Last week my workplace hired a couple new employees. Often times there are only 2 or maybe 3 of us working at one time. I noticed often times they are standing there doing nothing and I think it may be because they haven't been trained what to do. I haven't received any specific instructions suggesting I should be training them, but it seems logical given they are brand new and there's no one else working at the time to train them. I noticed one of the new hires has a bit of a bad attitude and got snappy when I told him something he already knew. Also I had asked him to do something simple (like sweep the floor) and he didn't do or say anything.

We (thankfully) just got a new manager who is much more hands on. I could ask her if I should be giving them feedback?

A comment says (paraphrasing) why do I care. 1) If part of the team isn't doing their job, others have to pick up the slack or explain it to the manager. 2) when at a latter time the person is working alone and doesn't know how to do something, it may reflect bad on me

  • What type of environment is this? In knowledge-work and other creative fields, the difference between "doing nothing" and "thinking about the work or a problem" may look very similar. However, in a job that focuses on physical labor, that may not necessarily be the case. It may also be useful to know your relationship to these new employees, with respect to the management hierarchy or organizational structure. Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 22:01
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    If it were me, I'd keep my eyes on my own paper. Why people think they need to insert themselves into equations they have no business being in baffles me.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 23:10
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    @joeqwerty so you don't know why someone would help their coworker? Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 8:00
  • @ThomasOwens retail. So if someone's standing there doing nothing, they probably really are standing there doing nothing ;) Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 8:00
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    @casablancaeggplant from what you've stated in your question, this sounds less like helping them and more like tattling on them.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 12:54

4 Answers 4


When I notice someone new at my workplace looking a little lost, I go over and ask them how everything is going. Usually they are just unsure of how to do something or what they should be doing and a little nudge can get them to ask. You’re not their boss, so you shouldn’t try to task them. Ask them if there’s something you can help them with. One question that works in my environment is “So, what do they have you working on?” but that might not work for retail. Maybe “Hey, has anyone showed you how the debibulater works yet? I’ve got a minute if you want to check it out.”

If you’re more experienced, you should do what you can to help them learn the things they should be doing when it seems like there’s nothing to do. Checking in with them in a friendly way also can help them feel more like they're part of the team. Sometimes after you’ve been doing a job for a while, you don’t really remember how much you had to learn along the way.


Yes, you ask your manager what they would like you to do.

If an employee gets snappy at you, you can then let them know that you're just following your bosses instructions.


While your intentions are good, for your actions to have a desirable effect, you need the employees to first agree to work with you.

If you were their boss, it would be easy to have them work with you; they want to work well with their supervisors.

If you are a peer, they probably won't want to work with you, even if that work really only helps them (training, for example). Maybe if you got to know them well, they might change their minds because they now trust that you are trying to help them; but until you build that trust, they probably think you are trying to boss them around without being their boss (or worse, you're trying to get them to do work that is probably benefits you).

I'd change my approach. Invite them to lunch, if you eat out of the office. Get to know them a bit personally, before you even attempt to talk about how they could be doing things different at work.


Unless you are their manager or otherwise above them in the hierarchy, I would not attempt to give them unsolicited feedback or go running off to tell their manager.

If you are working at your job, you could use some help to complete one of your tasks, and they don't appear to be busy, it would probably be fine to ask them to give you a hand. You could consider this "training" them in a new task, but I wouldn't present it as training to the other employee, but rather asking for some help with the expectation that if they were doing something and needed help, they may ask me in the future.

If you are asking for help and regularly not getting it or important tasks aren't being done or done well and it could impact business operations, customer relations, or safety, then consider going to the manager to find out what you should be doing. Otherwise, I'd focus on the tasks that you need to get done and let the manager sort it out.

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