update: my employee wastes a huge amount of everyone’s time with “helpful” suggestions and questioning

Remember the letter-writer whose employee was wasting a huge amount of everyone’s time with “helpful” suggestions and questioning? Here’s the update.

First, thank you, Alison, for your insight, suggestions, and scripts. And a huge thank you to all of the commenters for their wise words. I referenced your answer and the comments many times.

After a few months of renewed efforts to give Adam clear boundaries and cut off arguments, I really thought we were making progress. He had a few incidents where his approach had been so off-base that it made it easier to be extremely clear with feedback, written and spoken, and it seemed like he was understanding it. I was hearing fewer complaints and he had stopped pushing back so hard with me.

It took me a little more time to realize that Adam hadn’t improved, he had simply learned to go around me and our entire department. After some digging, I found out he had been setting up meetings to pitch for his “ideas” with other department heads and even the C-suite — ideas that had already been rejected by our team’s VP.

He eventually crossed a major line that could have publicly embarrassed the company, which caused all of this to come to light. Along with the pages and pages of documentation I had been keeping, this last incident allowed me to make a very solid case to fire Adam.

Once he was let go, the relief for me, and the shift in the atmosphere around the team, was immediate. His workload turned out to be easy to manage, so the transition has been pretty smooth. I’m thrilled with where we are as a team now, there’s a lot more collaboration and a new ease in how we work.

Reflecting on the last year or so, a couple lessons I’ll carry with me —

First, I will start off in all of my conversations and management by being more direct and extremely clear. I’ve learned ways (thank you Alison and commenters!) to help me set boundaries and cut off unproductive debate and focus the feedback.

Second, one of the reasons Adam was able to last as long as he did was that he exploited our organizational structure by counting on the fact that cross-department communication is pretty weak and I wouldn’t always learn what he was doing. I’ve now prioritized my own efforts to meet people and communicate outside of my team and get a better sense for what is happening across the company.

And finally, the forgiving and tolerant culture we have here is well-intended, but significantly delayed solving this problem. People at all levels justified Adam’s behavior and gave him a sounding board because he was friendly and smart and everyone here is supposed to have a voice. Even when they mentioned to me where Adam crossed lines, they asked me not to say anything to him because they said it might upset him.

I learned I had to push back on that approach and explain boundaries to them as well. And I had to be forceful in making the case to my boss to fire Adam, since my boss also saw some value in him and was worried that firing him would upset other departments where Adam had friends.

In the end, this outcome was all but inevitable, and I thank you all for helping me see that clearly. I’ll be using these lessons far into the future!

{ 293 comments… read them below }

  1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    As soon as I saw the headline, I thought, “Reader, I fired him.”

    And a great example of how not firing people is not “kind,” it just shifts the suffering onto other people.

    1. Beth*

      “Reader, I fired him.” Pure gold.

      If the total workload goes DOWN when you get rid of a member of staff . . . that tells you something well worth knowing.

      1. BethRA*

        Seriously – and considering how much of his own time he wasted being a pain in everyone else’s piriformis, he can’t have been doing much of his own actual work.

        1. Ccbac*

          Interestingly, the original post noted that Adam was a high quality performer (which is why so many people put up with his suggestions for so long)

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, I didn’t get the sense he was a high *performer*, but what work he did (eventually) produce was of good quality. Given the amount of his own, his manager’s, and his coworkers’ time he wasted, I don’t think he could be a high-performer.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            Well, HIS work might have been good or great but everyone else was spending an hour of their time explaining to him why they didn’t do the thing he suggested.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I should not have read this comment during my break. I may not get much done for the rest of the afternoon.

      1. Vio*

        Which only goes to show that he’s even negatively effecting the performance at a workplace where he does not even work (we hope)!

    3. Michelle Smith*

      It is arguably kind to him in the long term too (though clearly not in the short) because sometimes people can use that experience of being terminated to improve or to change to a better suited type of role.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Same here. It relieved me of the struggle of having to hold down a job while I sorted out a diagnosis of autism. I didn’t work for a long time after that — my parents gave me a lot of breathing room, for which I am incredibly grateful — but it really taught me that sometimes it is better to cut your losses and step down rather than try to handle something to the point of burnout.

          (I wasn’t Adam. Basically I was unable to focus at work because of how my autism causes rumination on a particular subject for what can be hours at a time until I find some kind of resolution on my own, and my boss — who had been very supportive but was in need of someone who could type her letters properly for her without dropping the dictation machine — had to let me go.)

        2. Ron Miles*

          Same here. When I was fired very early in my career, at the time it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Ultimately it turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me, because it propelled my career into an entirely different and much more successful direction.

      1. Ms.Vader*

        Maybe but I doubt Adam will actually take it as a lesson learned but more about how he was so right that they refused to listen to him!

  2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    I just went back and read the original. Holy shit he sounded exhausting. But I LOVED the example scripts and saved them.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      and I read Alison’s advice… she pretty much predicted what was going to happen, that he would go around his manager’s back and continue trying to promote his concerns/views. Alison had provided scripts for what to say to other employees who could be confronted by Adam. I definitely would have felt weird pre-empting him, but maybe that would have helped derail his schemes? hmmm

    2. House On The Rock*

      Yes! I remember the original, and I just went and reread it. I felt incredibly stressed out and exhausted just hearing about Adam! I cannot imagine how a whole company could deal with him for as long as they did.

  3. Csethiro Ceredin*

    Phew, well done, OP. Adam was exhausting just to read about… I can only imagine how you must feel with all that lifted off your shoulders.

  4. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    I’m so incredibly curious to know what the final eff-up was. SPILL THE TEA OP!

    Thanks for the update. Glad to hear that your meticulous documenting helped you put this one to bed.

    1. singularity*

      Same, and I also want to know what the conversation was like when the fired him. Did he continue to try to push back and spin his little web of ridiculousness?

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed. Given everything else that was going on, I really want to know what that final straw that got everybody else in agreement was – because it had to be a doosey.

      And, oh to be a fly on the wall for the your services are no longer required conversation. Also betting that he was trying to fast talk his way out of being fired.

    3. Observer*

      Yes, I think that most of us are REALLY interested in that.

      OP, if you can explain what happened without identifying your company, please do so.

    4. yala*

      Knowing that it’s even more out-of-touch than “trying to schedule a meeting with the C-suit to tell them all of my Great Ideas”…I feel like it’s gotta be Interesting, to say the least.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just a reminder that letter writers do not have any obligation to share details that they think could compromise their anonymity or the anonymity of people they’re writing about. (I know you all know this, and I also know that pull to learn more, but I don’t want LWs to ever feel pressured to share more than their own judgment dictates they should!)

    6. Silver Robin*

      I sorely want to know too!

      Pure, unadulterated speculation:

      Based on the fact that he tried to go around the hierarchy to ever more powerful people AND that he does not seem to understand neither who is an appropriate audience nor when is an appropriate time…

      I bet it had to do with clients or funders. Maybe he brought up his Great Ideas in a meeting with them and made the org look like they did not know what they were doing or that there was/should be uncertainty where there is/should be none. After all, if the *client* agrees with Sir Gumption, then the org will *have* to implement the better process. (Or not! Maybe it was something else!)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Sir Gumption, defender of the right to meddle in other departments and have pitch meetings with the C-suite.

      2. House On The Rock*

        While I want to be respectful of not falling into “commenter fan fiction”, I had a similar thought. Perhaps he went to, or tried to go to, an outside partner/client/funder with his “improvement” ideas and that risked making the company look bad. Something along the lines of “The C-Suite won’t hear my genius ideas to solve their FUBAR processes, don’t you agree Mister Major Client that this process is horrible and the leadership is clueless???”.

    7. Tio*

      I’m betting one of two things…

      1. He promised something to a client that was unworkable/grossly unprofitable and they had to walk it back
      2. He promised something publicly in some sort of news outlet that had to be publicly walked back

      1. Other Alice*

        I’m thinking either that or he signed up for some kind of event or conference without informing the company where he was going to “announce” improvement or changes that existed only in his head. Whatever the truth was… what a wild guy.

      2. Ellie*

        As a software engineer, my bet is on the first one. In one of those client meetings, he could have promised that they could invent a space ship to send them all to Pluto or something, then one of the clients took him seriously and the company had to quickly walk it back. Either that or he proposed something that was technically feasible, but the client now expected it would be delivered in a month’s time and for free.

      1. Venus*

        Even if it wasn’t immediately obvious, the fact that it could cause public embarrassment makes it very unlikely that the LW would take a risk and tell us something that could hurt their employment.

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    He had been setting up meetings to pitch for his “ideas” with other department heads and even the C-suite.
    A classic example of how when someone goes the extra mile to become a legend, it’s almost always an excess of gumption rather than lack.

          1. allathian*

            ROFL, I snorted coffee out my nose at that! Remind me again not to read AAM on my coffee breaks…

      1. MauvaisePomme*

        I feel like I’ve known a couple of Adams in my own working life, and they’re ALWAYS the people who claim that they were indispensable in a job, and that the company fell apart without them when they left. (When in reality, everyone heaved an enormous sigh of relief to see them go.) That’s why I always have a smidge of skepticism anytime I hear someone tell a story in which they were an irreplaceable rockstar at a former workplace, and everything absolutely fell to pieces after they left (especially if they were let go).

  6. Keymaster of Gozer*

    This is the kind of update I read this site for! Where decisions were implemented and actions taken to prevent it happening again (like improving communication between teams).

    Very, very good job OP. You’re an excellent manager.

    1. Silver Robin*

      Absolutely. Not having good lines of communication between departments is fixable! And OP did it! Love it

    2. Lacey*

      Yes! I loved hearing that they saw the lack of communication and found ways to solve it! That’s awesome!

  7. I Am On Email*

    Phew, I’m pleased you don’t have to deal with that anymore OP.

    Out of curiosity – how did Adam react when the firing finally happened? Was he surprised or could he see that he’d crossed a line? I always wonder if these types are aware they are pushing things (and endangering their job) or if they are somehow justifying it to themselves as being a #gogetter

    1. MsM*

      My money’s on “still loudly complaining to anyone and everyone who will listen at networking events that they just didn’t appreciate his vision.” (Possibly with a side of “it’s soooo hard out there for white men these days,” judging by the original letter.)

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        I guarantee he’s out there talking about how DEI initiatives are racist against white people.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            In the original letter the LW said “ he believes we’re being hypocritical if we tell him to tone down his personality (he is a white male) since that’s not being inclusive.”

      2. ferrina*

        Yeah, this is my bet too. Don’t forget about how they “bullied” him, and he’s probably claiming that someone talked behind his back (considering he was utilizing the lack of communication to hide what he was doing)

      3. elle *sparkle emoji**

        Or he tries to rules-lawyer the situation and argue that ackshully, he deserves a promotion for his brave display of Gumption

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Yeah I figured he’d debate the decision to fire him because he wasn’t convinced it was the best action.

      4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yes, that bit from the original letter had me grunting dangerously. Like, minorities are to be included whatever their skin colour hair type religion native language so long as they are professional, and that somehow means that white men are allowed to be jerks?
        (As if DEI would even be necessary if (too many) white men hadn’t behaved like jerks since forever)

      1. acl-ny*

        Hope you’re in an At-Will state, and that any claims of discrimination were thrown out.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          They’re almost certainly in an at-will state, like more than 99% of the population of the United States.

          Also, I am not a llama, but it looks like good cause in Montana includes disruption of the business’s operations, as well as a catch-all for other legitimate business reasons. So, in Montana they couldn’t fire him for liking the Red Sox or wearing blue on a Tuesday, but they had clear, non-arbitrary and legally acceptable reasons for the firing.

    2. Lacey*

      It’s honestly possible that he went on to do something that worked for him. I replaced a problem employee who is thriving in another job. And many people are still friendly with him even though he torched his relationship with a few key-players.

      1. Oui oui oui all the way home*

        I’m really curious what kind of job a problem employee can be successful in. Also, is is possible it only appears from the outside that the person is thriving, and their boss might write to AAM with a story as wild as the story of Gumption Adam.

        1. Just spit ballin*

          he sounds like he’d be a great process improvement consultant to be honest

          six sigma and the like

          1. Rainbow*

            Yeah, my job is not wildly dissimilar from what Adam thought his role was. Although recognizing diplomacy is also needed in my job. However, recognizing over-reliance on letting someone get away with poorly-efficient work due to tiptoeing around them, and proceeding to not lie down and be diplomatic to a fault, is also part of it.

            I obviously don’t know Adam. But I liked him! I feel a little bad for him, even though this seems to have been the right call. I feel like in real life I’d either be best friends with him or hate his guts.

            1. Rainbow*

              Though to be clear, I can’t figure out exactly how the DEI thing went down irl so I’m giving a little benefit of the doubt based on it being kinda vague whether he actually blamed DEI, but that puts me towards the edge of hating guts. To be fair there are definitely white guys who need DEI efforts (sexuality, neurodiversity, hidden or visible disability).

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        But is he thriving because they appreciate his gumption in the other job, or because he learned his lesson?

  8. Hiring Mgr*

    Even if Adam was 100% well-meaning, he already sounds totally exhausting, even before whatever the final incident was.

    As you said, this was inevitable.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      That one was a wild ride. I wish we had an update to that one. I’m wondering how LW is doing now and if she’s learned anything from her experience.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      A classic! With the bonus that she wrote in, thinking she was the aggrieved party. That is an elevated level of cluelessness.

    3. Nea*

      That letter is a personal favorite, mostly because I’ve worked with Adam types too many times.

    4. Csethiro Ceredin*

      I am developing a theory that the phrase “needless to say” is a red flag that they’re about to recount doing something outrageous.

      “needless to say, I was personally offended by the cheap rolls”
      and so on

      1. PollyQ*

        It’s true! There isn’t a 100% correlation, but if you search the site for that phrase, you will find a good number of “unclear on the concept” letters.

      2. Saccharissa*

        Yes, this! I still remember the “Needless to say, I emailed my girlfriend’s boss and told him to stay out of our relationship” guy. He was… something.

        1. Csethiro Ceredin*

          Oh I’d forgotten about him. Great example of someone egregiously wrong who is also VERY convinced that all reasonable people would agree with them.

          (also, great user name. GNU!)

      3. Wait, what?*

        Yes! OH MY GOD! I used to read a blog/forum called Etiquette Hell and the phrase “needless to say” came up A LOT from people who were utterly and erroneously convinced of their own righteousness.

    5. SB*

      Wow, that was, intense. I am imagining the conversation between Betty & Veronica after that meeting & the looks on their faces.

  9. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I’m still stunned at the illusion everyone was under that he had friends in so many places when what he had was pity.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      He was described as smart and friendly in the original letter; I imagine he made friends with people who didn’t have to work with him.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah I’ve had a few coworkers who were fired that were very personable and seemed to really love their work, so people who didn’t work closely with them were always shocked (including me a couple times), and then everyone would find out from the people who did work with them that there were actually very good reasons why they needed to go.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I got the impression he was great at selling himself – the problems just emerged if and when you had to work with or depend on him for some project.

        Maybe he’d be good in sales?

  10. Tulipmania*

    High fives that you’re rid of this guy!

    Everyone deserves a voice, but not a megaphone.

    The original post referenced him feeling that his BS needs to be accommodated because of the general push around DEI efforts. I think what happened with a lot of whit guys is, they saw POC getting slightly fewer obstacles to being heard (so like, going from -5 to neutral on the “ease of being heard” scale), and decided they deserved the same gain- taking their own voices from like a 10 to a 15.

    Basically, “if POC/women suddenly don’t get overshadowed as easily, then to compensate I get a spotlight shone on me.”

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      “Everyone deserves a voice, but not a megaphone. ”

      This is brilliant and true.

  11. reg*

    thank you for the update, lw. i can’t fathom the audacity of this man, pretending to tow the line while badgering other departments behind your back.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It does seem like a bold move but I wondered if in his mind it was just another optimization, like OP etc are obstacles to getting this Great Idea approved, so take a more optimal path around the obstacle.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “My manager is upset I do X, I’ll just hide it from her in the future” is a very juvenile approach to authority.

  12. Hills to Die on*

    Just because you voice is heard doesn’t mean everyone needs to hear everything, all the time.
    Adam is certainly out there telling anyone who will listen about how mistreated he was by the company and how OP was clearly out to get him, probably due to jealousy.
    Or maybe he will learn.
    I hope that comes about by reading about himself here and seeing all of the comments and be mortified, thus resolving to be a Better Adam.
    But whatever – he’s out of OP’s life and that’s the important thing.

  13. Heidi*

    It’s unfortunate that the daily waste of everyone’s time was not enough to get him fired, but it had to reach the point where he finally pissed off the wrong person or did something too egregious for anyone to ignore. I’m not really surprised at how easy it was to redistribute Adam’s work. It sounds like he spent a huge amount of time on activities unrelated to his role.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wonder if it was a matter of just the OP was so capable at running her department (that luckily was full of other high performers) and at handling the comments from other departments for so long that it was easier for other higher ups to miss what a broken stair Adam was until he decided to pull sneaky end runs around the OP that they didn’t know about so couldn’t shut down.

      Spouse used to work with one of these Adams. Adam is still stuck in the same job, for going on 15 years now, spouse started below Adam six years ago, and is now three (and soon to be four) levels higher in the organization because spouse knows how to accept “No” for an answer.

      1. allathian*

        Good for your spouse, but there’s something dysfunctional in an organization that allows the Adams of this world to flourish.

  14. BatManDan*

    The most distressing thing I’ve read on here in a long time…” was worried that firing him would upset other departments where Adam had friends.”

    The willingness, desire, even, to support blatant productivity blockers is what keeps me out of the corporate world and happily self-employed for 35 years now.

  15. Dust Bunny*


    This was one of the most stressful letters I’ve ever read on here.

    1. I.T. Phone Home*

      When I saw the title it was so fresh in my mind that I was surprised to see it had been a whole year since the original letter.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      Same! I was exhausted when I read the letter the first time, and exhausted again when I went to read it again just now. Good grief, Adam. NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU THINK.

      OP, I’m so glad you were finally able to get rid of him!

      1. AlohaCocoa*

        I relate a lot to Adam, and it makes me sad everyone hates him, finds him exhausting, and doesn’t care about what he has to say.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          It’s not that nobody wanted to hear Adam – it’s that his delivery and unwillingness to accept an answer of “No” made even his good ideas things that nobody wanted to hear because of all the other times he just wouldn’t let something rest. Sort of like a “boy who cried wolf” syndrome.

          But OP cannot force him to work on his delivery and acceptance of the answer No, only Adam can do that for himself.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I believe they’re referring to Adam continuing to ignore the LW (his boss) telling him to focus on his job, not to mention ignoring people when they explain why a process is a certain way if he doesn’t like the answer.

            2. biobotb*

              Any response that wasn’t a “yes, of course we’ll change it exactly the way you want” got endless pushback and badgering from him, no matter how cogent the argument against his idea was. You would sincerely describe that as behavior of someone who cares about other peoples’ ideas?

        2. MHA*

          No one cared what he had to say because he didn’t have the context for his input to actually be valuable, and refused to accept that and continued to push for his non-starter ideas even after being told so. I’m willing to bet that that is not actually the same as your situation!

    3. elle *sparkle emoji**

      Truly, I can’t imagine noticing something I wasn’t familiar with the rationale for and assuming that there wasn’t one and I needed to alert the people who were being paid to understand that area that they were wrong instead of, IDK, assuming I didn’t have all the info to understand? (thinking of the example in the original letter where he complained about the format of an accounting form)

      Adam really belongs on Gumption Mt Rushmore.

  16. Some guy*

    Idk man. It feels like no one gave Adam specific instructions on what he was meant to be doing. Only, as was said in the initial post, “broad parameters”. That seems to have been insufficient. I’m a teacher and the only way that I’ve found to be effective as a leader is to give very specific instructions. That wasn’t done here and it clearly didn’t work. I feel bad that someone lost their livelihood because of this. What has become of Adam?

    1. Dino*

      Your role as a teacher is very different than the role of a manager working with employees.

      1. Some guy*

        Implementation is different, but I maintain that specific instructions, which is exactly what Adam asked for, are easier to follow than vague ones. It is management’s job to make it clear to employees what they’re supposed to do. Not just vaguely suggest what they AREN’T supposed to do. In neither letter does the OP mention what she actually wanted from him.

        1. Cookie Monster*

          She wanted him to focus on his job? Which he probably knows what that is? It’s not like if he stops badgering people he could just sit around twiddling his thumbs. He could do whatever his actual job is, which he clearly knows because the LW explains that tends to do it well, for the most part.

        2. Book lover*

          Some jobs just don’t have specific instructions — at least not to the degree that Adam is demanding. You’re a teacher, so does your manager/principal specify:
          –the specific format in which you must prepare your lesson plans?
          –how you must arrange your classroom?
          –exactly which tools you must use when to maintain classroom order?

          No. You figure it out using your professional judgment.

          1. Silver Robin*

            To be quite fair, actually lots of schools *do* require specific lesson plans, classroom arrangements, and other things. Not all, but having friends in a few different school systems gets me some impressive stories.

        3. elle *sparkle emoji**

          He understood well enough that he began hiding his “suggestion” making habits from OP. That demonstrates to me at least some understanding of what was not appropriate, otherwise, he wouldn’t have known what to hide from her.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, this. There is a difference between working with kids and working with adults. You should not have to handhold grown adults all day long when performing their regular day-to-day duties. That’s what training is for.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      It’s a teacher’s job to do that, though. It’s not a manager’s. Once you’re into your working life the assumption is that you know how to function in the job and the manager is there to supervise and fine-tune, not to teach you the basics of not haranguing your coworkers.

      1. Some guy*

        Managers for sure give instructions to their employees and I maintain that specific ones are better than vague ones. The OP here seems insistent in both letters about not wanting to be species with Adam. I think that was a mistake.

        1. Silver Robin*

          No, OP is insistent that they cannot be specific enough FOR ADAM because Adam wants the instructions to cover every single possibility, which nobody can reasonably do.

          1. Some guy*

            I mean, the letter writer says that the situation is “fuzzy” that leads me to believe that they are preferring to be vague in general, not just with Adam. It’s possible that that language just isn’t very precise, but that’s kinda the thing I’m talking about here. There’s a lack of clarity.

            1. tg33*

              I think different jobs come with different levels of specificity, and that’s just a feature of these jobs. At a low level, working on a checkout in a grocery store is pretty specific, and if something new comes up, you absolutely get your manager to tell you what to do. At a higher level it might be something like being in the army where there’s an SOP for doing your job, and no deviations allowed.

              I think other people have given good examples of jobs where you need to use initiative to sort out problems. Basicly if you need to give someone exact parameters to do their job, they are only so useful. If you can say to an employee:go find out what the problem is here, or find out how to do this, then they are more useful (for some tasks).

              Teaching is a very specific job (and that’s not a bad thing, and not easy to do well).

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you are thinking of one very specific type of job but there are many others, especially as you become more senior.

          For example, if your job is to lobby legislators and I’m your manager, I will work with you to jointly agree on goals and overall strategy, but then I need you to figure out tactics, adjust on the fly when you’re in meetings with legislators, understand what is and isn’t working and refine the strategy accordingly, and on and on. That’s the job. There’s no one giving you specific instructions each step of the way; you’re hired because you’re supposed to be skilled at figuring those things out.

          In this case, per the commenting rules, we need to trust the LW that she knows more about her situation than we do and that Adam’s job is one where he did need to be able to work with some ambiguity.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      It might have been insufficient for Adam. Some people need very specific parameters and instructions to function their best. If that’s the case, they need to find roles that provide that. This does not appear to be one of those roles. It is also not unreasonable to think that the level of specificity for instructions may differ when the person you are instructing is 12, 22, or 32. “Leading” a classroom is not the same as managing adult workers.

      And to be honest, the fact that he intentionally left the LW out of his recent activities meant he knew, at least in some respect, that his manager would disapprove about what he was doing, which is a clear sign that even if he was unsure about specific guidelines, he was not trying in good faith to figure them out.

    4. justpeachy86*

      I disagree. He surely had a job, whether that was making widgets or reporting on the sale of widgets, whatever. That surely clearly didn’t include “fixing” expense documents or creating cross departmental projects or meeting with the C Suite.

      That is pretty obtuse to say, I need specific instructions on my exact function at every moment, or I will run off the rails. That’s just not how a corporate job works. You brush up against other people’s work all the time. That doesn’t mean it is your job to question or fix it.

    5. Silver Robin*

      No, dude, the original letter specifically tells us that Adam would be given a set of parameters and then come back with a bunch of hypotheticals to test the parameters rather than trying to actually implement them. He wanted every single possible situation prepped for, and a documented process to boot. Asking for clarification is helpful, sure (I check that I am doing something right with my manager a couple times when handling new situations, but only once or twice!). But it is totally reasonable for an employee to be expected to use their best judgement after relatively minimal prodding. Adam’s best judgement was insufficient for this role, he needed something with much more stringent rules and fewer unforeseen circumstances, hopefully he found one!

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Yes, Adam was going to use parameters to figure out how to get away with continuing this behavior and not following the spirit in which it’s intended. There’s a soft skill component there that he just doesn’t have.

    6. I.T. Phone Home*

      I’m very confused by this. Does your boss give you very specific instructions on which instructions you’re supposed to give? And does your boss’s boss give her very specific instructions on which instructions to give you about the instructions you give? Is there one person at the top of the org who gets to use independent judgment and otherwise it’s instructions all the way down?

    7. Emily*

      That’s not what I got from this update at all? The letter writer claims that they gave Adam clear written and spoken feedback, which he clearly understood on some level (it sounds like most of his bad behaviors stopped around the letter writer and their team, and only continued where the letter writer was not present to witness them).

    8. Gerry Kaey*

      I mean it sounds like he was given pretty clear instructions on the behaviors he needed to stop, and he clearly understood them well enough to intentionally subvert standard communication flows to avoid following that instruction. I don’t think this is a situation of someone not understanding the rules of the road, and more about someone thinking they’re above it.

    9. Zofran*

      What grade(s) do you teach? I do agree, that being more specific with kids and young adults is more likely to get you the outcome you’re looking for, but I also think the end goal in teaching is to make sure your students understand how to evaluate a problem and come up with a solution without handholding from their instructor (obviously this varies by age and ability of student).

      A manager may have to do more handholding with new staff, but ultimately they need to be able to trust their staff to do their work independently.

    10. Ccbac*

      I don’t know if i fully agree with the sentiment that no one gave Adam specific instructions, but I do think that the amount of vitriol in the comments of both this post and the original towards Adam is a bit much. I do think sometimes the comments lean towards there being only One True way to have a job and act in the office when the reality is there are many.

      I do think that how much specific instruction that is given about what your job is can vary quite a lot and a think people aren’t accounting for that (i.e. my company was acquired by a bigger company and I still work in department X but the scope of department x’s actual job is very very different at new company but all we were told was “hi you work here now. good luck” for many months and had to pry information about what we were supposed to be doing (or not doing) out of the existing staff question by question as it came up).

      I’ve also worked places were my job was Y which involved doing a ton of different discrete things unrelated to each other (many of which were interdepartmental) along with an assortment of inherited tasks not directly related to my role/job/skills and no one felt any ownership over the interdepartmental processes/procedures or the misc tasks and, as a result, they were a mess (very unclear, lots of work being duplicated, vague approvals needed but maybe only sometimes) and the higher ups assumed there was a process (and maybe there had been 2 decades ago!) so no fixed it and it was awful and someone stepping up to say “I’m gonna streamline this! I have the time” would have been so very much appreciated (everyone was way too overworked to do that though).

    11. blupuck*

      I think Adam had specific parameters for his role. He did his job well. He just did way too much that wasn’t his job.
      He was told to effectively ‘stay in his lane’ in regards to incidents like wanting Finance to rework expense reports because he thought there were better ways.
      He then wanted specific parameters on where ‘his lane’ was.
      Very specific parameters I am guessing.
      “So if there is a fire, I am allowed to summon help? or is that not my job?”
      “I saw a strange person pulling door handles in the parking lot. Sorry you got your stuff taken, but not my job”
      “Hmmm. No, I can’t put my dishes away. Not my job.”

      1. LCH*

        yes, it sounded like this was happening. for hours. or like, sure i can put away the dishes, but i need instructions on how. should the mug handles face inward or outward? should the mugs be upright or upsidedown? do i need to line them up by size or color? ad nauseum.

    12. Nea*

      Adam was given specific instruction. In the original letter, he was told by another manager to stop emailing up their chain of command. In response, he complained to HR. In this follow-up he was told to stop second-guessing and micromanaging people in his department, so he started contacting people outside the department. Including all the way up the chain of command as he had been specifically ordered to stop doing.

    13. MadDog*

      I was once a teacher, so I understand where you are coming from. Nonetheless, I’m going to push back on the premise of this comment, for two reasons.

      First, the phrase “specific instructions” is in itself vague. What does it mean to give specific instructions? I’ll take an example from my former life as a litigator. I had associate attorneys who worked with me, and that meant that I would give them assignments. Let’s say that I wanted my associate to write a first draft of an argument. There is a wide range of instructions that I could give. I could say, “this is the case, here’s the file, it’s a summary judgment motion, write a first draft of the memorandum opposing it.” I could also start the same way, but then add my extensive thoughts on summary judgment practice and roughly how I thought the argument should be structured. I could do all of that, then start to add what I thought were the material facts, which cases I thought likely controlled, how we should respond to each and every allegation in the motion from the other side, etc.

      There are greater levels of specificity in each of the example instructions — and I’ll also point out that I could get even more specific than what I’ve written here, up to the point where I should have just written the thing myself. So “specific instructions” isn’t really much of a guide about what those instructions actually look like.

      Second, in some jobs, “broad parameters” ARE the specific instructions. To go back to my example, the more specific the instructions get up above, the less useful the output of my associate would be to me. Yes, I knew the case and was an expert on that area of the law. But things come up when you are researching, looking through the documents, and writing out the argument. There may be a nuance in one of the cases that changes things. It might have been a while since I researched the issue, so I may have forgotten one of the cases that apply or subtly misremembered its holding, etc. My associate exercising her judgment was the most important part of giving her that assignment, because she could catch those issues, or point out weaknesses in the arguments I was making etc. The more specific my instructions got, the less leeway she would feel she had to exercise her judgment and save us from mistakes.

      The point being that just as specific instructions work for you, there are plenty of jobs out there where “broad parameters” is in fact the absolute best and most specific set of instructions that can be given. It sounds like Adam and OP were in one of the latter industries.

    14. marvin*

      It sounds like the letter writer made every attempt to try to accommodate Adam and he just felt entitled to infinite amounts of time and attention from everyone around him. Based on the description I’m not convinced that his request for more clarity was in good faith, since it seemed to be used as a tactic to avoid changing his behaviour in any way. Clearly he had some awareness of what he wasn’t meant to be doing because he started doing it in an underhanded way instead.

    15. Dinwar*

      There are certain jobs where the whole point is to take the boss’s vague “Do this” and make it specific. If my boss had to give me specific instructions on everything I do, there’d be no point in paying me to do them; it’d be just as quick for him to do the thing as to tell me how to do the thing.

      If Adam required super-specific instructions, in a role where instructions are generally vague, that demonstrates that Adam was not a good fit for the position and is better of pursuing other opportunities. Even if he’s not exactly wrong–ie, even if other companies deal with this role by offering very specific instructions–he’s not a good fit for this organization.

      Of course, all of this is moot philosophical navel-gazing. He repeatedly flagrantly ignored specific instructions (“Don’t go over my head again” is about as specific as you can get, and the fact that he intentionally found ways to do so without his boss knowing proves that he knew this was wrong) and put the company at significant risk via his shenanigans. Even if he’s merely a poor mismanaged soul that just need someone to hold his hand more, those two behaviors are sufficient to warrant termination.

      Would I feel bad about it? Not really. First, as a manager my first loyalty is to the company, not to the employees under me. Ideally the welfare of my employees is what benefits the company, but if it comes down to it I need to be willing to let people go for the benefit of the organization. Second, and related to the first, you have to remember that there’s a broader context. If Adam hadn’t lost his job how many others would have once the company suffered a catastrophic blow to its reputation? Even if the company survives a lot more people will be out of work. And frankly Adam put himself in this position by repeated and flagrant refusals to do as instructed. It is what it is.

    16. biobotb*

      Are you saying that you really expect step-by-step instructions covering every possible permutation and parameter before you’ll do your job? That you absolutely never ever use your professional judgement? I don’t even understand how this would work as a teacher.

    17. theletter*

      Specific instructions for a specific task are important, but the takeaway I got from the letter is that Adam was trying to get involved in things that were not his tasks at all.

      I’m imagining he’s like a student who’s been given an assignment to write a report, and while he’s in the library, he takes it upon himself to re-invent the Dewey Decimal system. When he’s called out on it, his response is that no one told him he shouldn’t be asking the librarians to re-shelve the books.

      Since his report is fabulous, he gets an A, and feels no regret. He thinks this is part of his personality, not a failure of a judgement. His teachers ask him to stop. He chooses asking forgiveness rather than permission.

  17. EPLawyer*

    Original letter said his actual work was great. But everyone’s work load went down when he left. Was it really great or was it just … not bad and no one wanted to deal with it?

    Why was the C-Suite having these meetings with the guy? Surely they had better things to do with their time?

    1. Silver Robin*

      I think the work was great, but that he needed so much investment from other people to *get* there that after he left, folks were able to produce sufficient results with less time. Maybe the current work is not as stellar as his, but it also takes a fraction of the time/energy until they find somebody else to do it.

    2. Blueberry Daydream*

      I’m not seeing where the team’s workload went down? LW says Adam’s work was easy to manage and that the transition when he left was smooth, but I didn’t take that to mean that the workload went down.

      From the first letter, it seems like people spent a lot of time talking to Adam about his ideas. I guess that time is now freed up for other things, which I’m sure contributes to easily managing Adam’s former workload.

    3. BradC*

      > Why was the C-Suite having these meetings with the guy? Surely they had better things to do with their time?
      The letter said only that he was *setting up* meetings, not that they actually occurred!

  18. not a hippo*

    I recently had my own Adam to deal with. While we’re open to innovation, he questioned every process and policy and did similar things (emailing upper management with his “suggestions.”) I made the mistake of entertaining it once and when I gently pointed out that his suggestions weren’t actually beneficial, he got very defensive.

    He didn’t have any friends here and HR was pushing harder than I was to see him fired. He quit on his own, I think in part because we didn’t see his “genius.”

    1. Sara without an H*

      and HR was pushing harder than I was to see him fired

      There’s probably a story there. In your place, I’d buy coffee for somebody in HR and try to find out what it is.

      1. not a hippo*

        I don’t think it’s anything more interesting than a clash of personalities.

        He was the type of guy who had to be the smartest person in the room, regardless of everyone’s else’s experience. You could have 10 years of industry experience (to his 6 months) and tell him the sky was blue and he’d insist it was blood orange in a tone that implied you were stupid for thinking anything else.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I used to internet-know a guy like that: A smart guy in absolute terms, but not the super genius he insisted he was, and who made himself unemployable as a result.

      1. not a hippo*

        Yeah as a person with compassion, I hate to see anyone become unemployed, but as a manager who had to constantly fight against this dude, see ya.

        Though allegedly he got another job that is more “flexible to his needs” so I wish him luck and may he never darken our door again.

        1. Kyrielle*

          If someone like this can find a job where they and their new job are happy, *everyone* wins, including their prior job and coworkers. Absolutely awesome, enjoy your new job over there sir!

  19. Engineer*

    Much of the commentor advice in the original told LW to be clear about his job duties, and I’m gonna take LW at her word when she says she gave him “clear boundaries.” Adam was *going the C-suite* after being told to stop. How many ways and times was he supposed to be told “do not do this”?

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Yea, sure there’s sometimes a problem with secret expectations but if your boss tells you not to call the CEO, don’t do it

  20. Sara without an HG*

    Even when they mentioned to me where Adam crossed lines, they asked me not to say anything to him because they said it might upset him.

    I wish we could harness all the time and energy I’ve seen wasted on keeping troublesome individuals from getting upset and channel it into something useful. Who knows how many societal problems would be solved?

  21. OlympiasEpiriot*

    This part:

    Once he was let go, the relief for me, and the shift in the atmosphere around the team, was immediate. His workload turned out to be easy to manage, so the transition has been pretty smooth. I’m thrilled with where we are as a team now, there’s a lot more collaboration and a new ease in how we work.

    That tells me everything I need to know about this.

    Of course, as so many others here do, I would love to know about the Last Straw, if you can describe it w/o identifying details. But, no, I don’t need that.

    A hearty congratulations!!

  22. Blueberry Daydream*

    “People at all levels justified Adam’s behavior and gave him a sounding board because he was friendly and smart ”

    Ooo, I have seen this. Recently, in fact. I think it’s important that we communicate using certain word choices to be respectful, but I think too much emphasis goes on that and not enough emphasis on what it is that someone is really doing. If you are second-guessing major decisions made above your level in a friendly and smart way, you are still second-guessing major decisions made above your level. Being friendly and smart is important, and not second-guessing major decisions made above your level is also important. Repeat that for any number of circumstances — being friendly and smart about something that is an overreach or is undercutting someone else is not ok.

    1. Seal*

      Same here. At my last job, we had an Adam who was untouchable because he ingratiated himself with the previous director, who thought he was brilliant. The rest of us were sick and tired of his constant questioning and second-guessing things he never understood in the first place. After our new director fell under his spell and even gave him a larger platform to spew his nonsense, I left. He’s someone else’s problem now.

  23. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW — I went back and read your original post. Adam sounds both exhausting and expensive. While it’s nice for an organization to be compassionate and flexible, there needs to be a way to flag the people who abuse these qualities in the system, because they can do a lot of damage. That even people in the C-Suite (!) were willing to put up with Adam doesn’t actually speak well of your organization.

    But congratulations. It sounds as though you handled the process really well.

  24. Sunshine*

    Ugh, I would love more details on Adam’s embarrassing snafu for schadenfreude reasons. My own personal Adam was promoted above me to the director level because the CEO saw him as a younger version of himself. It was the worst and I quit! (Not just because of that, but it helped!)

  25. Daniel*

    I’m glad that this had a reasonably good resolution in the end, and it sounds like OP learned a lot along the way…but man, what is the deal with the other department heads? And the C-suite?!? I actually doubled back to the original post to see how senior Adam was. My impression was that he was relatively new, and I’m guessing at least three levels below department head level. (I hope OP clarifies.)

    If I’m right, why on earth would he be able to set up pitch meetings (plural! seemingly over months!) with folks that high up? Did Adam have someone championing for him up there? A good ol’ boys network seeing potentially one of their own? Are they just a bit clueless? Sara Without an H and Engineer alreadly mentioned this, but I think that he got as far as he did with that says a thing or two about a thing or two.

    1. Daniel*

      Also, since I just thought of it now: How did these department heads have time to indulge Adam? Like, did they really have nothing better to do? Really??

      Granted, I work in huge and highly regulated state agency, so anyone like that at that level has like six hours of meetings a day minimum, and the same may not apply to OP’s gig, but that astonished me as soon as I thought of it.

  26. AlohaCocoa*

    As a reformed Adam, I find these replies so sad. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut, but it hurts me inside. I know nobody wants to hear my thoughts or ideas, but dealing with inefficient processes “because that’s how we do it” depresses me. I know everyone else thinks “we have always done it this way because it’s the best way,” but sometimes I believe there are better ways.

    A real-life example. At a previous employer we had a very cumbersome, paper-based method for submitting expenses. We had to reconcile every expense. Stories were legendary about naughty lists of people who were literal pennies off on their expense reports, and woe to anyone who lost a receipt.

    Once I wrote an email to the head of finance writing that maybe we could consider a threshold for requiring receipts. $20 or $25. It’s a practice common among our peers.

    I got pulled into a conversation on how I shalt not talk to the head of finance. An all-department email went out to my team about how we cannot talk to other departments. Okay, got it.

    Several years later during Covid, they asked the rank and file for money saving ideas. I suggested maybe a $20 or $25 limit on needing receipts for expenses. We had dozens of employees, maybe over 100, who were spending their time on this cumbersome receipt process for small expenses. We had a new VP of Finance, and her prior organization had this policy. A wasted hour or two a month, among 100 employees, I dunno it seems to add up. Plus the maddening stupidity of it.

    Three years later I got messages from old colleagues cheering when they finally put in the “no receipts required for expenses under $25” policy.

    Was it really so horrible for me, a nobody, to suggest this? Did it really need to take five years to implement? I mean, I hear the message loud and clear, so I keep my mouth shut. But, it makes me sad.

    1. Observer*

      Do you really not see the difference between occasionally suggesting something and what Adam was doing?

      1. AlohaCocoa*

        Yes, I do. When I was young and inexperienced, I was like Adam. I learned. But nobody wants the scaled-back version either, the occasional suggestions for improvement. Like in the above example I get my hand slapped, or told that, while X might be nice, we can’t do it that way.

        For awhile I worked as sort of an internal process improver. You might think that would be a good fit. But all the ideas I found for projects meant more work my bosses/team. Our real job was just implementing what the Big Bosses wanted to do. Once I learned this I just did as I was told, nothing more. My reviews for better and better. By the end I was working maybe ten hours a week.

        Now I have a job where, thankfully most things run pretty smoothly. I work from home and hide from everyone else, and keep my work neat and high-quality, like Adam. There’s some independence I have to deliver great service to my clients. But it makes me sad that I’m always alone, that I can’t be part of a group trying to improve our collective service.

        1. Observer*

          I’m sorry to hear that you had bad experiences. But there are plenty of workplaces where making the occasional appropriate suggestion would not gt you punished.

          The fact that it’s someone like this who makes you feel bad is something worth thinking about.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            “The fact that it’s someone like this who makes you feel bad is something worth thinking about.”

            This is a great point! I agree that there are places where they occasional appropriate suggestion would not get you punished. But I don’t think there are any workplaces that want input from me. Now I just try to do as I’m told, not make waves, make life easy for my manager.

            1. twenty points for the copier*

              It also sounds like you were hired to improve processes for a group of people who did not want any change. I think this can happen in some instances when people are hired as change agents and that’s more about the situation you were hired into than about you.

              Generally, I think the more layers between a junior employee and the people responsible for the processes, the less welcome suggestions are because things can get really out of hand. Which… getting yelled at for one suggestion is still an overreaction.

              People are piling on Adam because he just kept digging in and making people spend hours rebutting his suggestions before he gave each one up. Over and over again. While you had some bad reactions, from what you’re describing it sounds like you’re nothing like him. It wasn’t his suggestions that made him so exhausting; it was his inability to take no for an answer.

    2. WellRed*

      Do you see the difference between being asked for suggestions and just taking it upon yourself to make suggestions to someone it sounds like you didn’t have standing to at the time? At any rate, you took the hint. Adam kept badgering people.

    3. Kaye*

      I think this may be one of those occasions where, if it’s not about you, it’s not about you.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      It seems that your error was to ignore the chain of command. If you are not in the finance department, or you are but do not report to them directly, then this should have gone through your manager.

      Org charts exist for a reason.

      1. AlohaCocoa*

        And in that case, the suggestion would 10000% have gone to die if I suggested it to my manager.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yep. That’s always a possibility. But that’s just the way things go sometimes. That’s how jobs work. No workplace is going to implement every single suggestion, no matter how good the suggestion is.

          Which is one of the reasons why bad workplaces often lose good employees.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            “No workplace is going to implement every single suggestion.” Yes, of course. OTOH I have never experienced a workplace that wants to implement suggestions from the rank and file. And I find that sad and depressing.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              It may be that the “rank and file” don’t generally have all of the context needed for why something needs to be done a certain way.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  Not all the time, but I would argue most of the time. Those at the top are able to see the full picture.

                2. Littorally*

                  With regard to your “no receipts under $25” suggestion, it probably did require a fair bit of research and review before it could be implemented. Multiple years seems a bit slow, but frankly not terribly surprising to me. It would require data to be gathered (what percentage of receipts fall under that value? what percentage of total dollar value spent? how many employees would this rule impact, and what is the average spend per employee at various levels? how much employee time does the receipt entry take up, and how much to review/evaluate? how often do those receipts have to be audited, and what is the history of uncovered misbehavior/non-reimbursible expenses?) and discussions and framework development with risk and probably legal teams (what is the risk evaluation for employees misusing funds when they no longer have to be accountable for small transactions? If spending increases after this rule goes through, what kind of an increase should we expect, and what kind of an increase should trigger re-review of this rule change? What kind of guardrails do we provide to associates?)

                  Actually making the process change happen is so much more complicated than tossing off a suggestion, and if you’re taking it that personally that your feedback isn’t immediately accepted, then yeah, I can see how you would find the role pretty discouraging. Quite a lot — I would say probably the vast majority — of rank-and-file feedback tends to miss how much complex work the proposed change actually makes.

                3. Observer*

                  Sure. But @Littorally makes a really good point. Even something like this, that seems so reasonable can be a lot more complex than you may realize.

                  On top of what they mention, in some cases, things get even more sticky. To take one example: If there are government contracts, there are a whole host of auditing issues, and it’s possible that $25 (yes, even that low) bumps up against some thresholds. (eg You need to be able to show that no one in your org has given a contact at these government agencies a gift – even a meal worth more that $X. In NYC at one point I think that the limit actually was $25 – I don’t know what it is now.)

                  Obviously there are also situations where it’s just organizational sclerosis. But it’s not always so easy to know if you’re not in the weeds.

                4. elle *sparkle emoji**

                  Maybe not all the time, and maybe not for you, but in Adam’s case, yes. According to the OP, Adam was often missing things that meant his suggestions weren’t actually good suggestions. If this doesn’t apply to you, I kindly suggest you take a break from reading/engaging in this post because it sounds like it’s bothering you. You are not Adam and you should not take on judgment meant for him.

            2. Oui oui oui all the way home*

              My experience over decades in the workforce has been very different. Most of the organizations I’ve worked with (from small businesses to large corporations to nonprofit organizations) have welcomed ideas that resulted in saving time and money, increasing revenue, or cutting costs. I wonder if you worked in places that didn’t value those things, or if there might have been some other reason they didn’t accept your input.

            3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              I totally get what you mean. Thing is, the rank and file have to pitch their ideas to their boss, who then gets credit for pitching a great idea to their boss. If your boss thinks they’ll get nothing out of pitching your idea except being told to stay in their lane, they’re not going to move.
              It’s the kind of thing where, say you’re a smoker, and you happen to get talking to someone in a suit while having a quick smoke after lunch, it turns out that it’s the Finance Director and he realises that your offhand remark about expense forms is actually quite smart and he’ll ask someone to see whether it’s worth implementing. And then some time later once it’s up and running and everyone’s like “why did we wait so long to do this?”, the Finance Director has given up smoking but still slips out after lunch to catch you and offer you a job reviewing all their processes.

              It sounds like you were actually hired to put changes forward though, whereas Adam was simply meddling with stuff that was none of his business.

        2. Chutney Jitney*

          ^This is part of your problem. You are so certain you are right, even though this is not your field (finance), that you are going around perceived blocks to try to force your idea to be implemented. Force isn’t something people react well to. Being right isn’t the only thing that matters.

          It’s likely not your idea(s) that people have a problem with. It’s that you are trying to force other people to accept your idea – this makes other people upset/uncomfortable. When people are uncomfortable, they don’t listen. Have you ever wondered how they feel? I bet not. It’s all about you and your ideas… and kind of an implication that you are smarter/better than everyone else.

          Also, does perceived inefficiency *actually* cause you depression? Or is it that you feel personally rejected when people don’t accept your idea? Because your idea is separate from you – they aren’t rejecting you as a person. But if you come in like a bull in a china shop, they will reject that behavior.

          And finally, what if I already know the process is inefficient? What if I’ve been trying to get it changed? You coming to tell me your great idea and acting like everyone else “doesn’t care” and you alone are the only one who cares would be obnoxious. Again, this comes across as arrogant and dismissive of everyone else in service to you and your ideas.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            Well, I mean, they did implement the suggestion five years later, so, in this case I think in the end I was right? Despite not working in finance.

            I truly don’t think it’s that I want credit for the suggestion, or that I feel personally rejected. I’d be THRILLED with an anonymous suggestion box.

            And I love when people have suggestions for my work. Before I visit my clients, I send out the names of who I’ll be visiting with with my team. People respond with suggestions like, “Hey, I know Mike wants to know about that new llama grooming gear, you can let him know we will have a prototype ready next month.” Just the other day our events team asked me to include them in communications to our marketing team. Done.

            What’s depressing is that there is no culture of working together to do better work, at any place I’ve ever been.

            1. sagc*

              if that’s the case, then you’re in bad workplaces, or you’re not observing as closely as you think.

              or do you not believe that anyone who reports an experience different from yours?

              (also, maybe the fact it took 5 years to implement means it was a more difficult ask than you thought it was?)

            2. knitcrazybooknut*

              Hey there, I do want to echo some other folks’ comments, in that I think your workplaces haven’t been ideal. I work right now in a workplace that is slowly, incrementally changing things from, “because this is how we’ve always done it” to a more productive model. But I think some workplaces are belligerent in their Nothing Is Allowed To Change attitude, and that sounds like what you’ve dealt with in the past.

              What I want to highlight from your comment is this: “I think in the end I was right?”

              Being right doesn’t get you anything. It’s like being the smartest kid in class; if no one is listening to you, it doesn’t matter. If no one wants to change things, it doesn’t matter.

              You can be right, and your suggestion can be ignored, run over, derided, or otherwise destroyed.

              There’s a rare combination of environment, attitude, and circumstance that can make people receptive to your suggestions. If you choose the wrong moment (no fault of your own), someone may be annoyed and turn you down without thinking about it. If you choose the wrong person, you can get shut down immediately (your previous boss). If the corporate culture isn’t in line, they think they’re doing everything perfect already, and you being right doesn’t matter.

              (I spent five years in a job where my staff’s turnover rate was ridiculous because of the workload (I swear I wasn’t a crappy manager) and continued to advocate for a third staff member to alleviate the workload issues. I was reorg’d out because of it. Now, three years later, they’ve restructured that area with a supervisor and, you guessed it, three staff members.)

              I’m sorry you haven’t worked anywhere that has the working together to do better work culture. It does take some searching, and sometimes you have to hire your own staff to get it! But they do exist, and when you’re there, you feel lucky as hell.

            3. Observer*

              Well, I mean, they did implement the suggestion five years later, so, in this case I think in the end I was right?

              Maybe. And maybe something changed.

              What’s depressing is that there is no culture of working together to do better work, at any place I’ve ever been.

              That is depressing. But it’s not universal by a long shot.

        3. Dinwar*

          Then the suggestion dies. It’s neither your responsibility nor your role to enact the changes if you need to make suggestions (if it WAS your responsibility or role you’d do it). Part of working for a company is trading autonomy for efficacy. Certain decisions devolve to other individuals as a natural consequence of the division of intellectual labor.

          There are a lot of reasons for why a suggestion may die. It may be that there are factors involved that you’re unaware of. It may be that it was tried before and failed. It may be that the manager’s an idiot and makes bad choices. It could be a lot of things. But if implementing the decision isn’t your job, you need to accept that some suggestions are going to die.

          FYI, declaring that because someone doesn’t accept your suggestion, therefore the team doesn’t want to improve, immediately makes me suspicious of your suggestions. The emotional labor of soothing your hurt feelings because I rejected your proposal simply isn’t worth the effort most of the time. At the very least, it will dramatically increase the amount of time and resources I need to devote to dealing with your suggest–whether I accept it or not–and I just don’t have the resources to spare.

          The people that make good suggestions, in my experience, are those that have a deep understanding of the thing involved, and who accept rejection gracefully. They understand that a suggestion is not an order, and that however deep their understanding is they don’t have all the information. This allows us to have an open, frank conversation about the realities of the situation, such that even if I reject their suggestion, the conversation allows both of us to improve what we’re doing.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            “ FYI, declaring that because someone doesn’t accept your suggestion, therefore the team doesn’t want to improve, immediately makes me suspicious of your suggestions.”

            Hmm I’m surprised that’s what you took away from my posts.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            I work for an employer that’s pretty good about listening to people, working collaboratively, and accepting input from junior people. It’s also a large government department, so we have an extensive and complex bureaucracy.

            I’ve had a few colleagues over the years who 1) assumed that if they didn’t like a policy or procedure, it meant the policy was bad and should be changed 2) tended to push after being told no, followed by vocal complaining 3) assumed that being right was justification for being obnoxious 4) assumed that anyone who disagreed with them was rigid and incompetent and 5) didn’t know when to pick their battles.

            They spent a lot of time annoyed and complaining, and feeling hard done by. The problem was that they weren’t really interested in learning how things actually worked, or understanding that sometimes there were very good reasons for annoying stuff. And after the first half-dozen or so rounds of complaining and not listening to the answers, it no longer mattered if they were right or not – they had a reputation and it was just Fergus complaining again, which people had learned to tune out. It wasn’t worth the effort of finding out if this time they had a good point.

            1. AlohaCocoa*

              “I work for an employer that’s pretty good about listening to people, working collaboratively, and accepting input from junior people.”

              This sounds great! Sign me up! I’ve honestly never experienced such a workplace.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      dealing with inefficient processes “because that’s how we do it” depresses me. I know everyone else thinks “we have always done it this way because it’s the best way,” but sometimes I believe there are better ways.

      That’s a big, and I hope not deliberate, oversimplification, though. It’s not always, “because that’s how we’ve always done it”–sometimes there are other restrictions that make the seeming-best option not actually the best option.

      I work in archives. Seemingly, it would be “best” to organize all of our material into a standardized system and format. Much better for research, right? Except that the organization imposed on the material by the donor/former owner/person or institution that generated the material is considered to be part of the archival record, so if we get donated something with a not-so-intuitive organizational system . . . we leave it in place and just create a good finding aid as a workaround (except it’s not actually a workaround because, again, the weird organization is part of the record).

      What Adam failed to accept was that what is the “best solution” is usually a lot bigger and more complicated than the most direct one, because very few solutions function in isolation.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          What you did: Suggest it and then let it go when they didn’t take you up on it.

          If these things are on the scale that feels abusive, then it’s past time to start looking for another job. If they’re not, they’re not worth holding onto resentment. Every single job is going to have things that we don’t like or that seem like hiccups, but that’s pretty much an inherent part of working with a bunch of other people whose jobs may have different needs. I had a job years ago where my bosses kept telling me they wanted me to train staff in a specific task but then they never gave me time to do it. I resented it briefly but, nah–if they weren’t going to make it a priority, I wasn’t going to worry about it.

          Also: Part of what makes a workable idea is the time and place. Things will be more or less important at different times in relation to what else is going on. My job does a lot of things now that I wish they had done years ago, but years ago we didn’t need to prioritize them as much because we needed to spend more time/energy/money on other things. Now, those first things have become more important as other things have become less. But it’s not an “I told you so” thing, it’s just “this is a bigger deal now than it was then” or “now that we’ve made progress in these areas we can go back and focus on those things we couldn’t five or ten years ago”.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            Im not a Pollyanna thinking that a workplace should have no hiccups or problems. But I still find it depressing that there’s never a collective effort to get better at our work.

            1. misspiggy*

              There was though, in your example. If I had been you, I would be so pleased about the part I’d had to play in making expenses easier. No lie. Process change often takes a huge amount of time or money.

              1. Alexander Graham Yell*

                Everybody in my office hated our old expense system. Hated it. It was cumbersome, required multiple logins, and was challenging to understand. To change it required that we a) have a system that is PROVEN easier to use and b) wait for the contract to be up. So people in HQ had to suffer with the horrible system while our satellite office got a brand new, shiny, easy to use system. They were the guinea pigs, they used it for years until HQ could finally switch.

                It’s not that nobody heard the complaints at HQ. It’s that they didn’t want to pay to switch, pay to train, and then end up with the same complaints and go through the same process again. So everybody here had to use a horrible system until we had one that we knew people liked and found easy to use so that we could switch. Now? Zero complaints about expenses, they’re super easy to file. But if somebody’s takeaway was “I suggested a better expense software and I was ignored for years until they finally implemented so I was right all along and it’s horrible they didn’t listen and wasted all that time,” that would be completely off-base. It just took a lot of time – and we’re a small-ish company! (~100 employees globally) Even good suggestions that everybody wants can take a lot of time to implement because there are other priorities or complicating factors that make it impossible to do at the time. It doesn’t mean that nobody wants to change and it’s useless to make reasonable suggestions.

    6. I should really pick a name*

      Perhaps you missed this in the original letter?

      Some of it is genuinely helpful feedback, but it generally requires the recipient of these suggestions (which are usually posed as questions) to spend about an hour crafting a response to show that the issue has been thought through already and explain exactly why things are the way they are.

      They’d been hearing him out. Some of his feedback was helpful, some were things they had already considered. He was not being dismissed out of hand.

      1. AlohaCocoa*

        That’s true. But judging from these replies, no one wants to hear from Adam At. All. Good riddance, no?

        So I try to keep my mouth shut and tend to my garden as best I can, even if the tools could use a tune-up or the water system is leaky.

        1. Le Sigh*

          It sounds like in Adam’s case, it wasn’t that they didn’t ever want to hear from him. They liked him and gave him time, repeatedly. Good riddance is because he burned up any and all goodwill. He wouldn’t accept ‘no’ or respect other people’s time or expertise. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t right sometimes, but he took it too far to the point where it was exhausting to interact with him and took them away from their work priorities. At that point, yes, people are relieved.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          That’s the thing, though: Work is not just your garden; it’s all your coworkers’ garden, too. One person’s leaky hose might another one’s drip-watering system. Or it might be a leaky hose but the rusty wheelbarrow is a bigger problem right now.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            But sometimes the whole garden has a problem. In some cases only the garden master has insight into the big picture. But sometimes you just need to look around.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              But sometimes the suggestion you have for the problem won’t actually fix the problem but actually create a new one. Or it’s something that’s going to require too much money and effort that they want focused on more important things. Or there’s a fix coming. Or it’s not really a problem just something you don’t like.

              No one is saying you shouldn’t make suggestions, but you should do it through the proper channels and accept the response you get (which Adam wasn’t doing).

        3. Sunshine*

          It is annoying to be constantly badgered with unsolicited feedback made by someone who lacks context. That’s not the same as occasionally suggesting improvements. If Adam was only doing that, LW would never have needed to write in – he was constantly taking it too far.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            This is an interesting point. If I’d had success scaling it back, then I don’t think I’d have the same reaction. But scaling it back isn’t effective. So I can understand the impulse to push. I mean, I don’t anymore, but I can relate.

            1. biobotb*

              But is pushing past everyone’s “nos” effective? Seems like not, in both your and Adam’s experiences. So if both are ineffective, why not pick the strategy that preserves your relationships with your coworkers and doesn’t create extra work for them?

              1. AlohaCocoa*

                I do, but it’s depressing because I’d rather be part of a team that strives to do better work. I understand that that’s not possible for an individual contributor, but it makes me sad that it’s that way.

                1. biobotb*

                  Not being able to fix everything that someone suggests isn’t the same as not being a team that strives to do good work. If I spent a lot of time trying to get other teams to fix [what I perceive to be] their issues, then I would be neglecting my own work and that seems like the opposite of striving to do good work.

                2. AlohaCocoa*

                  biobotb: I think doing good work requires some kind of feedback loop. A debrief after an event. A suggestion box. A brainstorming day. End user input. I don’t think we can do great work if information and ideas only go top-down.

                  Eldritch Office Worker: Yeah, I thought so too. I’ve tried a lot of different roles, different size companies, different fields. I’m grateful that most process at my current employer work well, and that I have autonomy with my clients. I think that’s as good as it gets for me.

                3. Jennifer Strange*

                  Aloha, no one is saying that feedback from all employees isn’t important. It is! But the person giving feedback can’t take it personally if their feedback isn’t implemented. Sometimes there’s a reason for it. They also can’t (as Adam did) argue against the response or go above their manager to push their idea.

                4. biobotb*

                  I never suggested that ideas should only be top-down, or that there should never be any feedback loop. I just said wasting time trying to fix other teams isn’t conducive to doing my job well. How you connected these two ideas is mysterious.

                  Also, did you notice that all of a sudden you’re describing situations where feedback is *welcome*? That’s completely different than taking time away from your own work–and your coworkers’ jobs–to suggest improvements, and forcing a long back and forth about why it can/can’t be done, which is what Adam was doing.

                5. H.C.*

                  AlohaCocoa: if this is your passion, you should consider roles in process/systems improvement – where pretty much all they do is evaluate and improve upon existing workplace processes.

                  But as others have said numerous times already, contexts matter – and you might need to figure out (or even create) situations when others would be most receptive to your suggestions instead of making them whenever it’s most convenient for you.

                6. AlohaCocoa*

                  If there’s no system or way for employees to offer feedback–suggestion box, annual meeting/discussion, brainstorming session, problem-solving session, way to report problems, debriefs, end user input on upcoming changes, working groups–then I can’t see how it’s important to leadership. Leaders might *say* it’s important, but if there aren’t any actions, then it’s just empty words.

            2. Crooked Bird*

              I totally sympathize with the experience you’re describing in this thread. I’ve had similar ones; I also have tendency to see where inefficiencies lie and how to do things better, and I’ve had the experience of being the person “on the ground,” directly doing the (in my case physical) job and seeing how the procedures in place (which were not for safety but based on an inexperienced manager’s notions) didn’t make sense. It chafes and it doesn’t feel good and it’s kind of maddening. I kept my mouth shut till I’d built a better relationship with my manager, because I knew I was on shaky ground through no fault of my own (but because I was the only worker who’d been retained from the previous group that’d owned the place, which had a poor reputation), and I spent a couple years proving to him that I’d do everything his way as excellently as I could, and then I asked to be made team lead and made a strong case that that made sense with mine & others’ experience level. (Since the team was me–a person with ten years’ experience–and a rotating bunch of interns and summer workers. He was too inexperienced to see even this fact, but I never hinted he ought to have known!) I got the position, and now I can come up with solutions for my team (including changing the specific things that had chafed me.) The reason I could do that was because we got to where he could walk away and leave certain processes in my hands when he had to and when he found what a relief that was (he was hella busy) he kept doing it. I almost kind of taught this guy how to delegate–but to do that I had to first teach him that I could be relied on. And that meant doing things his way even though it sucked, for awhile, till the time had passed when he might have mistaken my pushback for unreliability, insubordination, failure to understand important parts of the job. (Because some of his stuff was new to me and *was* good and important! I also needed the time to be really sure which things those were!)

              Sorry for the long digression into me, though. I want to get back to you for a minute. You very strongly strike me as the guy who’s asked a few women on dates and been rejected and that hurts, and then he comes across an internet discussion where everyone’s verbally bashing the creep who hits on every woman he sees, and he feels real pain because he feels like they’re talking about him. I wish I could tell every single one of these guys that they are NOT, they are NOT talking about you, this guy and you are apples and oranges! So you both like women–that doesn’t make you all that similar! So you came on a bit too strong when you were way younger, so what–that doesn’t make you him, he’s on a completely different effing level! I mean in the real-life case here we’re talking about you, a person who has tried to be heard and hasn’t been heard, versus Adam, a person who’s been heard and heard and heard and heard, who has sucked up a whole department’s time and attention for years and it’s never enough for him, he wants more, more, more. He refuses repeatedly, exhaustively, at length, to take no for an answer, he wants more. He’s not you! So you both want your voices heard–that’s not that much in common, that’s even more common than being attracted to women! So you both want things to make sense and be efficient–that’s pretty damn common too. He’s not you.

              I think your thing with the receipts made sense. I think your company probably sucks. I hope things get better for you. I don’t think you’re any more similar to Adam than I am.

              1. AlohaCocoa*

                What a great reply, thank you! This really makes a lot of sense. Thanks for acknowledging the madness of nonsensical processes. It’s good to hear you were able to prove yourself and have some success. As an aside, I’ve worked both physical and office jobs, and something about the physical nature (IMO) can make it easier to navigate…when it’s physical you can see if a table has been set properly, or the lemons stacked, etc.

                It’s definitely the part about not feeling heard. And cause I was a Big Loud Annoying Adam, I’ve really tried to change my ways! I try to make myself smaller and smaller and smaller…quieter and quieter and quieter…but still, it never feels like small enough or quiet enough.

                1. Crooked Bird*

                  You know, I was thinking that, actually, about the physical version being somewhat easier. You can see the durn thing in front of you–and without looking over someone’s shoulder at their computer screen!

                  The only thing I can advise is, if you have a strong relationship with anybody at work, talk to that person about the issue, and talk to them in the way that’s appropriate to your relationship. (eg. Peers just wondering together if something can be done–maybe your friend has an idea or has a strong relationship with someone they can pass the concern on to. Or, if it’s employee to manager, you raise it and explain the ways it would benefit and then let them think about it, and you take the tone that assumes you both just want to benefit the work.) But then again, you suggested in an earlier comment your manager sucks, and heck, lots of them do. Maybe it would be more worthwhile job hunting. Maybe there’s a place out there where you could be heard while speaking at a moderate metaphorical decibel level…

                2. AlohaCocoa*

                  Actually my current manager is very good!! He does a good job at leading our small team and we have good communication and camaraderie. There’s a few changes on the horizon and I’ll see if I can work your suggestions in there.

        4. Observer*

          But judging from these replies, no one wants to hear from Adam At. All. Good riddance, no?

          Yes. Because he was rude, obnoxious and ignorant. Yet he was acting as though he knew more than everyone else about things he had neither the knowledge nor the standing to opine about, much less *demand* answers.

        5. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I get that you feel like you identify with Adam, but you are not Adam (or if you are that’s one for the AAM archives). Adam was making demands, Adam was going around his manager in incredibly inappropriate ways, Adam was eating up tons of time and resources, Adam was claiming discrimination (!)…there’s a LOT of nuance here.

          Process improvement is a huge part of my job. I have a graduate degree in organizational change, I am a professional at telling people what they’re doing wrong. I am not Adam, and I am not ostracized or disliked by my coworkers (not the majority of them anyway).

          These things exist on a spectrum, and I think you’re taking this way more personally than there’s any reason to.

        6. Lenora Rose*

          You seem to be missing all the bits where Adam ignored every single boundary that was put before him, as if that isn’t important to why he was in the wrong.

          You see only “Idea was suggested and nixed” and not “Idea was suggested, nixed, then he went to the next person to make a further suggestion, kept interfering with the C Suite and almost created a massive public embarrassment for the company.”

          Both this and the next letter are about ignoring boundaries and taking a no as a “try harder”, much more than they are about “person made a suggestion they were wrong to make”

          Suggestions come across better when the suggestions come from an informed place and are appropriately targeted. Your financial suggestion, for instance, was a solid and normal one, yes. But at first you gave it to the wrong people in the wrong way, and that, not having a suggestion, was why you got in trouble.. When next you made it, you did make it at the right time and place – and while I can’t say why they took three more years to implement it, it clearly WAS heard, even if it took a lot of work to change.

          Your comments here, though, come across as saying the workplace equivalent of “Well, if I can’t tell a woman she’s pretty, I guess we can’t talk to women at all”.

          1. MsM*

            Speaking of “well, I guess I just can’t talk to women at all, then,” let’s not forget that while Adam was refusing to take “no” for an answer, he was also drawing false comparisons between his having to endure being told “no” and the systemic struggles faced by groups whose voices have historically been dismissed. Hopefully you’re not doing that, AlohaCocoa.

        7. Anon For Now*

          No one wants to hear from *Adam* because *Adam* is inconsiderate of the time and effort he is imposing on his colleagues when he asks about (/insists upon) process improvements, especially outside of the scope of his own work.

          Lots of commenters here have been on the receiving and of an Adam-type’s inconsideration for their own expertise and/or time.

          You’re assuming that because no one wants to hear from an *Adam*, no one wants to hear from *you*.

          *You* have learned something *Adam* has not: there is a limited amount of imposing you can do on colleagues before they do not want to deal with you At All and will celebrate your parting ways with their organization.

          Nobody here dislikes working with an Adam because he has good ideas about how to improve efficiency, and it’s disingenuous to frame commenters that way.

          We are all hanging out on a workplace advice blog – you are not the only person here frustrated by inefficiency.

        8. House On The Rock*

          This is clearly upsetting to you, and I’m sorry. I’d echo others’ suggestions to not take this personally and, perhaps, to simply step away.

          It might help to keep in mind that the commenters here are reacting to a very specific circumstance about a specific person and his specific interactions with his manager, coworkers, and higher ups at their company. They are not reacting to everyone who ever suggested something (even something misguided or impractical). One can’t take a set of reactions to an extreme example of someone being quite difficult in many, many ways to mean that no one, anywhere, at any company wants to hear suggestions. This is a very self-selecting set of reactions. It’s not as if everywhere you go you see people, apropos of nothing, criticizing those who offer suggestions.

          It’s like if you stumbled upon an online forum where someone describes a bad experience with their Acme Toaster. In their experience the toaster malfunctioned spectacularly and caused a crisis. Others on the forum commiserate, share their experiences, maybe trash Acme as a brand. But after reading those, the takeaway wouldn’t be “I guess no one wants something that toasts bread”. It’s “no one wants a toaster that set their kitchen on fire”.

        9. biobotb*

          OK, what’s your argument for why people *should* want to hear from someone who makes recommendations without the full picture, repeatedly pushes past in-depth and reasonable explanations for current processes, and generally wastes people’s time?

    7. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      But this wasn’t “this is the way we do it”. If you read the original letter the OP says that when Adam writes to people with questions/suggestions they “spend about an hour crafting a response to show that the issue has been thought through already and explain exactly why things are the way they are.”

      These were things HE felt were problems in other departments that he didn’t work in. The OP gave an example of contacting the finance department with the suggestion of a different way to process an expense report when he didn’t know that it would cause problems if they did it that way because that was not his area of expertise.

      I think you are taking your own experience and reflecting it on this, when it sounds like your situation was completely different

    8. not a hippo*

      My dude/ette, you are taking this WAY too personally.

      There is usually a lot office politics that you might not be privy to that goes beyond “this is the way things are done.”

      I’ve run into that kind of frustrated “no one takes me seriously!” attitude and it’s exhausting, especially when people explain /why/ your suggestions aren’t going to be implemented.

      Sometimes things are out of your control/power to change. It can be annoying but it’s not a hill worth dying on.

    9. FD*

      I’ve done a lot of process improvement, and I can share some things I’ve learned that may help you as well as explain why the Adams of the world can be very frustrating to the people around them.

      First of all, you should always start with improving your own personal processes and becoming a top performer. After all, if you aren’t a top performer, why should people trust that your ideas are good–if they were, you’d be using them on yourself first of all. I know it’s tempting to say that your job doesn’t have any scope for that, but I guarantee you that isn’t true. Any job, no matter how apparently simple, has room for this. When I worked in food service, I would sometimes be told to train new people on the register. I worked out a system to train people in efficiently and thoroughly. One of my managers at the same job worked out the most efficient way to clean a particular machine. Whatever your job, find the places that you can improve your own efficiency without affecting anyone else’s workflow. If you’ve really, seriously worked at that and you aren’t one of the top performers in your role, you may need to reevaluate whether your ideas are good yet.

      The next step is to look at processes where you work closely with a single coworker or a very small team. See if there’s a way to improve that that would reduce the amount of work for *both* of you (this won’t work if it only benefits you–change costs energy so it’ll only stick if it’s a net benefit for both of the parties). Go to your colleagues and ask them about it. Be REALLY careful about your approach–your tone is “Hey I have an idea to run by you,” not “I have come up with a solution that we should definitely come up with.” Timing is also important; you want to try to pick a time when things aren’t utterly hectic.

      Let me give you an example. I work with a coworker on a project that happens twice a year. There’s a period of time where the project goes back and forth between us a lot in a short period of time. I wanted us to track those changes in a Google Sheet so we could both see what the status was, instead of having to dig through emails. The conversation could go something like this, “Hey, I was thinking about the llama magazine project we have coming up. I know we have a lot of changes to track in the last week before it goes out. I was thinking it might be easier to keep track of if we put everything in a Google Sheet. I was thinking maybe something like this?” [Shows Sample] “What do you think?”

      You have to really listen to their feedback, and be ready to totally scrap your idea if it turns out it doesn’t work for the other person. Try out a few of these; some of your ideas won’t work out and some of them will. But you’ll be gaining experience and crucially, you’ll also be showing your colleagues that you listen to their feedback and work hard to come up with ideas that really do make their work lives better.

      Around the same time as those steps, if you can, it helps if you can do a couple of bigger process improvements in your job that require approval from your boss but which primarily or exclusively affect you. You want to pick places where if it doesn’t work out, you have a backup or a way to roll it back easily. For instance, I handle registration for a particular event and I wanted to start taking registrations through an online system we already had. I’m the one who has to handle the registration data, and I had paper backup forms, so my boss was OK with me trying it and seeing what happened. Once he saw that it had gone well, it was easier for him to agree that we should do it that way going forward.

      You can see how if you do this, you’d be building your reputation with your coworkers and with your boss at the same time, but mostly so far you’re working on things where few other people are impacted.

      At that point, you can afford to make a few bigger suggestions, but you still generally want to stick to areas that you know well, and you don’t want to make too many of them.


      Two reasons. First, you probably think you know more about other departments than you do.

      Let’s take your example. You’re thinking “This paper-based system takes forever, and so does keeping track of all these expenses. Surely, it’s costing them more to do it that way.”

      The thing is, that’s more complicated than you think. First of all, as someone who has been involved in software rollouts several times, it takes way more time and money than you might think. You’ve got to get the initial setup, prepare any data that needs to be imported (which can be an incredibly time-consuming and complicated process, and if you’re going form paper, probably involves hundreds or thousands of hours of data entry), import a huge number of existing records, train everybody who needs to know on the new system, implement appropriate administrative controls, potentially install software on hundreds of PCs, create a process to determine who needs what account level, create all your user accounts. By the way, this is finance, so this also means you either need to flip the switch from one system to the other and hope like hell it works perfectly on Day 0 (spoilers, it won’t), or you’re likely to have to double-enter everything until your new system is working properly, which means a huge amount of extra time for all the people who have to use the system.

      Similar thing with the clip level for expenses. The real logic there is more complicated. Some people will abuse any system–you have to assume that any time you build a system. If you make it so people don’t have to submit receipts for expenses under $25, some number of people will abuse that to submit false or inflated expenses. So the question becomes, is the amount of abuse that will come with this change (plus the cost of the change) larger or smaller than the cost of implementing the current system? The truth is, you likely weren’t in a position to actually know that.

      It was also a mistake to go around your boss. To make a suggestion for a big, high-level change, you *need* the support of at least your manager, and ideally, a couple of people between you and the person who would make that decision. This is because a high-level person likely isn’t a subject matter expert, so they’re likely to look to those people for their advice on whether your idea is good or bad.

      These things are what makes the Adams of the world so frustrating, particularly the ones that actually get traction. They think they have great ideas, but instead of testing the ideas on a small scale and expanding, they try to implement a bunch huge changes without any real knowledge of the implications. This makes a *lot* of work for those of us who have to either have our time wasted by a bunch of ignorant suggestions or (worse) who have to live with the consequences of a poorly-considered idea.

      I am sure you have a lot of good ideas in you, and I hope you try some of these smaller scale ideas out. It can make work a lot more interesting when you’re constantly experimenting to see what will really work best, and you’ll find your coworkers are much more pleasant when you realize that probably all of them have some really good ideas too.

      1. AlohaCocoa*

        Hmm. This is a super well-thought our post, and I agree with your points. Unfortunately my current role doesn’t lend itself to implementation. Everything has to go up the hierarchy, so I don’t really have colleagues on other teams to work with.

        Maybe what I’m looking for isn’t so much implementing *my* idea so much as some kind of process to a) document less-than-ideal situations and, however slowly but surely, work on them, and/or b) connect dots in a way that helps the team achieve our overall goals.

        So to give an example, when one of my clients buys a platinum grooming subscription, they’re supposed to get photos of the llama at the end of the groom. But the clients aren’t getting the photos. I just enter in the order, I don’t talk to the photographer. It seems like there is some problem that the photographers don’t know they are supposed to take a photo. But the only solution is me dealing with my clients individually, asking for a photo of a certain llama. When I tell my boss, “yeah they don’t always take a photo.” There are a bunch of photographers across the country, so I can’t just develop a friendly relationship with one person to get him/her on my side.

        Or, one of my clients is going to our grooming conference. My grand boss wrote me today to ask if she’s coming. I replied that she is. What I wanted to add is “and I’d love to be assigned to work her conference room.” But that’s swimming outside my lane into the territory of the conference organizers, so I didn’t.

        1. Lucky Meas*

          In your grooming scenario, it sounds like your way of solving this would be for you to contact each photographer individually, or to talk to your boss’s boss about it, or to create a document with this and all the other problems you experience.

          What if instead, you asked around your team to learn how the photographers are assigned? Who tells them where to show up and when? Can you talk to that person directly and ask them to remind the photographer to take a photo? You’re talking directly to the liaison who actually handles the process instead of someone higher up unfamiliar with the process, and just focusing on this one problem that’s been flagged to you by your clients.

          If you want to be assigned to work your client’s room: who assigns people to work the rooms? It doesn’t sound like your grandboss is involved with the process since they don’t know who’s going. Yes it would be the conference organizers’ job to tell grandboss who is working that room. But why not contact the conference organizers and ask if you can work the room your client is in?

          I also work in an org that doesn’t have great cross-team communication. As others have said, the key is not to presume you know their processes and work better than they do. People stressed by task A don’t have time to fix process B. And not every process can be optimized, by you, today, with your resources.

          But these examples make me think that that isn’t your issue. It sounds like your real issue is when you encounter a problem, you want to fix the process so it never happens again, so you approach it from a birds-eye-view instead of from the part of the process that impacts you. Instead of looking at the whole process and everyone involved, maybe try to identify the person right before you in the process and talk to them.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            “What if instead, you asked around your team to learn how the photographers are assigned?”

            That’s swimming outside my lane. As people above have noted with my finance example, I went directly to someone up the good chain in finance, not to my manager. I can’t go generally asking around, if someone found out I’d be in trouble.

            “Can you talk to that person directly and ask them to remind the photographer to take a photo?”
            No, I have to wait until the client says they don’t see a photo, bring it to my manager who either asks for the photo or gives me permission to go ask for it.

            Same with talking to the conference organizer. It has to go up the chain with my supervisor and back down the chain to the conference organizer. Unless something is Super Duper important, not going to happen.

            1. Allonge*

              I know this is probably too late for you to see it but: can you look at your responses here and see why other people may not appreciate improvement suggestions?

              You described a problem, a commenter offered some suggestions based on the limited information they have. Obviously you have more information; you are explaining why X or Y does not work.

              When you propose a process improvement, especially if it’s not for your direct field, the exact same thing happens – it’s not that people don’t see value in what you say, maybe they are also already annoyed by the issue! But they also have a lot of context you don’t, and already see why it’s not so easy to implement something. Now imagine having to do this kind of explanation regularly. Now imagine having to do it for any random issue. That’s the problem with Adam.

    10. boof*

      There’s a few things here. I think, one is about not giving advice when it’s not asked for. Sure it may be great advice, but if the other person isn’t asking, maybe it’s best to leave them alone. There’s a balance there, it’s reasonable to point out something easy to fix (in an individual example, food stuck in teeth, zipper undone) or highly hazardous /safety concerns; but not everything needs to be optimized all the time and it can be more exhausting to try being always optimal than to just go through the usual routine.
      Now, something with your example where a LOT of people are caught up in something clearly tedious and inefficient, it’s either 1) your org is bad and either accept it or move on instead of making it even more miserable for yourself and everyone around you by bashing your head against it 2) politely and persistently push for your top one or two changes, and when change happens, move on to the next priority for change 3) if the org is good, they’ll have some kind of quality improvement process and probably like having people who are enthusiastic for it so sign up for a committee and go nuts

    11. I should really pick a name*

      Did it really need to take five years to implement?

      Perhaps it did, it sounds like you weren’t in a position to know. That’s a key aspect of suggestions. The person making the suggestion may not have the full picture, so if it isn’t implemented, it really shouldn’t be taken personally.

        1. cardigarden*

          Not knowing where you work, it might have. Someone further up on this particular thread outlined a bunch of potential studies that might have needed to be done, and depending on how many people need to be involved in those, it starts to take a lot of time. For example, just getting calendars to line up. Then you have to gather all the data, and then you have to play calendar tag umpteen times for as long as it needs to analyze the data and make recommendations. And then maybe the lawyers need to look at it.

          1. AlohaCocoa*

            Less than a year after the person I made the suggestion to left, the change was implemented. I’d bet a lot of money that the change didn’t require five years of work, but rather less than a year of work, which happened once the roadblock person moved on. Anything’s possible, but I think that’s the far more likely scenario.

        2. We R Srs Nao*

          It’s hilarious to me that you think it *couldn’t* take five years! Never underestimate the size of the mountain you can’t see that lurks behind the forest you see in front of you. Often, it makes no sense to us standing at the edge of the trees, but makes perfect sense to the people standing on the summit.

          I want to point out something, and I’m not trying to be cruel here, just direct:

          The original letter “made” you get defensive.

          The update “made” you get defensive.

          Constructive criticism “made” you get defensive.

          Kindness from commenters that still didn’t place you 100% in the right “made” you get defensive.

          The only thing that hasn’t “made” you get defensive is people agreeing or commiserating with you without any concrit.

          It’s time to step back and examine how the only common denominator in all this is your own attitude.

            1. We R Srs Nao*

              I also can’t help but notice that when people try to say things here you don’t like, you very conspicuously (deliberately?) miss the point of what they’re saying to get mired down in unnecessary, derailing details.

              1. AlohaCocoa*

                That I claimed others “made” me do things seems to be your main point, I’m not sure why you think that’s getting mired in details.

                1. We R Srs Nao*

                  I wasn’t actually trying to say you claimed you were made to do anything. I included the quotation marks to emphasize that no one was forced to feel any specific way, and if those marks were misinterpreted, this is me clearing the air. And, no one forcing you to feel any kind of way or do any kind of thing doesn’t mean you haven’t still been getting defensive against even helpful responses people have left you–because that’s definitely a recurring theme in your comment threads here. It’s something else to step back and take a hard look at. You were not being attacked by any of the comments I saw in my last page refresh. People mostly do seem to want you to thrive.

                2. AlohaCocoa*

                  I see! Thank you for sticking with me and explaining. I agree that I have not been attacked, and that people genuinely want to help.

                  I think what (most certainly and understandably) come across as defensiveness is actually hopelessness. I know I’ve been shooting down most/all of the ideas that have come my way. And I think it’s because I can’t honestly see a way to a future that better aligns with what I’d like to see. I’m no spring chicken, I’ve tried lots of different fields, manual labor, office jobs, for profit, non profit, big companies, small companies.

                  I think my current situation is the best I’m going to get. My boss is kind, my immediate team has good camaraderie, most of our processes do work well, my clients like me, my boss seems satisfied with my work. I should be grateful for all that! It’s more than many, many people have!

                  But I can’t help secretly feeling that it would be nice if there was some way to share the feedback I hear from my clients, to raise issues in some organized fashion so that those that are affecting a lot of people get prioritized and addressed, to connect the dots with other teams so that we can deliver better service for our clients. I talk to my peers at other companies, they have exactly the same problems.

                  Knowing that left to my natural devices I’d be an Adam, I keep my mouth shut allllll the time…but then explode under the cover of having a voice in an anonymous forum.

        3. Lenora Rose*

          Why not? What did they know that you didn’t? Why were they tracking each bill? Had they been lax before and something bad happened? 99% of the time, when a company is being too rigorous and too finicky it’ because someone somewhere did something very very wrong that made them tighten the restrictions.

          One of my prior jobs was at a pharmaceutical manufacturer. *Everything* had to be signed off multiple times. You could not fix a typo in a set of instructions; any change, yes, even typo fixes, required a full review process and a complete new version. All old versions had to be kept with precise dates for when they were the directions that were in use, so you could always go back to an exact date and read the exact instructions people were given). Did you mis-write something handwritten? It absolutely had to be crossed out so it was still legible, the correct info written below, date time and initial clear. And if you did it again, you did it again.

          Horribly inefficient on the file and document side. But if one tiny fragment of hair made its way into one tiny bottle anywhere on the manufacturing line, wasn’t caught by QA, and made its way into a hospital’s hands, every process that was followed was completely and correctly listed in the instructions, signed and countersigned by the person doing it and their witness, and there was absolutely no doubt not only who was working when it was made, but exactly which subset of workers handled it.

          And that was the level it HAD to work at. There’s no room for Tylenol (Not one of their products) to vary from 495mg to 506mg per Extra Strength pill, no room for the coating to be a bit thicker on this one and thinner on that, or for someone somewhere to let a cat hair, or peanut oil from their lunch, into the process.

          But imagine an Adam (not a you, an Adam) in one of the paper-side bits of that system. Makes suggestions to make the papers more efficient. Gets turned down. Goes on to bug someone higher level. Gets turned down again, with links to reasons why. And gets told to stop asking until he knows the system better. Then goes to another department head, who maybe doesn’t know why this is a bad idea, and maybe gets a hearing. Or, worse, on his own initiative, he starts skipping steps because he knows better.

          Then the auditors from the FDA or Health Canada come, and finds the company out of compliance…

          Yes, it can take five years to implement a simple *seeming* change if the parts in the background are sufficiently complex and the stakes turn out to be higher than the person on the ground realises.

    12. Critical Rolls*

      You have identified very strongly with Adam and taken all criticism of him as though it were aimed at you. That’s… not very healthy. I also feel like, instead of listening to what people who have given you feedback were actually saying — like “hey, please don’t bypass the org chart” — you filtered everything down to “keep your mouth shut.” As you’ve talked about your receipt suggestion, it’s not clear to me that you’ve really taken on board that people in other departments might know more about their subject area than you, and you therefore concluded they are rejecting ideas out of pure inertia. The answer isn’t always “no” because someone just doesn’t get/care what a good idea something is, and giving others the benefit of the doubt that they might know what they’re doing will take you a long way. It might also make you less depressed because it requires you to stop assuming you’re the only one who cares about improving the work.

      No one wants to hear from Adam because, instead of spending most of his time doing his actual job, he is constantly sucking up everyone’s time pitching ideas for parts of the org he knows nothing about, through inappropriate channels, requiring exhaustive handling to move past each issue, and then hiding (!) this behavior after being told to stop. It isn’t because he had ideas or because he shared them, it’s because he could not be convinced there was ever a good reason to be told “no.”

  27. Book lover*

    Adam sounds exhausting and he clearly crossed a million lines.

    But, as a manager who really means it when I say, “When you see something that can be improved, don’t just stew on it, speak up!” I’d be at a loss as to exactly how to say, “Yes, speak up, but no, not like that.”

    1. Nea*

      Oh, that’s easy. “When you see something that can be improved in your department, don’t just stew on it, speak up!”

      Adam’s ideas weren’t actually the problem. Adam’s inability to accept that other people are intelligent, trained, and competent at their jobs was the problem. Once he came up with an “idea” he ignored any explanation with an endless series of what-ifs; once he reached a roadblock in demanding that his ideas be implemented, he found a different path to the C-Suite.

      By then they aren’t ideas at all. They’re demands, and often ignorant ones.

      1. Seal*

        Adam’s inability to accept that other people are intelligent, trained, and competent at their jobs was the problem.

        Very accurate description of the Adams of this world.

    2. zinzarin*

      With an Adam, you say “When you see something *significant* that can be improved, speak up, and limit it to one suggestion per {internval}. If we choose not to implement your suggestion, accept that.”

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      My go-to is “I’m always happy to hear your input, and I really value your perspective. I also need you to understand that you don’t have the vantage point to understand the rationale behind every decision and policy, and we may not always take your suggestions. [insert instructions on proper reporting lines and the distinction between asking and hassling here].”

    4. Dinwar*

      Speak up, but understand that not all suggestions will be implemented.

      There’s information I keep from my teams that prevents certain suggestions from being put in place. It’s not that they aren’t good suggestions, or that I’m not listening to them, it’s that my hands are tied due to decisions way above my head. A reasonable person will understand this; someone who doesn’t is by definition unreasonable.

    5. Blueberry Daydream*

      I think the trick is to communicate that sometimes there is history behind why something is done in a way that is inefficient, so after they have spoken up, they should take “no” as an answer.

    6. Observer*

      “Yes, speak up, but no, not like that.”

      In a lot of cases, that’s actually a good starting point. Then explain what that looks like. Also, in a case like this, the other starting line is “Make sure you actually have the knowledge and standing to offer input and suggestions.”

      To take a few random examples of workplace issues that get discussed here pretty often. If you don’t know anything about ADA, don’t tell HR how to manage reasonable accommodations. If you’re not trained in UX and graphic design, don’t tell people how to change interface to the company data management tool. If you’re not an expert on tax law, don’t tell your accounting department how to handle payroll withholding.

    7. I should really pick a name*

      I think Adam might have been easier to deal with if they didn’t let things go so far in the first place.

      Responses that took an hour to write, and always engaging with his rebuttals probably led him to believe his input was welcome.

      I think absent that, there’s less chance of having to say “not like that”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes yes yes yes yes yes

        You have to nip these things in the bud. Once he realized people would cater to him, there was no going back.

      2. Elsewise*

        Exactly! I’ve worked with a few bosses who’ve responded to my ideas with “that makes sense on the surface, but because of XYZ reason, we can’t actually do it” or “that would be more efficient, but we just don’t have the bandwidth to do a process overhaul right now.” And that’s fine! That makes sense! Heck, I’ve even responded to suggestions with “that’s a great idea because of X, but we’ll need to do Y and Z to make that happen- could you take that on?” because sometimes there’s a great idea that just can’t be implemented because things are hard.

        My sense is Adam would probably push back on these sorts of responses. Then the conversation isn’t “share your ideas but not like that”, it’s “share your ideas but take no for an answer”. Or, if I’m wrong and he’d accept a no, then great! No, more problem.

        1. Jinni*

          I had a friend who managed volunteers in this manner. For every improvement/suggestion – she’d always ask them if they were willing to take it on. The ideas died quickly after that. Sometimes it wasn’t that the ideas weren’t good, but the bandwidth of paid staff and volunteers couldn’t always be stretched.

        2. allathian*

          Yeah, this. I always appreciate it if I feel that my manager has my back. Thankfully our organization’s top brass is very open in that they’ll take responsibility for decisions at the top and don’t require middle managers as buffers between the rock and a hard place. So my manager could and would say that “Your idea sounds good, but can’t be implemented because of X decision taken by Y.” I’m sure that being able to pass the buck where it belongs makes her job a lot less stressful than it would otherwise be.

          Obviously it’s a fine line to walk, she’s still a manager and as such represents the organization, so I’m sure she can’t always be completely honest about how she feels about some of the decisions she’s required to implement.

          I’m also not making suggestions left, right, and center all the time. Maybe once a year, if that, and only concerning things that affect our team directly. I’ll also take no for an answer. But I really appreciate understanding the reasoning behind the no.

    8. Kevin Sours*

      Don’t focus on the “speaking up” part. Speaking up is rarely the issue and it isn’t the issue here. Some things to push back on

      1) Take no for an answer. You aren’t owed an hours long details explanation for why your idea isn’t going anywhere. You spoke up, it’s not going to happen, learn to deal with that.

      2) Do your homework. Before you speak up make sure you know what you are talking about.

      3) Speak from experience. Commenting on things outside of your expertise on things that do not actually affect you isn’t going to help.

      4) Pick your battles. There is only so much time. Focus on the most important things.

  28. Looper*

    I hate to sound cruel, but I’ve worked with a few Adams in my day who never faced any consequences so this update was absolutely delicious. Way to go LW! It’s not easy to do what you did, in all aspects of this experience, but your tenacity and professionalism paid off. You’re an asset to your organization and employees.

    1. Sunshine*

      Yeah, agreed. A lot of higher-ups LOVE an idea guy. They don’t handle the day-to-day so they don’t understand that the ideas are bad!

  29. Reality.Bites*

    I have decided that in Fergus was actually Tucker Carlson and that’s why no details about the final incident ;)

  30. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    Reading some of the comments here, I wonder if Adam is the brother to the director Fergus in the letter “My boss keeps asking me to do thins that aggravate our community partners” because they both can’t take NO for an answer.

  31. Sheraton St Louis*

    I remember being shocked at how harsh the original response was, but in a good way, because Adams are so often coddled or worked around. And responses here don’t usually say “fire him” so quickly. But it was really clear he’d been given enough chances and instructions and was just exhausting everyone.

  32. Jaybeetee*

    Oh, I missed the original letter – that letter, this update, and the comments are all wuite interesting. LW, I’m sorry it went this way for you, but I’m glad there was a resolution and that things are less stressful now.

    The comment’s on this one have been surprisingly emotional – people who feel like “Adam”, people who have experienced “Adams”… it’s very easy to project on this letter in one way or another.

    My own experience is as a ND woman. I have not always been able to intuit appropriate boundaries, at work or in other situations, and I have been corrected – sometimes harshly, sometimes *too* harshly. I feel the world today is much kinder to ND or generally quirky people than it was 10-20 years ago, and I certainly don’t want young people to go through everything I did, but… I hope I’m not saying anything too controversial when I suggest that women are often held to harsher social standards than men.

    Which brings me to my own dirty glasses regarding “Adam”: I have known several men who sort of use neurodiversity, or lack of understanding of social norms, to basically cover for being a jerk (up to claiming openly hurtful, abusive, or insulting comments as “gee whiz, sorry, it’s so hard for me to remember to be tactful, can you lay out exactly how offensive I can be without being too offensive…”)

    Ofc I have no idea if Adam is actually ND or not, but based on these letters… he was acting like a jerk, saying it was just who he was, and dancing around inclusivity policies to cow or intimidate anyone who might call him out on being a jerk. He was expecting people around him to just… keep dealing with his jerkiness.

    Adam isn’t a jerk for noticing inefficiencies or making suggestions. He’s a jerk for being inconsiderate of other people’s time and work, pushing back against feedback and corrections, behaving argumentatively (i.e. people spending inordinate amounts of time composing responses to him because he’s known to nitpick every point), and going around his manager when she attempted to set boundaries. Adam may or may not be ND, but Adam is a jerk.

    I’ve been corrected for not understanding interpersonal or workplace norms, and sometimes corrected too harshly. I don’t want this to come across as an “I had to suffer, so should Adam” rant. But… I am also very not patient with the guys I’ve met, online and IRL, who think being rude and inconsiderate should be a protected class, and that “accommodation” means letting them rip. No. Part of living in the world is, in fact, learning how to get along with people around you. None of us get to opt out. Adam can have all the ideas and suggestions he wants. No one is required to indulge his rudeness.

    1. boof*

      You are absolutely correct. Sort of reminds me of captin awkward schrodinerg’s autist, and/or while we shouldn’t diagnose people here, I think the line between someone well meaning but oblivious in some way (neurodivergent, niave, whatever) and a jerk is… someone who is well meaning will accept redirection and maybe apologize for the misstep. A jerk will just try to keep doing what they want to do.
      Analogy in the form of foot stepping: If someone steps on your foot by accident, for any reason (they have neurologic dosorder, they are distracted, they’re carrying a lot of stuff, etc), and you say “you are stepping on my foot, please get off?” they will get off with a “so sorry!” Vs a jerk, “why is your foot there” “but I need to stand here” “but you’re so good at supporting my foot” “why should I move” etc etc etc basically anything other than “oops, sorry!” and off the foot.
      And yes I do think the classic western (maybe also confucian?) stereotype is pushy behavior is a desireable in men and acomodating behavior desireable in women. Which is BS and I think changing but gotta keep pushing for it.

      1. Roy G. Biv*

        “you are stepping on my foot, please get off?”
        “but you’re so good at supporting my foot”

        Great analogy for the intentional, ongoing bad behavior by a jerk.

  33. Bertha*

    In reading the original comments, I ran across the people who identify with Adam. So do I. Some of the things that helped me are:

    – understanding that I’m not the main character.

    – leaning into the idea that others have talents that allow them to address issues that I can’t even see, in the same way I can see things that they cannot. My job is to discover that greatness and partner with it.

    – learning/thinking through what others need from me as a coworker and then doing that to the best of my ability. If you are good at process, people will come to you.

    – using the feedback and reasoning others give you on ideas to understand the business. They are telling you the real drivers to your idea being adopted. You can learn a lot about the business in those brief conversations where you share an insight. It teaches you to recognize when the business is ready and open to change.

    – do more work. Document your idea and then hand it off. That way, they have a jumpstart if the issue ever does become a priority.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      My big suggestion is phrase things as questions, particularly when you are the FNG: “Why do we do X this way?” instead of “X isn’t a good way to do things.” In my experience 9 time out of 10 there is a answer. Frequently it’s a good answer. And the remaining 1 time in 10 you’ve made your point without being an ass about it.

      And, it also helps in that if there is no clear reason why you, in your role, actually need to know why and how X works, it’s a sign that maybe you should stay in your lane on this issue.

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