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I have a new job and have observed what I believe are some difficult behaviours in my new manager.

I am fairly new to the field, and I feel that the training has been light for a role which relies heavily on memorisation. But my chief concern are the comments my new manager has made during this period and my first two days of work.

He has made several comments to the effect that training me and monitoring me has been a real burden on him. He has told me twice during training (before I had performed any duties) that others have expressed lot of concerns and nerves around my future performance. He has spent quite a lot of time talking about his own working background and the positive relationships he has cultivated in the workplace. He has complained on a couple of occasions that he hadn't been able to take his break on time because he's been spending time on me.

I have only known my manager for a couple of days, but some of these comments seem irregular given that:

  1. He hired me and expressed during that process that he was very keen to have me
  2. I have barely started, and have worked hard to memorize as much of the job as possible
  3. I have made every effort to be friendly and upbeat throughout the process so far.

I would appreciate advice on how best to interact with this individual.

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  • Is it a technical job that requires lots of training ? Can the manager assign someone such as a senior worker or team lead to train you ? Aug 11 at 0:26
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    What does your manger say are your points to improve? Does he even mention them or just complains that you require effort/time to train? Have you asked your manager what things can you improve on?
    – DarkCygnus
    Aug 11 at 0:30
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    I've been hired for almost a week, with the first three and a half days given over to training. He did assign another worker to train me for one of those days, but then decided he would be best doing it himself. My impression is that no more training days will now be given, but that he will be monitoring my work closely and adding pockets of training here and there. My main concern is that his comments (which appear to be intentionally demoralising) are indicative of difficult future interactions.
    – Zeefo
    Aug 11 at 0:35
  • He has given some extremely specific pointers, which I am happy to have and will take on board. They are essentially all issues with memorisation, which I'm confident I'll overcome.
    – Zeefo
    Aug 11 at 0:40
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    "He hired me and expressed during that process that he was very keen to have me." Of course. A lot of people want extra manpower to help, but they forget how much effort it is to train people. I'm sure they very much still want you, just don't want to have to train you :) Aug 11 at 1:45

4 Answers 4

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From what you've given here, it certainly sounds like the problem is more with your manager than with you. This is both good (not your fault!) and bad (much of it may not be within your power to fix). But there are some things that might help.

Get important things in writing. The simplest way to do this is discuss things in email. If your boss is a verbal-discussion kind of guy (which is often the case for people who don't intend to be consistent about what they've said), a useful script is to email afterwards with something like "hi, just summarising the points from our discussion, please let me know if I've missed/misunderstood anything".

Establish clear expectations: e.g. "by end of week 2 I expect I'll be able to do X and Y unassisted, but will still need help with Z." Ideally your manager would be negotiating this kind of thing with you, but it sounds like you might need to draft them and run them by him. Be careful not to promise more than you're confident of delivering.

"What would you like me to do to address this?" for situations like the conversation where he's telling you about "other people's" concerns. (Which is very often code for "my concerns".)

Try to build a peer network. This isn't always possible - sometimes it's not just one person who's toxic. But if there are sensible, sympathetic people around you, building relationships with them can help keep you in the loop and give perspective on your interactions with this guy.

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    "by end of week 2 I expect I'll be able to do X and Y unassisted". I would be very careful about placing expectations on yourself so early in writing. It may not be remotely feasible to be able to perform some tasks by yourself so quickly, and you would just be giving the company ammunition to use against if things turn ugly. Aug 11 at 20:03
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    @JaredBecksfort Fair point, have tweaked that bit accordingly. Aug 11 at 22:26
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Just don't jump to conclusions too quickly. If someone says "I didn't get my lunch break on time because I was training you", that can be anything from 1. emphasizing how important that training is (it has priority over the lunch break), or 2. a light hearted comment, just making conversation, or 3. a deep criticism of your abilities, and that you shouldn't need training.

You don't know which one it is. Not after a few days. It takes a long time to actually understand people enough to know what they mean with what they are saying. So for now you just assume that what he meant is (1) or (2), while writing down what he says so if there is trouble in a month or two you can turn around and say "you were prejudiced against me practically from day one". And hope that you will never need to make use of those notes.

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When I first started working after college, my first manager was great but the project manager he had me working for was a miserable person. To be clear, this person was extremely knowledgeable, but his interpersonal skills were just awful (he'd made several people cry over things that are frankly not worth that level of chastising). It sounds like you may be dealing with someone of a similar nature.

That said, frustrating as it was, there was a lot of learning to be had for me. Now that I've become the senior and have juniors reporting to me, I've made it a point to try and convey those lessons, but without the emotional headache that I was put through:

  • Always carry a notebook. There is a lot of memorization in what you're doing and there's probably a lot of 'why' involved as well. If I'm giving you instructions, I want you to be writing it down because if I'm taking the time to teach it to you, I would prefer if you didn't simply rely only on your memory alone to accomplish the task. I do get a little annoyed when a junior shows up to ask me a question, but hasn't brought their notebook because a lot of times the answer to their question isn't a simple yes or no.
  • Learn my method. I don't particularly care what other managers want, I have a specific way of doing things because it makes everything flow with whatever organization method I have. And to be clear, this isn't just making sure that paperwork gets filed correctly, but I have a specific way of thinking, help me out by presenting information to me in a manner that easily allows me to get tasks done based on what I've directed previously. A major example of this is that once I've approved a plan, I want that plan to be sent to me in a PDF; I expect my juniors to pick up on this because I ask for it EVERY time. And the reason as I tell them is so I can easily send it to clients and whoever else needs to see it.
  • Ask thoughtful questions, ideally in bulk. I've absolutely been guilty of this, but when you encounter a snag on a task, write it down and move on if you can. This allows you to encounter other snags as well and write them down too. Once you've completed a first run on the task and have written down all the issues, then come bring those questions to me for us to review. This is helpful because sometimes I'm working on something complex and multiple interruptions 15 minutes apart can be really frustrating.
  • Be open with your communication and availability. If I give you a task, please let me know if you are actually available to get it done. This means letting me know if you've 3 other tasks from other folks and the soonest you could do this would be in a week. This also allows me to speak with those other folks and figure out who should have priority so that we can direct you better.
  • Copy me on e-mails. If I'm giving you a task to contact others, please CC me on the communications. I won't be handling the discussion, but it keeps me apprised of the status of things in a passive fashion and will allow me be more informed if help is needed. To be clear, writing professional e-mails is harder than it may seem and I'm putting the burden of it onto you, so I want to see how you're doing with that task.
  • Put in extra effort if that's what's needed. I don't condone working without getting paid, but early on in your career is probably going to show the largest jump in your knowledge compared to time. The skills you learn and practice will set you up to be more useful for the foreseeable future. That said, a learning curve is appropriate. I can't expect you to complete a task that would take me 2 hours in 2 hours; it might take you 4 or more. So if you have to work late to get more familiar with it, do so. Your contract will stipulate how you have to bill that time, but if you're in my office bill it and I will have to figure out what I'm going to do with that excess time (probably write it off). Some offices get really irritated if you bill overtime without prior approval, so make sure you don't do this without discussing it first.

To finish what I'd said above. That project manager never did stop being so miserable, but he ultimately came to trust me above all others. What this mostly meant is that he wasn't miserable towards me, but a lot of that was because I could easily anticipate what he wanted without him having to say it.

Regardless, these tips are good for anyone.

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Some of the things you mention seem addressable. E.g.

He has told me twice during training (before I had performed any duties) that others have expressed lot of concerns and nerves around my future performance.

If he says this again, ask him who these people are and suggest that you pair with them. Pairing is when you and another person do something together. In this case, apparently there are some decisions that are risky for you to make alone. So go to the other person and work through the issue with that person. Then, if you are choosing incorrectly, the other person can tell you immediately.

In the near term, pairing like this makes you and the other person less productive. But it also makes you more correct. And of course without you there, the other people would have to carry all of the burden. With you there, they can figure out what they can leave to you and what you need their help to do. Where, over time, the things that you need help to make the right decision should decrease over time.

There is usually a certain amount of legwork in this kind of thing. So the people with whom you pair should be able to quickly determine some things that they can let you do on your own. Do those things first, before you approach the other person. That way, they can spend all their time on helping you understand the decisions you will eventually be making alone. That's the benefit of having you involved. You can take up some of the repetitive work that they had to do. So even if they have to pair, they may still end up doing less work overall. You are now a benefit to those people, not just a danger.

Your goal here is to work towards the point where you can work alone without raising concerns. You should try to do as much of the work as they are comfortable letting you do.

This also shifts things. The people who currently have concerns over what you might do now have incentive to help you do better. Because so long as they view you as too dangerous to work alone, they have to do more work. Currently, they may be able to push this work off on the manager, which may make him cranky. Help him be a better manager. He should delegate things so that he isn't doing everything.

He has complained on a couple of occasions that he hadn't been able to take his break on time because he's been spending time on me.

Does he take breaks at the same time every day? Learn those times and avoid them. If approaching one, deliberately wait until he is returning from the break to start the next conversation.

If his breaks are taken on a more freeform basis, make a habit of asking him if he has time now or if he is due for a break. Then if he complains that he missed a break, remind him that you had asked and suggest that he let you know these things in the future.

Pairing can also help with this. If you always need to go to the manager for help, naturally this is more work for him. But if you are pairing and go to that person for help, you're not putting the same burden on the manager.

Addressing those concerns that you can will make you appear proactive. Because ultimately, you want to convince your manager and other coworkers that having you there is good. Realistically, they should realize that most workers do not add net value for six months or so after being hired. It is unrealistic to expect you to decrease their workload immediately. But you want them to see light at the end of the tunnel.

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