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I started a new job 2 weeks ago working at a retail liquor store. Multiple people have told me it's a laid back job, but I still want to do well in it even if I don't plan on being there a long time.

I told my manager I had to take time off for a medical appointment. That seemed to really upset him. He told me I need to "pull up my socks" and stop "acting like this was some kind of vacation". He said I haven't been doing what I've been told or working too slow. This was the first time I've gotten negative feedback. I asked for specifics. He told me to "organize a room" and I hadn't at all. First, I honestly don't recall him saying this to me. However, another coworker told me to so the message may have been passed through him. I did organize the room. However those are very subjective instructions. He has left written instructions on a few occasions to "reorganize" a room or "stock store" which I also find very vague. Another example he gave is I didn't bring something from the supply room when he asked me to. I don't know how this could've happened and wish it hadn't been addressed days later. He has an accent I find difficult to understand. Should I tell him this?

I almost never work with the manager. So I'm guessing it's the coworkers feedback he's going off of. I asked a coworker if I was going too slow. He just said "idk". I pressed him and asked if he had tips for me (especially since he was assigned the job of training me) he said I didn't put cans on the shelves 3 layers high like he told me too. I thought only certain ones were 3 layers high but now I will do all of them. He also said I took a really long time looking for a key someone had lost and I was tasked to find. I looked and couldn't find it. He told me to double check so I basically kept looking until someone told me to stop. I have a very bad sense with things like this, but how long should I have looked for it? I knew which room it was likely in but assumed no one hid it somewhere hard to find.

Any overall advice given the situation? I want this to work but I'm not sure how to do my job better. Should I start asking if I have done the task completely and correctly?

I try to mind my own business but I often notice my coworker sitting there doing nothing but play on his phone. I find it's a bit unfair that I'm doing most of the work. Sometimes the store is so quiet people decide to go home early. My coworker said I could, but I declined. With this happening I find it hard to understand how I'm working too slow.

I feel like on other occasions I have lost a job for very intangible reasons like this. Is there anyway I can work on being better at following unclear instructions? Should I tell the manager I felt I didn't learn much in "training"?

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A simple thing that may help,

  • communicate EARLY and loudly!

Example,

.. took a really long time looking for a key. So someone lost the key ..

Someone tells me to grab the key. I open the drawer where it should be. It's not there. Literally as my hand is still on the draw I am saying at the top of my voice "HEY BOSS - THE KEY IS GONE - STEVE, JEN THE KEY IS GONE. BOSS, I'LL START SEARCHING FOR IT" and so on.

Similarly, "HEY BOSS, GOT THOSE CANS STACKED, GIVE ME AN EYEBALL IS THIS WHAT WE WANT?"

Be sure to SPEAK UP early and clearly - don't gab too much, but gab early and clearly.

  • DON'T whine, complain about anything such as accents or training, or criticize or care about other workers
  • DO your job
  • DO go home and have fun
  • DO get paid
  • DO communicate EARLY and loudly when you "can't find the key" and all other issues

Good luck!

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  • Probably doesn't affect your (good) answer but someone else had lost the key and I was tasked with searching for it. Usually it is in one of two places but this time it wasn't.
    – beestrees1
    Mar 25 at 12:09
  • + π(r²) Good, solid, well rounded advices that covers the situation completely. Mar 25 at 12:48
  • I was thinking about this answer today at work. Someone had given me a list of items to retrieve from storage. I could not find one and he had to find it for me. When I saw what he had got I knew I had looked right at it. I retraced my steps to see where I had made the mistake. It turned out on the list my coworker wrote for me, he had used an abbreviation but I did not realize it was an abbreviation. On top of that I incorrectly red the first letter because his writing was messy. Is this the type of thing I should speak up about? Or would that be playing the blame game?
    – beestrees1
    Mar 26 at 7:41
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    right! you would IMMEDIATELY say "what's this letter, help me find this one, I can't find this one." if you SPEAK ABOUT IT AFTERWARDS THEN THAT IS THE BLAME GAME. speak up WHILE YOU ARE IN THE TASK!!! that's it!
    – Fattie
    Mar 26 at 9:43
  • @Fattie I meant after the fact. I had already given up because I was searching for something that didn't exist and only after he found it did I realize I had misread his writing
    – beestrees1
    Mar 26 at 9:58
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The thing is when it comes to jobs like retail environments where people are (relatively) easy to replace and where most of the job is something you learn by doing it specific feedback like this isn't all that common. It's not especially nice but in many cases it's more efficient to simply let those who don't swim sink and replace them. This means you have to be proactive in identifying and correcting any potential issues. It's not fair, it's not "nice" but it is what it is.

I told my manager I had to take time off for a medical appointment. That seemed to really upset him.He told me I need to "pull up my socks" and stop "acting like this was some kind of vacation".

Your manager was being harsh there, medical appointments happen. Yeah it can involve having to re-jig shift schedules, find cover etc. But he is the manager, that's part of his job! The second part of this reaction does have me wondering whether there's some frustration at things other than this one medical appointment coming out but regardless it's wrong of him to react this way.

Multiple people have told me it's a laid back job

Unless those people are your boss and they're saying it in a "you're working too hard, slow down" context then you're best off putting this out of your mind. Laid back can be a great environment, but the laid back part should always come after taking care of business.

He told me to "organize a room" and I hadn't at all. First, I honestly don't recall him saying this to me. However, another coworker told me to so the message may have been passed through him.

The thing is if your manager passed these instructions through someone else for you to carry out they will (rightfully) consider that the same as telling you to do it. I'd be very wary of trying to argue semantics there.

However those are very subjective instructions. He has left written instructions on a few occasions to "reorganize" a room or "stock store" which I also find very vague.

Yeah they're pretty subjective instructions - they might not be intentionally being obtuse here, sometimes it's easy to forget that someone doesn't share your same knowledge when it comes to tasks you consider relatively mundane or routine. The best approach here is to have a relatively quick attempt at the task to see if you can figure something out yourself that makes sense and if you can't ask someone (if your boss isn't available ask a peer who has worked there longer) for help to understand what is needed. Put it positively, avoid saying things like "I don't know how to do that" and instead say something like "I want to make sure I get this right, can you point me in the right direction?". The former sounds like an objection, the latter sounds like someone being diligent.

Another example he gave is I didn't bring something from the supply room when he asked me to. I don't know how this could've happened and wish it hadn't been addressed days later.

Yeah, this one's all on you - when you forget to do something small like this (which happens, we're all human) you create an extra bit of workload for him to either a) perform the task themselves or b) send someone else to do it. Raising this to you at the time is then an another bit of workload on top of that. It's not uncommon for minor things like this to be addressed cumulatively at a later date, it would be out of line if he was bringing something up from years ago but it sounds as though it was brought up the next time the subject of your performance was being discussed.

If you're finding that you forget things like this a lot then look into a solution that will help you remember. Something as simple as writing it on your hand is tried and tested to work.

He has an accent I find difficult to understand. Should I tell him this?"

Oh, hell no! At best this would come off as trying to blame him for you not performing and at worst it would come off racist. Either way it's not something you want to be doing.

Should I start asking if I have done the task completely and correctly?

As above asking in advance is better - you avoid doing it wrong in the first place that way, but failing that asking a colleague to check your work in progress or afterwards can be useful. I'd try to avoid doing it about everything and especially not repeatedly about the same thing.

I try to mind my own business but I often notice my coworker sitting there doing nothing but play on his phone. I find it's a bit unfair that I'm doing most of the work.

Yep that's irritating as all heck, and yes it's unfair. There's not a great deal you can do about it though - trying to highlight that to the boss will likely backfire on you. I suggest you keep it under your hat unless the boss specifically asks you about it. Not your circus, not your monkeys.

Should I tell the manager I felt I didn't learn much in "training"?

Another "hell no" there - it's whiny, it's abrogating your own responsibility, heck it might even come across as you trying to throw someone else under the bus. Just don't.

I feel like on other occasions I have lost a job for very intangible reasons like this

I'm sorry if this comes across a little..harsh.. but if this has happened before (more than once?) to the extent where you've actually lost job(s) over it then there's a distinct possibility that the issue lies with the common denominator, and that's you. That's the bad news, the good news is that if it's a you issue it's something within your control and that means you can fix it. Hurrah!

Of course you need to know what the problem is before you can do anything about it - I can't be sure without seeing you in action (so to speak) but the sense I'm getting is that you're a bit passive and seem to expect to be spoon-fed everything. Whether that's step by step instruction on tasks or detailed, specific feedback on those tasks. That doesn't make you a bad person, but it can significantly increase the amount of management overhead required to get acceptable levels of productivity, and as per the start of this answer retail staff aren't typically difficult to replace. If you have a staff member who requires this extra managment effort vs one who doesn't for the same level of output and an obvious solution presents itself.

So how do you solve this? Be proactive. Try to figure out a new task on your own, if you can't do so quickly ask someone for help, do so specifically e.g. "Should these cans be stacked 2 high or 3?" pay attention to not just the answers to your queries but to what your colleagues do (and how they do it). Make sure your feedback is specific e.g. "I looked in for that key in places X,Y and Z and couldn't find it, can you think of anywhere else it's likely to be?" Want to know if there's anything else you should be doing (or could be doing better) ask.

You might not plan on staying in this particular job long - but honing these skills now will pay dividends when you're moving on to other roles that you do want to be long term.

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  • I think you're onto something with that passive part. Any steps I can take to work on correcting it, any links to websites you recommend?
    – beestrees1
    Mar 25 at 13:22
  • You could take your first step to proactivity by going and googling it yourself instead of asking to be spoonfed sites...
    – mxyzplk
    Mar 27 at 18:41
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One option is to let someone show you the tasks I would consider "subjective". If you are new and don't know what is meant by "organize" a room (personally, I have no idea what that means) let someone show you. That doesn't mean that they need to do the actual work, but they should at least come with you, tell you what needs to be done, observe and correct you if necessary and tell you when you are finished. That way you will get to know what it means and you have direct feedback whether you did it right.

I feel like on other occasions I have lost a job for very intangible reasons like this.

If multiple people in the past have told you that you did not follow through with their instructions, consider it a possibility that they were right and you are forgetful. That happens. If there are multiple instructions or instructions you cannot follow immediately, take notes. Use a little notepad, it doesn't need to be pretty, the notes just need to be legible enough to remind you that you have open tasks.

So get a good grasp on the tasks by letting people explain and sign off on the results at least once and keep notes for yourself.

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    +billion for notepad. Winners are followed everywhere by a little notepad. A simple example is Winston Churchill who had a scrap of paper and pencil at all times.
    – Fattie
    Mar 25 at 11:58
  • @Fattie I guess I'm doomed, I have dysgraphia Mar 25 at 12:45
  • intriguing: high-tech solutions like "audio note taking device" never seem to do the job ...
    – Fattie
    Mar 25 at 13:08

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