Troubled by Trainer’s Writing Skills

Question:

I started a new job and was told that I would be trained by a senior person. This person has over 20 years experience in the Insurance industry. I was happy about this because Senior people are very knowledgable and I can gain a lot from their wisdom.

The training started and for the most part things were OK. In one training, she had to send an email to an Underwriter to explain a quoting procedure. I could not believe what she wrote! Her sentence structure and punctuation were grossly wrong. It was horrible. The sad part was that she didn’t even know that it was wrong. My thought was my god is this how she has been communicating by email all these years? Is this how she communicates by email with internal and external people? I felt embarrassed for her! If I was to correct the sentences, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

I was an English major in college and any time I hear spoken words used incorrectly or see grammatical errors, it’s like nails to a chalk board. I don’t try to fix things, it just bothers me internally. My question is, do I say something to her or just let her continue as she has been doing? I will be working with her a lot in this new job. Should I mention anything to a Manager or just stay quiet and don’t rock the boat?

I can still gain a lot from her. She has obviously been getting by all these years doing what she has been doing. If it’s not broke don’t fix it, right? I guess deep down it’s just troubling to me. How do I handle?

Signed,

Teeth on Edge


Answer:

Dear Teeth on Edge:

I can imagine how frustrating it is to be a good writer and to see major problems but know you don’t have the authority to fix them. However, you should focus on learning the knowledge and skills you need to do the job and let your trainer’s manager deal with her writing skills.

Since you are new, you don’t know what the supervisor has told her about her work or what is considered accetable. You also don’t know about her history with the company or if she has a disability of some kind, related to writing or reading. Above all, while you are in the training phase, you don’t have the standing to make corrections.

If she has alreadys sent an email, there is nothing you can do about it anyway. However, if you are present while she is writing an email and can see errors, say in a tone that implies you are merely suggesting there might be problem: “Carol, before you send that, you might want to check the way a couple of the sentences are structured. Just looking at it briefly here, it seems like it might not read exactly the way you want it to.”

She may say it’s OK as is, or she might say she has a problem with writing and would appreciate having you proofread it and correct it. Her response will let you know if she is open to suggestions or assistance. Many trainers feel the learner should do only that while others make the learner an active participant. If you approach it in a way that is respectful and friendly, she may be able to use you to help her work.

Also, in the course of your training she will see how you write and she may notice the difference. Certainly others will notice the difference! You can bet you aren’t the only one who is aware of her writing deficiencies. But, it may be that the culture of the company or the opinion of the managers, is such that as long as she is handling the other job skills well and is verbally communicating effectively, they aren’t concerned. Best wishes as you grit your teeth and tolerate what seems to be intolerable. She may feel that way about something you do as well! If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know if things change about this–or how you are able to deal with it.

Tina Lewis Rowe