole) then any ambiguity in written instructions is a huge risk to interpret on one’s own. Better to ask someone; then the answerer shares any blame (most people don’t do this as a conscious attempt to throw someone else under the bus, but simple have a feeling that the verbal instruction is ‘better’ and safer somehow.)

              2. If the knowledge gap is broad enough, or the materials are organized in a way that’s not intuitive to people who aren’t already familiar with the system, just figuring out where to look in the documentation can feel like a big time sink. This is especially true if there’s no good search mechanism.

            3. JustaTech*

              Your point about company culture is a good one. In my company (and in our industry in general) we have a mountain of documentation (as required by law), so everyone is used to the idea that, for most every task there will be a Standard Operating Procedure, a Work Instruction, A Test Method, a Desk Procedure, a Policy or *something*.
              So when I train new folks, part of the training is “here are where the documents are stored, this is where you start for the big stuff” so that they know that the documents exist and where to find them.
              It really helps get folks used to the idea that whatever they need to know probably *is* written down somewhere.

        2. Sova*

          The other problem can be if everyone always only asks the same person, that person’s misconceptions or biases can become shadow policy. I think most people can realize that is bad if something happens to that person and you lose that institutional knowledge that doesn’t get written down…but it’s equally bad if you have a ton of “this is the way we have always done it” people that only ever consulted that one person and then newer people who notice a more efficient way to do something within your actual policy get shot down and discouraged by the shadow policy.

          1. pancakes*

            Yeah, I’ve seen that happen. In the type of litigation I work on this is really important to avoid, because typically the document review apps make use of something called Continuous Active Learning, whereby reviewers are basically training the algorithm with every decision they make. If everyone isn’t on the same page that’s going to be a real problem. Reliable manuals and protocols are essential. Everyone has to be working off the same knowledge base.

        3. Elenna*

          See this attitude baffles me, because I’m always super uncertain about asking my more experienced coworkers for help. Probably more than I should be, really – at some point it is more efficient to ask someone else rather than spending hours making only tiny amounts of progress. But like, don’t your previous coworkers feel awkward about bugging other people all the time?

          1. quill*

            I always feel like I can’t win. If I ask “Hey, where’s the Squirrel Damage form?” I get answers like “don’t you know by now that it’s FORM.DMG.SQU?” But if I go around trying to find all the information myself it’s like “Hey, why did it take you three hours to fill out FORM.DMG.SQU?”

          2. Shiba Dad*

            My former coworkers had no qualms at all about bugging people. Short story: Culture.

            Longer story: As I alluded to above, management didn’t make training a priority. There wasn’t really an incentive to make that effort on your own time (2% raise regardless). The two or three of us (small company) that would be interrupted knew that we were mostly being asked about things that weren’t easy to figure out. That said, we were asked versions of the same questions (about simpler things) over and over and over again. Things that were pretty basic and/or that we took the time to create “how to” documents for.

          3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            If it’s like where I work, particularly for people who’ve been here a long time, being extremely dependent on other people for answers is a way of demonstrating that you’re a team player or humble or something.

          4. Nina*

            My grad school supervisor had a policy that if you showed up with a question, you had to be able to tell her three things you’d tried on your own to resolve the question. (read the manual, clicked the ‘help’ button in the software, googled it, asked a student who’d been there longer, asked the instrument maintenance tech whose office was literally in the lab…)
            I try to carry that into my work questions as well.

      3. The Starsong Princess*

        Yes, I’ve had that problem. The way to get around it is to schedule time for them to ask questions after the first week or two. My trainees would get half an hour a day or twice a day at the beginning to ask as many questions as they wanted. Once the half hour was over, no more interruptions unless it was an emergency. Quickly, they figured out how to use their time for the most important questions and use the manual to figure out everything else so they didn’t have to wait.

        1. JustaTech*

          I once discovered an Easter Egg in a very old version of MatLab that told me exactly that “RTFM” when I was trying to trouble shoot a coding error.
          I very nearly threw my computer out the window, because the reason I was having the error was that I did not have the manual to read.

    3. Asenath*

      I carefully wrote out an instruction manual for a job I had a long time – and when I was away, it was not used. Generally, the reason was “I’ll leave that for Asenath when she gets back” (understandable, because people were expected to cover for others in addition to their full time job)” and sometimes “Well, I think Asenath would like that information recorded this way (which did drive me a bit crazy, when I’d explained in my instructions how and where to record information. Does no one realize it takes more work to sort out the new information and make it fit in the existing file?)” But never “I only learn from doing”. That’s something I might have said, but I would mean that I (1) take my best guess at what to do; if that doesn’t work (2) read the manual and if neither of those work (3) ask someone. That’s what I mean by “doing”.

      And when I left that job for the final time, I left my masterwork, my final updated version of the manual. I have never asked – never really had the chance to – but I bet my replacement never looked at it, but by that time I was inured to people not reading manuals. I left it because I thought I should in case my replacement did want it, and because I liked organizing information.

      1. Lab rat*

        My previous job was writing knowledge base documentation. That company had all of their documentation online, readily available & searchable. We used plain language (written to about a grade 5 level), numbered step by step instructions & used some screenshots for clarity. It was well used but corporate culture was to look up information & if something wasn’t in there, it got added.

        In my present position (different field entirely) there hasn’t been much documentation & people are hesitant to use what has been created. I’ve been writing documentation following the guides from my previous job but it isn’t used often. It does get frustrating to constantly be asked how to do the same stuff over & over or have things done wrong frequently even after I’ve pointed out the correct way to do it & given them the documentation showing the correct way.

        I recently spoke to my manager about a form that was often not filled out correctly before it was submitted to me. We recreated the form to make it easier to use & she sent the new form with my documentation on how to use it to the staff. I’ve had fewer errors since.

    4. Policy Wonk*

      I am one of those people that love training manuals and always try them first. I have learned that this is rare – when I have a question I often go to the author and note that while the manual is pretty thorough I’m not sure how to do x. The delight and amazement that someone actually used their product is confounding to me, as I don’t understand people that don’t use the tools available to them. But speaking as one of those who uses your product, thank you. (Note: I agree with Allison – shorter is better. A one-page job aid is much more useful than an eight page manual.)

      1. Anonym*

        Same! I would MUCH rather take a crack at a written guide and ask a question here and there than be dragged through an excruciating live training (which usually takes a lot longer) or even a video (still too long).

        But! People really do learn in different ways. Some people will find a live or video walkthrough of a process much more helpful than a step by step document. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially as it gives them the chance to ask questions as they go. OP is not wrong to be annoyed if they don’t even seem to check the instructions, but it really isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Human brains brain differently, and that’s okay.

        1. Hanani*

          I just loathe how-to videos for fairly straightforward things, but that’s where everything seems to be going. Give me something to read instead!

          1. whingedrinking*

            I like audiobooks and podcasts a lot and listen to them often, but they have one major drawback for me. When something’s in print, I can skim over parts pretty easily, but can’t do that with audio. So something that is, say, riddled with chunks of exposition might be something I can enjoy in written form but find utterly intolerable in an audio medium. (Sorry, Cory Doctorow; your premises are very interesting but nobody wants to listen to yet another 19 year old white guy, even a fictional one, explaining Burning Man.)

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I’m the SME for a system at work and, like LW2, created a ton of documentation about how to do just about everything in it (various ones, too — short video walk throughs, two page job aids, 50+ page comprehensive guides, hour long “cradle to grave” video walk through) that is posted on our departmental intranet site. The first question I always ask people when they come to me for help is “did you check the documentation on the intranet? Here’s the link; try searching ‘literal subject of your email which is the title of the actual job aid omg someone please help.'”

        The joy I have when someone emails me and says “how do you do X? I checked (resource) and (resource) and couldn’t find it” is immense.

      3. Banana Pancakes*

        At my last job, they were so certain that the only way I could have achieved such low handle time without violating policy that I was disciplined before they even started pulling and auditing my calls.

        But nope, just used the extensive training material available to me. ‍♀️ They pulled dozens of calls and found absolutely nothing but unambiguous adherence to our many (heavily documented) policies.

    5. Meg*

      For LW2; it has to come from the top and be part of the culture. At my company the very first thing we ask for when learning a new role/project is the Desktop procedures. You’re expected to use it (they’re quite explicit) and go absolutely as far as possible until the document has a possible interpretation you’d need guidance on. Some of the processes are so explicit you’ll never run into that and you can learn straight from the document.

      Again, that’s the culture of this company. Of course questions are appreciated, and these documents evolve and are annually reviewed, but you’re expected to use them for any process that has them. No one is rude and you’ll usually get a walkthrough after receiving a document, then the second time you perform the process alone with just documentation and the previous process owner is just a resource for those little questions, and then you’re expected to refer to that document solely.

      I’d involve management. One person on a middle manager rung or lower who makes detailed documents won’t change the whole culture. And if management isn’t interested… you’ve got your answer about whether to keep making them.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I do think this is a good point – walkthrough with manual and then left alone with manual but someone to answer questions is a good way for people to learn. TBH, a lot of folks want to create a manual so that they don’t have to train/answer questions (like all the examples here of people who created manuals for after they had left a position) and I don’t think that ever works very well, which is how we got to nobody-uses-manuals-town.

        1. Jax*

          Yes! Simulations, practice labs, demonstrations from an expert and then working while the demonstrator watches and corrects are all proven methods for effective on-the-job training. A manual alone (no matter how beautifully created) is not enough. I’m speaking as a trainer, an HR professional, and an employee who has walked into jobs with no help other than the “extremely detailed” and yet mostly worthless manual the last employee put together.

          Manuals are great for reference after the initial training period, but they should never been created as a way to avoid having to spend many hours training/coaching/mentoring an employee in a new role. You’ll avoid lost hours as the new employee struggles to puzzle out the answers on their own as well as frustration and burn out of feeling like the company doesn’t care to train them. So much money is invested up front in a single new hire–you want to ensure that they happily fly through their first 90 days and make it to at least a year, or all of that investment is wasted!

          Train your people. Don’t shove them off to the side with a manual.

          1. Fran Fine*

            Agree with all of this 1000%! Well said. Most companies today have piss poor training (if they have true employee training at all), so individual employees end up putting together guides thinking they’re helping out their coworkers with things they may have found confusing themselves, but then no one reads the thing because they don’t realize it exists or they read it and get even more confused and give up, resorting to go back to the document creator with questions instead.

          2. Ben*

            I completely agree with you.

            Actually writing good documentation is much more difficult than people realize. What most people produce are detailed notes that help guide them through where they got hung up in the process. Then when people produce these “training guides” that only speak to them, they feel their training effort is complete. They get annoyed that people don’t read the documentation. In reality, they haven’t made the effort to properly train people to the point where the documentation is useful.

            1. MaryLoo*

              This. There is a prevalent attitude that anybody can write documentation. That isn’t true. And there’s plenty of badly written documentation out there to prove it. (This is not a critique of the OP, by the way, and doesn’t excuse people who never look up information.)

              When somebody needs to know how to do something, they just want the facts, not explanations of why, or lots of color commentary that the reader has to wade through and ignore in order to find out what to do.

              Too much meaningless verbiage will drive people away from documentation. For example, someone looks up a topic “how to brush your llama” and finds half a page about why brushing is important, or how nice your llama will look after brushing. But all they wanted to know was whether to start the brushing at the head end or the tail end.

              Or another favorite: “How to Brush Your Llama. These instructions tell you how to brush your llama. Be sure to read these instructions carefully before you start.”

              A few encounters with that sort of content and readers will stop using the docs.

              Poor reading skills are more prevalent than you might think. And badly written docs make the user do too much work to figure out which parts of text to ignore and which parts to follow.

              This is the same kind of thing that infuriates me about online recipes – looking up “biscuit recipe” and having to scroll through descriptions of memories of the writer’s grandmother and how her kitchen smelled and how she made her own jam and how the butter melted when spread on the warm biscuit and how granny taught her how to make these biscuits bla bla bla.

              1. MilSpecs*

                Well said. Companies often think being a subject matter expert equals the ability to write documentation on the subject. The skill set of an expert may not include writing, training, writing training materials, or other types of information transfer. That’s why the ideal is to have a technical writer create documentation and a trainer to impart information to employees, all in conjunction with a subject matter expert. Companies tend to not want to pay for technical writers and trainers, and I’ve even seen those roles assigned to new employees.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        It definitely has to come from the top. Where I used to work, students would often call repeatedly about the same issue, looking for the answer they wanted, or just being impatient. The phone queues would often route them to different people, meaning I would get questions about the same issue from several different people. I always put notes in the system after the first time, and get the “oh, I didn’t check” when I would ask people if they’d seen the notes. It took up time I honestly did not have.

        So I went to my boss and got permission to redirect people – they’d call/email me, and when I knew I had put in notes, I would ask them “have you checked the notes?” “Well, no…” “OK, take a look at those and get back to me if you still have questions.” Basically, the idea was to make asking me the less easy option. They didn’t like it, but they learned to check before asking me, and I got time back. I tried not to be snippy about it, always polite but firm.

    6. Also I have an English degree*

      I find it really hard to learn a complex process by reading about them. I get lost, I get confused, it takes me three times as long, and I’m likely to have a bunch of questions as I go along. On the other hand, if I’ve been shown/guided through a process once, I find written instructions useful to refer back to once I have a real experience to relate them to. If find myself much more likely to make use of them if someone has gone through the process with me first.

      1. Sloanicota*

        the issue I think, especially if you dig up a manual left by a past employee, is you never know which parts might have changed, so you can’t fully “trust” the manual – and the process of following the instructions without that trust causes a good deal of anxiety. You sort of feel like you’re on pins and needles waiting for the error that you won’t see coming. Agree that someone walking you through a manual and leaving it with you for next time feels totally different.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        We also have an issue where the person who wrote a bunch of our manuals wasn’t as good a writer as she thought she was, so having something to read isn’t that helpful. She’d skip steps that she either did by autopilot and forgot to include, or that she thought were too obvious (but weren’t if you didn’t already know the procedure), and her explanations are . . . not awesome.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Honestly this is so easy to do! A manual is only as good as the person creating it! They’re usually not created by people who have a background in technical writing for the general audience or education!

        2. Nessun*

          We have a group of three that all uses the same or similar processes for requests. There’s a OneNote we’ve created with all the policies and procedures, links to related resources and internal pages, etc. Any time one person adds a document they let the other two know, and one of those two reviews it for clarity. Any time someone uses a process they didn’t write, they compare their notes to the ones listed and revise as needed. It’s built into our workflow that we must make time each month to review at least one document in the notebook and check that it’s still current and is easy to use/understand. And we discuss updates and wish lists for future updates in our group meeting each week, to ensure it’s all relevant and useful.

        3. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          Or team rambling over here! I would like to say that I’m great at my job…the problem is that I’m terrible at training since there’s so much to the job and there’s so many ‘and if x happens you need to do y’ that I’m more of a ‘this person has been doing this for three years and wants some specialized help’ and not a ‘this is a new hire’ help. I recognize this and have been working on it, but some times people who are experts don’t realize how they go too deep too quick. And maybe since OP is an expert in their field, new hire didn’t want to offend and say they didn’t understand or were concerned that OP would think they were dumb if they didn’t understand what they said?

      3. Smithy*

        This is me….now I will say that my job is 75% non-complex processes or systems and then has that 25% chance of needing to learn an assortment of processes/systems.

        Ones I use more frequently, I will pick up faster. Ones I use infrequently, I benefit from a learning environment where that’s understood and training/office hours are designed around help being needed because this simply isn’t a skill regularly used. And so when it is needed or questions come up….it’s coming from that place.

        This dynamic certainly isn’t in play for all types of jobs being discussed under this thread, but I do think that finding teaching methods and systems for where the learners are isn’t always in play. At one job, there used to be a 4 hour in person training for a grants management system designed for the specific nonprofit. You took your laptop, walked through the steps, asked questions, etc etc. Then at one point they dropped the in person training for a 4 hour recording of a previous in person training……how on earth they thought that was going to be helpful……

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I feel LW2’s pain so badly. I have made so many insanely detailed how-to-guides, 2 min training videos explaining things step-by-step, abridged quick guides, etc. in my life and aside from my boss I swear no one looks at them, and my boss only looks at them as an editor. My only comfort is I feel no guilt now when I just send people the guides and videos rather than doing a 2nd or 3rd 1:1 training.

    8. Paige*

      In two previous positions, I “replaced” people like you. In case you never hear it from anyone else, THANK YOU! They were small companies, so institutional knowledge only survived through manuals like this.

      One thing you might consider is just making process documents for yourself. My job is very cyclical, but it’s a long cycle. Sometimes by the time a new cycle rolls around, I need a refresher on everything I need to do to kick off the project. Doing something like this might help with both the feelings of frustration that others aren’t using it AND pare it down enough to make it more readable for someone else.

      1. Another Paige*

        I agree with this. Make you own processes, save them in a place others can get to them and not worry about it. 90% of people will say you are too detailed, but one day someone will thank you.

        As for the staff who keep asking questions, email the documentation and set up a time to go through if they don’t want to read.

    9. DataGirl*

      I am the person who is responsible for supporting a piece of technology that my department uses extensively, and therefore have created multiple training documents, FAQs, checklists, etc. Very few people actually read them and yes, it’s frustrating. It can be a culture thing for the business, but I think it’s also a personal way of approaching things. I’ve described it thus:

      Two people walk into a kitchen with a new microwave with different buttons that they’ve ever seen before. One of them pushes buttons until they figure out how to make it work. The other person goes to ask someone else what buttons to push to make it work. I’m the first type, I’ll try to figure out how to do something by Googling, checking knowledge bases, or just ‘playing’ with the software until I figure it out. The vast majority of my colleagues are the second type, they want someone to tell them how to do it. It’s frustrating to me, being the ‘figure it out myself’ type, but I can’t really blame the others for being the ‘show me how to do it’ type.

      So, when it comes to my training materials I’ve started to incorporate other methods besides just documentation. I do monthly meetings where I train on a different piece of the software at each. I record those meetings so people who couldn’t attend can watch them later, and people who did attend can refer back. I still provide the relevant documentation with the meeting. Then, when people inevitably come to me asking a question I covered, I can reply, ‘We covered that in meeting X on date Y. Here’s a link to the video. That specific question is covered in the attached documentation on pages 20-25’.

      It doesn’t really cut down on the frustration when people ask questions I’ve already answered, but hopefully I’m training them to at least check the documentation.

    10. Sparkles McFadden*

      Same experience here. I’d give someone a manual (or, in later years, send them links for a searchable internal wiki) after going over basic procedures and try to refer back to the manual when I was asked questions. One or two people would use the manual, but most would just ask the same question repeatedly and say “Can’t you just tell me so I don’t have to read?”

      I also wrote instructions for maintaining large pieces of equipment. Bullet point; simple steps, big font, laminated and taped to the actual piece of equipment. I got woken up one night with a 3:00 am phone call asking about the equipment and said “I taped instructions for this to the equipment” and got the response of “Oh I know but it’s just easier for me if you tell me what to do.”

    11. Ama*

      I do a job that has many very specific and complex processes that we only do 3-4 times a year, so I’ve made extensive written reference guides in large part for my OWN memory, so I don’t forget a step or have to rack my brain for “how DID we handle this special case last time?” That has saved some of my frustration because at least if no one else on my team will use them, they are useful to me (and have really saved me during the pandemic when I’m having a day in which my brain just doesn’t want to retain or recall any information).

      That said I’ve tried to start talking more openly about the guides and how and why I made them because what I keep getting from new trainees (and even my boss sometimes) is “oh, you remember EVERYTHING” as if there is no point in them even trying to learn. So I try to point out that I DON’T remember everything, I write everything down in a place where I can find it quickly and easily later, and that they are welcome to use my reference sheets or make their own if mine aren’t organized to their liking.

    12. ThursdaysGeek*

      My docs were written so I could remember the processes, and shared with users. One thing I do is give a quick overview at the top, with links to more detail. So if they just need the quick overview, they don’t have to read 10 pages to get it. If they only need help on step 5, they can quickly get to that part.

    13. Amused bouche*

      I also have so many feelings on this and actually laughed reading #2 because it was almost like I had written it myself. I feel you, LW2! Except that I am always tasked with creating the documents, I only ever make them 1-2 pages tops, and the reason I have to make them is because my boss knows that if I constantly show my colleagues how to do everything in-person or one-on-one whenever they ask, I don’t have time to get my own work done.

      Still, I was out on a medical leave last year and in the couple weeks I was out, the how-to info I was asked to provide was never once consulted, work piled up for me on my return, mistakes were made that I had to put in extra hours to undo, and I am now not only searching for a new job but I am looking for a slight change in position because after the stress caused by that situation, I’ve realized that being the only person at work who knows how to do some things (or is willing to learn them) is not actually good for me – I never take time off when I sort-of need it, and when I absolutely needed it for a medical reason I was stressed and working overtime for weeks preparing my office to do their work in my absence instead of preparing myself for surgery. No more!

  2. ENFP in Texas*

    Just today I was on a call where the discussion was things folks should be entering into a certain computer system but weren’t.

    Someone someone on the call said “This could be a training opportunity to let them know that they need to do this.”

    I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying “The field HAS been trained on this. I know because I presented the training for three years – it was in the curriculum, and I explained why it was important. You can train all you want, but if their manager doesn’t hold them accountable for doing it the way they were trained, they’re not going to do it.”

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I experience this on a regular basis and eventually it will become my Joker origin story.

      1. Rain, rain*

        I’m about halfway there, my friend. It is bleak.

        For OP, a few things:

        1) are these processes people should be doing daily, or is it occasional? If the latter, it’s likely due to a lack of muscle memory and the fact that people tend not to pay attention to anything except for what is in front of them.

        2) can you find an ally? I have a few that ended up writing a few articles for our manuals, and they help reinforce the use.

        3) when people ask for help the umpteenth time, does your culture permit you to just send a link to the manual? You can add a cheerful, “hey! It’s in the manual, page 3. Could you give it a go using those instructions? Trying to build self-service around this tool [insert your reasoning if you want]. If you still have questions after the manual, please let me know where you’re getting caught up.”

        1. Sloanicota*

          I think I would add to this: if it’s a process that employees do infrequently (less than once a month, say?) that is very important to *your* workflow but not at all important to the employee’s workflow, the kind of thing that’s not in front of their faces and consequences for not doing quite right will feel low *to them* – a) is this a good opportunity to have a specialist/reduce the number of people doing this task b) can you do a bit of a workflow study to see why so many people are making the same types of errors/if it can be simplified/redesigned – c) have specialized, targeted instructions provided right in the task (I like the question mark feature embedded in web forms, for example) rather than sending them to page three of a manual somewhere else? Anything to reduce the friction is good I think.

        2. Divergent*

          I actually really appreciate #3. I worked for years from a very long, very detailed, poorly organized manual where everything needed to be exact for legal reasons. The manual did sometimes contradict itself internally. My boss and everyone else had been working from this same manual with its incremental changes for years; they weren’t able to understand the contradictions because they knew how it had always been done, and they knew what it was meant to achieve.

          A lot of my most useful training was my boss saying “you’re asking about llama hairbrushes, they’re in the hair maintenance section, not the tools section or the grooming appendix, that’s in chapter 3 section 2.5, and I see you found the part of the manual that says to always use garden rakes for all llama-related activities but that obviously doesn’t apply to llama brushing”. After about a year of that I got a sense of what was in the manual where, and which way to reconcile the contradictions. If he’d just told me I wouldn’t have learned to use the manual as a necessary tool to my work, and if he’d made me guess I would have been too demoralized by trying to groom llamas with a rake to make progress.

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        Ha! Had to laugh to keep from crying…well, from banging my head against the desk, anyway. And I’m sorry to say that actually saying everything ENFP wants to say isn’t a guarantee anyone will listen.

    2. Fiona*

      Did you get feedback on the training at the time to check people learned what they needed to?

      1. it's me*

        I’m not the commenter but I would like to take this opportunity to complain that our CS department head has forbidden surveys on training as well as testing knowledge after training sessions, in case it makes customers feel bad.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          How is checking the training of the customer service reps going to make the customers feel bad?

    3. Rolly*

      You should have said the first sentence. It’s important information that the person speaking might not know or might have forgotten. Or was being disingenuous about.

      Others on the call might not have known it too.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, you definitely want to keep any annoyance out of your tone of course but I don’t think there is any need to bite your tongue on that! A quick “we do actually hold a training on this once a year” or whatever seems like honestly relevant information. Whether any additional people should be included in that training may be something to consider in the future (like are the managers included as well, in order to know what they should be holding people to? etc)

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      Do we work together? I had someone ask for a “one time” exception (so they wouldn’t have to unwind the thing they did wrong, which would have meant a client would receive a correction notice) because they stated that they were never trained on that. When I said no, they went over my head to my grand boss, who granted the exception and then came at me for not training people correctly. It was a phone call, not a zoom, so I didn’t get to see GB’s face when I told him this was actually the third “one time” exception this quarter and offered to send him a copy of the screen shot from our training guide that we had the employee sign and date to acknowledge that they understood the policy after the second “one time” exception.

    5. Katie*

      I am not sure how many times I have said that this has been trained on before. I have been broken from biting my tongue and have no shame saying that it has been trained on and/or discussed.
      My previous position was the worst about this and part of the reason why I left.

    6. anonymous73*

      If this happens again you need to speak up! Maybe not all of what you said, but at least the first part. They need to be aware that they have been trained and realize that’s not the problem.

    7. Lacey*

      SO true. I’m a graphic designer and I deal with sales people a lot. In every job the sales department is largely made up of people who won’t follow procedures with a manager who won’t make them, but does have lots of ideas about how we as the graphic designers could do extra work to make up for them ignoring the procedures.

      We remind them what the procedures are all the time. The good sales people will remember for about 6 months before reverting back to whatever seems most natural to them. The worst sales people won’t even do correctly right after we remind them. They just insist on doing it their own way and are baffled that all of the creative departments get frustrated with them.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Yes!!! My documentation was largely for our sales folks, and OMG, they refuse to read or follow procedures that have been clearly stated a million times (even by their own leadership). It’s baffling.

      2. ceiswyn*

        I am reminded of various interactions I had with our Installation team at a previous place I worked.

        Every software release, I half-killed myself producing, a month in advance, a manual summarising everything that had changed and what areas would be affected, specifically for that team. On the day of the release, I also produced an upgrade guide that explained how to upgrade client systems from literally any previous release to the new one. Both these documents had been repeatedly tested by people in our Support team, who worked with the system similarly to the Installation team but were more helpful.

        For three releases, both of these documents contained the information that a particular internal script X was deprecated and that script Y should be used instead. On the fourth release, script X was removed entirely. Two weeks later I got buttonholed by the head of the installation team, who berated me at length about how many problems it had caused his team that this script didn’t work any more and that they hadn’t known about it. He told me I needed to write this stuff down in… the two documents I’d been writing it down in for months…

        Somehow I managed to give professional responses, but all that was going through my head was “I can only write this stuff downfor you, I CAN’T READ IT FOR YOU AS WELL.”

    8. lost academic*

      I trust that you were reading the climate of the call appropriately in not saying that, but quite frankly I think that is EXACTLY what you should have said at that moment – not in a negative tone, but in a clear and informative one to highlight the problem rather than let everyone think it’s something different.

    9. DataGirl*

      “You can train all you want, but if their manager doesn’t hold them accountable for doing it the way they were trained, they’re not going to do it.”

      OMG THIS. In my field for some reason people are extremely reluctant to hold others accountable for their actions or mistakes. Given I work in healthcare, that’s super scary. But we’ve got big egos who think that just because they have ‘Dr’ in front of their name, they should be able to do things however they want and no lowly administrator should be telling them how to do things. This trickles down to everyone who works under them because if the Chief doesn’t think it’s important and doesn’t enforce compliance, no one else is going to bother with it.

    10. Fabulous*

      I work in training – one of the big push nowadays is to ask, “Why are they not doing the thing?” See where the *actual* problem lies. Is the process clunky? Do they not have the right tools? Do they not understand the repercussions for not doing the thing? What ARE the consequences? Why does John do the thing but Carol doesn’t? And so on…

  3. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Re #2 – more than a decade ago I went to a tech conference that had a panel about documentation. One of the presenters used a piece of software that allowed you to upload your own help documentation in contextually appropriate places in the system, in addition to the default documentation. Everything was well and thoroughly documented.

    Unsurprisingly, people would still come to her with a million questions. After awhile she just started asking them, “What did the documentation say about this?” on topics she knew were covered there and in a way that was very much “Naturally, you checked there first, Xerxes!” Awkward pause and the admission from the employee that they hadn’t checked the documentation, which she knew.

    She kept asking this question and eventually people started coming to her saying, “I’ve checked the documentation and it says X, but I still have questions about Y part of it.” Just knowing they’d put in a modicum of effort to trying to figure something out themselves made her job much easier, cut down on the interruptions, and helped people be more self-sufficient.

    Obviously her colleagues were open to that approach. Others might have just simply gone and asked someone else like LW’s colleagues.

    I’m now in a similar role to this woman where I have tons and tons of documentation. One thing I do when training people is walk them through the documentation, tell them it should be their first point of call when experiencing problems, and that I’m happy to help if it doesn’t clarify their issue. I also let them know that if I they ask a question and I send them a link to the relevant documentation, it’s out of efficiency and speed not me being a crank. (Our documentation is all digital in a searchable website, which I recommend.)

    1. Fran Fine*

      Our documentation is all digital in a searchable website, which I recommend.

      This. I also recommend that if you don’t have a searchable website to upload your documentation and are still using PDFs as training materials, keep those documents short and sweet. I made a lot of training guides in my last role as a content development manager, and four pages was the maximum number of pages I had in any of the training guides. I work in software and everyone’s extremely busy – they’re not reading anything longer than that no matter how searchable, how well-written, or how thorough it is. People want information quick fast and in a hurry these days, so you have to break up your materials in bite size chunks so people can easily skim to find what they’re looking for and go.

      1. nnn*

        Yes, searchability is huge!

        In the age of Google, we’re all accustomed to being able to find what we’re looking for in one quick, often rough search. Yes, sometimes more advanced or nuanced research techniques are needed, but even if you’ve mastered those techniques, a dozen times a day you’re typing in random, imprecise things like “How do you spell diarea?” or “Who’s that actor I always get confused with Colin Firth?” or “Is a fox a dog or a cat?”, and the very information you’re looking for appears right in front of your face. We live in a world of massive cumulative empirical evidence that if the information is meant to be accessible to us, it will turn up at the top of the first search.

        If you can work out a way to fully index the content of your documentation and make it effortlessly searchable, that will maximize the likelihood of people using it.

        1. Wednesday*

          I immediately had to google “Who’s that actor I always get confused with Colin Firth?” and the results were not at all what I expected. Piers Morgan? COLIN FARRELL?? For real?!?

          1. Sloanicota*

            In my case it is definitely Colin Farrell for no other reason than their names are similar. I did chuckle at these examples of Dumb Things I Google. I picture Google sighing and shaking her head before providing me with the answer for the twelfth time.

            (And note, Google never says, “did you check the documentation in some random manual you can’t find? It should definitely be in there probably. Here, it’s a 12 page PDF.”)

      2. Brightwanderer*

        I was coming in to say this – people (like me!) who naturally go straight for documentation when they need help tend to forget that to a lot of people that’s actually a big effort and kind of intimidating. Which documentation do they look at? Do they have to read all these pages? They just need to know this one thing and it would take like 2 seconds to ask a human the question and get the answer…

      3. Myrin*

        PDFs are searchable too, though? Am I misreading your sentence? Or do I have some magical PDF reader installed which can do what others can’t? :O

        1. Sal*

          Some PDFs are searchable, but it has to be done on the PDF-creation end of things, I believe. If it’s not created as searchable, then you would need some sort of optic-recognizing software/app that is not at hand for most people.

          1. Alice*

            If they are created by converting a Word document then they should be searchable by default. I could be mistaken! My last 2 companies both use pdfs for documentation and they were always searchable. With the caveat that I work in tech and everyone is expected to know how to ctrl+F. It would be very impractical for a company to provide pdfs that are not searchable and I understand the frustration if so.

          2. Myrin*

            I did not know that, thank you!
            I’ve always been able to search PDFs I created myself so I thought that was just a standard thing (but what Alice says below me makes sense; the only PDFs I make myself is by converting them from a word processor, and now that I think about it, I think I’ve seen before a checkbox that says “searchable” or somesuch, it’s just that it’s already checked automatically).
            I’ll have to remember this the next time I encounter a “foreign” PDF!

          3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Some PDFs are searchable, but it has to be done on the PDF-creation end of things, I believe.

            Others are embedded screenshots, but Acrobat does seem to have some rudimentary OCR recently. (I prefer F/L/OSS, so my experience with Adobe is shallow and trivial).

            1. Sloanicota*

              Definitely in the old school world, a PDF was created by scanning a hard copy document, and that was rarely searchable because it was an image; but it’s been a while since that was the way things were done I think. Back in the ditto era.

              1. Observer*

                The scanners we use have had the ability do ocr as part of the scan process for many years. I think that at this point there is really no good technical reason to create documents that are not searchable, with the possible exception of marked up screen grabs and similar images.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Acrobat has had OCR for well over a decade, possibly two, and it’s not as good as ABBYY Fine, but it does the trick and is pretty solid on good quality documents. It’s primary flaw is that, if part of the document is already searchable but some isn’t, you have to kind of coax it into re-OCRing the whole thing. I work in an industry that still gets a lot of scanned paper that isn’t searchable, and it takes even the least savvy user two clicks to OCR them. (I use Nuance/Kofax for personal use, and it also has OCR built in.)

          4. DataGirl*

            I’m pretty sure Ctrl + F works to search in any document or webpage, regardless of how it’s set up.

          5. Seeking Second Childhood*

            A scanned PDF is not searchable. A text-based PDF is searchable including by the Windows File Manager if configured correctly.
            I’m a technical writer.

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          You can search within the PDF, but if I had to guess I’d wager that Fran Fine’s colleagues would rather see PDFs in a folder individually as Task A, B, and C so they can immediately jump into the one they need, rather than opening a PDF called “Widget Tasks” and having to look for Task A, B, and C within.

          1. Sloanicota*

            But ideally you could also search the whole folder in case you’re looking for a process and not sure which task it’s part of – just all the search options! All the time!

            1. Caramel & Cheddar*

              I never search folders because I can’t assume someone stored something where I think they would, so I end up searching the entire drive and it takes too long.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            I’d actually rather have a bookmarked, searchable manual where I can search the whole thing at once. If pressed, I can use the search folder option, but it’s slower than finding within a document.

            I also found that having a team wiki did wonders for searching, usability, and ease of updates.

            1. Caramel & Cheddar*

              Yeah, I would recommend a wiki over pretty much every other option. The idea of searching PDFs isn’t appealing to me in the slightest, and I say this as one of the many documentation enthusiasts here.

        3. Spencer Hastings*

          PDFs are usually searchable (unless it’s, like, a scan of a printed page or something and it hasn’t been OCRed), but I think what they mean is that searching for *which* PDF you need can be difficult.

          I’m thinking about the intranet at my company, where there are separate PDF (or even Word) guides for a whole bunch of different things, filed into categories that aren’t always intuitive. So “I know this was in one of these guides, but which one was it?” is not an uncommon feeling there, and if you have the ability to use a knowledge base type of thing — or even a bigger PDF, which you can search all at once! — that can mitigate this problem.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            That’s how our how-tos are organized, but it’s honestly never been a problem because I just search the parent folder (where all the how-tos are kept) for a term or phrase relevant to what I need to do, which brings up a narrowed-down list of documents that might work. As long as the PDFs themselves are searchable, I don’t really see what the problem is.

          2. Fran Fine*

            Yes, that’s also a problem at my company (way too much documentation in way too many places).

        4. Lacey*

          Most pdfs are searchable. The exception would be when people create a jpg (whether they’re scanning it or doing something insane like writing an entire document in photoshop) and save it as a pdf. A lot of people don’t realize that saving a jpg as a pdf isn’t magic.

          1. Fran Fine*

            This is what happens at my company – people screenshot large chunks of text from other documents (usually PowerPoint presentations) and then copy/paste them into a Word doc, then PDF the doc, and then other people complain they can’t find the thing they’re looking for in the guide because they can’t CTRL + F the document. I don’t do this and I’ve tried to strongly encourage others not to do this, either, but it’s company culture and my advice fell on deaf ears, so I just let it go (not my circus and all that).

      4. Observer*

        I also recommend that if you don’t have a searchable website to upload your documentation and are still using PDFs as training materials, keep those documents short and sweet. I made a lot of training guides in my last role as a content development manager, and four pages was the maximum number of pages I had in any of the training guides

        In most cases, that makes things too complicated. Better create searchable PDFs with a good table of contents. That makes it easy to know where to go (eg all the spout related stuff is in the Spouts file) but keeps me from having to read through huge segments of the file.

    2. Forrest*

      One thing I do when training people is walk them through the documentation, tell them it should be their first point of call when experiencing problems, and that I’m happy to help if it doesn’t clarify their issue

      I think this is really key.

      One thing with a lot of work training stuff is that it’s done by people who are not experts in training or documentation. Creating training materials and documentation which are logical and usable for other people is a very specialised skill, and if you’re a System User who has effectively just tried to download everything that’s in your head– without having a team of users to consult with, editors, documentation standards, feedback– it’s extremely possible that it is too long, too short, skips over some critical stuff, spends too long on something which is just Your Preferred Way rather than the necessary correct way, isn’t organised in a way that is logical to another user, doesn’t use consistent terminology, and generally is extremely hard work or actually more confusing to the new user.

      Sitting down and going through how your documentation is organised and the kind of queries it answers can dramatically increase the chances that it’s used– and can make you a better document-er, since you’ll probably spot things that seemed obvious to you at the time but which are clearly confusing to a new user.

      1. L-squared*

        This is true. Our company has decided everything needs to be kept in this “wiki” type site. The problem is, the people writing it aren’t necessarily trainers, just employees who came up with the process. Aside from, what I feel, are often bad processes, the documentation is long and often not easy to follow. And I have a masters, so I’m used to reading long boring things, but they are usually at least well written. People don’t get that just because THEY understood what they meant when writing it that EVERYONE will understand that.

        Then they get annoyed when people ask them to go over stuff again.

        Many people who write these things, without a background in it, believe their “guides” are far more helpful than they are.

        1. pancakes*

          Years ago when I was food blogging I took a recipe writing class at the Institute of Culinary Education. It was a great introduction to thinking about how to write clear, orderly, adequate instructions and I seriously think it could be a fun way for people in jobs that have nothing to do with food to learn more about this sort of thing.

      2. Fran Fine*

        isn’t organised in a way that is logical to another user

        This is key, OP. Make sure your documentation aligns with your audience’s mental models if you want them to actually use your materials, otherwise, they’ll find it too confusing to navigate and just won’t bother.

      3. Sloanicota*

        Exactly. Some people really like making manuals, but it’s a rare person whose manual will actually work to replace humans asking and answering questions.

      4. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

        Oh, so very much THIS. It’s what I came here to say and thank you for saying it.
        This is why I wish this website had upvotes. (I know they never will, but a person can dream.)

        So much training is created by people who are not experts in training. They’re experts in their jobs, yes. But the number one rule of writing is to consider your audience. An0ther way of saying that is “the audience is not you.” Some audiences will work better with illustrations and fewer words, other audiences are the audience.

      5. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        This cannot be said enough. And one experience with documentation that wastes time, leaves them confused, or produces a bad outcome is liable to put people off going to the documentation first for the rest of their time at an organization (and possibly at future organizations.)

    3. Meg*

      Yes! This is how my company operates now and it’s just the norm. Not rude, just efficient.

    4. ecnaseener*

      Yup, if LW2 isn’t already doing so they need to start referring people back to the guides they created. I don’t usually ask questions like “what does the documentation say?” because that feels a little like I’m quizzing them, but I will often say “This is in your instructions – did you have trouble finding it in there? or is there a specific part of the instructions that’s unclear?” (I don’t usually do this for quick closed-ended questions, just for stuff like “an X came in, what do I do?”)

      If all this does is train the colleagues to ask someone else the questions that they know they should just look up…well, that’s a fine outcome IMO. All you can do is set reasonable boundaries on your own time. The somebody elses have the option to do the same, due to LW’s work on the instructions.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        That reminds me of someone I used to work with, whose response to basically everything I asked her was “*sigh* what do the instructions say?”. My answer was usually a politer version of “those ARE the instructions.”

        But in the end, she had the effect of training me to say “The instructions for X say [direct quote]. Does that mean I should do [interpretation 1], or [interpretation 2]?”

        1. ecnaseener*

          Exactly! A visibly annoyed supervisor very quickly broke me of the habit of asking “what do I do” questions without including “I see that we do X in similar situations, but I wasn’t sure if the color of the teapot changes that.”

          You CAN do this without being visibly annoyed though – at least I hope so, because that’s what I try to do!

        2. AnonEMoose*

          That’s actually not a terrible thing, in a way, though the sighing wasn’t cool. Because, for me, it would cue me to look at the instructions and see where I could clarify for people who don’t think the way I do, and it also gave her a clearer idea of what you actually needed to know. Because in the situation where someone is asking about interpretation, not just the process itself, then I know to talk to them about the “why,” not just the “what,” and that helps both of us.

    5. Grey Coder*

      I am reading everything here with great interest. I am now in a role where sales and support people are coming to me with lots of random questions — anything they deem “technical” — and every time I think that this is a question which must have been asked and answered before, dozens of times, because every customer is going to want to know. These are things like “how is my llama’s grooming record stored securely” and “what safety testing has been performed on the llama shampoo” rather than instructions or procedures. The difficulty I face is that there are many different ways that the questions can be asked and I’m not sure how to manage this.

      In some cases I do think “you should know this already” and I am happy to develop some kind of training material to make sure everyone has the relevant background, but I accept that this will leak out of people’s memories if not used regularly.

  4. Chad*

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this site, it’s that one should avoid working at a nonprofit like the plague. They seem to be consistently terrible places to work and the pay isn’t enough to justify the level of dysfunction one must deal with. Not going anywhere near a nonprofit.

      1. Chad*

        So yes, the short answer is that most nonprofits are dysfunctional because most nonprofits are small in size. Add on top of that the mission driven emotional blackmail that they historically use plus the low compensation and it doesn’t make me feel any better about a nonprofit.

        1. Karl Havoc*

          “nonprofits are more likely to be small” =/= “most nonprofits are small.” Nor is low compensation a given.

        2. Rolly*

          As a gross generalization you’re perhaps onto something, but you’re greatly overstating it. There are some great jobs at nonprofits and many average jobs at nonprofits too.

          1. MsM*

            And bear in mind, the field is somewhat self-selecting. I’ve found it a lot less common for management to engage in “emotional blackmail” than to have to remind staff that they do not, in fact, need to try and solve everything wrong with the world themselves by tomorrow.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Honestly they are no different than for-profit. Look at companies like WeWork, Wells Fargo, Uber, Amazon, any number of start-ups, partnerships like law firms or medical practices etc., they just as dysfunctional as the worst non-profit and not everyone working in for-profit companies are well compensated. I have worked in for-profit, non-profit, and government in both functional and dysfunctional organizations in each sector. They aren’t as different as we like to pretend

          1. Lacey*

            Yeah, I’ve worked for some super dysfunctional for profit companies. And while the smaller companies I’ve been with have had some special small business issues, the largest company I’ve been at was actually the most miserable to work for.

        4. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I work at a nonprofit now and it is absolutely the best job I’ve ever had, I love it. We do not use emotional blackmail to drive our mission nor is our compensation low. And at the only real for-profit company I’ve worked for, the boss was so stingy that we always had to get the absolute cheapest option for whatever we were doing, sometimes at the expense of things working correctly. At the non-profits I’ve been at, the org is happy to get us the things we need to do our jobs, because they were not concerned about the bottom line, they simply wanted us to get the work done. Sure, they wouldn’t pay for rooms at the Ritz or rent us Hummers or anything like that, but neither did they make us camp on business trips or drive three hours to the farther-away airport to save $100 on airfare.

          Case in point: this week at our weekly staff meeting someone mentioned that airfares are going up a lot and especially during June when we have an in-person meeting people need to travel for and also our annual conference (in-person again for the first time since 2019!). Our CFO said, “Well, that’s the cost of doing business.” Sure, we don’t waste our donors’ money but if it costs $800 instead of $400 to get where we need to go, we will spend it.

        5. WantonSeedStitch*

          Erm…I work at a nonprofit. It’s large. It pays rather well, and while I COULD make more in many private-sector jobs, my role doesn’t really exist in the private sector, so I’d have to do an entirely different role, probably starting on a much lower rung of the ladder, and therefore with a lower salary. Additionally, my benefits are much better than in most private-sector jobs. Remember that many large universities, and hospitals are nonprofits. Not all nonprofits are tiny community organizations.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            And FWIW, I came here from a private-sector job in a tiny company (under 10 people) that was as toxic as hell, paid very little (my similar-level role that I started in here at my nonprofit paid several thousand more than I was earning after three years at the company), and had incredibly stingy benefits.

        6. ThursdaysGeek*

          Probably the largest employer in our area, and one with the highest wages – is a non-profit. It’s a national lab that probably employs about 4k at this location.

        7. This is a name, I guess*

          Bingo. It’s really about business size. I’ve worked at large nonprofits, smallish nonprofits, small businesses, and in government.

          Small businesses and small nonprofits generally have the same issues.

          Large nonprofits tend to have similar issues to either public sector jobs or corporate jobs.

          I get paid very fairly and work for a very competent organization. I have a great work life balance (I’m hour at $40/hr FT with benefits). And, my student loans are done-zo in 4 more years.

        8. Commenter*

          I’ve worked at both and I don’t think I’d agree, personally (also, a particularly annoying part is that the ‘low compensation’ is often a result of donors being hyper-focused on a black & white ‘overhead’ costs calculation and convinced that organizations with admin costs of >10% are badly run, but that’s a whole other soapbox).

          1. Katara's side braids*

            The donor handwringing about “overhead” drives me batty. In one breath, people will tell me (when they find out I’m a social worker in a nonprofit) how much they wish we were paid more, and what an injustice it is that we aren’t. In the next, they’ll clutch their pearls about donating to a certain cause because “I heard that a chunk of my donation would go to salaries, when I really just want to give to the people in need.”

            You know how that nonprofit helps people in need? By employing workers. You know how you get more effective, loyal, and empathetic workers? By eliminating burnout and reducing turnover. You know how you do that? Step one is to pay them a living wage. And at a nonprofit, the money to pay workers appropriately is going to come from (gasp) donations.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              “Who do you think will do this job better, a trained professional or a bunch of part time volunteers with no training?”

        9. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Profit-making companies have only one mission: to make money. Since they’re in it to make money, they understand that if they hire someone, that someone will be motivated by money.
          Non-profits have a mission, or cause, that is not money-related, and they want staff that feel the same way about their cause. It goes without saying that if you want to help the cause, you’re not going to want to eat into the funds they’ve raised.
          If you’re indifferent to causes apart from earning money, then you certainly ought to avoid non-profits.
          You can call it emotion blackmail, that simply means you’re indifferent to the cause. But non-profits have to resort to that kind of language to raise funds, they know it’ll work on their employees too.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I don’t think that’s a fair conclusion. Non-profits can have their issues, sure, but so do for-profit companies. And the letters printed here will give you a skewed view. People whose jobs are perfectly fine don’t write to advice columnists.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. Nobody writes to to say “I work in a lovely non-profit organisation with amazing colleagues, great pay and conditions and they serve us champagne every day at 6pm.” People write in with problems so we tend to see only those people with a work problem.

        I think definitely size has more to do with whether an organisation is dysfunctional. In a small company or charity it’s a lot easier to get away with dysfunction, weird rules and quirks because there tend to be fewer formalised rules and processes for doing things. By and large once an organisation or company hits a certain size it needs to have and obey more rules. The most dysfunctional place I ever worked was a Saturday job as a teenager in a small shop with 2 employees, because the 2 owners were so peculiar and awful.

        1. londonedit*

          I agree. In my twenties I was adamant I didn’t want to work for ‘big, corporate’ companies because my impression was that there would be loads of boring rules and red tape, less autonomy and things would generally be less fun. Then I discovered through bitter experience that actually, having some rules and processes in place was a good thing, and far too many small companies are totally dysfunctional. It might have looked like I had a ton of autonomy, but what it really meant was that I was out on my own, and while it was great fun to have the boss telling everyone to bunk off at 1pm and go to the pub, that wasn’t really adequate compensation for all the other craziness.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I currently work for a non-profit that is wonderfully functional, well compensated, and has amazing management. I’m going to cry when this grant project is finally up and I will have trained our community partners to the point that my job as a technical consultant is no longer needed on a full time basis. My boss is literally the best boss I have had in 20+ years in the workforce and if she leaves any of the folks who take over will be good. In this job, AAM will never get a letter from me

        3. Marion Ravenwood*

          Agreed. I’ve spent most of my career in non-profits in the UK, and the most dysfunctional one by far was the one with less than 10 employees. The others had a headcount at least ten times that and ran much more smoothly.

    2. Karl Havoc*

      I work at a nonprofit and cannot imagine how it could possibly be a better workplace. More generous benefits than my previous BigLaw job, extremely talented and dependable colleagues, and an incredible culture. So sure, rule out nonprofits if you want, but that may well be your loss.

      (I also would bet good money that a majority of the posts about dysfunctional workplaces on this site involve for-profit companies, but that’s more often seen as a sort of default rather than a salient detail worth mentioning.)

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        (I also would bet good money that a majority of the posts about dysfunctional workplaces on this site involve for-profit companies, but that’s more often seen as a sort of default rather than a salient detail worth mentioning.)

        Yes, this^. People don’t generally say “I work for a for-profit company and our CEO does [something horrendous.]” So of course you would notice when someone mentions that they work for a non-profit because it’s explicitly written out, but not necessarily that someone works for a for-profit company. I would be pleased beyond belief if someone were to tally how many posts mention non-profit and how many don’t say and see what the numbers actually are, but I suspect this would be a ton of work. But it would be fascinating to find out.

        1. MsM*

          If there does turn out to be some kind of bias, I also wouldn’t be surprised if that’s at least in part because this site *does* make a point of addressing non-profit issues, where a lot of other career advice resources just seem to assume that you’re gunning for a Fortune 500 VP spot at some point.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      This is simply untrue. There are letters here from all manner of challenging workplaces–K-12 school systems, higher education institutions, companies large and small, government, and nonprofits, the full gamut. I’ve worked in nonprofits for decades and it’s been a really positive experience.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Thank you for reminding me that it’s been far too long since I visited Vu’s page! I love him.

    4. Forrest*

      One of the reasons why non-profits tend to dysfunction is because a lot of people are very motivated to work in them, and they don’t have difficulty attracting applicants despite low wages and dysfunction (see also: academia, media/TV, museums/galleries, theatre/arts.) So I think it’s good if you don’t want to! Organisations and sectors are generally only motivated to get their acts together when they find they can’t recruit unless they improve.

    5. mreasy*

      I’ve worked at for-profit companies whose practices would make your hair curl. This is not at all a rule for non-profits.

    6. MsSolo UK*

      I mean, by the same logic, I’ve learned from here that you should never work in academia, never work for a family owned business, never work for the government, never freelance, and whatever you do, never, ever work for a large profit-driven company.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yup, never work. Just be independently wealthy or live in the woods. Much simpler that way.

        1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

          in my next life I would like to be a housecat.

          Almost every job I’ve ever held has been in non-profits, education, and state/local government. Pretty much all of those organizations had some level of dysfunction. But I’ve also worked at a corporate chain restaurant (extremely dysfunctional), a mid-size hospitality corporation (quite dysfunctional), and a tiny family-owned hotel (probably the most dysfunctional workplace of my career). I also need to care in some way about my organization’s mission to be satisfied and motivated in my work, and it’s not in me to care much if the primary goal is to make someone richer.

          Mission-driven organizations, in my experience, do tend to exploit their employees’ devotion to justify things like infrequent raises or poor work-life balance, but it hasn’t been my experience that I’ve been better-treated in for-profit companies.

          Sorry, I’m tired and cynical today. My cats are adorable and well-provided for, though, and that’s what really matters.

        2. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          Have to say, “mysterious hermit in the woods” looks like a really good career move some days.

    7. Allornone*

      My professional career has been entirely with non-profits (minus retail jobs in the beginning) and yes, some are wildly dysfunctional in ways that probably wouldn’t transfer over to the corporate sector. But some are incredible. I’m fortunate that the one I’m working on is amazing- great mission, dedicated staff, inspiring leadership. When things come together, working for a non-profit can be an unbelievably rewarding thing. At the end of the day, you know that you are working for more than yourself, and the work you contribute toward makes the world a bit better. I don’t ever plan on moving to the corporate world.

    8. Smithy*

      I’m another nonprofit lifer, and while I’m not going to pretend every place has been amazing for who I am, the kinds of dysfunction I have encountered I’m better at managing.

      If nothing else, I do think that being being aware of how you are motivated and personally driven is important in the nonprofit sector. First, on the monetary compensation piece – if things like bonuses and commission strongly drive you, that is far less common in this sector. Not that it necessarily means making no money, but as someone who’s in fundraising, whenever someone asks me why I don’t make commission – it’s just clear that some of our motivations are different and that’s fine.

      But more so than that, knowing how you’re driven makes it easier to spot red flags. A lot of people really love working in the nonprofit sector because they’re often more generous with PTO/sick days. So it may be great to hear that in the US you’re getting 25 days of PTO plus sick days to start. But it’s also worth asking if anyone ever takes more than 5 work days straight of PTO….or those are days people endlessly bank or are rather encouraged to take a lot of stray days off in the final quarter of the fiscal year because days are use it or lose it.

      Similarly, lots of time large nonprofits are associated as being stable while smaller nonprofits get viewed as being more chaotic. While there are other markers of this, at a large nonprofit – it’s really worth poking around to see what their growth plans are. Because a large and old nonprofit looking to grow by hundreds of millions of dollars in a few years (for whatever reason) – has a really high chance of being chaotic. Nonprofits certainly have their own flavor in how all of this plays out, but a lot of these issues come down fairly mundane management pieces that you’ll find across many workplaces.

    9. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      The non-profit I volunteer at has just one employee (and about 350 volunteers), and that person is given a pay rise every year, has had the opportunity to WFH since she was first hired, is allowed to work part-time to accommodate her family’s needs even though we’d rather she worked full-time (because she’s more efficient than the volunteers who help her), and she has stayed with us for absolutely ages, so she must be happy to work for us.

  5. The teapots are on fire*

    OP#1, I was discussing your question with my significant other and he wondered how easy all the guides are to find. Obviously, the one you handed to someone right after teaching them a process should have been pretty darn easy to locate, but are the other ones in an obvious place, or searchable?

    This is not to say you should go to the trouble of creating a marvelous index if your local culture is that nobody looks anything up, ever, but it’s one more possible explanation for why people don’t read instructions.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, I mentioned above that LW should feel free to respond to these questions with a variant of “this is in the instructions, did you have trouble finding/understanding it?” Both for practical reasons, but also to signal that they’re not unwilling to help, they just don’t want to recite the instructions they already wrote down.

      1. The teapots are on fire*

        Agreed. I think your comment posted while I was typing mine, and had I waited I could have saved my keyboard some wear and tear. I definitely agree that kindly asking people what they saw in the documentation may be worth doing in at least some cases. Some people will never catch on or have a strong desire to have a person keep them company, and that’s a tougher problem.

  6. Cotton candy*

    No advice for OP2 as I’m in the same boat here. I put together extensive documentation before I left my last job, so that they could refer to it if they had questions and I wasn’t around. I also conducted (many) training sessions in which I went through the processes and the documentation. Now I hear one of my ex-colleagues saying that I didn’t train them properly :/

    1. Aggretsuko*

      People DON’T LIKE TO READ and would rather demand that a human speak to them for the simplest of shit. Or so I have learned from our call center clientele who literally can’t google “how do I sign up for X.”

      1. Fran Fine*

        This. You are absolutely correct that people don’t want to read. Something we’re now doing for our internal stakeholders is recording processes as how-to videos because our colleagues will watch those before they ever look through a written guide (even if that guide’s only a couple pages long). OP, you may need to change the delivery method of your training materials to one that’s more portable and can be listened to while people work.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          This always amazes me because I much, much, much prefer written instructions and hate video. I want to be able to skim, skip, go faster or slower, read one sentence four times, etc. So much more convenient in written form. Trying to skip to the relevant parts in a video drives me batty (for the love of all that is holy, please at least make some kind of index for your video, people!).

          I get that preferences (and abilities) differ, so a mix of delivery methods is probably best, but I won’t watch video if I can avoid it.

          1. Destroyer of Typos*

            I’m the same way!! I vastly prefer written instructions over video. Just today one of my new coworkers, who is also new to their position, was asking if I had recordings of my training sessions with the person I’m replacing. Uh, nope! I 100% will never rewatch videos of Teams meetings I sat thru when I can write something up that I can reference, search, and edit as needed. Plus, the tasks we are doing are so complex it would take hours of prep and scripting to make sure you do all of it in the right order so that your video is actually useful. I can’t tell you how many times training sessions go “oh wait, we need to do x first, go back to the other screen…” and make a video rewatch all kinds of horrendous.

            I get that people learn differently, but… it’s impossible for me to remember everything I was shown once, and I think it’s rude to ask someone to show you something every time you need to accomplish a task, so, that’s what reference documents are for after a reasonable training period.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Ah, yes, forgot searchability! Ctrl+F is my best friend, and I can’t apply it to video.

            2. The Prettiest Curse*

              I agree that some people definitely learn better if they see something demonstrated – this is my preferred learning mode, but I also like to search for stuff and try to work it out on my own. But the problem with videos is that video production and editing is hugely time-consuming, even if you’re only doing it on a phone. So unless it’s specifically going to be a part of someone’s job description, it’s just going to be a lot quicker for anyone in OP 2’s position to create written guides with screenshots. And if things change in the software, it’s also a lot quicker and easier to switch out a screenshot in a Word document than re-record and re-edit a video.

              I had to train a few people on fiddly procedures in past jobs. They would get one webinar training with screen sharing, then I’d send them the written guide. If they had questions about something in the guide, I would refer them back to it, if it was a question that wasn’t in the guide, I’d talk them through it. This seemed to work fine.

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, me too. It’s possible that it’s at least partly generational, in that the average reading skills for each educational level are going down. Granted, there have always been poor readers, but previous generations didn’t graduate high school with as poor reading skills as people today do, when it was still possible to get a job without a high school diploma or tertiary education.

            I’m a fast reader too. For me, visual media = entertainment with no expectation of retaining any information. I begrudge the time I waste in listening to presentations/training videos when I could read through the same material in half the time or less, and retain more than I do when I hear it.

          3. ceiswyn*

            I got a smart meter recently for my central heating, and it came with installation ‘instructions’ via a YouTube video and an app that gave you one step at a time.
            First thing I do with any instructions is skim them to see how long and involved the process is and whether I understand all the steps. I contemplated the possibility of getting stuck halfway through with wires poking out of the wall, then noped out and booked a professional to come and fit the thing for me.

          4. Fran Fine*

            I get that preferences (and abilities) differ, so a mix of delivery methods is probably best, but I won’t watch video if I can avoid it.

            I’m the same way. My coworkers, unfortunately, are not, lol. We still provide the written materials, but really only as a supplement for those of us who actually like to read to find answers (and I’m heartened that our end users still want us to provide them with written documentation first so they don’t have to call and ask for help on how to use or fix a problem in our software, though they appreciate video as a supplement).

          5. Caramel & Cheddar*

            I don’t like watchng videos either, but I think that’s partially because people are bad at making them. I make videos for work now, but have taken the Microsoft approach of not making them more than 2 minutes long each and they’re very targeted to teaching a specific thing so that people don’t have to fast forward 15 minutes to get to the thing they want.

            Cutting stuff down to 2 minutes really does take a certain kind of skill through. People think making training videos means “a recording of me doing something” but you really need to sit down, write an outline / script, be prepared to go more slowly on key steps, and essentially whittle things down to their most basic elements without a lot of fluff.

            1. ecnaseener*

              Hahaha tbh two minutes is still agonizingly long to sit through, especially if the player doesn’t let me put it on double speed. (That may be mostly the ADHD though.) If you’re able to publish transcripts, your non-video-oriented learners will thank you :)

              1. Caramel & Cheddar*

                The place where the videos get stored has an automatic transcription, and every video comes with written documentation as well. There is no shortage of options!

                Two minutes might feel like a lot, but I’m comparing this to other training videos I’ve had to sit through that are an hour or more. (I’m also ADHD, I get it!) No one is ever going to do that, but they’re far more likely to think “I can spare two minutes to watch this video on this specific task.”

          6. nightengale*

            yes I cannot learn from a video at all

            I am a pretty decent home cook. I learned to cook by having the cookbook open and following steps. I could read a step, read it again, check ahead to what the next step will be, and then follow it. The instructions stand still until I am ready for them. I enjoy watching people cook on TV but I would never actually be able to use a TV episode or video to make a food.

            I learned my early computing as a kid, teen and younger adult with manuals. I would often read some of the manual just as a book, but also sit with the manual open and the computer, doing a step, looking at the manual, doing a step.

            Now everything is training videos and I am much less comfortable doing anything. Or they train me in person/virtually without written notes and get angry if I stop to write down what they are telling me. Yes, they are walking me through it the first time. But I am going to need the written directions to follow the second time, third time, eighth time, until it is automatic. If it’s something I only do once a month, it may never be automatic.

            1. Sloanicota*

              “If it’s something I only do once a month, it may never be automatic” – I think this is key too. If I have to do a process every week, I will learn how to do it without using a manual eventually. If I have to do something less than once a month,I will use the manual to help me or make my own notes on it that make sense to me or whatever. If it’s less than once a quarter, I’m not going to remember where the manual is and every time it will be like a brand new task, so there needs to be very clear simple instructions for that specific thing (not pp 95 in a PDF on a shared drive you have to log in to access with a password you don’t usually use)

          7. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

            Right there with you, Emmy.
            My version of hell is a “help” page full of youtube links.

        2. Asenath*

          That really baffles me! Like some of the other commenters, I infinitely prefer text to videos for instructions. I feel that about learning other things too. I’m taking uses videos as teaching resources (in addition, of course, to entire classes being on Zoom or an equivalent, which doesn’t bother me). I just assume that this is the method many people like. I’ve speculated that maybe it’s an age thing, since I’m older than a lot of students, and in my formative years learned via text, or maybe a personal thing, because I love reading, and read fast and well. And I sigh, and if the video contains information I’m going to have to refer back to or go over a couple of times, I run it through transcription software and edit it to get the worst errors out.

          I watch videos and listen to audio books for entertainment. But if there’s information I want to review or find again, I want text.

          1. Asenath*

            And I’m clearly not writing very well! I’m taking a class that uses videos as teaching resources, not “taking uses”.

          2. Fran Fine*

            I don’t think it’s an age thing since my company skews much older and they just…won’t read. Not emails, not instructions (and many of them are engineers and scientists!), not internal policies – nothing. It can be extremely frustrating dealing with this.

            1. All the words*

              In a previous position I had to contact loan originators to get documentation corrected before my employer could buy the loan. My requests were thorough, explicit and brief.

              I can’t tell you how often a lender would call and need me to verbally deliver the written request I’d just sent. Was their reading comprehension low or did they simply didn’t like reading? Does it matter? I was later the department trainer (who wrote the manuals) so I’m pretty confident my communication style wasn’t the issue.

              People just process things differently. Manuals were used heavily during the initial training process to emphasize that the info was at their fingertips. Some people always used them as their go to source for answers later, others needed information repeated verbally. Go ahead and keep pushing the manuals, but also get comfortable knowing that some people are going to need the information in a different format.

          3. ecnaseener*

            More likely to be a personal thing than an age thing. I’m 25 and very strongly prefer written instructions.

        3. Lucy P*

          I think I must be the weird one that prefers the manual (digital of course, so that I can do a text search). I hate videos because I usually know steps A, B & C. I just need to know how to do D and don’t want to sit through a video to figure it out, unless the video is clever enough to show timestamps (like a video table of contents) at the beginning of the video. That way, if I know step D starts at 1:38 in the video, I can just fast forward to that spot.

          1. pancakes*

            Not weird at all. There are lots and lots of us. I think public perception around this is still really skewed by the misrepresentations—to put it politely—made by Facebook that were the rationale for so many newspapers, magazines, and other sites to “pivot to video” a few years back. By all accounts the company inflated the viewing metrics it gave advertisers and publishers. Its own estimate was that it overstated them by 60 to 80%; the lawsuits claim it was more like “between 150 to 900 percent.”

      2. Jackalope*

        I hear you, and have had similar issues providing customer support. On the other hand, I’ve also gotten burned by trying to look up instructions online. For example, I’ve tried to look things up for my iPhone online but frequently the instructions say something like, “Go to ‘Keyboards’ and select ‘text replacement’.” The problem is that they don’t tell you that you need to go to Settings and then General and THEN Keyboards. Once I get to the menu that says Keyboard I’m probably good, actually; I just needed to find where that menu was, so they left out the one piece of info I actually needed. That’s a small example but I’ve seen it happen a lot; online instructors often leave out steps that they forget about because they consider them too basic. (And let’s not get into them forgetting that there are, say, multiple iPhones with many differing menus and options so they need to specify which iPhone the instruction is for so I can tell if it’s even going to work.) So if I can’t figure it out fairly quickly I might decide it’s worth my while to contact someone who actually knows.

        (I feel like this might be the time to share the story of the day I tried to install a doorknob. I didn’t know what I was doing, and it turned out that the problem was that the door didn’t line up quite right with the hole in the frame so it wasn’t actually possible to install the doorknob so it would shut and latch, but I didn’t realize that at first. The doorknob came with generic directions complete with a bunch of technical names for different parts of a doorknob, which I mostly didn’t know, like what’s the difference between a strike plate and a face plate? What’s a rose when talking about a doorknob part? It had drawings which were all for a different doorknob than the one in the package; someone had decided that the generic picture was close enough that it would work for both, but other than the screws there were literally no parts that looked the same between the drawings and the pieces I actually had. I worked on that doorknob for 45 minutes, cursing those instructions the whole time.)

        1. Sloanicota*

          I find phone stuff is the WORST for manuals because relatively minor changes in the interface mean that the settings tab has different categories now or whatever – it only takes one time reading “double click on the X tab” when there is no X tab to toss up your hands in despair and give up. The internet is pretty bad for this because nothing ever gets deleted so it’s often hard to know if you’re looking at the latest version of instructions anyway.

        2. not owen wilson*

          So interesting — this must be generational. I’m 23 and it would be clear to me that you need to open settings first, to the point of not needing to be said. If you need to change a setting on your phone keyboard, where would that be besides settings? From there I would just search text replacement in my settings app to jump to the right screen. Genuine question, is this not obvious to other people? I have ADHD, so I already know my experiences aren’t universal LOL. But it doesn’t seem like an error with the manual if they assume you know to open settings to change a setting on your phone — that just seems like they’re assuming a base familiarity with a product and basic internet troubleshooting!

          1. pancakes*

            I think a lot of people simply do not poke around in their settings because they’re afraid they’ll break something.

          2. Fran Fine*

            But that’s the thing – technical writers are trained to NOT assume end users have a base familiarity with a product or know how to do basic internet troubleshooting because many people don’t.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Although for some technical manuals, I find it is worth taking the attitude of ‘if the reader doesn’t have this level of tech/product savvy, they shouldn’t be touching this part of the product’.

      3. Jackalope*

        I hear you, and have had similar issues providing customer support. On the other hand, I’ve also gotten burned by trying to look up instructions online. For example, I’ve tried to look things up for my iPhone online but frequently the instructions say something like, “Go to ‘Keyboards’ and select ‘text replacement’.” The problem is that they don’t tell you that you need to go to Settings and then General and THEN Keyboards. Once I get to the menu that says Keyboard I’m probably good, actually; I just needed to find where that menu was, so they left out the one piece of info I actually needed. That’s a small example but I’ve seen it happen a lot; online instructors often leave out steps that they forget about because they consider them too basic. (And let’s not get into them forgetting that there are, say, multiple iPhones with many differing menus and options so they need to specify which iPhone the instruction is for so I can tell if it’s even going to work.) So if I can’t figure it out fairly quickly I might decide it’s worth my while to contact someone who actually knows.

        (I feel like this might be the time to share the story of the day I tried to install a doorknob. I didn’t know what I was doing, and it turned out that the problem was that the door didn’t line up quite right with the hole in the frame so it wasn’t actually possible to install the doorknob so it would shut and latch, but I didn’t realize that at first. The doorknob came with generic directions complete with a bunch of technical names for different parts of a doorknob, which I mostly didn’t know, like what’s the difference between a strike plate and a face plate? What’s a rose when talking about a doorknob part? It had drawings which were all for a different doorknob than the one in the package; someone had decided that the generic picture was close enough that it would work for both, but other than the screws there were literally no parts that looked the same between the drawings and the pieces I actually had. I worked on that doorknob for 45 minutes, cursing those instructions the whole time.) I try to keep that in mind when talking to people who are asking questions that I consider extremely basic.

        1. Your local password resetter*

          And then you get interface updates, so the Keyboards button is now renamed, put under a different tab, has its functions folded into a different menu, or just had its icon changed and moved across the screen.

          Official documents tend to be updated, but for anything else you have to figure out the designers leaps of logic like its an adventure game for office requisition forms.

        2. ecnaseener*

          So, with online instructions you’re likely to find procedurally-generated gobbledygook as your first google results anyway. Look for the forums instead.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            ah the forums! I love them, the explanations are always that much easier to get to grips with!

      4. LikesToSwear*

        At my first job in pension benefits, I’d get calls from participants asking about the letter they received. I’d ask which letter they were referring to, they would read it to me and then say something like “oh, so [whatever the letter said], I guess I should have read it before calling”.

        Yes, yes you should have.

        1. Asenath*

          OK, you have solved a problem for me! This morning I got a notice to pick up an email on a certain government site, so of course I did so, and stared at it baffled. It stated, in its entirety, that an issue had been settled. Only problem was that I had two outstanding issues, I didn’t know which was meant, and their helpful call centre is in a time zone on the opposite end of the country, so it won’t open for hours. After reading your post I thought “There has GOT to be something in that document to indicate which issue they’re writing about. The only possibility was their reference number – which indeed proved to be the same as the number on the previous correspondence concerning one of the issues.

          Thank you!

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah, thing is you’re a human not a robot, so you don’t look at the string of letters and numbers, you look at the human language. So don’t beat yourself up too much over it!

        2. RolandTheHeadlessThompsonGunner*

          Oh man this happened all the time with clients when I was a legal assistant.

          It drove me absolutely nuts, especially since it was always the interaction, with the same clients, every single time we sent out a communication.

      5. John Smith*

        So true. I designed a database for my job with a shed load of prompts, guides etc that pop up on screen (e.g, “Press button X to check results now or button Y to continue tests. See [Hyperlink to relevant section of user guide] for more details”). And still people come up to me “It says to press button X or Y, what do I do?”. I sometimes wonder how my colleagues manage to use a toilet.

        1. Alice*

          Pfff, try working in social media marketing.
          Post: Sale, 30% off all teapots, only for today 3/24!
          Comments: When’s the sale? What are you selling? What’s the discount? When’s the sale?
          (I did not work in SMM but did I have sympathy for my coworkers who did…)

          1. londonedit*

            I would have no patience for this. I cringe every time I see someone post ‘Follow the link in my bio!’ and the first six comments are ‘Where is the link? How can we find this?’ and even when they say ‘The link to the recipe is in my bio!’ people still say ‘What does that mean? Where is the link??’ Nigella Lawson has the patience of a saint and posts a whole paragraph on every one of her Instagram posts saying something like ‘The link to this is in my bio; what I mean by that is you should click on my name and that will take you through to a page where you will see a link to all my Instagram recipes. Please be patient as it can take a little while for each recipe to appear’.

            1. Forrest*

              On the other hand, I think the iOS Instagram app is TERRIBLE at this, and despite using instagram pretty much every day it still takes me two or three tries to figure out the right combination of clicks to get to someone’s bio from Reels, Stories or my timeline.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Yeah to be fair, this is an interface issue with IG – people are used to being able to find links in the post that mentions them, not going somewhere else to find them.

                1. Alice*

                  I think the difference is between people who genuinely don’t know where to click and can’t find the information, and people who see the words “click the username” and go off looking for a human who will tell them where to click. The former I understand, the latter drives me up the wall.

      6. Khatul Madame*

        For once, this generalization is true!
        Very frustrating in the case of bosses or clients. You sweat creating THE BEST slides and reports, yet when you meet to discuss your work, you end up reciting your slides or executive summary, because they did not read it. So instead of thoughtful feedback you get superficial, in-the-moment reactions.
        With co-workers you can at least direct them back to RTFM. You can’t tell your boss or client to go read your deliverable because the answer to their question is right there on page 1.

      7. Gracely*

        This this this.

        I have a coworker who, upon my recommendation that she use Google/our institution’s website to find her answer (this happened on a more-than-daily-basis for awhile, and it was always for things like “how to add a picture to a Word doc” or “Do you know the number for X department?”) actually said one time “Oh, Gracely, you just always think of using the internet first, don’t you?”

        I was mentally screaming, because this is a person who supposedly helps our students do research. OF COURSE YOU SHOULD USE THE INTERNET TO FIND THE ANSWERS TO EASY QUESTIONS, WTF.

        Same person never wants to use the super organized notebook of workflow documentation I created for my job. She always wants me to “just show her” or “just tell her.” The craziest thing is that she’s actually good at creating documentation for her own workflows, but god forbid she have to use anyone else’s.

      8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I’m definitely guilty of wanting to have my hand held as I’m walked through a process. It stems from a lack of confidence in IT skills, and from having to try to use too much opaque software. You want the IT guy to be right there when it goes wrong, so you don’t have to explain the whole thing.

        (Like, I had to test some software once and when it crashed, the message it popped up was not relevant at all. I showed the software developer who laughed and said oh yeah, it’s actually X problem not Y and to click on Y not X. I asked why he didn’t put up the message saying “this is a Y problem, click on Y to remedy” and he laughed again. Then I said “you don’t put the right message up because you just don’t like people enough to make the software easy to understand, right” and he laughed gleefully at me hitting the nail right on the head.)

        And there’s also the phenomenon that when you do it by yourself, it crashes, then when you ask the IT guy to look, you do the exact same thing and it damn well works fine.
        I sometimes ask my partner (who’s in IT) to stay right next to me while I do something tricky simply because of this. I tell him I need his computer-friendly vibe for it to work. And it does, so…

  7. Hosta*

    I put together extensive, illustrated guides for my coworkers on how to do some relatively basic tasks (admitting, transferring and discharging patients). They STILL call me at HOME on my precious, precious days off to ask me how to do things on a computer system I definitely have no access to at home.

    Sometimes I wish I could staple these things to their clothes.

    1. Sc@rlettNZ*

      I’d suggest screening your calls on your days off and just not answering (from a fellow person who has prepared extensive how-to guides which are ignored).

      1. WellRed*

        Yes to this. I would never dream if calling someone on their day off, let alone to ask a question I could find the answer to.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Maybe get one of those voicemail handling apps that lets you set different greetings for different callers, and record a greeting for your coworkers that just says “It’s my day off. The guides are in X folder.”

    2. Dancing Otter*

      Maybe post them above the telephone, so your coworkers are standing right in front of the instructions as they dial your number.
      I *may* have gone around after hours and taped cheat sheets to the wall over my coworkers’ computers in the past.

    3. Beth*

      I’m remembering a workplace where one of my colleagues would occasionally wish she could staple important documents to people’s faces.

      1. Beth*

        * I should mention that she also occasionally expressed a wish to staple items to her own face (such as something she had forgotten to take home the day before). It was a joke, not a threat.

  8. Unfettered scientist*

    For #2, I’m also someone who ends up making documentation. A big caveat to whether it’s useful: is it up to date? My current job has processes that are changing a little all the time. We’re all pretty conscientious but still, the documentation basically always has some small flaws in it. Stuff that once you’re in the job, you figure out all the edge cases but when you’re learning that stuff is hard to figure out and can steer people away from documentation.

    Another thing… is there TOO MUCH documentation? We have like 5 different sources for stuff at my work and that is pretty overwhelming. If you have a bunch of guides that aren’t clearly labeled (or processes that aren’t cut and paste), that can also make documentation difficult.

    1. Fran Fine*

      + 1 to your last paragraph. It sounds like OP may need to conduct a content audit to determine how helpful these training materials actually are and what can be retired and what can be revised/shortened for better ease of use.

    2. John Smith*

      I’d have to assume that everything is OK, otherwise I think people would say “I’ve tried looking this up but it’s out of date/doesn’t work” or whatever. My IT dept has online instructions which are terribly presented and, when followed, often lead to nowhere. The first response I get to a call to IT is “there’s a guide that tells you how to do this”. Yeah I know, I tried following it but it shows options that don’t exist / misses out a few steps etc.

      The best guides are simple, non-wordy bullet points or/and a video showing the steps with a no nonsense voice direction (no background music, graphics etc)

      1. ecnaseener*

        Agreed. It sounds like no one is even trying to look in LW’s guidance, let alone finding outdated info – if LW is open to questions ABOUT the guidance, they’ll hear about problems people encounter.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah but everyone loathes it when people say “check the guidance, use the guidance first” and the guidance is hard to find / hard to use / hard to access / has been wrong before. Nobody wants to spend all day trying to find a simple answer because the person who designed the system doesn’t like to answer questions.

      2. RolandTheHeadlessThompsonGunner*

        There might not be a problem with OP’s documentation, but it may well be a broader issue with their organization.

        At my org, documentation-aversion is a learned behavior, because most of it is hard to find and difficult to use.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes to all of this. I both love and loathe documentation for all the reasons mentioned here. I am the type of person who wants to look something up myself and then go to an expert with any lingering questions, so I really like having it. That said, it’s a pain to keep up, and finding someone who actually creates good documentation is rarer than one might think. (I have someone who’s excellent at it, and I try to keep her very happy.)

      I have also found that creating too much and too detailed step-by-step documentation can also stifle problem-solving skills or lead people to just do things by rote rather than thinking about what they’re doing. This is fine for some jobs, but it’s not for the ones that my team does. I fight a constant battle with people who don’t understand why we don’t have a guide for everything – I got chastised recently for not having a list of all the post offices/mailing centers closest to our office (which would be a waste of time to create and maintain as that information is readily available online and and is updated as hours/locations change!). There are also times that someone documents their own process, which is not always the best way to do something, so we end up with people trained to do something in an inefficient or risk-prone manner.

  9. Sabine the Very Mean*

    I can’t tell you how much pleasure I’d take at giving the COO absolutely nothing by way of a response. Just a good morning and on with my day like blubbering at work is not bonkers. No attention at all to the crying. Just breeze on by like he’s anyone else.

    1. Fran Fine*

      I’m not gonna lie – I think I’d bust out laughing if I saw my COO crying every day because people were back in the office (if I worked in an office, that is). It’s just utterly ridiculous behavior and I’d assume it was a joke.

    2. Rae*

      “blubbering at work”

      I have a problem with this assessment and Allison’s original response, getting some toxic masculinity vibes here. Would daily tears be perceived differently if the COO were female? I think so.

      I have been lucky to maintain relationships throughout the pandemic that included regular in-person social/physical contact. Some people, like my sister and other high-risk relatives, have not. As the world opens back up, more than one of their emotions have been ALL over the place. We are in a global pandemic, grace isn’t too much to ask.

      1. MsM*

        I dunno, if Allison’s right about the performative angle, I think it’d be similarly off-putting.

        1. Jean*

          It definitely sounds performative to me. And exhausting. WE GET IT ALREADY, YOU FREAK – you’re ecstatic that you don’t have to keep pretending to give a crap about a global public health crisis. Give it a rest.

      2. Popinki*

        Well, yes, of course it’d be different for a woman. A female executive who had daily public bouts of crocodile tears at work would be pegged as an overemotional mess using tears to manipulate people into doing what she wants and who never would have gotten the job if her superiors hadn’t felt sorry for her.

        Given the OP’s statement that the COO wasn’t an emotional guy before, the fact that it happens daily, and the anti-mask angle, I don’t think it’s honest emotion either.

      3. Kim*

        yes, *daily* tears would also be considered as off-putting if the COO were a woman, because it’s weird to cry about that period the end.
        And then they would all talk about how she’s hormonal or something.

      4. Puffer Fish*

        Blubbering at work is always inappropriate regardless of gender. If the COO were female, I actually think the perception would be pretty much the same.

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Based on several years of discussions of crying at work on AAM, I think if anything the commentariat would come down harder on a female COO.

      5. Lacey*

        It’s not toxic masculinity to say that crying EVERY DAY over something pretty ordinary either indicates that something is possibly wrong in the person’s life or mental health or that they’re being manipulative.

        Two examples:
        Years ago I had a huge family crisis that was both horrible and something people wanted to keep private. I cried at work every day. And while I was able to discreetly slip off to the restroom to cry, there were also moments where I know coworkers could tell I was weirdly emotional about apparently nothing.

        And I would have told them, “I just hate how we’re handling X” (I’m not an overwhelmed by joy kinda person) it would not have been the reason I was so upset.

        On the other hand, for a while we had a college kid working for us who hated being wrong about anything. If you told her she needed to make a correction – tears. When you told her it was fine, never mind, all sunshine.
        Possibly something was wrong, but mostly I think she was just manipulating us into not correcting her work.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          On the other hand, for a while we had a college kid working for us who hated being wrong about anything. If you told her she needed to make a correction – tears. When you told her it was fine, never mind, all sunshine. Possibly something was wrong, but mostly I think she was just manipulating us into not correcting her work.

          Well, not necessarily. I used to cry a LOT when I was a teenager and in my 20s whenever someone would correct me, and it was not something I could control at all. While I probably was a bit upset about it (mostly at myself for doing something wrong), it’s not like it was THAT big of a deal in these situations. I would just burst into tears for absolutely the tiniest things and I HATED IT. There was nothing I could do about it either, just stand there and cry and try to act like I wasn’t crying. It was not manipulation on my part at ALL. I did figure out that not getting enough sleep definitely played into it so I tried to get more sleep (in a college/grad school culture where being sleep deprived was seen as a sign of strength, this was difficult) but even then I would still cry. Once I started anti-anxiety meds in my 30s I stopped crying at the drop of a hat and it was marvelous. So I guess my anxiety doesn’t really manifest itself in a way that one would think of as anxiety but rather in my crying for a not-very-good reason.

          This may or may not have been the case with your college student employee (you would know better than I), but I definitely do not believe this is the case with this COO, especially given that he wasn’t like this in the Beforetimes. It’s all very weird.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Oh, my gosh, are you my long lost twin? I was a much worse crier at the start of my career and it was MORTIFYING. I just could not stop it and, ugh, I feel tense just thinking about it.

            It wasn’t manipulative. It was the product of having a raging, undiagnosed anxiety disorder that had led to a lifetime of perfectionism reinforced by a mother who had unreasonably high standards and was more likely to criticize than to praise. It took me until nearly 30 to get a diagnosis, treatment, and in-the-moment CBT skills. I am recognizing a similar pathology in one of my kids and am working with them to get help now so it doesn’t dog them for years, and I’m certainly not amping up the problem by nitpicking them like my mom did.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I will also add that one of the ways I finally recognized and got help for this was a couple of wonderful professional mentors who helped me separate mistakes from personal worth and did a world of good for me in terms of making clear that mistakes were not world-ending and didn’t mean I was getting fired or no one would ever want to work with me again.

          2. Lacey*

            Yeah, that’s why I think it’s just possible that something else was going on. There’s a lot that makes me think she was being (mildly) manipulative, but I also can see that possibly all those things were symptoms of something else.

          3. Observer*

            Well, not necessarily. I used to cry a LOT when I was a teenager and in my 20s whenever someone would correct me, and it was not something I could control at all.

            That sounds rough. But it’s a decent example of how something not obvious is going on in the background.

            The bottom line is that SOMETHING is off. But whether the guy is being manipulative, really can’t help it or a mix of both (could be), it’s bizarre. It would be nice if someone with the standing to say something to him would tell him “This is just not OK. You need to figure out a way to get a grip.”

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I wish people wouldn’t systematically accuse people of crying to manipulate others. It’s not that easy, tons of professional actors need a little chemical help to cry on-screen to order. If there are tears rolling down their face, it’s far more likely to be that they can’t control their emotions enough.

      6. Alice*

        Personally I think that grace is too much to ask for someone who is not hiding his irritation for people who have continued to wear masks in the office. Because, as you said yourself, we are (still) in a global pandemic.

      7. Ask a Manager* Post author

        A female COO crying with delight every day at seeing people would be problematic in the exact same way (with an extra dose of problems, in fact, because of sexism surrounding women’s emotions).

      8. Observer*

        , getting some toxic masculinity vibes here. Would daily tears be perceived differently if the COO were female? I think so.

        That’s a WILD leap, and make it sound like you don’t much read what Alison actually says about things like crying at work. And it even sounds like you haven’t actually read the answer to this question either.

        Alison DOES point out that having AN emotional reaction is not so surprising. But DAILY crying? Sorry, that is NOT normal – not for men and not for women. I’m not going to diagnose and I don’t think that the OP should try to either, but it’s reasonable to think that it’s probably not a sign of the greatest emotional health or regulation.

      9. Jora Malli*

        As Alison said in her response, it wouldn’t be so off putting if it had happened *once* when staff first started coming back to the office. The first time I was back at an in person music program, I sat there with silent tears running down my face. After all we’ve been through these baby steps toward figuring out what normal is going to look like can be really emotional and overwhelming.

        But this is not a one time overwhelmed by big emotions type thing. This is daily, and it’s happening alongside comments about how people shouldn’t wear their masks anymore so the COO can see their faces. That feels performative and manipulative to me, and it would feel like that regardless of the COO’s gender.

      10. A Feast of Fools*

        When I read the headline, I thought the COO was a woman and I was just as equally weirded out. So. . .

      11. moonstone*

        That’s not what toxic masculinity means and no I don’t think it would be different, as others pointed out. Just refer to the archives for previous letters featuring women crying at work. One recent example that comes to mind is the whole Maggie Laura situation where Maggie’s managers would come into the LW’s office sobbing that Maggie was mean to them. It’s ridiculous and unprofessional.

    3. anonymous73*

      I have absolutely NO poker face and wouldn’t be able to hide my “eye roll” expression.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I also have no poker face, and to compensate for that, I have an *attempted* poker face that I’ve been told is just as obvious as if I had just made the original face. Picture Virginia’s “gossip face” from ‘Raising Hope’.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’d probably refer him to the EAP so he could get some help with the readjustment to work.

  10. Order of the Banana*

    Letter #2 has me screaming “VINDICAAAAAATION” (balloon arches anyone?) because I’m the same as OP 2. It will forever be a mystery to me why some people feel perfectly okay peppering their colleagues’ Slack channels with questions that could be found in existing documentation. It’s also extra poopy because the Venn diagram between people who ask these type of questions and people who don’t retain information seems to be a near perfect circle. It’s gotten to a point where I suspect some of my coworkers no longer pay attention to new information coming in because they assume that I’ll have it written down somewhere.

    A toast, to all the notetakers and information hoarders. I will take comfort in knowing that we are building our own digital library in the dusty corners of our Word docs.

    1. Hosta*

      Why would they retain the information? They’ve got you. They can just ask you.

      No, I’m not bitter, how could you think such a thing!

    2. Oirish*

      Lol. I’m known in my team for having info about everything along the lines of “If Oirish doesn’t know themselves they’ll know where/how to find it”. People always ask “how do you know all this?” as if it’s some amazing magic trick. I always want to yell “20 years people! 20 years of saving what i learn in “cloud library”, of Googleing for information when i need it, of coming across stuff and thinking “i don’t need that now but will likely need it in the future so I’ll save it”” etc.

    3. ceiswyn*

      My favourite was when I was hired for a new technical writing job a few years ago. When I as hired, they had a technical writing contractor who’d been there for about three months and got handover from their outgoing person, and also a manual of procedures.
      Approximately one week after I got there, the contractor was asking ME how to do all sorts of things. Everything he asked me was in the manual. As far as I was ever able to tell, he just noped out of ever looking at it because it was long and complicated.
      To be fair, it *was* long and complicated – which was why I looked things up as I needed them, and bookmarked particularly useful bits with post-it notes. I don’t think he ever twigged to how annoying it was that he kept interrupting me because he couldn’t be bothered to go to the most basic effort.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My boss hired two sales people at the same time, thinking he’d only keep the best one on after the trial period. One had a month’s notice to work at their previous job so she started a month later.
        On her second day, she was explaining stuff to the colleague who had been there for a month already.
        No prizes for guessing which one got to keep their job.

    4. anonymous73*

      There’s no mystery here. They do it because it’s easier and faster. They don’t care that interrupting their colleagues is a drain on said colleague. I’ve been there. My go to was “what does the documentation say?” When they realized I wasn’t just going to answer their question, they stopped coming to me.

      1. Spearmint*

        To be fair, it sometimes does make sense for people to skip documentation and go straight to asking a question. Sometimes it really is a choice between “spend 20 minutes finding the documentation’s and then searching through it for a solution” or “spend 5 minutes messaging a colleague”. Especially if the documentation is of the “info dump” variety.

        1. anonymous73*

          If it’s a true emergency that’s time sensitive, then an exception can be made. But taking up MY time because it takes YOU longer to figure something out is not okay.

    5. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I have 1000% been guilty of attaching the email where I first explained an answer to Bob’s question a month ago as the answer when Bob asks me the same exact question this month. “Hi Bob — see attached. Thanks!”

      I accept your balloon arch and your toast :)

      1. Gracely*

        Not gonna lie, as frustrating as it is to get a question like that, it’s IMMENSELY satisfying to use “see attached” to point out that they already had the info, they just never read it.

        And it’s much more professional than my first impulse, which would be an email with “bitch, can’t you read??”

    6. SarahKay*

      Toasting you with my sparkling water (still at work) from the UK.

      Although I do have one colleague who has a folder in his email program called “SarahKay’s emails” where he’s saved off all the emails I’ve sent out to the team with information, how-tos, hints etc, and he does (usually) check that folder first. It’s a start!

  11. What’s in a name?*

    LW#2: My organization loves to make guides like you describe. Some are useful, some are hard to follow despite step-by-step instructions and screenshots. Consider asking for feedback on your guides to make sure they are likely to be understood by users.

    1. MK*

      Yes, I agree. I get that sometimes people are just lazy, but a lot of the time these guides are just not as helpful as the people who created them (and frankly, the manager’s who push them to new employees) believe. Writing instructions, and teaching someone else to do what you can do perfectly, is actually a very difficult skill that is completely independent from how well you can perform the task.

      1. Fran Fine*

        It really is difficult. I’m a trained technical writer now, but before I went back to school and got that additional training, I occasionally made instructional guides at various workplaces and thought they were pretty good.

        Nope. I learned really quickly in my program that while my guides were “okay,” they definitely could be slightly confusing because I wasn’t necessarily breaking the steps down into easily digestible, and clearly delineated, sections. I was using entirely too many words (your instructions should NOT be a massive wall of text and your sentences should not be more than two lines; if they are, break them up into separate steps), the user flows didn’t always make sense, and I was assuming a baseline understanding when writing that a lot of my users just did not have.

        In my current job, I don’t need to write many instructional texts; however, I’ve had to follow how-to guides written by others to try and learn how to create content on our Sitecore pages and OMG, these instructions are a mess. The person who wrote them thinks they’re clear as day, but I can assure you, they’re not (and they haven’t been updated in years).

        Good technical writing is a skill. It’s hard, and you really should be soliciting feedback from end users as much as possible to ensure what you intended actually comes through on the page and makes sense.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Writing good instructions is a definitely a complex skill. One thing that’s very easy to overlook when you’re writing guides (and I’ve no doubt been guilty of this myself) is to make sure that names are consistent within and between different guides to help with searchability. If something is called Process for Grooming Cranky Llamas (PGCL) in Document A, don’t refer to is as Cranky Llama Grooming Procedure (CLGP) in Document B.

          1. Forrest*

            I’ve got a manager who keeps doing this at the moment. Meeting: “Has everyone seen the Process Review Guidelines that I sent out last week?” *me/ frantically searches Final Process Review Guidelines in my email” “I’m really sorry, I don’t think I have them?” *irritated voice* “OK, I’ll send them again.” PING! “System Overview Process Guide.docx” Right! Yes! I have seen that! But you called them something else!

          2. Asenath*

            I worked in a place that not only had what I thought was a ridiculous over-use of acronyms, but different departments used different acronyms (because of using different names) to refer to the same role/document/etc. The ones with “final” in the name really got to me. I’d get calls asking about the “Final” XYZ, and I’d say, puzzled, no, of course I haven’t got that yet, the person is question is working on the Midstage XYZ, only to be told that’s what they meant, it’s the final report for that stage they want, not the final report for the whole process…

        2. NNN222*

          I worked in a manufacturing department and was the one primarily responsible for writing or revising the work instructions for inspection of the products I worked on. I would write clear, step-by-step instructions but before I was allowed to implement them, the product manager was supposed to sign off on them. He’d add a bunch of superfluous language, wanting to account for every tiny possibility in the main instructions. They’d get released but they were now unusable as a document you could just hand someone and have them follow.

          Between him leaving and my boss moving to make manufacturing more independent from product management and engineering, I was allowed to change the documentation with less oversight. I had to go back and redo every document I had touched to take out all of the former product managers extra words and break things down from one step into anywhere from two to five separate steps. I also separated off the rare exceptions into an appendix. The former product manager had no sense of considering the audience for the document and anyone who didn’t understand how he wrote was obviously stupid in his mind.

      2. Staja*

        So true! My manager has had my team write up SOPs for every process we are responsible for (to the tune of 30+) documents.

        These are not updated as regularly as they should be, since we are always tweaking things and we rarely have the downtime needed to make needed updates.

        And, half the people on my team (including my manager) are just poor writers, so their documentation is clear as mud. I mean, mine is ok (and I updated all the previously written docs so they used consistent numbering and the same “voice”), but I’m not a technical writer, nor do I have a background in training & development.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes, 100%. My predecessor documented tons of stuff in INCREDIBLE detail but I don’t refer to it very often. Despite the detail much of it isn’t that useful, as the things that she felt needed to be explained are often not the things that I actually need. There’s pages of screenshots explaining things like “Click on the “Country” dropdown. [screenshot] Use your mouse wheel to scroll down the menu until you reach “United Kingdom”. [Screenshot] Click “United Kingdom”. [Screenshot] This will select “United Kingdom” as the country of your event. [Screenshot]”, while the sections for things that she seemed to find more intuitive are like “if you have a problem ask Gordon” (who is Gordon? No idea!)

        OP’s notes sound a lot better than what I’ve been left with but it is definitely possible for the notes to be less useful than the creator realises. And I think people feel awkward saying “I know you said the answer is in your notes but actually these are really hard to follow”, so if people are often looking at the notes and then asking someone other than OP, like in the example they gave, then I do wonder if that might be part of it.

        1. MK*

          Your last point is very true. Most often the person who wrote the documentation wasn’t paid extra, and it wasn’t part of their regular job duties; I am not going to tell someone who was assigned extra work by their manager, or volunteered their own time and effort, that the result isn’t actually helpful.

        2. Forrest*

          Ahahah, this is so familiar and so horrendous.

          I have a colleague whose team is tasked with producing documentation like this for a really awkward and clunky Microsoft Dynamics system, and whilst it’s not at the “use mouse wheel to scroll” stage, they are horribly, “Set country to United Kingdom” “Set year to 2022” “Set group to “Users” “Cancel “Non-users” “Tick Value=1 (note, if this is Value=0 it WILL NOT WORK)”. And it’s purely because the system is such badly designed arse, and you can’t make any of them defaults! But it makes the documentation awful to write and to read.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep. When I took over my department 10 years ago, I inherited some incredibly awful documentation. Of which I’m sure the person who created it was very proud and wondered why on earth no one used it. We did a full refresh of, quite literally, everything.

      I have also replaced most detailed guides with one-pagers that frame the process rather than the actual steps (unless the steps are so unintuitive that reasonable people can’t figure them out) so people learn to think about what they’re doing rather than blindly following a guide. I read The Checklist Manifesto as part of a professional book club years ago, and it’s probably the best management book I’ve read.

  12. Agnes A*

    #1 Reminded me of my former boss who hugged co-coworkers after returning from business trips. He travelled a lot. After a few times, I bluntly told him I don’t want a hug. He looked really stunned – I’m pretty sure he still thinks everyone misses him and enjoys being hugged at work.

    1. allathian*

      I only hug one coworker at my current job, and that’s because we’re work friends and not just coworkers. I’m at the friendly professional level with most other coworkers. He’s a hugger, but a respectful one in that he won’t just rush in and hug you without explicit consent, and if you don’t want a hug, he accepts that and doesn’t treat you any differently. It also helps that we’re peers.

      I’m sorry your former boss was so creepy!

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I hug one contact in another company we work very closely with because he’s a nice guy and smells nice so I enjoy it but I’d not hug anyone else at work who wasn’t a close personal friend. I mean I’m British, we don’t do that sort of thing (only half joking).

        When I meet people from our French counterpart company we air kiss in the vicinity of the cheek which I’m not wild about but which I can live with most of the time.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          British rules are you can only hug someone if they’ve made you a cup of tea more than twice.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            oh that’s a relief! never heard that but I feel like reclaiming my Brit roots again reading that.

      2. Lore*

        I went to a small drinks gathering for a coworker who was leaving last week. Some of us are back in the office part time but it was the first time my boss had seen any of us in person in 2+ years. There was a round of hugging when he left, but I was the only person there at that moment who reports to him, and we looked at each other like “Do we do this now?” It was very funny.

    2. anonymous73*

      I had someone at work hug me, who I was meeting for the first time. I don’t even remember what her role was and it caught me off guard so I didn’t say anything. But it was very bizarre.

    3. CarolynM*

      I don’t understand why someone I am meeting for the first time expects to press their body against mine – in general, but especially in a business setting.

      A few years ago my boss was introducing me to a guy who worked at another branch – I was really focusing on a project at the time and … the filter between my brain and mouth takes a break and disappears for a bit when I am focusing on a task. I stand up, slap a huge smile on my face and offer my hand for a shake and the guy says “Put that hand away! I’m a hugger!” and comes in for the hug. Yeah, my brain was back in my spreadsheet, my filter had disappeared to parts unknown – keeping my hand firmly in front of me, same bright smile and chipper tone of voice, without missing a beat I chirp “I’m not!”

      The guy looked shocked – it actually pissed me off within an inch of my life when the guy then turned to look at my boss (what – to see if my boss was going to make me hug him? to share a look that I was being a ridiculous feeeeeemale or something?) … only to see him shaking from laughter trying not to wet himself. Yeah – my boss agrees that “press your body against strangers” really doesn’t fall under “other duties” on my job description!

    4. A Feast of Fools*

      I was so excited to get my current job that I did the quick, side-hug thing with all of the people in my department.

      BUT. . .

      I knew all of them from previous jobs, industry events, business social circles, or school.

      And I promised them that I’d never hug them again.

      I’ve kept my promise. :-)

  13. Aggretsuko*

    I’m legitimately concerned about #1, as he sounds like all those people who DEMAND to see faces! Smiling faces! I never got so much “smile!” crap in my life pre-pandemic (yes, even as a female) than I get on “I need to see smiling faces!” on Zoom. If he’s pulling that IRL it sounds like he’s trying to pressure people to take their masks off and that would not fly with me.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Black sharpie marker and I may or may not have actually done this…

      2. UKDancer*

        I did this on one occasion. During the 2020 lockdown I used to walk to the butcher once per week for meat and he said he missed my smile because I was wearing a mask. So I drew a big smile on one of the masks I had and I always wear that one for that walk. He thought it was hilarious.

      3. londonedit*

        I was watching something on TV the other night and someone had a mask on that said ‘I’m smiling’. Brilliant.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        Make it look like the Joker’s smile. Do you want to know why I’m smiling? It’s because my boss cries when I don’t.

      5. Very Social*

        I have several masks with smiles on them. I think I get more comments about “smiling under that mask.”

    1. Lacey*

      Oh yes, I deal with that a lot. Mostly because I work in marketing and so there’s a lot of performative happiness anyway, but I’m not really that sort and I hate it.

    2. Jean*

      “I need to see smiling faces” is only acceptable from an elementary school teacher. And even then, it’s awfully close to the line.

      1. Elenna*

        “I need to see smiling faces” from a teacher just reminds me of Dolores Umbridge. Eww.

  14. SnarcasmQueen*

    LW2: I think you have to keep in mind that there are a number of learning styles. Some people cannot retain knowledge of it’s not relayed in the way they best learn. So reading materials even with screencaps may not be what certain people need.

    That being said, I think it’s reasonable, once you’ve written it to refer question askers back to the material you’ve previously shared. “Great question, trainee. Did you refer the materials I provided you? Please go to this section to refresh yourself. If you still have questions or would like me to be on hand while you work through the problem, let me know and we’ll discuss.”

    Also, if you’re going to resent compiling the information, than you can and should pull back and only do so upon request. You could ask for additional pay to acknowledge your work, especially if you’re getting no other appreciation.

    But I’d totally come up with a myriad of replies that roughly mean, “go back to the guides

    1. allathian*

      The theory of different learning styles has been largely debunked, except when there’s a learning or sensory disability involved. Someone with dyslexia would probably benefit from watching a video or listening to a recording of the material instead, or even a text-to-voice app.

      In my case, I’ll learn from a video if I absolutely have to, but I vastly prefer reading because it’s a more efficient use of my time. Using different means to cover the same material undoubtedly makes retaining information easier. It’s also easier for me to focus on reading than on listening or watching, because reading is the only thing that mutes my inner voice. I’m very easily distracted if I have to listen to an audio recording or watch a video.

      1. SophiaB*

        When you say debunked, do you mean to say that the idea that people can only ever learn in one way has been debunked? Because I definitely have ways that I prefer and find easy to learn, and ways that I really struggle with and will only do with no other option.

        1. misspiggy*

          Debunked as in not being able to replicate evidence of the four supposed learning styles.

          There is evidence that people have different preferences for learning, but not that it’s fixed for life, or significant unless one has a learning or sensory disability.

          There is a lot more that needs to be found out about how people process information.

          1. ecnaseener*

            So, the theory of The Four Learning Styles(tm) is debunked, but not the general idea that people have varying, uh, styles…of learning.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              The idea that people learn best in a particular medium because of some innate “learning style” has been debunked. Preferences are not the same. Just because you enjoy learning more in a particular way doesn’t mean that you will actually learn better (i.e., understand the material, remember it, be able to apply it).

          2. All the words*

            I think we can probably agree that people have strong preferences in the way they like to receive information. Telling someone that they don’t *need* information verbally instead of in written form because science says so really isn’t going to change their strong preference.

      2. Chained To The Cage*

        Yep! Learning styles are helpful in the fact people are usually pretty decent learners if they have 2 or more learning options available to them: visual and auditory, tactile and social, whatever combination etc. It’s also been shown that different styles work for people at different times. Maybe you can listen to a podcast while working out, but can’t listen to a professor while sitting in a lecture.

        As said elsewhere, preference is different.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah. My son reads for pleasure, and he’s an engineer so not stoopid, but when he wants to find out how to do something, he looks for a youtube video, even when he has the written instructions right there.

      3. RagingADHD*

        It’s work, not a lab experiment. The whole point of training employees is to make the training as effective as possible, in as time-efficient a manner as possible.

        It really doesn’t matter what science says about whether there are a certain number of styles, whether they’re innate, etc. What matters is that in the real world, providing a choice of formats gets the material across most efficiently and effectively to the greatest number of people.

    2. Koala dreams*

      Yes, there are definitely different learning styles. Some people prefer reading a written instruction, some prefer having a conversation, some prefer trying things on their own and see what happens.

      It’s also more useful to assume people have their reasons for their quirks, than to assume people are annoying for the sake of being annoying.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        And OP, with their own working style of getting stuck in and concentrating hard, is allowed to prefer not to have constant interruptions and point to the instructions she’s written.

  15. Angrytreespirit*

    LW5 – To describe my last interview process, six years ago. Fyi, this with was an organization I had worked with before and all panelists including my future boss KNEW ME.
    December – position announced, I submit application.
    January – zilch
    February – zilch
    March – zilch
    April – first interview
    May – second interview
    June – final interview
    July – offer letter
    Yes, I’m still here and still happy. But s*** moves like molasses.

    1. chamomile*

      Re: #5: Yes, angrytreespirit’s response is not so different from my workplace, and we are a fairly small org (110-ish employees). I’m chairing a hiring committee with almost angrytreespirit’s exact timeline right now. We DID interview our top-ranked candidates (2 rounds of interviews for finalists) in the first 2 months, but as those didn’t work out we are now moving on to the next round of candidates. And, I’ve hired someone who was in our last round to start (they had very little direct experience with the role), but this person ended up being fantastic at their job and still works with us years later. I feel so lucky that they were still available when we finally interviewed them!
      In another hiring committee at my employer, the committee was in disagreement about which candidate to hire, and so they ended up offering to someone who was not the most direct colleague’s top choice. But, as that didn’t work out, the direct colleague finally got our boss to offer to the candidate they preferred, and is really excited that candidate ended up accepting even though that candidate guessed that they were not the top choice. (They maybe do not even realize how relieved their new most-direct colleague is that everything turned out this way.)
      My point is: you just never know. And assume that if you do get an interview eventually, it’s because someone is/some people are excited about having you on the team.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      LW seems to be assuming that if they were going to hire her, it would have been a two-day slam dunk. She also seems to think that if she’s not the unquestioned first choice, it’s all a waste.

      Neither of those are true.

      Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to get everything together even for a unanimous first choice.

      Sometimes you are the silver medalist, and the other person is dragging their feet because this job is THEIR second choice.

      You’re not out of the running until you’re out of the running. If you want to drop out, fine, but that likely isn’t some huge relief for their hiring process.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Yeah, even if the LW ends up as the second choice, I can’t imagine a scenario where they pull out of the process and the hiring manager is thinking “I’m so relieved that LW realized we were struggling with making a decision, now our job will be so much easier!” That’s now how hiring managers think.

      2. Commenter*

        I’ve also worked so many places where hiring took longer because of things totally outside of hiring issues (like, they decided they actually want the VP to sign off on it; it’s just a rubber stamp and no reason for them not to agree with the rec, but then it takes 3 weeks to get on VP’s calendar for that 2-second conversation)

    3. Rhymetime*

      COVID has messed with lots of things in the work world, including delaying hiring processes, which was the case for my role. My process took nine months. I applied for my current job when it was posted in November 2020. I got a note the following February that they were reconfiguring the position and it was unclear how they would proceed. In June I had my first interview. I had a second one in July, and started my job in August.

    4. Suzie SW*

      This letter read to me as someone who couldn’t handle the anticipated rejection and tried to rationalize a reactive response that would ease their temporary discomfort. People will go to great lengths to avoid rejection, including rejecting others to save themselves from potential rejection. It’s not exactly a winning approach, though. Hiring processes can take time, and there’s nothing to be gained in pulling out of a job you actually want.

      1. Umiel12*

        I had a co-worker who applied for a promotion. He knew that hiring was an extended process in our setting, but he started to get anxious when they didn’t offer him the position quickly enough. He sent an email to the hiring executive stating something along the lines of, “So I guess I did not get the job.” Fortunately for him, that executive’s assistant intercepted that email and told my co-worker to chill out. He was offered the position a couple of days later. If it hadn’t been for a guardian angel in the guise of an administrative assistant, he would have torpedoed the offer he was about to get. Thirty days is not a super long time to hear back. Don’t do anything rash when waiting to hear back.

    5. Drama Llama's Mama*

      Agree – whenever we are hiring, I usually tell candidates up front that while we have a target hire date, we are a slow-moving organization. With our most recent position, we posted in April and the person started mid-August. Our target hire date had been June 15, but with working around panel members’ PTO and meeting schedules, our second round of interviews didn’t happen until the last week of June.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      We usually have a pretty efficient hiring process, but I have one now that has been stuck in the mud for months due to factors that have absolutely nothing to do with how much I want to hire the candidate. We had a number of large things come up that left the people I need to onboard them successfully full-time occupied with other things, and then we had a change in higher-ups that required reauthorizing the hire. I feel horrible for the HR recruiter who’s been trying to keep them up-to-date (because we can’t be blunt about our internal workings), and I wouldn’t blame them for not taking the job once we offer it.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Yeah, there are all kinds of HR/paperwork/budget weirdness/etc type of things that can delay hiring that has nothing to do with the desirability of the candidate.

    7. Midwest is Best*

      My most recent hiring process (just accepted today!!) wasn’t quite this bad but I applied in December, heard back about a zoom interview in early-February, heard back about an in person interview in early March, and got the offer 9 days after the in person interview. Will likely start in mid-April. It was excruciating but I recognize it’s not even that long in the grand scheme of things.

  16. Decidedly Me*

    OP 2 – my department has documentation that people will choose not to read. When a question is asked that is covered, myself and the leads within the department will link them to the doc with the answer and ask if they have any questions after reading it. If people are just given the answer each time, then they have no reason to ever seek it out. Usually, when given links a few time, they learn to just search for the documents themselves. By asking if there are still questions, we also understand how to improve the docs.

    1. Gator*

      Yes this is how my business unit operates and it teaches you to look first. This also takes practice for the leads to be consistent in this approach too. It can often be easier in the moment to just tell people the answer as this approaches requires you to do a bit extra at the beginning. You have to look up the resource then link them to it but it works pretty quickly as staff start looking first. Fot new employees I often show them the pathway on my screen, both in person and remote works for this, that way they can see where I go and how I found it, sometimes talk through the info in the process then ask do they need more. If they keep asking without looking then we get more direct and say you need to look first before asking.

      1. Venomous Voice*

        On our team, we have SOP’s for each task. We also have task lists organized by day, with one field being file names of those docs. Once active training is complete, I find it best to ask “What does the SOP say?” when asked a question on a process that is either simple or that we haven’t gone over. This serves 2 purposes; It reminds the person asking the question to use the guide, but also gives them the opening to let us know if there are holes in the documentation. No matter how thoroughly written, there will almost always be holes, depending on who is reading it and how deeply they understand the systems. Either we missed a step because “oh EVERYONE knows how to get to this menu/what key to press to update that screen/how we decide what to enter in that field”, or we forgot to mark which field actually needs updated, or there needs to be more detail as to how to know what to enter in a field. We often find the holes when new eyes try to use the SOP, especially if the process has changed little by little over time as new information comes to light and we’ve forgotten to update the docs.

        Also, if it’s a process that a person has never done before, sometimes the instructions don’t fully make sense depending on the complexity of the task. I am in this boat right now in my new position; there is loads of documentation, but much of it is outdated or doesn’t include all the nuances required to do the task like “this field only works if you have already set up *such and such policy in this other menu* or “this field doesn’t work at all/doesn’t work like we thought it did/causes X to break if you use it during the week of the full moon during non-leap years in a Julian date ending in 3 but not Wednesday”.

        Be gentle, but push toward documentation. Ask the user what the documentation says as they might be trying to use it but not clear on what seems wrong since they don’t actually know the process well enough to explain what they are seeing.

        Of course, laziness is absolutely rampant, but from experience it’s not as rampant as we often think when we’ve let irritation get the best of us.

  17. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    I suspect crying in delight is a game, he is trying to peer pressure people in dropping masks and making covid vanish by forcing people engage in covid spreading behaviours.
    Sometimes people have a need to convince others as a way of convincing themselves .

    1. Eyes Kiwami*

      I was going to say it would be so bizarre if the COO could just cry on command like that. But apparently this person is moved to tears daily by seeing people at their desks, which is also bizarre. So who knows, maybe it is performative.

      I would have a hard time not snapping back to mask pressure, “The mask is what make it safe for me to be here in the office. If you value me being in the office, surely my health and safety also matters to you? So let me take the precautions I need.”

      But I type this working from home so this is just what I wish I could say, not what OP should actually say if they value their job…

      1. mlem*

        I’m always surprised by people who are surprised some people can cry on demand. I can do it easily (real tears, prompt sinus headache, the works), so it just seems unremarkable to me.

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Different people have different talents. I can’t cry on command and of the people I know who can four out of six are into community theater.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’m low key jealous. I have trouble crying when I desperately want to cry. I can feel the tears just begging to come out but really struggle to get them to. The relief when they come is amazing

    2. John Smith*

      I’m wondering if the OP works with Matt Hancock:

      The most toe curling TV moment ever to scratch mine eyes.
      (Matt Hancock was the British Health Minister before he was caught cheating on his wife with a colleague…. during lockdown).

    3. Scarlet2*

      I think you’re on to something here.
      I thought “crying with delight” was bad enough, but when I got to the irritation at mask-wearing part, my blood started to boil. I’m so annoyed by people who keep insisting that “covid is over” and we should just throw caution to the wind everytime the situation seems to improve. It’s actually not over yet, a lot of European countries have dropped all precautions and surprise, surprise, contaminations are creeping up again. Sure, we have vaccines etc, but even after my 3 doses, I’d rather not catch covid thankyouverymuch.

      So forcing people back in the office is already a crappy move, but being “irritated” when *other* people are wearing masks is totally egregious. I just don’t understand why some people seem to think you’re wearing masks AT them.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Had someone actually get annoyed at me wearing a mask this morning when I was at the doctors. She said that she was suffering from depression because she ‘can’t tell if people are smiling anymore behind those horrible things and kids don’t know how to read faces’ and I needed to take it off because ‘how can I tell you’re not angry?’

        (I’d love to say I gave a witty reply but I haven’t had my coffee yet so I just did the British avert eyes and ignore)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “So if I take my mask off then your depression will be cured????? I’m not a doc, but I don’t think that is how depression works.”

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            If it did I wouldn’t need to be on the antidepressants, antipsychotics et al that I take, which would be nice! Now I’m back home and properly caffeinated I can think of so many good things I could’ve said but half of them likely would have started her shouting – and causing a scene outside the doctors surgery is just not English old chap.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I would have loved to be enough on the ball to respond “I am angry because you are being ignorant about why people wear masks.”

        3. Roy G. Biv*

          “How can I tell you’re not angry?” — Oh, just watch my eyebrows, they will be the first to convey a changing mood. The eyes will get in on the act shortly thereafter, and you won’t even need to see the rest of my face. The glare should tell you all you need to know.

        4. Jean*

          What does she even care if a stranger in a public place is angry? My god, people are exhausting. MIND YOUR BUSINESS should be codified into law.

          1. JM60*

            One of the things I like about wearing a mask is that it helps hide my facial expressions from people like her.

        5. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          “Did you do anything that you think would make me angry?” Ugh, masked or not, you don’t know what a stranger is thinking…how did this person exist before COVID?

        6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Ignoring was probably the best course, even if (caffeinated and even fed) I’d be inclined to suggest something like “Are you really asking me to risk my life to make you happy?”

        7. Mockingdragon*

          Oh my hell, lady, most people who are afraid of other people being angry at them don’t go up and accost strangers….

        8. CarolynM*

          I love that lack of coffee kept you from going off, I need to be more like you – lack of coffee would have guaranteed a sarcastic reply out of me.

          “I don’t think about you at all.” a la Don Draper

        9. Danish*

          I’ve begun to mentally compare people who insist you also take your mask off to make them happy because ~covid is over~ to guys who don’t want to wear condoms because they’re healthy the promise and condoms are just such a bummer you know 8(???

          I have the same level of confidence in them that they know what “safe behavior” even is, and they give off the same “nothing matters to me but my happiness in this specific moment”. vibe

        10. A Feast of Fools*

          “I am suffering from depression because so many people are willfully ignorant about viral spread.”

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yeah, honestly when I got to the end of that letter my only response was “fuck that guy.”

        I’m still wearing a mask because my youngest isn’t able to be vaccinated yet and some people in our close circle are going through chemo, and it is SO INFURIATING hearing all these chipper “ooh, it’s so nice to see people’s faces again!” at work and church and then people’s faces fall when they see me.

        (frustrated, incoherent grumbling)

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah, I’m in a show right now where now that there’s no mask mandate, people can skip wearing the mask onstage (and only onstage). Four of us kept masks on and while my theater isn’t shaming anyone for that and one of the coproducers keeps wearing hers, I’m tired of the cheers about no masks and how we literally made FoxNews for no masks.

          Really, what’s the point of taking it off, because covid will just surge again.

        2. Gracely*

          This. My spouse is immune-compromised, so I still wear a mask in public. The number of people who tell me no one needs a mask (including my own sibling, who is like “what’s the point once you’re vaccinated?”) make me want to scream.

          You don’t know if the person wearing a mask is immune-compromised or not. You don’t know if they have close family who are. More people than you realize are immune-compromised.

          Beyond that, I don’t know if the people NOT wearing a mask in public have actually been vaccinated, or if they’re just lying that they did (I’m in the South and I’d bet that at least a quarter to a half of the people running around with no mask ARE NOT vaccinated, seeing as our vaccination rates are abysmal). My own grandparents refused to get vaccinated OR wear a mask, and they both got it, and my grandpa died because of it.

          Anyone who wants me to lower my mask because they want to see me smile sure AF is not going to see a smile.

        3. A Feast of Fools*

          My elderly, immunocompromised mom lives with me. That’s reason alone for me to mask up indoors anywhere that isn’t my house.

          But I am really, really, REALLY loving not catching a cold or the flu. I used to be sick All. The. Time. and now I’m not.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My brain is foggy enough. I don’t want to risk COVID making it worse and even mild cases can cause brain fog. I’m going to mask until we have a better understanding of how long vaccine induced immunity lasts. My go to now with people who challenge my mask wearing is, “I am exercising my personal freedom” in the most deadpan voice possible. Stops folks in their tracks.

          1. pancakes*

            It might perfect for people outside the US, but we don’t quite need more of that sentiment here – the idea that “personal freedom” is or should be the driving force of every decision, even public health. Literally yesterday we had a Senator say that states should have the freedom to re-criminalize interracial marriage if that’s what people want.

  18. turquoisecow*

    Op2, I have created lots of documentation for my current job, which I’m sure is helpful because there was no such documentation before I did it. As a new hire, I found it much easier to search through documentation looking for answers before bothering someone, especially when working remotely! But my current company, while growing, is still small, and they don’t have the culture of documentation creation, so I think it’s likely that some people aren’t even aware that the documentation I created exists.

    And honestly it often IS faster to go and ask someone and have them show you than it is to read a document, especially if it’s a large one and you have to search for the section you need. “Hey Bob, do the titles on the TPS reports get bolded or italicized?” “Bold, 32 point font.” A lot faster than trying to read through the manual to find the section on fonts – or is it the section on titles? Or both? (Assuming that Bob is available and knows the answer off the top of his head, of course.) Or maybe Bob shows you that actually the manual is wrong and the titles should be underlined, but no one updated to the new standard when they adopted it last January, oops.

    As a new hire, there’s pressure to do things the right way and quickly, to prove that you know what you’re doing. I would certainly read through documentation in any down time I had, but if someone handed me the teapots to report on and a manual for how to create the TPS reports, I’d probably want the most efficient way to do it.

    1. anonymous73*

      Of course it’s faster but that doesn’t make it okay. I’ve been in that position and if I stopped and answered every single question I received instead of pointing them to the documentation, I wouldn’t have time to get any of my work done.

  19. Not my usual account*

    I wonder if the oblivious rude emailer wore down your teacher friend for your contact information with the same method? He may have gotten the information just to make him go away.

    1. Michel*

      LW3 sounds very petty. She told her former school she was interested in helping people into her profession. It’s not insane or rude that her teacher contact thought she would be interested in talking to people about this, and it sounds like sent a perfectly pleasant introductory email. All LW3 had to do was respond to the initial introductory email saying “I’m sorry, I’m not in a position to offer advice to career changers, and am only able to help advise current students at the school” or similar. The parent Governor was pushy, yes, but this could so easily have been nipped in the bud.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I was also thinking aling these lines. OP offered to help people get into their field, so it’s not so surprising that their former teacher thought that they were available to help people get into their field!

        Yes, it’s proper to ask hefore giving out contact information, but former teacher possibly reasonably thought they had blanket permission for this purpose.

        Now, the pushiness… that would annoy me too. But the initial contact is not so egregious I think. And possibly this guy has the wrong impression about OPs role. He may be under the impression that it’s the OPs job to counsel former students, and that they are not doing it.

        1. Brightwanderer*

          “it’s proper to ask hefore giving out contact information“ – bear in mind that in the UK it’s not just “proper”, in institutional contexts it’s a legal requirement. Our data protection laws mean that the answer to “can you give me contact details for X who is an alumnus of my school” is “no, but I can get in touch with them and pass on your contact details”. (Source: I worked in an alumni office. We got this a lot with American alumni who were bewildered that we weren’t just going to hand out someone’s email or home address on request – though to their credit I never had anyone make a fuss about it).

          My feeling here is that because the teacher is a friend of LW3 the actual law doesn’t really apply – it’s a social faux pas rather than a professional misstep – but it’s definitely a situation that would have me sending a not-so-gently-worded email to the teacher!

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Mh, interesting! Is there some way to give blanket permission (as in: ok to give to all current students, or whatever)? If it happens a lot, and the answer is always going to be yes, it may be annoying to have to give permission every time.

            1. Brightwanderer*

              I think if I’d had consent in writing from an alumnus to give their email out to anyone who asked, it would have overridden the data protection requirements since it would be explicit consent… but not sure, and I would definitely want to double-check with a GDPR expert. It’s not a situation we ever had come up, honestly! As I said, our default was that we’d contact them and say “hey, X wants to get in touch with you, here’s their contact info”. Which honestly I just think is the better option in almost all “can you give me Y’s contact details” situations, including social ones – it reduces the risk from stalking/harrassment/abuse situations and hands control of the situation to the person who didn’t initiate the interaction, so that actually if they don’t really want to do it, for any reason at all, they can just _not_, and they’re not going to get six follow-up emails about it.

            2. Brightwanderer*

              (Oh, meant to add – for current students, there were various opportunities for alumni to sign up to be contacted/do mentoring/give talks etc. This was generally an alumnus to alumnus situation, as it is in this letter.)

      2. Non non*

        I work in the entertainment industry (film and TV). I might agree to give a talk to a group of students about how to break into my field, but I would be furious if my personal contact information was given out to anyone without my consent because someone thought, as you say, I would be “interested in talking to people about this”.

        Talking to a group at an event is completely different from talking to a stream of individuals trying to get into a career that many people are trying to break into. The latter is far more time-consuming and, someone this entitled isn’t going to stop making demands on her if she talks with him. It’s a virtual certainty it would open the door to him hounding her relentlessly for introductions to her industry contacts and other unreasonable requests.

        Multiply that by numerous other individuals doing the same thing and a reasonable person will see why someone who speaks at a career event would not necessarily want to talk with individuals.

        1. Despachito*

          I agree with you.

          I think the teacher was wrong to give OP’s address to the annoying caller without asking OP first. I do not think OP’s general willingness to help should be interpreted as a blanket permission “give my contact details to whomever you may see fit”. I would hate to do this to a person who was generous enough to offer help.

          If I was in OP’s shoes, I’d let the teacher know what a pain the caller was and ask him to always ask me first before giving out my info (that is, if you are still willing to help). And I’ll perhaps be a little cowardly towards the annoying caller, because I would probably think it is not worth a conflict, and just tell him that due to a heavy workload I will be unavailable for the foreseeable future, and keep repeating this ad nauseam until he tires of it.

        2. pancakes*

          Yes, I couldn’t agree more. There’s a huge difference between someone offering to speak to students as a group and offering them career counseling or networking at the individual level. I’m surprised to see people disagree with this. When big-deal alumni came to speak at their schools was their contact info circulated to everyone? Or guest speakers giving a talk at work? There are some exceptions but in a lot of situations that is an unreasonably high expectation.

        3. Extensia*

          Exactly, this letter made me think of friends in the entertainment industry who can’t escape acquaintances, strangers, and even family members who are sure they can get Steven Spielberg to read/acquire/produce their amateur script. It’s one thing to help students understand their career options and plan for their futures, another to provide direct career counseling to an adult who seems to want a shortcut they haven’t earned.

      3. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        Naah. Not giving out people’s emails without asking is a well-established default. The teacher doesn’t need to guess and potentially guess wrong. It’s very very simple to ask.

      4. Kate, short for Bob*

        Nonsense. She DID reply, saying that she’d try to get back to the guy when she DID have the time. You seem to have read the OP with the same lens of entitlement to her time as the former student – please do tell me the mental contortions you’ve gone through to make irritation at a further half dozen unsolicited emails “petty”.

      5. Alice*

        The initial email was not egregious, but LW responded to it stating they are busy and would let them know if they have time to connect later. How is that petty? Why should they have said no outright, if they did mean to speak with this person once they had time? My impression is that LW’s annoyance is at the 6 emails and you seem to be jumping to conclusions here.

      6. anonymous73*

        Seriously? Offering to help does not equate to “please give my contact information to anyone who asks”. Nothing about #3 is petty. They should have been less “hint-y” and let the person know they weren’t available or unwilling to help sooner, but nothing about the letter is petty. I don’t like pushy people either and I would 100% block anyone who didn’t leave me alone after telling them that I wasn’t available at the moment.

      7. BA*

        Agree with this. Also, and maybe I’m wrong here, but saying that your free time is dedicated to your friends and family is a stretch. I might be missing some part of the context, like how much time you’re being expected to invest in providing help, but if someone reached out on the recommendation of a professor or manager or friend, I might be able to find 15 minutes to send a quick note.

        And also, if you’re really that busy, I can totally appreciate that, but I’m curious what is being said specifically in the responses. If “I’m really swamped at the moment” doesn’t cut it, perhaps you’re not being specific enough to draw a line. “I have two large work projects that are taking ALL my time at the moment. I’ll be able to provide a more detailed and helpful response after I wrap these up, two weeks from Tuesday. I’m not ignoring you, but really focused and have little, if any free time.” People often need a specific timeline and details. They can’t read your mind.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          The guy specifically asked if the OP had time to “speak with him” which indicates he’s looking for either an in-person meeting or a phone call, which will take much more time than a quick email.

          Also, the OP doesn’t owe this guy that level of detail into their life! Saying they’re busy and will reach out when they can is perfectly acceptable, and if he can’t honor that then the problem is on him. They should absolutely NOT give a specific deadline of when their projects will be completed, because that will just give him a date to mark in his calendar of when he can start pestering them again. They are the ones doing him a favor, so it’s on him to follow their lead.

          1. Snuck*

            But we have no information – did the OP send a message back saying “I am sorry I cannot talk with you as I am currently very busy. If you would like to send me two or three questions I can try to answer them in between everything else”

            We have no record that there was a polite attempt to help this guy.

            (And his having the email address – he’s on the Board of the school – no the teacher shouldn’t have shared it, but generally the teacher would be hoping to not have to upwards manage his own board!)

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Quite frankly, if I’m very busy, I’ll brush off anyone who wants to break into my field. It’s not even glamorous or anything, but lots of people seem to think it’s very easy. If I answer in between my paid work, they’ll get a curt “not as easy as you think, get a master in the field and do research into setting up your own business, then I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have”.
              If they’re prepared to wait, then I’ll happily let them buy me a coffee or a good half-hour phone call.

        2. Hollywood Handshake*

          I dont think the OP owes the emailer this much of an explanation. They explicitly said they would get back to them when they had time. The OP might not know when that will be to give a specific timeline. That should still be enough for the emailer to back off.

        3. pancakes*

          “. . . but if someone reached out on the recommendation of a professor or manager or friend, I might be able to find 15 minutes to send a quick note.”

          There’s just one someone in the letter, but if your contact info was being given to anyone who asked for it you could easily wind up with a lot more than one! It seems like some of the people pushing back on this just can’t imagine a number of people wanting their time or attention. Maybe that’s realistic in their own jobs but that is definitely not going to be the reality for everyone who agrees to speak to a group.

      8. Been there, done that*

        I don’t think they sound petty at all. I would never ever pass on someone’s email without their explicit permission to do so. It’s rude, but I’d cut the LWs teacher some slack as it sounds like they were pressured into it by someone with power over their job.

      9. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That’s kind of what I thought; the person the teacher gave the contact info to is connected with the school and not very far removed from the group OP said she was interested in helping. It’s not like the teacher gave the info to some rando in her circle.

      10. Jennifer Strange*

        Being interested in helping people into her profession on a large scale (career events, speaking events, etc.) is not at all the same as being interested in helping people on a smaller scale (personal meetings over coffee, phone calls, etc.). The teacher absolutely should have checked with the OP before giving out their contact info, and the OP isn’t being petty in expecting that level of confidentiality. I went to a performing arts school where former students would sometimes come by to talk to the class about getting into show biz, but I’m sure they wouldn’t have expected teachers to share their personal info with us as well.

      11. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Well, she told her former school she was interested in helping *pupils* into her profession not “people in general.” If Former Teacher wanted to connect LW3 with School Governor because SG was also interested, the etiquette in my experience is that FT should have separately asked LW3 if they could connect them.

        Plus, it sounds like LW3 maybe *would* have been open to giving advice the SG when she had the bandwidth to do so and has changed her mind because SG is being a pushy, demanding annoyance.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yes exactly, OP doesn’t seem to mind that her details were shared, just that SG kept pestering her. I’d have blocked him after the second unsolicited email.

      12. Kella*

        Huh? OP just had a preference for the teacher to ask before giving out their contact information, that’s all. The teacher didn’t realize that, OP politely corrected them after they learned of the problem, no real harm done, no lasting drama or resentment. Now the teacher knows about OP’s preference and can keep that in mind going forward. And the OP *did* want to meet the student, they just did not have time to immediately and said as much. When the ex-student repeatedly ignored OP’s stated boundaries, then OP changed their mind and decided they didn’t want to meet anymore. None of this is petty or dramatic.

    2. Been there, done that*

      The pushy emailer is on the board of governors for the teacher’s school – it can be very hard to say no to someone who has power over your job/place of employment.

      If the emails are coming from the governor’s school email i’d be inclined to send one to the whole board pointing out that his behaviour is not doing the school or its students any favors.

    3. Venus*

      This was exactly my thought too. The teacher was worn down by the same behavior and gave in.

      I would be tempted to a slightly ruder response commenting that my type of work doesn’t do well with people who try to get what they want by wearing people down.

    4. Snuck*

      I think this might be a bit more nuanced than all of that.

      The Annoying WannabeMe is on the board of governors, so the teacher might have thought the whole thing would be handled more professionally.

      Also the role is an extremely competitive and sought after one… and the OP did offer to answer questions from the school (which to include the Board is not a huge stretch). There is also zero indication of time frame in this – if it was an email a month over six months that’s far less awful than six emails in three weeks (mind you… six is about four too many!).

      Another option the OP has is to send the Annoying WannabeMe an email saying “It seems you want this information in a hurry, and I am really quite busy and unable to spend much time with you in the near future. If you would like to highlight your top one or two questions for me in an email I will try to respond in between things. Otherwise, as you can imagine as a TeaPot Travel Tester I am rarely in the right Timezone/country/internet to have any immediate contact so looking at the job information at TeapotTESTERS.uk.gov.au should be able to answer most people’s questions. “ And then, at your own leisure answer a first email of questions back (but do it within a week, not a month!), sign it off with a cheery “Good luck with your search!” And make sure you don’t include any polite offer of further help, and then ignore future emails from him.

      This really is the same as the questions about informational interviews etc. That’s all this guy wants.

      If you are hell bent on NOT helping him now, then for heaven’s sake tell him. “Dear AnnoyingGit I am sorry but I am very busy and unable to answer your many questions. When I offered to help the School with questions around this role I believed that Teacher would collate a collection of questions and then I’d respond to them all in one sitting. I didn’t realise that there might be a need for one on one information and this wasn’t my intention in offering. I am incredibly busy and cannot really make time for one on one consultations for this role, however take a look at the attached link as I’ve found it a good summary of the job role and requirements. My current position has zero ability to influence hiring in this role and as such there’s limited opportunity for me to help you. Good luck in your application, and I know this is a wildly tough field. The best advice I can give you is have the correct qualifications, including residency and visas and other legal requirements, and be honest and open with the recruiting panel. The selection of people as International Teapot Testers is a mystery to us all!” Regards… me.

      It’s warm enough that you don’t come across as rude (this means you preserve the teacher and board relationship and don’t look like a douche) but also makes it clear that you are not able to help.

      Sorry… but dealing with people sucks!!!

  20. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    LW5: Don’t let the tension convince you to take yourself out of consideration for a job you want just to make the tension go away.

    Also keep going as if you were not going to get it, because if you think you will and don’t plan long term then you screw yourself if you don’t get it. If you do get it then deal with the problem then with the support of your boss or other resources at your workplace.

    As Alison likes to say what if you won the lottery and quit, they would have to manage somehow anyways so if you do get the job and it throws a monkey wrench into things for the employer well thats their price for taking so long to offer you the job and is not in any way your fault.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      This too. People leave jobs (temporarily or permanently) for rafts of reasons, and long-range projects just have to manage. They will get by whether you stay or go. If your presence for the next six months was the ONLY thing keeping something afloat, the organization has bigger problems.

      1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

        Also if your presence is the only thing keeping the organization afloat then its time for huge raise.

  21. Fiona*

    #2 People have different learning styles. And someone new will be overwhelmed with info – sometimes it’s just helpful to have another human explain the thing you need to know.

    1. ceiswyn*

      But it’s not at all helpful to the human who is repeatedly interrupted from doing their own work by questions that they don’t need to be asked.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Then those folks need to arrange to have some form of live training with a person whose full time job is to train if the first 1:1 training with a co-worker doesn’t stick. Constantly interrupting someone to ask for retraining when that person’s primary duty isn’t training is a no go.

    3. Chained To The Cage*

      Yes it can be helpful to that person, but it’s not helpful to the person who is being interrupted. It’s also not necessarily useful for that person’s preference of learning to take precedence over other things. Sometimes it is “just helpful” or “easier” or whatever to have someone explain it. Golly, it’s helpful to have someone else do it! Unfortunately we can’t all have our own private tutor. Sometimes you have to do what you don’t want, or in a way that you don’t prefer.

  22. Fiona*

    #3 Send one email, then use the ignore function on Outlook so you do not continue to see his emails. This is taking up way, way too much space in your head.

    1. Chained To The Cage*

      I agree! LW is getting very bent out of shape when all they have to do is send an email, and then block/mute/ignore/send them to a folder until they are ready. The amount of time it took them to detail the situation to this blog could have been spent responding to the email and/or spent with their friends and family.

  23. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: the crying is really bizarre but I think performative. Especially when combined with the hostile attitude to masks. I’d almost bet this is the kind of person who tells others to smile more often…

    As to how to deal with such bizarre behaviour – don’t react. Ignore the crying, totally blank them if they start on about how masks aren’t necessary anymore (because after 2 years of this they don’t get the importance of people wearing them they aren’t going to get it now). I suspect that if their behaviour doesn’t get a reaction it’ll tail off.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think I would mask up on purpose just to yank his chain. And say “You know, as a woman, if I cried in the office, people would call me overemotional.” (I am not some people’s ideal employee.)

  24. ThisIshRightHere*

    On the how-to guides (and I say this with greatest respect to the LW), I wonder if they are as useful as their author believes they are. I’m asking because I recently got reamed out for failing to adhere to the new “style guide” my boss just created. It’s 14 pages (of single space text, not slides) and good for next to nothing. I mean it is not organized intuitively, leaves out entire key steps while going into deep detail about trivial things, the hyperlinks don’t work, etc. Even after having a few of these things pointed out, it hasn’t occurred to him that his guide doesn’t do much guiding at all. For him, it is easier intellectually to assume that I’m “too lazy to read the guide” than to, y’know, provide a decent guide.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      This is a valid point to consider in general. However, if the problem in OP’s case is nobody is even attempting to look at the guides first, the usefulness of the guides is not yet an issue. If there is a complete unwillingness to go the “look it up route” first, it could be the best, most clear, universally helpful document ever, but if no one is willing to go look at it, you still get peppered with questions.

  25. Mangled metaphor*

    Written material should supplement being shown how to do it by a real person (or video, if that’s how the training needs to be done).

    Screenshots can be overwhelming, even with helpful arrows pointing at the bits of interest – which quickly become confusing if there are multiple points of interest, unless you’re repeating the screenshot, in which case, hey, your work instruction quickly resembles an airport novel!

    Walking someone through a task “live” also gives them a more realistic impression of how long this task will take.

    I LOVE written work instructions. I’ve written hundreds, but I’ve always made sure I’ve also done a training session to go with them. People have different learning styles too – I once trained someone who couldn’t take the instructions in unless he reviewed them in his own handwriting.

    Now, having said all that, and if, having done the live training, your coworkers are asking live people instead of referencing the written instructions, they are either lazy, or the instructions (as wonderful as they are) may not be as user friendly as you hope.

  26. Naomi*

    LW2: Oh man, I spent several years working as a technical writer on documentation that was rarely read by anyone. It’s a little soul-destroying.

    A couple of suggestions that might help:

    – Look up Write the Docs (there’s a Slack community and website) – they offer a lot of ad-hoc, bite-size documentation seminars and discussions
    – Video tutorials might be useful – Loom is a handy tool. But first, pay attention to how people are currently learning, and figure out why they’re constantly coming to you for answers. It sounds like there’s a cultural or procedural issue that you’re trying to plug with documentation.

    Procedures shouldn’t be that difficult, and frankly I’d be embarrassed to repeatedly asking for help. So either it’s easier to ‘get help’ (and whoops teacher did it all for me!) or the procedures are confusing in and of themselves.

    I know it sounds weird to have a documentation specialist saying this, but: often, documentation is a stopgap, not a solution. The real solution is fixing the problem that caused someone to need a 10-page (for example) guide just to complete a task.

  27. Greta S*

    For the documentation writer (and all the documentation lovers in this comment thread) – are you sure your guides are as easily readable as you think they are? I’ve worked with people who prepare lots of user guides, and they’re not great. They think they’re god’s gift to the office, but they’re usually WAY too detailed, and with way too many screen shots. Like – we’re high end computer users, you don’t need to show a diagram on where to click something. In so many cases, it would be so much easier just to spend 30 seconds showing me this process, rather than me wading through 10 pages of your overblown gobbly-gook. Or at least just make it a bullet list! If that makes me “lazy” to you all, so be it. I just think sometimes over-documentators are a bit full of themselves sometimes.

    1. Sleepy cat*

      This. I’ve seen a lot of bad guidance in my time. If people aren’t reading it, sometimes there’s a reason for that! (I mean, unthread we have people talking about providing guidance in PDF form as if that’s a completely reasonable thing to do.)

      Also, try to remember that people who are new or inexperienced do not have all the context you do. Shortly before I left my last job, I helped train one of my predecessors and I remember feeling irritated by some of her questions – wasn’t X obvious, couldn’t she just figure Y out? Well, no, actually, because she was new.

      Most people do not have a good grasp of how to write accessible, useable content that minimises cognitive load – how to take a service and content design approach to training and guidance, and write guidance that meets the needs of the people using it and not the needs of the person writing it. Most people do not think to test their guidance on real people and adjust it based on evidence. And most guidance really sucks.

      Some people have mentioned training. Training is only effective if you’re actually teaching people and not just presenting at them.

      You know what else you can get better at? Answering questions. Teaching people to fish and not just giving them fish. But directing them to a four-page PDF is not the way to do that.

      1. Fran Fine*

        I mean, unthread we have people talking about providing guidance in PDF form as if that’s a completely reasonable thing to do.

        It actually is perfectly reasonable if you work at a company that doesn’t have documentation tools at your disposal. Then you use whatever’s easily accessible on your computer, which for most people, is Word and PDF. It’s also perfectly reasonable to use it if you’re not a technical writer and are just putting together training guides for your coworkers on your down time, which many people in this comment section seem to be doing. I would not expect someone just making how-to guides in the course of, say, finishing out their notice period at a company so their successor can learn all relevant processes and procedures to spend a ton of time trying to put this stuff into something like RoboHelp or MadCap Flare.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Uh, why can’t pdf form be reasonable? I work in a context where we are fully expected to work out how stuff functions for ourselves (like, just being handed a thing we have to make work, and then scrounging in wikipedia, online course material, and reference books for how it works in principle, and then go find and download the manual from the manufacturer website for how it works specifically). Having any, and I mean any, documentation available, including hand scrawled semi-illegible notes, is considered a bonus. PDF is awesome (it’s searchable! it doesn’t randomly reformat to be illegible! Pictures don’t disappear because they’re just links that died!).

    2. Snarky Snarkerson*

      That’s the thing Greta. Everyone likes to think they’re a high-end computer user, but I personally have PhDs working in this office who cannot figure out how to share their calendar without documentation. The documentation needs to be written to the lowest common denominator. And I would LOVE to take 30 seconds to show you, and then 30 seconds to show the second person, and then 30 minutes for the next person, and then 45 minutes for the next person, but at some point, I have my other work. Most of our documentation includes a quick reference guide for those who just need a refresher. I don’t think you’re lazy, but I do think that the documenters of the world would also like some appreciation.

      1. MsM*

        Honestly, for things where demonstrations tend to be more useful than written instructions, I think videos are highly underrated.

        1. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

          It depends. There’s a whole thread upstream about how certain groups of people loathe training videos.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Yup. I’m a fast reader and can usually find what I need in a written manual in less time than it would take to scrub through a video. As others have said, videos often don’t let you control the pace at which you watch, and my ADHD has me skipping back and forth to just get to the point, which takes more time. In general, I don’t like receiving non-fictional information in a format where I have to let someone else decide how quickly I get the info – it actually feels physically uncomfortable, like crawling out of my skin.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            Yeah. Videos can be great if you’ve never encountered the thing before. But if it’s more like “I remember 90% of this and am not sure what the missing 10% is” reading is going to be a faster solution than sitting through a vid, even on double speed.

          3. pancakes*

            I’m one of them, but sure, they’re great for some purposes. Not for a long or detailed FAQ, for example, but for something more like “here’s where you need to click to access the ________ function . . .”

      2. Snow Globe*

        Yes! I’ve tried making fairly simple documentation assuming people can figure out where to click “ok” or “next”, and then people will get stuck because they are seeing a box that wasn’t in the instructions.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Exactly. I’ve been there myself, in programs where the “ok” or “next” is hidden in some obscure spot (that turns out to be in a perfectly obvious spot once it’s pointed out).

    3. anonymous73*

      For me, I always had someone unfamiliar with the process review my documentation to make sure it was understood. But if I have to take 30 seconds to show everyone how to do something every day, that time adds up. I always let people know if it isn’t clear, THEN ask me questions, but don’t come to me first because it’s faster and easier. I have a job to do too.

    4. TheMomFriend*

      Honestly, you should still check the documentation. 5 minutes to see if it’s there and to reach out if it isn’t/isn’t clear, is still less than 30secs to walk 20 people through the process for the documentation creator. And then add on all the other 30secs to go through all the other processes for everyone, yeah. Just look.

      And I’ve dealt with people who are very high up that are completely unable to find where to click without a huge arrow and red box.

    5. Insert Clever Name Here*

      It’s great that you are actually a high end computer user. The reason the document creator put a red box with an arrow around the X to close the browser is because of the 10 other people who also describe themselves as high end computer users but are completely incapable of following these instructions:
      – look at the top right of your Chrome browser window
      – click the X to close the window

      We don’t think *you* are stupid. We *know* that other people are and are sick of wasting 30 seconds 18 times a day to show those people how to do something that you’re going to complain to us about over documenting.

  28. Rainy Day*

    As much as anything, #3, that teacher shouldn’t be giving out your details without your permission! Terrible data protection, anyone?

  29. IndigoJoMuses*

    RE #2: I used to work in a job where a big part of my role was training people and creating and maintaining how-to guides. If someone asked for training, I would usually have a meeting to run through the task and send then the guide as a follow up. If they then kept reaching out for information from me instead of consulting the guide, I would start asking them for feedback on the guide – with the thought that if they are coming to me instead of using the guide, and I know the correct information is in the guide, there is obviously something that is not clicking for them! Sometimes the issue was that the person didn’t know how to use CTRL+F to find what they were looking for, or they were just hoping for a quicker response than they would get reading through the guide, but asking for feedback on how to improve the guides seemed to work pretty well as a gentle reminder that the guides exist, and sometimes it led to useful improvements!

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      This!! Is!! The!! Best!! Way!!

      I am someone who *looks for a guide* first. I need manuals. In my private life, I collect reference books…love ’em…think about how they are organized (Roget’s Thesaurus versus a Synonym Dictionary, for example)…randomly flip them open and look…FOR FUN! (Not the only thing I do for fun, I assure you.)

      There’s some terrible documentation out there AND there are so many people who can’t be bothered looking for documentation and so bumble through some task until someone Makes Them Learn and it is terribly frustrating.

      Best situations I have had are when we have manuals, annual refresher training and regular review of manuals to update. Hello worker safety, HAZWOPER, Confined Space Entry, procedural specifications, technical manuals, etc.

  30. Turingtested*

    LW 1 is this a new thing? Do you get the sense that the tears are sincere or do you think there’s a performative/manipulative aspect?

    I can’t tell if this guy is being an ass or if perhaps there’s a medical reason for his emotional behavior.

    I don’t think it matters for your reaction why he’s crying but it might be wholly out of his control.

    Have you talked to HR or a trusted supervisor or boss? Whatever the reason a person openly crying in the office is inappropriate. Obviously there are exceptions for just receiving terrible news but as a daily thing it’s got to stop.

    1. XF1013*

      Thank you! There’s a lot of cynicism in this comments section about the tears, assuming that they’re performative and/or intended to manipulate people. Isn’t it much likelier that either the COO’s going through some medical situation that results in excessive crying (people have written to Alison before with that very problem!), or that there’s been some turmoil in his private life and it’s done a number on him psychologically, as has been true for so many other people recently?

      People take the COO’s anti-mask comments as a sign that he’s the standard Evil Boss who wants to risk his employees’ well-being just to see butts in seats again. I’m so used to wide swaths of the population being anti-mask at this point that it seems likelier to be coincidental and not related to the crying. The CDC stopped recommending masks to 70% of the U.S. population a month ago, so if anything, he’s following the advice of the experts. We’re a pro-mask bunch around here (myself included) and that’s a good thing, but we need to account for our biases when trying to understand other people’s motives.

      1. Jean*

        I can’t agree that it’s “much likelier” that he has some mystery crying disease. Those are pretty rare. And unfortunately, covidiot conspiracy theorist, butts-in-seats loving bosses are not.

      2. Alice*

        (Hi Alison, there are some links in here that will send this comment to moderation — if it’s off topic or too much in the weeds, then obviously you can just not approve it.)
        Hang on, let’s talk about what the CDC actually said in the Feb 25 update.
        They said, if your area’s COVID-19 Community Levels are high, then wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk.
        They also said, if your area’s COVID-19 Community Levels are medium, and you are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about wearing masks or respirators indoors in public. “At high risk for severe illness,” according to CDC, includes some common medical conditions as well as being older or pregnant or recently pregnant.
        And they said, if your area’s COVID-19 Community Levels are low, then wear a mask based on your personal preference, informed by your personal level of risk.
        Now, that 70% figure you mentioned is based on the population of counties that were at at medium or low levels when this guidance was introduced. However, among the 70% of people living in low/medium-risk counties, how many of them are: older, pregnant, overweight, physically inactive, current or former smokers? How many of them have substance use disorder, mental health conditions including mood disorders, HIV, heart conditions, some disabilities including ADHD, diabetes, kidney disease, etc? These are all conditions that are explicitly mentioned in current CDC guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html.
        If we are going to follow the advice of the experts, let’s look at what they actually say.
        I’m sorry if that sounds harsh — I definitely get where you are coming from, having seen all over the media “70% population in low/medium community level counties can stop masking.” How I wish that media had communicated this more accurately! You could say, correctly, that CDC stopped recommending masks to non-pregnant healthy people who are not older (actually I’m not sure how they would define “older” if you asked them) who live in counties with low or medium community levels. I don’t know what proportion of the population that is, but it was less than 70%.

        1. pancakes*

          Right. I also want to talk about people thinking of CDC guidelines as somehow apolitical, or purely scientific, or anything other than a series of complex judgment calls. A couple days ago there was an article about this in the Washington Post, and I want to highlight this paragraph:

          “Under its previous metrics, CDC was ‘ringing the alarm constantly throughout the pandemic, saying transmission is high, transmission is high, transmission is high,’ said a senior CDC adviser. ‘But [it] didn’t mean anything. [Current metrics] … allow us to ring the alarm when we really need to. And to turn the alarm off when things are a little better and give people a break from the siren.’”

          A lot of people seem to think this decision-making process is as simple as consulting some charts and looking at transmission rates. The context is actually much broader, and includes things like midterm elections approaching. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t. Let’s not pretend ending free testing for the uninsured is a purely medical decision, either.

        2. JM60*

          how many of them are: older, pregnant, overweight, physically inactive, current or former smokers

          So many people in this pandemic don’t realize that “high risk” applies to most Americans. Last I checked, 69% of Americans are overweight (or obese), and that’s just one qualifying factor for being high risk for COVID. That high-risk number might be over 80% once you add in the other categories (old, smoker, etc.). In fact, only a small percent of the population isn’t in at least one high risk category.

      3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        They also explicitly said both that everyone should feel free to mask, and that even in those lower-risk locations, some people should still mask. You can look up whether (say) Boston is considered a low-risk location this week, but that won’t tell you whether a specific coworker has other reasons for masking.

        If someone wants to mask, let them. Don’t pressure them for their personal health information, or decide that you know better than they do what risks they’re comfortable with.

        1. moonstone*

          Also, I don’t understand why other people don’t understand that wearing masks has numerous other benefits besides preventing COVID. It prevents transmission of other viruses that exist, plus allergies from dust and pollen. I can understand why some people want to adopt it as a new habit (though I am open to some relaxation of mask mandates once COVID becomes less of a death threat.)

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Actually, for the other viruses at least, it is not a good thing to prevent circulation.
            In 2021 there were far more babies getting sick from this and that (bronchiolitis was particularly alarming here in France) because they hadn’t had a chance to build up any immunity.
            Masking may help an individual avoid getting sick, but in terms of public health, it makes it much harder to achieve herd immunity, which is our best bet to protect us all from all the diseases that we haven’t been able to eliminate.

      4. moonstone*

        Yeah I didn’t get any obvious impression that he is being manipulative. It’s a small possibility but nothing in the text indicates that. His irritation at masks is problematic, as well as the crying, but you can behave problematically without it being motivated by pure evil.

    2. Kate, short for Bob*

      Where an emotional response is clearly linked to a previously stated desired outcome (I can’t contain my joy at seeing people come back to the office like I wanted them to, if only those pesky masks weren’t stopping me see all your shining faces)…

      How can you not think twice?

  31. Brightwanderer*

    LW#3 – I disagree a bit with Alison’s reply. I don’t think you should bother trying to explain to Pushy Guy that his pushiness has alienated you. He’s either someone capable of figuring that out on his own, or he isn’t – and if he isn’t, he won’t hear you when you explain it, either. I would just either not reply, or send one reply along the lines of “unfortunately I’m not going to be able to make time for this, I wish you the best of luck, etc”.

    I’d also be a little delicate with mentioning it to the teacher. Since you’ve already made it clear that you don’t want your email handed out like that, going back to elaborate on Pushy Guy’s bad behaviour feels a bit like going back in to berate teacher a second time for something you’ve already called out. Fundamentally they shouldn’t have handed over your email in the first place, and it’s especially something they should be keeping in mind for alumni contact in general – it feels to me like “and also the guy turned out to be a pushy jerk” is less relevant than the basic privacy expectations here.

    1. anonymous73*

      I agree with this. OP hasn’t been clear with the pushy person. If she doesn’t want to help him, she needs to say so and then block him from contacting her again. With her responses, she’s kept the door open for contact. Hinting around is never a good idea. Sometimes people don’t pick up on hints, and sometimes they use them as an opportunity to keep going since they never came out and sad NO.

      1. Brightwanderer*

        Eh, I don’t quite agree with that tbh. OP explicitly said they didn’t have time _and would get in touch if they ever did_. That doesn’t require Pushy Guy to pick up any hints (though many people WOULD pick up that possibly this is soft code for “I will never have time to get back to you”) – he’s been given a clear explanation/instruction as to what happens next, and he’s ignoring it because it’s not the answer he wanted. I think OP can go either way on whether they want to send one final email or not, depending on their comfort level and sense of how long Pushy Guy is likely to keep pushing. They’d be perfectly justified in just continuing not to reply, since they told Pushy Guy that’s what they would be doing until/unless they found time.

        1. anonymous73*

          She doesn’t say in what period of time he’s sent these emails. Even if someone told me they would reach out when they had time I would consider sending another email thinking they may have forgotten about my request. It seems to me that she doesn’t want to help him at all, and she hasn’t come out and said that. Therefore he thinks the door is still open.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            The OP said this person had emailed her half a dozen times “recently”–we don’t need a calendar or precise dates to know that he is not being patient, or waiting to hear from her.

            She explicitly told him not to contact her, and that she would contact him if she had time. That’s not hinting.

            You’re probably right that he won’t leave her alone unless she blocks his email. Where we disagree is that I’m sure he knows that she didn’t want those last five emails. If he thinks the door is still open, it’s because he thinks he can find a crack and get his foot in the door, like a persistent door-to-door salesman.

            “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” is a cliche, and it doesn’t mean “I really want to talk to you, I’m just not sure when I’ll have time, so call me every week and ask.”

          2. fhqwhgads*

            But he did it six times. If he’d followed up once in case the person forgot, maybe ok. Six means the dude is ignoring the responses he already got.

  32. SophiaB*

    OP#2 – is there any chance your manuals are too heavy on the step-by-step and don’t provide any context?

    We have this with technical documents at my job. A quick paragraph at the top explaining the underlying theory and objectives might give people the impetus to then read on. Some of us (particularly if we’re learning a process that we need to understand) need to know where we’re going before we start going there and get lost in the detail if we don’t have the destination.

    Also consider whether you’re documenting the specific steps to a specific problem, or whether the guides encourage people to truly understand the process in order to apply it more widely. I tend to have more success with the latter, and you may find that people engage better when they are encouraged to apply a bit of their own thinking.

    Of course, this may not apply to your documentation or to your role! But it’s something I see often that I’ve not seen talked about a lot.

  33. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: I’ve lost count of how many FAQs, instructions, manuals, how tos I’ve written in the course of my career in IT. All for things I still get calls asking how to do!

    I still write them though, and publish them on our knowledge base/share point server. I figure that for every one person who calls asking for something they could easily have found there are about 10 silent people who are actually benefiting from the documentation- I just don’t hear from them!

    One thing I have altered is making the how to stuff a bit more accessible to others. I use a light grey background with black text (far easier on the eyes than black on glaring white), try to use fonts that distinguish clearly between things like uppercase i and the number 1 (had to ask our corporate communications for help on that one as I’m not a graphic designer), ensure that screenshots are used where necessary but have a clear dialogue about what they are showing (some people here use screen readers), avoid technical terminology as much as possible (I know what an RJ45 connector is but I doubt end users do)..

    ..and get someone else to check it over before I publish it to make sure it can be followed. Got a friend in finance who does this for me, as well as tell me to remove my tendency to use brackets in text (can’t help it, was once a programmer)

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      (I rather like the side comments that you insert in brackets round here, often raises a chuckle)

  34. L-squared*

    #2. I’m not clear how often you are showing people vs. sending them these guides, and that can make a big difference. Yes, guides and screen shots can be great for a certain type of learner. But I can tell you that, for me, I’d rather be shown how to do it as opposed to reading about it. Just the other day I had to look up how to do something on Excel. I found a step by step guide, but I also found a YouTube video, and I can tell. you that the video was much more helpful. So while I get you put a lot of time into something, if someone asks you to show them, and you just send them a doc, I don’t blame them for seeing if someone else has time to show them. And if the other people don’t mind, I’m not sure why you seem to be so bothered by it. But I’d look at these like a supplement to the training, not the training itself. Like, you should, IMO, show them how to do the task once, then say “and if you forget, here is a guide”. While at the same time, maybe don’t be so rigid about refusing to show them again if they ask.

  35. Not So NewReader*

    I kind of had a different reaction to the question about documentation and reading the guides.

    Most weeks I pack a 30 hour work week into 15 hours. I have tons and tons of documentation that I will never read- no time. I can’t sit on my own unpaid time and read this stuff.

    Ex 1. I have a 250 page book telling me how to do my job. A typical explanation starts with “In the 1800s there was a problem with X, so Y came into fruition….” I just need to know how to key X into the computer. I do not have time to read about what happened in the 1800s. I think I have read half the manual and I have learned absolutely nothing. I had to call someone to find out how to key X into the computer.

    Ex 2. I have a phone that comes with a 179 page manual. Yes, actually 179 pages, I checked. I can’t transfer a call or do anything with the phone. I’d worry about this but none of my cohorts can use the phone system either. Of those of us who have tried, we have found that we are not able to make the instructions work as described. While decisions were made on an individual basis, everyone concluded the same thing- it was easier not to use the features on the phone than to spend an hour or more trying to get the feature to work. My current and previous bosses have both opted to just use their own cell phones at work. We have had this phone system for years and this is how we have been coping with it. The company who installed the system successfully encourages us NOT to call them by being rude, giving wrong answers or just plain saying, “no that problem did not happen”.

    Ex 3. A help manual for a computer program does not find information logically. Let’s say I want to learn how to house break my pup. This information is found under roof repair. Because the information is so hard to find, it’s almost the same as not having it.

    For my part in all this- I never ask the same question twice. I have a little hand written journal complete with an index that I log the answers in as I go. Someone gives me a chart for something (and this happens often), I have a book that I keep all my charts in and I use them. I also use a lot of memory triggers for things that are recurring stumbling blocks.

    I have thought about writing documentation for the next person to do my job, but I tend to think it’s probably a waste of my time. I am working on a short document showing how I managed my workflows for our particular setting. It’s basically an outline of task order, with tasks building on the previous tasks. But the new hire will have to look up or be trained how to do the specific tasks.

    Instructions need to be short, clear and direct. Keep things logical so they can actually be found and used, this means logical labels, titles and steps. Assume the person is pressed for time and write in a manner that gets them where they need to be in the shortest way possible. Date everything, this way the user knows how current their information is.

    1. Fran Fine*

      I have thought about writing documentation for the next person to do my job, but I tend to think it’s probably a waste of my time.

      It is, in my experience. I don’t tend to bother with this personally, and I’ve always been amazed at the number of people who’ve written here saying they document everything they do or write guides during their two weeks’ notice because I’m thinking, “There’s a strong possibility everyone after you will not read that, or the processes/procedures will change after you’ve left, so it becomes moot anyway.”

    2. hamsterpants*

      I am on both sides of the documentation struggle (still learning new systems + teaching others systems). This comment is spot on. Writing good documentation is an exercise in empathy — or, if you prefer, “customer orientation.” No all manuals are really usable.

    3. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

      Fun tidbit about your phone: They awarded the IgNobel Prize a few years ago to the researchers who determined that the larger number of features a gadget has, the more likely that a customer will buy it, but also the less likely the person will actually read the documentation.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Your comment about the reason for Y dating back a few centuries… kind of reminded me of every recipe on internet where the writer talks of their Aunt Myrtle and her famous pie and the orchard she sourced her fruit from for three pages before mentioning that the recipe also contains six types of flour and three types of sugar, only one of which I have in my cupboard.

  36. L-squared*

    As an addition to #2, have you ever considered using Loom or some other screen recording software and making a bunch of short videos? In my experience (both with customers and for myself), you can be as detailed as you like, but seeing a 30 second video is often FAR easier for most people to comprehend than reading something overly wordy and long. People want to be shown things, often more than once. So why not make an easy way to show them that they can pause and rewind if necessary?

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yeah it’d be a hit, but even with plenty of experience it’ll take a good week to get a 5-minute how-to video done (the boss tried to get our poor intern to do it in two days, it was not possible even it Rebel agreed to stay until everyone else went home to record it in a quiet setting)

  37. RPOhno*

    LW2: speaking from experience, manuals and handbooks are great resources… assuming they’re readily findable to someone who doesn’t already know where they are. I have worked in several heavily policy and procedure based roles where relevant documents and forms were stored in a quagmire of a file architecture with arcane alphabet soup file names that made sense to someone once, but aren’t clear now that that person has been gone for 10+ years and the document that explains the naming conventions is… also filed under an impenetrable name (think “form for air sampling is named 10.101.223 where 10 means form, 1 means environmental compliance, 01 means effluent, and 223 means the 23rd version of form number 2) with hardcopies marked and sorted similarly.

    All this to say, it may be a worthwhile exercise to have someone unfamiliar with your department try to find your manuals, if only to make sure that the problem isn’t simply that it takes an hour for a newbie to find one and 5 minutes to ask you.

  38. Skippy*

    LW4: Please just rehire the people you laid off, assuming they are available. I’ve been both the internal candidate and the external candidate in situations like this, and being asked to jump through all sorts of hoops when the outcome is predetermined is a waste of everyone’s time.

    LW5: Unless you’re 100% certain you’re not going to take the job, there’s no reason not to keep your name in contention: it’s still possible they may eventually re-emerge with an offer you may want to consider, But I really hope employers will realize someday that their long, drawn-out hiring processes aren’t exactly endearing themselves to candidates.

    1. Snow Globe*

      LW4 – I’m surprised the that the thinking is that they’d need to post internally first. In my company, there is a rule that if someone is laid off (position eliminated), then if another similar position opens up within 12 months, it *must* be offered to someone who was laid off, only being posted if none of the laid off employees accept.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        It’s actually the law here in France. Not that there are many takers though, because perks have often been scaled back in the meantime.

  39. Mannheim Steamroller*

    OP #2…

    Don’t ask IF they checked the manual (because you know they didn’t). Instead, pretend that they did check it and ask, “Which page/section of the manual did you consult?”?b>

    Make it clear that you expect their inquiries to be phrased in terms of the manual. Force them to actually open and read the manual.

  40. Shiba Dad*

    LW4 – I thought that a lay-off implied that the person laid-off could be “called back” to work, assuming that they had not found another job. Maybe that applies more to blue collar workers than white collar.

    Or maybe I’m imagining things.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      My interpretation of lay-off is that the person’s employment was terminated for business reasons, not performance reasons.
      Context: I’m Canadian

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      As someone who has been laid off before – laid off (made redundant) means you no longer have a job. You may get severance, depending on how generous your employer was feeling, but you’re now unemployed.

      If your employer puts you on furlough, they are reserving the right to call you back to work at some point, and you may get paid some percentage of your salary during furlough.

    3. anonymous73*

      Being laid off generally means you no longer have a job. And you’re not being let go because of performance, but because of a change in the business. Being furloughed generally means you’re losing your job temporarily and will eventually be called back when things improve. This happens to government workers when there’s a shutdown.

      This is a unique situation. Business has improved and they’re able to hire additional employees again, so they want to reach out to someone who was laid off.

    4. mlem*

      If it helps, I’ve had the same vague impression — that layoffs were a special category of people who would be the first considered if the business prospects turned around.

    5. Laney Boggs*

      Yeah, I think the difference is blue & white collar. Or maybe it’s that the definition has changed?

      My grandfather was blue collar all his life, and there were jobs he did that would lay him/others off in the slow season and bring them back in busy season.
      We had a few people in my department come back after the initial Covid insanity, but for the most part layoffs at my company were permanent.

      1. pancakes*

        I think it has changed to some extent, and depends on the industry. I’ve been laid off from white collar jobs along with the entire rest of the staff attorney team when work on a particular project wound down, then re-hired (alongside some or all of the rest of the team) when another project came along that needed to be staffed.

    6. Random Bystander*

      I had the same impression. Of course, that may be colored by having much more acquaintance with people who work in construction and other businesses that have a clear “off season”, and the re-hire is pretty much a given when the season returns.

    7. Colette*

      I think the term “layoff” is used in both contexts. In some industries, employees get laid off during the slow season and called back to work in the busy season. In others, a layoff is permanent, possibly caused by a change in what the business does, and you won’t be called back to work.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      You’re describing a furlough. Furlough “you don’t have a job right now; we expect it to come back but don’t know when; we’d call you back then, if there is a then” but still good to job hunt in the meantime. Also might have a definite return date built in, but might not.
      “Layoff” = we eliminated your position for budget/financial/business reasons. You no longer have a job, but not because of you.

    9. Hen in a Windstorm*

      I thought the word for that was furlough. I knew some flight attendants who were furloughed after 9-11: still technically part of the company, but not working or being paid or getting benefits. When the company started hiring again, first offer was made to those who had been furloughed.

      On the other hand, I was laid off in 2020, received severance, got all my PTO and pension paid out to me, cut all ties with the company.

  41. hamsterpants*

    #2 — Some people are not used to using written resources and might need some training on how to do so. I have had luck clearly communicating to new hires that part of the job is to teach themselves from written reference materials. Then if they still come to you, try the Socratic method — did you check the manual? what did you find? how did you search the manual? hmm, what does it say in Section XYZ? what happens when you do that? — to help them. Some people also are uncomfortable resolving ambiguity and especially with software a minor update can change things like menu labels that throw off step-by-step instructions. Clearly lay out when it is OK to make their best guess vs when they should go to an expert. Communication of expectations is key and needs support from management. Good luck.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      The problem with that approach (which is what I use also) is that it takes a lot more time and energy than simply supplying the answer, and as training is usually something that’s just squeezed in on top of everyone’s already full work load, it is a legitimate cause for annoyance. This kind of think needs to be baked into the work load from the get go, with the expectation of turnover, so someone actually has time to properly train people.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, it takes time to retrain people to think properly instead of jumping to “I’ll just ask OP”. But what are the other options?

        – brush them off and get branded a jerk, and get into trouble for not being helpful, and slow everything down while the asker muddles their way through,

        – give them the answer, which may be the quickest solution but will not improve the interruption rate. If anything it’ll make damn sure everyone continues to just ask OP.

        So I circle back to asking questions that gently point the asker in the right direction, refusing firmly to do anything for them, and encourage them when they get it right.
        It’s just a modern version of “give a man a fish he’ll have food for one day, teach a man to fish he’ll have food for the rest of his life”.

  42. anonymous73*

    #2 – I’ve been there. I worked in support once and we ended up outsourcing our help desk, so I spent a year creating knowledge base articles for them. Yet they would still IM me and ask questions. My first question to them was “What does the KBA say?” Because if it wasn’t addressed it needed to be added. Or if part of the instructions wasn’t clear I needed to know. Eventually they stopped coming to me unless it was a legit question that they had no documentation for to solve themselves. People tend to ask someone a question rather than find the answer themselves because it’s quicker and easier. You need to re-train them. If it’s documented tell them where to find it. And let them know if they don’t understand a piece of it to come and ask you. If you always answer their questions instead of helping them help themselves, they’re never going to stop.

  43. Emi*

    For #1, I think at this point in the pandemic, a lot of people have some degree of situational depression and/or anxiety, due to both isolation and all the other kinds of stress. So no, it’s not normal … but I think a lot of it will also work itself out naturally as time goes by and the situation changes.

    1. Popinki*

      I could see it being emotions/anxiety if the loud happy crying only happened a few times and the rest was getting weepy once in a while. But since it’s a daily occurence at the same time every day, combined with the anti-mask sentiments and the fact that he’s a high-level executive so the regular office drones can’t tell him to knock it off, it really feels like an agenda to me.

      1. Polar Bear Hug*

        Agreed. I run a local musical group, and when I stood up to greet them at the first session in-person indoors in nearly two years, I choked up. I didn’t expect to, but the sudden feeling of “this is so close to being normal after so long” got me.

        But it’s only happened once. And I am not making a big show of it as this COO seems to be. Especially combined with the anti-mask attitude, I agree it seems like an agenda on his part.

  44. Nonny Mouse*

    #2– I recently started a gig job with some technology that was completely new to me. The company owner tried to explain it to me. He was super kind about it; he wrote pages of instructions and recorded numerous videos for me to watch and rewatch at my leisure. I felt like a terrible person for still not understanding the technology after he’d gone to all that effort.

    But I still didn’t understand it, so I asked his assistant. She and I exchanged a couple emails and it was like the sun breaking through the clouds. I jotted notes from her emails onto half a page of notebook paper and have been using them ever since.

    Which leads me to ask… is there anyone who can give you some feedback on your written instructions? Someone like a friend or family member? Without seeing the instructions I can’t say, but I wonder if it’s possible that some things are being explained very thoroughly, but not in a way that comes through clearly to a neophyte.

    Then, too, people learn differently.

  45. That_guy*

    I’m in the same situation as OP#2. After I received my approval to do so from my immediate boss and his boss, I simply started answering questions with “Did you check “X” documentation?” If the answer was no, then I was free to answer “Why don’t you start there.”

    The best part was they both said that I did NOT need to sugar-coat it with any pleasantries and that repeat offenders could be told to stop bothering me with things that they should be able to figure out.

  46. it's me*

    #2 made me laugh out loud. I’ve been a technical writer for 20 years, and no one reads anything, then they complain about how they can’t find instructions for something.

    1. Nea*

      I know! I’m a technical writer working with the helpline people at my office, and 90% of the calls are “Did you read this page? Go read this page.”

  47. Brookhaven*

    Nobody reading your documentation?

    Try a pyramid writing style.

    Start the documentation with a summary of the steps (short bullet points of how to get the job done), then in the next section present the details for each step.

    It frustrates me to no end to see documentation that spends page after page of screen shot after screen shot of how to do something when I really just needed to know the last step.

    1. Turn on your Mac (screenshot of Mac power button)
    2. Log into your Mac (screenshot of Mac logon screen)
    3. Click apple icon (screenshot of apple icon)
    4. Click system preferences (screenshot of dropdown menu)
    5. System preferences panel should open (screenshot of system preferences panel)
    6. Click Sound (another screen shot of system preferences panel with sound icon highlighted)
    7. Sound panel should open (screenshot of sound panel)
    8. Click Input button (another screenshot of sound panel with Input button highlighted)
    9. Click external microphone (screenshot of sound panel with external microphone highlighted)
    10. Adjust input volume on slider (screen shot of sound panel with input volume adjustment slider highlighted)
    11. Exit sound panel by clicking back arrow (another screen shot of sound panel with back arrow highlighted)
    12. Close system preferences panel (screen shot of system preferences panel with red-x for close icon highlighted)

    Or, you could write in the summary:

    1. Go to Sound in System Preferences and adjust input volume.

    And yes, I have seen instructions this detailed and verbose for tasks this simple.

    1. Nea*

      OMG, yes! I added quick starts to our manuals with “If you need to know how to x, turn the page” and they were incredibly popular.

      1. pancakes*

        Like the shortcuts in an IKEA. I do think this is a really good idea in some situations.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      The problem is, some people do need highly detailed instructions (either because they are totally new to something or because they really need to have stuff spelled out for them) and some don’t.
      I recently had to learn a new process at work and the instructions that the IT person sent to me helpfully omitted a key detail (connect to the building VPN – which is not something I usually do), which was required to make the whole thing work. A detail which is extraneous to you may be vital to the end user.
      Honestly, you may just need a detailed version and a concise version of the instructions, then try to gauge people’s level of knowledge before sending the instructions.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        ….Which is why Brookhaven suggests writing the whole thing out but having the shorter version as a summary!

  48. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    For people who love making documentation, there are real jobs available doing just this! Instructional designers, technical writers and editors, and technology trainers can be a valuable part of an organization.

    If you find you’re spending a lot of time training/answering questions and it’s cutting into your real job, consider going to your boss and asking if they can hire someone to do it. Or look for a job in these fields yourself!

  49. Paperdill*

    Op2: how accessible are your guides and cheat sheets?
    In my job we had us (the coalface workers) constantly being told that instructions/policies/guidelines/resources were “in the S:// drive”. Everything. It was “in the S://“.
    Well, the S drive was, probably, easy enough to navigate and remember all the twists and turns to such-and-such for those managers/consultants/specialist who were on it all the time, but for us who spent the majority of our time with clients and only needed to refer to a drive stuff every now and then, it was a ridiculous table of billions of stupidly named folders (don’t you know there’s a difference between the ABC Teapot Design folder and the ABBC Teapot Designing folder?) that we WOULD just have to ask the higher up where things were or waste half a day finding it.
    How findable are your resources, OP? Ask the staff

  50. Lorelai*

    Re: LW2, I don’t get where all the hate for people who don’t learn as well by reading a manual is coming from. I have found the very best way I learn is by being taught in a hands on training session and then given a Quick Reference Guide. When I have that QRG, I always check that first, but only after I’ve had hands on training.

    That said, PLEASE don’t make me lose an hour or more of valuable work and productivity time to reading and re-reading and re-re-reading a manual to try to force me to come to my own answer, when five minutes or less of one on one time is just as effective. Just show me the answer. When I’m racing the clock to meet a deadline, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD AND HOLY JUST SHOW ME THE DAMN WAY. You come at me at 4:30 when I have a 5 p.m. filing deadline with a 20 page manual, I promise I will be making a voodoo doll in your image that evening while having a glass of wine. We can argue about the price of water AFTER the fire has been put out.

    1. hamsterpants*

      This is way too harsh. Those five minutes may be quicker for you but a waste of the other person’s time repeating the same info over and over. Your problem at 4:30 pm for a 5 pm filing is your failure to plan ahead. I get the frustration but your sense of entitlement is probably contributing to others’ throwing a manual at you rather than personally helping.

      1. Alice*

        If the manual were complete, up-to-date, accessible, and well-organized, I suspect that Lorelai would be using it already. Maybe the manual writers should “plan ahead” by making sure their manuals check those boxes.

        1. hamsterpants*

          Yes, this is a perfect example of the type of entitlement that makes people not want to help you!

          1. Dinwar*

            It’s entitlement to expect reference documents to be complete, up-to-date, accessible, and well organized? We must work in very different industries. I just went through an internal audit and it was listed as a major problem–like “Bring up with the program director’s boss” level of problem–that one manual wasn’t officially complete.

            If the manual isn’t complete it’s by definition lacking information.

            If the manual isn’t up to date it’s by definition either lacking information or contains false information.

            If the manual isn’t accessible it’s by definition unusable.

            If the manual isn’t well-organized it’s by definition difficult to use.

            None of those sounds like an unreasonable expectation.

            1. hamsterpants*

              LW#2 seems to have written up some documentation but is not a dedicated instructor, support person, or technical writer.

              Regardless, the attitude of sarcasm and vindictiveness against someone who is trying to help you, because they’re not helping you in the exact way that you want, is shitty and yes, entitled.

              1. Dinwar*

                The first point is more or less irrelevant. If the document isn’t helpful, all the good intentions in the world don’t matter. If you don’t have time to do it right (and incomplete, inaccessible, out of date, and disorganized guidance is not right), expect pushback.

                I disagree with your interpretation in your second point. I’m reading frustration, not “sarcasm and vindictiveness”. Frustration is a perfectly reasonable response to someone who’s “help” makes work harder, regardless of that person’s intentions.

                1. hamsterpants*

                  I’m gathering that your work culture is very different than mine, so it probably doesn’t make sense to continue discussing. I am in a workplace where the more senior folks try to help out the newer folks but the newer folks always understand that it’s their own responsibility to learn, not scream (all caps reads as screaming) or rage (hyperboles about voodoo dolls, really?) when they aren’t hand-fed the answers they want.

                2. Dinwar*

                  I will agree that continued discussion is futile. If your company culture is such that documentation is incomplete, inaccessible, out of date, and disorganized, and you still blame the junior staff, I guarantee that junior staff are frustrated and screaming internally if not externally. This isn’t setting junior staff up to learn on their own; it’s setting them up for failure, and blaming the victim when it happens. I’ve seen this sort of thing drive people–hard working, intelligent people willing to learn–out of companies before, usually at tremendous psychological cost.

        2. Fran Fine*

          If the manual writers have actual day jobs that don’t include technical documentation and they created a guide as a courtesy when they had extra time, people don’t get to be persnickety that it’s not perfect.

        3. LeapinLizards*

          That’s a leap. Lorelai specifically says she wants a hands-on tutorial and a QRG, and that she doesn’t want a manual. She says nothing about the quality of the manuals she’s received.

          And hamsterdam is correct that Lorelai’s deadline is not the manual writer’s problem. If MW can help, great. But MW may have their own deadline to contend with and the entitlement is in assuming that Lorelai’s problem should take precedence.

          Finally, it’s obvious that you and a lot of people have ignored the fact that MW’s job is not documentation specialist, technical writer, or similar. They did this as a courtesy and to make their own life easier.

      2. Anonymous Hippo*

        That seems a bit harsh, especially since this was clearly in response to other people expressing the opposite frustration. Sometimes it really is a matter of time, and you do the quickest thing, but you can just say that. Even us textbook learners would be happy to just toss someone the answer in a fire situation, provided we are informed of said fire, and that the person doesn’t already have a reputation for taking shortcuts. People do learn in completely different ways, I can no more learn a thing from a youtube video than I could toss an elephant. There is also no indication in the above OP that they are asking the same thing over and over, but simply that something came up they weren’t already familiar with, which is a thing that does happen. There should be a balance between efficiency and training.

      3. Dinwar*

        “Your problem at 4:30 pm for a 5 pm filing is your failure to plan ahead.”

        I once submitted a proposal for internal review three days ahead of when it was due. I didn’t get it until the morning the day it was due. Then had to ask the person who sat on it for two days how to do some fiddly little thing in the program we were using in order to submit it. (As an aside this is why I always submit my proposals for internal review at least two days before anyone else in our group does.)

        I know another person who had to scramble on a submittal because the client literally severed the wires powering our building due to an unscheduled issue. They literally had a guy with bolt cutters cutting the wires as they ran a piece of equipment down the road. We got a warning about an hour before it happened.

        My point is, it’s not always the person scrambling that failed to plan ahead. Sometimes it’s the fault of the person who needs to show us the procedure. Or it’s something completely out of their control. In neither case is my asking for 5 minutes of your time coming from a “sense of entitlement”; it’s coming from YOUR lack of planning putting ME in a position where I need to ask.

        In both the case of entitlement and in the case of “You should have planned better”, egos are getting in the way of getting the work done. Which is more important, that the work gets done or that things go your way? Or worse: Which is more important, getting the work done or inflicting pain on someone else? Generally, though, I avoid armchair psychoanalysis. It’s never effective and very seldom correct.

        Further, I’d argue that a boss that assigns a task without providing sufficient training or sufficient time to include training is the one causing the problem, not the person who’s stuck dealing with unrealistic deadlines. You don’t get to light me on fire and then complain that you’re too warm! That’s not a hypothetical; it’s a known problem in some organizations, one that I’ve done everything in my power to mitigate as I move up in the company.

        The key, I think, is to identify trends. If one person consistently has issues with a task, that’s on them. If a number of people consistently have issues, that’s on the manager–there’s a problem, a lack of communication or training, and the manager should address it.

      4. Lorelai*

        It wasn’t my own failure to plan, but my bosses’. In my previous position, I was regularly handed documents at 4:30 p.m. that had to be submitted by 5 p.m. Sometimes I hit a technical glitch that would need to be addressed ASAP. The tech manuals and instructional videos were not what was needed in that moment. I would need quick instruction. But thank you for the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry my hyperbole was lost on you.

        1. hamsterpants*

          If you were regularly handed documents at 4:30 PM then it’s your responsibility to either get really good at using the systems, endear yourself to the support people who presumably have responsibilities beyond your own projects, or push back on your boss. Don’t blame the support person for having finite time or not reading your mind that there is a deadline you have to hit.

          1. Dinwar*

            No. You DO NOT get to set an employee up for failure and then, when they inevitably have issues, blame them for not fixing the problem YOU created. If this happened in any other relationship it would be considered abuse. I see no reason not to call it that here. I’ll grant that taking frustrations out on the folks writing documentation isn’t exactly the best way to deal with it, but ultimately the problem is a managerial one, NOT with the staff.

            You need to think of these things in terms of Root Cause Analyses. What’s happening is an incident–a near miss at best, saved from being a worse incident by the mere chance of someone being available. Why was the worker snapping at another? Because they were rushed. Why were they rushed? Because they were given an extremely short time to do the thing. Why? Because management mismanaged their time and passed that issue along to the workers. Why did management mismanage their time? THAT is the question we need to be answering. Instead, you’re answering “What can the worker do to enable management to continue this issue?” At best you’ll resolve the symptoms; the disease is still there.

            Remember, Rushing and Frustration are trigger states. Something like 95%+ of loss incidents–injuries, damage, missed deadlines, and the like–are attributable to the triggers states, and you’re fostering an environment that routinely puts a worker into not one but two of these states. For someone trained in behavior based loss prevention, this is a horrifying thing to write. The next step is a loss incident of some sort. IF YOU’RE LUCKY a deadline will be missed. That’s lucky, because everyone can still go home to their families.

            And don’t think “This is an office job, this stuff doesn’t apply.” I do environmental remediation on active industrial and military facilities, and about 50% of the recordibles in the company are from office workers. And the principles are applicable to the office: by setting up a situation where you’ve all but maximized the probability of an incident, and ignoring the near misses and other minor incidents, you are all but asking for a major one.

            This is a situation that needs fixed. Telling the worker “Just do better” is not a fix. It’s like putting duct tape on the Titanic.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              In all fairness, hamsterpants did include “push back on your boss” as one of the appropriate responses to a pattern of last-minute work assignments. That dovetails pretty nicely with the root cause analysis you describe. I don’t think any of us disagree that constantly being in the trigger states you mention is a sign of a healthy work environment.

              But within that environment, I also get why people would be frustrated when their own work (which was probably also assigned late!!) is constantly interrupted by people needing to be shown how to do things (because let’s be real – it’s not going to be just one person who needs to know these things). I agree with you that the effective remedy is to make sure the manuals are complete, up to date, accessible, and organized. But when they aren’t, it’s understandable that everyone in that situation would be frustrated. And in a work environment that unhealthy, it’s unlikely the person with that knowledge will be afforded the time and space to actually update and test out the manuals appropriately. To me, it’s pretty useless to assign blame to either the junior staff, or the slightly-less-junior-but-still-underpaid-and-overworked staff who probably have all of the process questions dumped on them.

              1. Dinwar*

                “In all fairness, hamsterpants did include “push back on your boss” as one of the appropriate responses to a pattern of last-minute work assignments.”

                That’s fair.

                Your second point is also fair. I’m living that life right now, in fact–I’m waiting on the next interruption. :D I learned a long time ago that there are two ways to have an excellent program: You can either have excellent people, or excellent processes. (Truly excellent programs have both.) Excellent processes are better, because they are teachable–anyone who’s been through third grade can learn 99% of corporate processes.

                Where you run into trouble is when a program that relies on having excellent people starts getting merely above average people. Because there are no processes, you make them up on the fly–and when you’re already overwhelmed enough that you drop your standards just to get people, you don’t have time to do it right. The above-average people struggle to figure out what’s going on, and become frustrated–because they’re good people, used to doing really well, who WANT to do really well, but who aren’t being given the guidance or the opportunity to do well. The excellent people get frustrated because they feel that they need to do everything, and it takes even more time. (If someone who’s average comes in, it gets ugly. Below average folks don’t last very long in these environments.)

  51. animaniactoo*

    LW4 – Examining this from the ethical/moral side – I’d say you actually have a moral responsibility to NOT make employees re-apply for their own jobs and compete for them under circumstances where the layoff was not due to any action on their own part.

  52. anonymous73*

    #1 the crying is odd but the thing that concerns me more is his commenting on people being masked. Depending on how comfortable you feel (since he’s C level), I would consider pushing back on the mask comments. If people are comfortable without masks, that’s cool, but it’s none of anyone’s business if people still choose to wear them. If you don’t feel comfortable addressing him directly, I would go to HR (if they don’t suck).

  53. Nea*

    Another technical writer coming on to both commiserate with LW #2 and to repeat some of the best advice (which, I’m pleased to see, is mostly already up here.)

    1) Technical writing is a skill. If you have time in your work day, ask a neutral third party to look over your documentation and see if what is clear to you is clear to them. We’re all bad at assuming other people know what we know – or don’t know the obvious. (Once, a long, long time ago, a writer I worked with explained in excruciatingly painful detail what a double-click was, then whipped off “Change your calculator to scientific notation” without any further explanation.)

    2) Best practices require the avoidance of obfuscatory multisyllabic verbiage. As amusing as that was to write, nobody wanted to read it and some won’t understand it. Keep your words action oriented, short, and clear. One of the most satisfying professional moments I ever had was turning an entire paragraph ending “… the rationale will be visible to viewers in the aforementioned manner” into the single sentence “(When you do x) you have to give a reason everyone can read.”

    3) Bullet lists and tables are always better than paragraphs. ALWAYS. Don’t make people dig. Let them check off a list or run their fingers along a row or column until they find the answer they need.

    4) Quick starts are your friend One of the BEST things I have ever done for documentation is have a numbered list or a table at the front of a chapter: Click this, Click this, you’ll see this field, type this. If you want to know why or what that looks like, turn the page. Text only! Sometimes you just need a reminder of step 6, not have the entire thing explained to you.

    5) If you keep getting the same question a lot, write a FAQ for that question, because you either overlooked it or your explanation doesn’t make sense.

    6) You can avoid some of the questions if you add troubleshooting information, if you have it. “Sometimes you may see x, this means z has happened and you can fix it by doing y.”

    Now that you’ve written the best manual, prompt them to use it by going over it with them. When I’m asked something that has a written answer, I pull up the page they need and go over it with them. That way I get feedback on my writing and they get used to looking things up.

  54. my 8th name*

    LW: I often try to remind myself that the company I am interviewing with has a business to run outside of hiring me. Hell, even if they have a dedicated recruiter, there are other positions to hire for as well. These things can take time and it always sucks to play the waiting game, but stick with it if you’re interested in the role.

    Also I don’t think companies agonize over rejecting candidates. It’s business, and the fact that you haven’t heard a no but have heard other things is probably a good sign!

  55. Erin*

    For the person who wants to re-hire laid off employees: if you hire them back to their old roles, give them some perks – a raise, reinstating any PTO they had accumulated before they left, etc.

    In other words, sweeten the deal, and show them that you value them. They may not feel particularly valued by your company after being laid off. Take meaningful steps (not just a welcome back pizza party, but that would be a cool thing, as well!) to show these employees that your company values them, and that they are making a good career move by coming back.

  56. BA*

    To LW2 and the others who love their documentation: I think a reference guide and written documentation CAN be valuable, especially as a supplement to actual in-person training. But keep in mind that those those things also might not be as valuable as you think. You understand the process you’re documenting. You have expert-level knowledge. A newbie likely doesn’t. So you need to provide information from that angle versus your expert angle… while also understanding that you can’t overwhelm people with steps. Take a look at your documentation as though you’re not the expert. What does someone else walking in the door NEED in that information? Write from there.

    The documentation needs to be quick and easy to digest, too. If you have the “PROCESS BIBLE” that you’ve perfected over years, or dozens and dozens of how-to guides, how does a new person even know where to start looking for something? It is probably much easier to ask someone. Yes, it inconveniences you for a bit of time, but a couple minutes of your time answering questions is still going to cost the company less than a new person spending an hour paging through a hefty document just to see if they can figure out an answer.

    If you want to refer people to documentation you’ve put together, I think that’s great. But it has to be AFTER they’ve had some conversations with actual people about how things are done, and AFTER you’ve walked them through the training guides you’ve put together. Then, and only then, can you remind them that there’s information about ______ (whatever they’re asking about) covered in the manuals.

    1. BA*

      Also forgot to say this, too: It would be worth soliciting feedback on your materials. If people still ask the same question that is covered in your materials, that’s a sign that perhaps you need to update where it is, how it is written, etc. It isn’t that your information is wrong, but rather it is not as easily understood. Good training and information are the training and information that are helpful to the user, so adapting is key.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, I completely agree with all of this.

      I write procedures for my department as part of my job, and I’ve done it at other companies, too. I remember the first time I wrote a procedure years ago. My boss read it and the feedback I got was to write as though the reader just walked in the door for the first time and has never seen our computer applications and didn’t know our industry. That really helped me to write better procedures without a bunch of jargon only seasoned employees or industry experts would know.

      I admit it always annoyed me that I’d write a bunch of detailed procedures and I’d still get questions about things that can be found within the procedure. But over the years I’ve come to realize and accept that’s just how people are. It doesn’t matter how simple, how detailed, how many screen shots you add, how easy the documents are to search. It’s easier and faster to ask someone a question than to have to hunt through a procedure–assuming you can find the procedure in the first place. I always answer the question and then mention the procedure. If they keep coming back with the same question, though, I just refer them back to the procedure, which is usually an email with a link along with the page number.

  57. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    My first reaction to OP1 was that the executive is very invested in the idea that COVID is over and we can all return to pre-2020 life. This may not be something he’s consciously aware of. I mean, I would absolutely love it if that was true; if some miracle happened and I woke up tomorrow and COVID was gone for sure, I would also cry tears of joy.

    People wearing masks are threatening to his belief that everything is fine now. It’s a physical reminder that the pandemic isn’t over. And that what they want to do (i.e., act as though everything is back to normal and do whatever they want) isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. Wearing a mask is a thing we can do to protect ourselves and others. Seeing someone else make that choice may make them feel guilty or selfish. To resolve those feelings, they can either change their behaviour (which they don’t wanna!) or make it so that the other people are wrong.

    I’m not sure whether you or anyone else has the clout to push back on that piece, at least. In an “it’s really weird that you care so much about something that doesn’t affect you directly” kind of way.

    1. Alice*

      Re: resolving feeling of guilt or selfishness: I am having to do so much emotional labor to convince/reassure my line manager and grandboss that I don’t hold them personally responsible for organizational workplace safety issues.
      I get that the policy is X, and that my choice is to live with X or find a new job. I think the policy is bad but I’m not relitigating it and I haven’t quit yet. And yet you are still setting up extra 1:1s and asking, “how do you feel? Do you feel safe? Do you feel supported?”

    2. Aggresuko*

      That sums it up in a nutshell, doesn’t it.

      Wait three weeks when we get the B2 surge, buddy.

  58. AnonPi*

    LW2, a lot of people are just lazy. And bad at reading in general. All other issues aside re is the training readable/findable, learning styles, etc etc, people would rather you spoonfed them info that be bothered to figure it out their-selves. And then half of them will not bother to try to remember it or write it down, so they can come ask you again. I have one coworker that has flat out said she doesn’t bother looking at our guides because she can just ask me. Of course the one day she kept coming at me with Q after Q for about 30 mins, I emailed back the quick guide and said all the info is in here (including a lot of code #’s she kept asking for that *I* was having to refer to quick guide for to provide her). So she goes and tells boss I’m being a b**** and not helping her ::rolls eyes:: And yes I was the one chastised by my boss.

    Another coworker well, yeah I’m not sure how he finds his way to his office some days. He doesn’t like his job so he puts in the minimum effort (often incorrectly), and expects to be spoonfed everything. I gave him a task to do that had 5 short steps, we talked about it one on one and walked through it, confirmed he understood, then I gave him the instructions written too. Next day he’s going back and forth from my office and his asking me what to do after each step. After step 3 I ask if he looked at the 5 step list I gave him and he said no, he thought he had it memorized. *facepalm*

    All this to say, with some coworkers you’re just never going to get anywhere. I’ve gotten to the point that I’m so busy, if what they’re asking is documented and they’re asking more than one or two questions, I shut it down and say I’m sorry I’m too busy to walk through all the steps. Let me send you quick guide X (because yes while we have all these in the same shared folder for the last 10 years, they can’t be bothered to find it either), look it over and if you can’t figure it out come back later and we’ll look at it. Of course most of the time my coworkers will just go find another coworker or their boss to ask them. I told my boss this is what I’d be doing for now on, and while they didn’t seem thrilled (they’re conflict avoidant) they admitted it was reasonable.

    Whether to keep making documentation I’d say is up to you. There probably is someone who will appreciate them, if not now then in the future. But if it’s not required and it’s going to make you unhappy to do it, then I say don’t.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      (including a lot of code #’s she kept asking for that *I* was having to refer to quick guide for to provide her)

      And that’s when it’s time to say “sorry, I don’t know that one, but it’s in the quick guide if you want to look it up.”

    2. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I sympathize with OP#2
      I have to make a LOT of internal content for sales and executives. Powerpoint decks, sales materials about how to sell something, internal Sharepoint or Flipdeck websites, and yes, many “how to” or explainer guides. Sales maintains they “need” all of these things desperately or they are somehow unable to sell. But then they never get used or read.

      Currently working on a 100+ page business plan for a new product that I guarantee will never be reviewed by anyone because executives won’t bother to get through more than about the first 6 slides.

      It’s frustrating. We should spend all that time and effort making external content for customers and, you know, selling instead of presenting to each other. But that’s the culture at my company and I get paid well to the stuff, so You have to give up when internal content deadlines are enforced but external campaigns are not. That’s what they care about. Resistance is futile.

      1. Fran Fine*

        You are living my life and speaking to my soul *sigh.* My company is OBSESSED with endless internal presentations that generally lead nowhere and waste time we could be doing our actual jobs, and it drives me crazy.

  59. Jennifer Strange*

    #2 could very easily be me! I also have a habit of making very detailed (with screenshots and step-by-step instructions!) how-to guides, as well as breakdowns of protocols, and cheat sheets that seem to go unread. It’s frustrating, especially when it was one I was asked to make, not one that I just decided to make. One thing I started to do before going on maternity leave recently was to make videos in which I share my screen (I’ve done this with google meet, zoom, and my computer’s own camera). That way folks who learn better by seeing the process in action have another option. Will it work in the long run? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I know I’m doing everything I can.

  60. Purple Loves Snow*

    To OP #2:
    Not everyone learns by reading the materials, some people need to hear it, see it, do it or a combination of all of these. Even those who learn by reading the material, might process it differently than how it is laid out so the manual you made up might not make sense to them.

    Personally, I would not thrive in an environment where all the training material is meant to be self-read then implemented. I learn by watching once then doing it myself and making my own reference/cheat sheet with my own notes.

  61. theletter*

    How-to guides, eh?

    I’ve worked in a couple of offices that used how-to guides, usually driven by a single person who really enjoys writing how-to guides.

    In my most recent experience, the how-to manager loved to insist on guides for things that were not part of our team charter, like posting videos on a wiki page.

    I wrote several guides and conducted many training sessions on the version control, specifically the current world standard software for version control, but I was continuously met with blank stares and dumb questions.

    In addition, our tools changed too fast to keep them relevant.

    Eventually, I pushed back – I declared that version control training for current teammates would have to be conducted through professional materials that are available free on the web, and I would only recommend new hires who were already familiar and comfortable with the version control.

    I do not waste my time with people who claim to have learned common tools, and then ask questions that demonstrate that they do not grasp basic concepts. I ask their manager to give them remedial education and take me off the resource list.

    I also simplified the processes we had, opting for tools that are widely known and accepted over home-grown solutions or obscure libraries. I looked at what other teams were doing successfully and copied them, giving teammates more resources and examples in those tools.

    Occasionally I visit the wiki, stumble upon those old guides, and laugh at them with a sense of anti-nostalgia. Do not ask me to write a how-to guide, I’ve designed a system you can figure out yourself.

  62. CCC*

    LW 2: if you are responsible for training folks on these processes, would it be a fit for your org if you had trainees do “homework”? Little sample scenarios? You could even do it from an angle of “I want to see if my guides need to be improved, so please try doing SampleX using the guide, and if you get stuck then please note that and move on, and we’ll discuss when you’re done.” That’s the only think I’ve found that will get people to actually try this stuff independently before asking me.

    LW 4: Not disparaging the good info given here, but it seems problematic that you have enough staff that you laid off more than one of them, but don’t seem to have lawyer on retainer to check with on legal questions. Something to consider. Also, an in-between type solution might be to allow those laid off to apply as if they are internal candidates; that’s what my org does– anyone laid off is an internal candidate for a certain length of time.

  63. Doctors Whom*

    I am sympathetic to LW2 that it can really suck to do a lot of work to create a permanent source of knowledge and not see it used.

    What I would be curious about is how that content is organized.

    We have a miserable HRM implementation where I work. Like, if you want to download your W2 you don’t just go to the pay widget. You have to search on a collection of words in a search box, click into some obscure sub menus and wind up somewhere called something like “employee reference materials.” There are a bazillion “instruction guides”. But the instruction guides are all *task* oriented, and not *business process oriented*. The terminology in the HRM has no bearing on what the processes are actually called in our processes and standards, and the task steps you need in the HRM don’t prepare you for the information you need to have handy or translate from “name in app” to “what it’s called in the business.” If you are an expert in the *use of the HRM* I’m sure the instructions are wonderful, but if you’re a manager trying to use the HRM to execute a business process, it’s a nightmare. (All the guides also include an entire page and a half of instructions for logging in to the HRM.) The people who write the instructions are very proud of themselves because from the perspective of*their* role the documentation is clear and complete, and get frustrated when you ask a question because it’s “in the guide” – but it turns out they have no familiarity with the business process the tool is supposed to help you implement.

    That’s a long way of saying I would seek some feedback on the instructions from the people you are referring to them. “Hey, we covered that in the guides we published at X. If you think there’s a way to improve on the reference materials to make them more useful, I’d love to have that feedback!” Then you get the answer specifically about whether the material was useful, or whether people were not using it or unable to find it.

  64. Environmental Compliance*

    For OP 3, I’m a little curious what period of time this is over. Is the person *hella* pushy, like this had been over 2 weeks, or has this been over 3 months and he’s been emailing every other week?

    Not that the advice much changes, really – send the email saying your schedule just isn’t letting up and you wish them the best of luck – just curious.

  65. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    #1 “He’s also not hiding his irritation for people who have continued to wear masks in the office”
    JUST UGH! All his actions feel fake, phony, and performative to me. What a jerk.

    4. Can we re-hire laid-off staff without posting the job openings?
    I think this is actually the whole point of layoffs! Especially if business was reduced due to the pandemic. You’re kind of supposed to attempt hire back your workforce first.
    We’re all just used to companies that take “layoff”as a way to downsize permanently and get rid of “problematic” employees: the old, sick, disliked, overpaid, or underperforming, and bring in new talent (usually at lower wages).

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      #4. That’s what I was coming here to say! A layoff is stopping someone’s employment for a non-personal reason… with the idea that if the reason is fixed, the person could come back if still available.

  66. Mbarr*

    LW2… As a former Technical Writer, I feel your pain. LOL

    I write lots of internal process guides now. I always want to tell people, “RTFM” – Read the Effing Manual. :)

  67. Mallory Janis Ian*

    #4 Can we re-hire laid-off staff without posting the job openings?

    That’s what a lay-off is, right? As I understand it, the laid-off employees are supposed to get a callback before their jobs are posted elsewhere.

    1. Fran Fine*

      Not quite. As someone explained above, that’s a furlough. A lay off usually comes when the position has been eliminated entirely for things like budget cuts and restructuring. If OP managed to get more budget to bring back some of the roles, then yes, they could go ahead and post the position if they wanted to without calling back anyone who was let go. But many employers who end up in that scenario don’t bother posting the positions when they can just call up former staff they already know and trust to do the job well.

  68. HannahS*

    OP2, I want to offer an explanation other than “they’re lazy” or “they don’t appreciate it,” because I run into this at my work (except I’m the recipient) and our user-guides are basically ignored. The underlying reason is that they are an easier and more efficient way of teaching for the person writing them, but harder and less efficient way of learning for the junior employee.

    I am moved to a different hospital every 1-6 months. They all have different electronic medical records system. On my first day at a new site, I am given a standard workload.

    I might have been emailed a 45-page user guide with detailed instructions and screenshots made by a thoughtful, well-intentioned high-ranking administrator who understands the ins and outs of the computer program. They do not understand that at no point in my day does it make sense for me to go to a ward computer, open my email with multi-factor identification, download a 45-page document on a hospital computer (which might not even be possible for security reasons) figure out where in the document the instructions I need are, try to figure out what the screenshot is trying to tell me, realize that I’m not even on the right screen, try a different section (because am I wrong on the computer, or am I looking at the wrong part of the instructions?) and keep trying.

    Or, (true story) I could just turn to my supervisor and go, “Hey, I can’t seem to order insulin.” And they glance at my screen and say something like, “Oh, you can’t use the free-text form unless it’s non-formulary; insulin is in the index under ‘S’ for ‘sliding-scale.'” The exchange with my supervisor took under 30 seconds; even if we do that six times on my first day of work it’s still much faster than me reading a 45-page manual.

    Obviously, most workplaces aren’t hospitals and it might make sense to set out the expectation (and GIVE PEOPLE THE TIME AT WORK) to spend a few hours with the manual. But it’s also worth considering that, well, you like manuals! You enjoy making them, you’d have enjoyed having them, and they are an easy way for you to put the information that someone else needs in a single place. But that doesn’t translate into them being the best way for other people to learn. It’s worth thinking about how people in your workplace are trained. One of the hospitals I work at gives us a half-day of training (during work hours) where we work through a simulated patient on the computer; it forces us to practice all of our typical job functions with access to the manual and an instructor.

    1. Dinwar*

      I’ll add something that your insulin example brings up: Often, unless the person is already familiar with the thing, the manual is useless. Most user manuals assume a certain level of familiarity with the thing in question, and everyone’s got different assumptions.

      I recall on one training call the trainer said something to the effect of “Just log into the QZP website and click here and here and you can find all these forms we’ll talk about today.” At no point did anyone go over how to find the QZP website. Starting from our company internal home page it takes going down four levels of web pages to find the link to this site–and it’s very much not intuitive where you need to go at any point. Of course the person giving the training had the website bookmarked, because he’s in it every day.

      I’m not immune myself. I’ve been called out for saying things like “Yeah, just contact Joe and make sure you’ve got X, Y, and Z, and you’re good to go.” My boss has interrupted me saying “Who’s Joe? What’s his phone number? Where do you find X, Y, and Z?” I live and breath this stuff, so to me it’s intuitive; to folks new to the site it can seem like arcane knowledge beyond the ken of mortals.

      It’s really, really hard to remember what information someone who’s never been in your position needs. And it’s really hard to convey that information in a way that’s not condescending but still provides sufficient information to be useful. Writing a good instruction manual is an art form. And unfortunately there are more people writing such manuals than there are people good at writing them. The result is that folks like me very quickly become jaded and very dubious of any instruction manuals we see that we didn’t write ourselves.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah. 100%. To go back to my own example, the person writing the manual wrote, “If you can’t find the drug in the index, use the free-text box” which is absolutely not the same instruction as, “The free-text box is only for non-formulary drugs.” And the information on where to access the drug index is on page 1 and I’m on page 28 trying to understand why insulin doesn’t auto-populate in the drop-down menu. A lot of instruction manuals are just not as useful as the people writing them think they are; teaching in writing is really, really hard to do well. There’s a reason that technical writing and copyediting are entire professions.

  69. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    #2 are you just giving the trainees the how-to guide and not walking them through it? If so that’s probably why you get so many questions. A how-to guide is great but sometimes, especially if someone is new, it’s best to walk them through and/or show them a few times.

    Even the best user manual with all of the pictures is not going to be the same as having someone directly show me what to do. There are reasons why most training has a component of hands-on and reading.
    Keep in mind people learn in different ways.

  70. Database Nerd*

    LW #2, I keep a digital sticky note with short answers to the most frequently asked questions that come up, and most of them include a line about, “You can check page ___ of the user guide if you’d like to see screenshots of the process.”

    It gives them the answer they need, it keeps me from having to compose a new email every time, and it trains them to look in the manual.

  71. Marie*

    Re: Training manuals. While I prefer written materials, younger employees appear to prefer videos. Something to consider.

    1. Higher Ed*

      I hate that so much training is video now. I find it a waste of my time to have to watch a video when I can read the same content is less time. Written material is also easier to go back to reference needed sections.

  72. Workfromhome*

    #2 I have so much empathy for this. I’v written countless how to documents for internal staff customers and detailed announcement emails about changes and process for vendors. as soon as I send them out I get a barrage of phone calls messages etc. can you explain what this is all about? when I ask “so you read the document an you tell me which art is unclear” the answer is always oh no I didn’t read it I figured it would easier to ask you.

    I’ve become quite prickly about this even with customers or higher ups for te most part (I find I can get away with it except in a few obvious situations Id likely nt do it to the CEO:-))I’ll say I’m ver busy right now once you’ve read the document if you still, have questions come back to me. or put your questions in an email and I’ll clear them up. I’d say90% of the time it just goes away. if I’m forced to help someone who ignore the documents once the next time they ask the same question I’ll refer tem to the document that we already went over and email it to them aging. I can remember a very few times someone went to my boss and said XX wont help me or says hes too busy > I forwarded my boss the emails were I shared the documents with that person and said I did help them. look at what they were provided. Ive ever been called to task on it.

  73. Annimal*

    Re: Letter #1 and Performative Delight (a term I adore) – come to Texas! People are performing their anti-masking delight all over. I was in a Trader Joe’s 6 months ago right when they dropped their mask requirements thanks to our governor, and a tall, mid 60s white man was walking around the store stopping everyone without a mask and proclaiming in loud TX drawl “It is GOOD to see your face!!!” You could hear him from every corner of the store and in my 20 min in the shop I think I heard it 16 times. The performative element is STRONG with this demographic. And gross.

    1. Epiphyta*

      Ah, Texas.

      My unvaccinated cousin and his wife died within three weeks of each other in December, leaving three children and six grandchildren. Did this finally get the attention of their friends and neighbors? It did not.

  74. Observer*

    #1 I know that the crying is the REALLY weird thing. But I don’t think that there is anything you can or should say about it. The irritation about masks is less “weird”, but *that* IS a genuine problem. So much so that if I were going to push back or say anything about something, THAT would be what I would be addressing. Because pressuring people to not wear masks is NOT ok. Given his position, “expressing irritation” *is* a form of pressure.

  75. azvlr*

    LW#2 Can you leverage these materials to create an actual training program with assessments that trainees must pass in order to complete the training?
    It could be as simple as creating a Google form with with references to the relevant documentation that they must access to find the answers.
    Be sure your documentation is easy to access, neat, consistent, up-to-date, and for the love of all that is holy, please make it concise. If it’s a wall of words or contains irrelevant information then it’s understandable why people may not want to read it.
    Ask for feedback, but also see if you can enlist another coworker or two to help you develop the documentation (perhaps even the ones that come to you the most). We learn best by teaching others, so this may help them not only learn the information, but they may also encourage others to use it, and possibly lead to a culture shift around using it.

  76. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

    All these answers to #2 are giving me life.

    I’m a technical writer. At Current Job, I am the first trained tech writer the company has ever had in 60 years. All the manuals were written either by conscripted engineers or relatives of employees on summer break. I spent three years just editing them to the point where the grammar didn’t make me twitch, the graphic design didn’t make my eyes bleed, and the instructions wouldn’t get us sued.

    I’m now getting ready to leave said company and am starting to write the “how to do my job” instruction.

    Today is my gratitude day: Thank you to all the wonderful Commetariat. Between y’all and of course our Ms. Green, y’all have done so much to help me learn.

  77. C*

    As someone who thrives on Google searches and documentation, and puts lots of care into creating documentation, I’ve started just accepting that some people’s brains work differently. Some need verbal instruction and struggle with written instruction. The goal is to work as a team get the job done correctly, even if it can be hurtful when people don’t use the thing you made to help them. So I try to offer different options, or ask what they would prefer. If it’s getting in the way of other work, though, the suggestions from other commenters should help cut down on it.

  78. Snark*

    I am assuming LW3 is actually James Bond and am reading that letter in the voice of Daniel Craig. This has improved my entire day and I highly recommend it. Perhaps the teacher is M and the letter writer is Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

  79. How To Read*

    #2 — I am the person who lives for detailed documentation!! I just moved to a new job that has some of the worst I’ve ever seen and it has been so debilitating — especially considering how specialized their software is to other companies in my industry. I love poring over screenshots and step by steps. Please don’t think it’s for naught!

  80. Elizabeth West*

    #2–Someone I replaced at an old job left me an entire folder of instructions for my work. It was an environmental laboratory, so we definitely had certain standards for receiving samples and recordkeeping that were necessary to conform to actual laws. It helped me learn the job faster and was so, so helpful. I adopted this practice from then on—I took copious notes when learning a job and wrote everything up just in case I got hit by a bus and someone had to cover for me or I wanted to actually use my PTO.

    Even if OP 2’s workplace doesn’t value SOP documents (they should, IMO), being able to write clear and concise instructions is an actual job skill. It was even part of my work at Exjob to create them for departmental tasks we did sporadically. So unless it takes time away from your duties, I wouldn’t say it’s a wasted effort. I wrote a full-on editing guide for Exjob that no one but me used, but it makes a great portfolio item—with proprietary info and screenshots redacted, of course.

  81. The Burg*

    LW5, don’t “read the room” and drop out! I rarely have anecdotes to share, but a very similar thing happened to me years ago. I had 2 great interviews for an entry-level position in the exact niche field I wanted to be in. Got along great with the manager, was able to meet the owner of the (small) company, etc. Manager said she expected to have an answer for me by the next week. Cut to two weeks later and I still hadn’t heard anything, so I called to check and was given some vague “sorry, it’s taken longer than anticipated” response and was told it should be within a couple of weeks.

    Dude it was MONTHS. I had fully written the company off, completely bummed. I eventually heard from the manager, offering me the job! I was excited, though confused about how Long it had taken.

    And then. Two weeks after starting there was a mandatory all-staff meeting where we were informed that the couple who owned the company had sold it to a much larger corporation. Turns out my boss had needed to get approval from the current *and* future owners to bring me on board.

  82. Anita Brake*

    People learn in different ways. Certain people learn by listening to what needs to be done, others learn by reading (read directions and follow them), and still others learn by doing. I am one who learns by doing, but I prefer to have a detailed manual next to me giving me instructions while I learn by doing. My point is that not everyone is going to learn by reading the detailed manuals you create, but I would sure love them!

  83. Anita Brake*

    LW #2: People learn in different ways. Certain people learn by listening to what needs to be done, others learn by reading (read directions and follow them), and still others learn by doing. I am one who learns by doing, but I prefer to have a detailed manual next to me giving me instructions while I learn by doing. My point is that not everyone is going to learn by reading the detailed manuals you create, but I would sure love them!

  84. Justathot*

    Lw1- did you know your coo in the before times? If this is all new behavior it could be a medical issue – think brain tumor. Likely not your job to suggest it but definitely possible with abrupt/inappropriate behavior changes.

  85. Safely Retired*

    Not the same situation as #2, but with some similarities and MAJOR differences. We had a multi-year project to replace a key application with one that took advantage of much better technology. The first major step was to document every detail of the existing system so that we could replicate it with completely different tools. That resulted in multiple binders of forms, notes and documents. Once we reached that stage where we had to program the processes, the people doing the work had not been involved in creating those books. It was far more efficient for one of us who had it in our heads already to sit down with the new person and explain what they had to accomplish. I was one of the go-to people from the first stage who helped the programmers get through that later stage. From this I formulated one of my most important rules of thumb: you can have all the documentation you want, but to use it you have to have it in your head.

  86. raida7*

    2. No one reads my how-to guides

    I got around this issue at my job:
    Happy to help, direct them to the right place, insist on using the document to answer questions, not give an inch unless it isn’t in the document, having my manager in agreement about wasting my time and staff expectations on looking for answers in the text you already have so it’s framed as “skill you need here” since that includes emails.

    “Sure, Quarterly Customer Report has a guide in that location I showed you, just let me know if you have any problems finding it!
    If the guide doesn’t cover what you’re after I’m happy to help!”

    Then when they ask for help I’ll either
    A) Go to their desk so they can open up the guide they *obviously* already have used… At which point I walk them through locating and opening it, reiterating that I offered to help with this step originally, of course I’m happy to help – this is so fast, I thought you were after some troubleshooting!
    “There you go, it’s got an intro, explanation of the reason for the process and report, screenshots and step by step instructions.
    Just let me know if you need something that isn’t in this document byeeeeeeeeeeeeee”

    B) Screen-share locating and opening the document from my puter, check “is this the one you found/did you have any trouble finding this?”, and once it’s open just say “Alrighty, what page am I going to? What step are we at?”
    And just let that hang for a few seconds, see what approach they take (also this is the right thing to do if they are genuine and not just ignoring the how-to docs).
    If it’s clear they haven’t used it – I re-iterate that I am available to ask questions if there’s an issue, I recommend they take notes as they go if it helps them to really nail down what they’re learning. Plus I’d love feedback on if the how-to isn’t clear and accurate!. We spent time and effort creating these documents because there was a lack of reference material, and the million little questions they eliminate saves a lot of work hours from interruptions – so our manager expects them to be fully utilised.

    This, combined with my manager knowing to tell newbies that they are expected to look in [file lcoation] for processes, and they are expected to use the docs when directed to them, means that I can refer to that when telling people for the second time that there’s a how-to, and means that I can flag repeat behaviours with the manager because it shouldn’t be confusing to the newbie for their manager to talk with them about a work expectation they made clear in onboarding.

  87. bugscraper*

    #2 I was asked to create some standard document templates for my company so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It was a huge job. I also tried to make everybody aware of some important standards and procedures that everybody ignore. To this day I’m the only one who actually follows those procedures and uses the templates.

    In this case I think it’s because some people just don’t want to change. In your case.. I don’t know. Maybe people are too lazy to read.

  88. Agent Diane*

    OP2 – in your letter you never say you train people or walk/talk them through the processes you’ve documented. A huge number of people will want that interactivity when learning, so the how-to guides become their key for unlocking the memory of the training. If your company are expecting you to train your colleagues on a process and all you do is send them documentation? You’re not training them! One colleague asked you for help and you went away and did a guide rather than talk them through it? I’d go and ask someone else for help in that situation too!

    If your colleagues are being trained but then pointed to you for support on an ad-hod basis? A RTFM response is ignoring what they need from you, which is to pick your brains and learn from your experience.

    I do think you could try not creating these unless asked. I also think you need to consider seeing your experience as something best shared in dialogue and not documents.

  89. moonstone*

    LW1 – if you’re not already, walk through the process with them the first time and then give them the written manuals to refer to when they attempt it themselves and forget something. Make sure the subheadings of the instructions are clear for if they need to quickly navigate to a step and even create a section for troubleshooting common problems. This is usually very effective for me.

  90. Mauvaise Pomme*

    LW#5, a month is not that long!! And you have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes. In a previous hiring process, I was sending my favorite candidate regular updates letting them know we hadn’t forgotten about them and promising more word would be coming soon because 1) a key decision maker had a family issue and was having to take leave, and 2) we were having trouble (partially because of #1) interviewing the minimum number of qualified candidates our organization required us to interview before we were allowed to select a candidate.

    It ended up taking a little more than two months to make them an offer, which must have been very frustrating on their end (and I hated it too), but the extended interviewing process had absolutely NOTHING to do with them personally. Nor did it reflect on our departmental processes or workplace culture more generally; it was just a combination of organization-wide policies out of our hand and some bad luck.

    If you can, try to harness some feelings of zen around the idea that you should just assume you don’t have the job until you hear otherwise. Proceed with your current workplace under the assumption you’ll be there indefinitely until you know otherwise, and then if you’re offered the new job, it will be a nice surprise.

  91. Disco Janet*

    #5: To be honest, I’m a bit puzzled why you’re taking the delay so personally. Why assume that this prospective employer feels secretly ambivalent about you, and that they’re experiencing prolonged distress over their hiring decision? Maybe they have a really slow HR department, maybe the COO who has to green-light hiring decisions is laid out with COVID, maybe it’s taking forever to schedule the rest of the interviews they need to complete before moving all the top candidates on to the next round, maybe a persnickety VP in another department who you’ve never even met is challenging the hiring manager’s need for this position because he wants the hiring budget for someone in HIS department, and he’s making the hiring manager defend the need for this role.

    By all means, if it’s stressing you out to drag out the hiring process, and you’re not particularly interested in this job at the end of the day, bowing out is valid, but don’t make the mistake of thinking the long timeline is some kind of passive-aggressive message. I promise that companies have no problem sending the “thanks, but no thanks” message to candidates they’re not interested in!

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