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I just joined a new company. My team of direct reports is new as well. We all started the same day. I have a direct report who tends to ask the same question multiple times but rephrased.

For example, she questioned why a document was set up a certain way which could be confusing. I replied, "I don't know but I will reach out to the person who created it and find out." I asked some clarifying questions to get her perspective. She then asks "But why is it like this?" I replied again I will find out. She proceeds to tell me again that it can be confusing and needs to know why.

If this had been one isolated incident I would not think much of it, but it happens frequently. I am not sure if she is trying to showcase her knowledge or if there is something I am missing.

I have heard several side comments made to peers that makes it clear she is motivated by money.

She is also concerned about her having to deal with more clients than her peers if she is faster.

How could I help this person, but without having to repeat myself over and over again? I want to handle this as professional as possible.

  • 1
    I disagree with the close votes; I don't see how this lacks a goal. OP clearly wants to assist this person, but without having to repeat themselves over and over again, and wants to handle this professionally. – DarkCygnus Jul 17 '18 at 18:13
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Put the ball in her court. After she repeats the question for the third time, tell her:

Like I said before, I will ask the document author and let you know. I would ask you to wait until get the information. If that doesn't work for you, I suggest a couple of other options: (1) you can ask the document author directly for clarification, or (2) you can suggest edits to the document, and send it to the document author for review. What would you prefer to do?

This would most certainly stop her repeated complaints, because it is very easy to complain, but solving the problem requires effort. If she chooses one of these two options, even better!

Money is the primary (or only) motivation to work for a lot of people. Nothing wrong with it, so don't worry about it.

To address her concern about having to deal with more clients, ensure she is suitably rewarded (higher salary, promotions, awards, etc.). If everyone gets the same reward regardless of the quantity and quality of work done, few people would be motivated to work more than the bare minimum necessary to keep the job.

4

I found that people who ask the same question but slightly differently tend to not want to ask the real question due to fear of appearing incompetence or otherwise.

It may also be a XY problem where she ran into a problem but doesn't want to actually describe the problem, only the proposed solution (trying to find a documentation on it). So in the situation with the document, maybe she is trying to locate information and you should ask her what she is trying to do. For example,

"Why is this document written like this?"

"What do you mean?"

"It is confusing like this."

"What part is confusing?"

"I don't know. The whole thing is poorly written."

"Are you unable to do something because of a poorly written manual?"

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Normally people ask a question because they want an answer. Some people don't get it when you tell them that you don't have the answer and ask again. A reply would be "You asked me the same question a second ago and I told you I don't have the answer now. Why are you asking me again?" The technique is to force her to make the effort. She's not a child who can keep on asking "But why?". If she tried to "showcase her knowledge", that would be a rather bad way to do it. If she asked me twice I would assume she is a bit slow on the uptake.

Being motivated by money is fine. As long as you make sure that pay is related to what people do for the company, and not related to how much they ask for money. Sales teams can be organised badly in a way that people make money by backstabbing their colleagues, or by making deals that are actually bad for the company. So you need to make sure that being motivated by money translates into being motivated to do things that are good for the company.

Concerns about having to do more work if she works faster than others: Again, it is up to you to recognise who does more for the company and reward it. And of course, she has to work faster than others for this to become a concern.

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Question: When you say this subordinate asks you the same question multiple times, do you mean consecutively, or is there a time delay? Coming from the other side, if I ask my supervisor (or more-experienced peer) for an answer to a question that is a problem for me, and I don't get an answer in a couple of hours, then I'll ask again to try to get traction on this problem that is blocking my work. If this is the case, are you sure she doesn't feel like you're ignoring her?

If she's just asking the same question repeatedly over and over, are you sure that you understand the question? If one (or both) of you, for example, do not speak English (I presume your communication is in English) as a first language, then it's possible one or the other of you is misinterpreting the other, and she's trying to clarify what she's asking. This is also an issue I've had previously, where things are misinterpreted and communication is difficult.

I'm trying to giving her the benefit of the doubt here, because the situation as presented makes no sense to me.

As for being motivated by money, call me cynical, but everyone who works does so for the money. Like, how many people do you honestly think would rather sit at a desk all day and do their job as opposed to going traveling, or to the beach, or playing games, or watching a movie, or whatever other hobby they have? Most people work specifically for the money.

  • Most people work specifically for the money. - Your answer would be improved greatly with an objective source to back up this statement. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 18 '18 at 17:10

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