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I learn best through demonstrations then dissecting the parts and steps to reach the end goal. This is especially important to me with learning coding methods and the like.

However, my manager who has been onboarding me, guides me by asking me questions like: "What do you think would be next", and "What is missing".

This teaching method is not effective for me and causes me a lot of stress especially when he is sitting with me.

How can I respectfully tell him that the way he is trying to be helpful is not helpful for me and do so in a way that he does not interpret this as me not appreciating or wanting the help?

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    Have you considered that your manager teaches best through asking questions, to see if you are grasping the material?
    – sf02
    Dec 15, 2021 at 15:10
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    Define what you mean by "demonstrations". It seems that you want him to do the work and then you go over it/understand it. This is backwards. You do the work and he checks you, corrects invalid reasoning, provides critical feedback, and guides you toward the proper way of thinking for his team (every team has their way of doing things). Can you explain what you find stressful or difficult about the questions he is asking? Sounds like he wants you to think through problems, explain your thought process, and evaluate if you can make good decisions on your own or not. Don't worry about mistakes.
    – David
    Dec 15, 2021 at 21:37
  • "I learn best through demonstrations then dissecting the parts and steps to reach the end goal. This is especially important to me with learning coding methods and the like." Believe me, you're not going to learn effectively if you do it that way. You're simply not. If you could just learn from just watching someone else do stuff, then you could just watch youtube tutorial videos and become an expert that way, but that's seldom how it works. Most people are stuck in tutorial hell. Don't be one of those people. Dec 16, 2021 at 0:33

3 Answers 3

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This sounds like a difference in learning / coaching style, and the easiest thing to do is have an honest conversation.

For example: "Manager, these open questions aren't the best way for me to learn -- it is easier for me to see the process first and pick it apart afterwards".

This teaching method is not effective for me and causes me a lot of stress especially when he is sitting with me.

I'd also challenge you to reflect on why this isn't working. Do you have a fear of not having the "right" answer? Is it the physical presence of someone "over your shoulder"? Do you need more time to research things independently? Addressing the root cause will help you propose an alternate method to your manager.

However, as others have mentioned, your manager may or may not want to (or be able to) accommodate that request. Perhaps they don't have the time to walk through working examples of every concept. Maybe they have strong personal attitudes regarding the best way to manage. Either way, they won't know if you don't say anything.

Personal Anecdote:

When I mentor, I behave much like your manager. In my experience, if I'm always showing people exactly how to do things, I might as well do them myself. I find it to be a tough cord to cut if I begin the relationship by developing a dependence like that.

However, I've gotten feedback about this. After a few rounds of what I considered to be "open" questions like "Is there a different way you could have done this?", one of my mentees candidly said "I feel like there's a specific answer you're looking for and I'd rather you just told me instead of probing". Clearly my approach didn't work well for them, so I was more mindful of it for this individual.

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    While the candor of "I feel like there's a specific answer you're looking for and I'd rather you just told me instead of probing" is nice, the mentality of "Just give me the answer" is not. If someone displays this kind of mentality then they don't want to think through issues, problem solve, critically think, and evaluate alternate approaches. This would be a red flag that this individual is not a good fit for this field.
    – David
    Dec 15, 2021 at 21:46
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    @David it depends on how frequently it occurs. If someone always demands to be fed information, that is certainly a problem. My "open" questions (it is now clear they were leading questions) trying to guide someone to the way I would have done it (even though their solution was also valid) was frustrating to this person and I was thankful for being respectfully challenged.
    – ZachTurn
    Dec 15, 2021 at 21:58
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"What do you think would be next", and "What is missing" are completely different and separate questions, than what someone would ask for how you're learning (coding, for example) and onboarding.

Treat them as:

  • "What do you think would be next"

    as your planning / schedule for learning, and if you need any help / support in executing that plan.

  • "What is missing"

    is about your learning / understanding, and any gaps as per your analysis. This can be as simple as having required tools / infrastructure to all the way of having access to study / learning materials / courses/ mentors etc.

The way I see it, they are trying to be helpful to you by having regular checks, and they're interested in knowing of any blockers, that they can help to remove.

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Sounds like you know what works for you, which is great!

Tell them what you told us: what does work for you. It seems to me that being assertive, politely asking for what you want, actively and enthusiastically cooperating in driving your learning forward would leave a good impression. And during the time spent providing what does work for you, they aren't doing what does not work for you.

If they continue their (perhaps habitual, perhaps copied from their instructor) approach, it may be worth asking about their end goal, what do they need (presumably to know that you are learning the material), and try to see to it that they get those needs filled.

I would avoid focusing on any negative "does not work for me" aspects. Being told "you are doing it wrong" is less than pleasing.

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