How Do I Tell An Employee Not To Override Me?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about bypassing the boss:

I have an employee who approached me two months ago to request to attend a course. I told her that I would check with the General Manager for his approval. Yesterday, this employee wrote an email to ask me if her course has been approved and if she needs to register to attend. I had sent the company’s training plan to the General Manager but have gotten no reply. I presumed that he is holding back all training, as the company is not doing well financially. read more

How Can I Increase My Productivity?

Question:

How can I increase my productivity throughout the day? I always feel that I produce a lot less than others and feel that I do not get enough done in comparison to others. I sense that my manager is aware of this however he has not raised it in any reviews given. I try to be more careful in my work and think I look too much into detail. we were recently given training and asked to be more careful in the work.

Signed,

Slow But Careful

Answer:

Dear Slow But Careful:

The type of work you do will have a lot to do with how you can increase productivity. (For example, mechanical work, word processing and factory work would vary, as would other types.) However, there are some guidelines for productivity that can work for almost everyone and perhaps they will help you.

1. Know the standard or the average and where you are in relation to it. Many employees have no idea how much others are doing, so they think they are doing more or less than others, but they may be wrong. For one thing, a coworker may do more quantity but lower quality. Or, a coworker may have less complex or more complex work on a given day or throughout the work time.

If your coworkers do almost exactly the same type of work you do, you can more easily determine where your productivity is in relation to others. You can find that out by asking them in a non-competitive way, by looking at reports or records if that applies to your type of work or by asking your supervisor.

That leads into the second tip for increasing productivity.

2. Talk to your supervisor. Write or talk to your supervisor and say essentially what you wrote to us. He will probably be thrilled to think you care. Tell him you want to be as productive as possible while still paying attention to details. Ask him if he can tell you or at least make a judgment about whether you are in the top third, middle third or lower third of the group. Or, ask him if he can tell you if you need to improve your productivity in order to be considered a truly effective employee.

(Keep in mind that the two parts of work are Behavior and Performance, so just being more productive doesn’t make you an excellent employee, even though it’s obviously a need.)

If you want to and think it will help, ask him some pointed questions:

*What would you like me to keep exactly the same about my work? *What do you think I could do differently to improve it? One way to ask those questions is to say, “I’ve been wondering about two things that I think you could tell me. First, what do you think is the best part of my work so I should keep it the same? The second question is what do you think I could stop or start doing to improve my work? So, could you tell me those two things?” Many employees tell me that it often has started really great conversations with their bosses.

3. Manage your time. After you know for sure what your status is, and you have discovered that you do need to increase your productivity, spend a bit of time thinking about how you spend time at work.

Is there anything that takes away from the time available for you to do work and that you have control over? For example, you may not be able to control the amount of email you receive but you might be able to control the length of your responses or how much time you spend on non-work emails. You need to talk to coworkers, but you don’t need to spend half an hour, five or six times a day, chatting. If you do manual work, you want to do a good job, but obsessively polishing one area or redoing one thing just to make it a tiny bit neater, will use up too much time.(You may not do those things, those are just examples.)

There is nearly always what I call the Instead Factor when people don’t get their work done or don’t do the amount they are capable of doing. What are they doing instead? So, that is one way to consider your time. You should not feel that you must be obsessively working every second. But, most of your work day should be filled with moving work in and out of your area (or however you do your work.)

Another way to get more done is to hustle. I often write “Hustle” to people who I know are dallying on a project or other work. Many people have established a work habit that is slower than needed and reduces productivity tremendously over the course of a day or week.

I once watched an employee take almost ten minutes to make a few copies, because she was agonizingly slow. When she was told to speed up she was able to do it, she just always had stretched out the time in that way.

4. Know how your work should be done. It takes time to go over work repeatedly to catch or correct errors. You said you have been told to be more careful in your work. Consider asking the person who provided training to suggest ways to combine speed and accuracy.

One way to improve is to determine the most common causes of errors then focus on those rather than assuming every single aspect of the work has to be closely examined, costing you wasted time. (That will vary according to the type of work, of course. Some work has to have close inspection in every area.)

You may find it helpful to talk to other employees about how they do their work, to get tips and techniques that improve speed without sacrificing details and quality. Just be sure you’re learning from someone who is doing it right.

If you think you can do so or want to do so, consider asking your boss to recommend a coworker who might be able to give you suggestions.

5. Test yourself. Get a friend who is a coworker to do some similar work and see how much longer you take if you both work at a normal speed. Or, do something in your usual way, then do it while hustling and see what happens.

6. Keep track of your work progress. Sometimes just having a record can be an encouragement and a guide. See if you do more on some days than others or if you do more earlier in the shift than later. That may give you some ideas for how to maximize work.

7. Work on your own and as part of the team. Sometimes work requires the input of other people. Anything that gets in the way of effective communications can lower productivity. At the same time, too much communication can harm everyone involved in it. There are sometimes things about work that have an impact on work for everyone–location of supplies, temperature of the room, etc.

Look around and see if there is some aspect of work that you could help others improve while improving things for yourself as well. 8. Put the newness back in your work. Often, when there are concerns about work, the fun or joy of it or just the new energy about it, goes away. What did you like about the work at first? Find that again. Reach out to others who may be feeling unsure too. Think about the time when you felt you were at your best at work. What is different now? Can you get that back or reinforce it to keep it strong?

All of these eight thoughts may not work a miracle, but perhaps they can help you get started toward improvement or at least a better feeling about work.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens. read more

How To Get Trainees To The Desired Levels?

Question:

I have been training agents and developing their skills over the last three years. I am now at the stage where the group falls into two categories:

1.The agent is meeting all objectivies and receiving 98% on testing.

or

2. The agent is not achieving his or her objectives at all over a long time. What should I do next?

Signed,

Trainer

Answer:

Dear Trainer:

Thank you for sharing your concern with us. I’ll share some thoughts that might be helpful for your situation. 1. First, I would be remiss to not caution you that as a trainer, you should be more careful than most about your writing. I edited your question in the way that I thought explained your concerns. However, your original question was not written clearly enough that I could understand what you were asking.

When you are training or just communicating by email or in person, you may find that some who have difficulty learning, are having difficulty understanding your instructions. That may not be the case, but I wanted to point out that problem.

2. If your company is a large one, you undoubtedly have an HR section. I would think it would be worthwhile to get with them to establish pass-fail standards and timelines. That way those who aren’t achieving at all over a long time, can be let go and replaced with those who can learn the skills.

If you have such a standard already, then you only need to document your training efforts and the results, and take those to HR.

3.) If you’re wondering about training methods, consider joining any of several training organizations to add to your expertise. In the United States the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) is very useful for helping corporate trainers with their programs.

4.) As with all training, when some people learn the skills and some don’t, there is a chance that the training was flawed in some way, for the mental processing of some students. Or, the mental processing of some students is so problematic that no trainer could get them up to the required level.

One way to find out is to have someone look at your learning objectives and the material and let you know what they think about it. But, all of that may be done by an outside source and provided to you.

Next would be to have someone sit in on training with a problem learner and assess the session.

4.) I assume you have a manager. That person would be a good resource for helping with this. He or she may have a different view of the learners or of your concerns.

Training is tough, as I well know! But, not all learners can learn, based on the complexity of the material. Once you have done your best with the best material, you may have to simply accept that some will not succeed.

Best wishes to you in your work. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what solution you find. read more

Overwhelmed by Workload

Question:

A few months ago, I wrote a letter to Workplace Doctors because I felt like I did not receive adequate training when I started my job, and I wanted to know how to go about dealing with this problem. Since that time, I have received more information on how to do tasks properly, but there is a new problem. I now feel like I don’t have enough time to complete tasks. I work in a store, as a price support associate, doing markdowns on clothing. At the beginning of the week, I get a form assignment that states the sections of the store in which I need to markdown prices of clothing. In addition to doing the markdowns, I also have to refile the clothing so that they are displayed on the proper racks. Lastly, I have to change the price signs on top of the racks, so that they are in compliance with the sales that are going on for the current week. I understand why the signs have to be changed, but at the same time, from my understanding, that task is supposed to be done at the beginning of the week, before the employees who do the markdowns go into those sections. But because that isn’t always done on time, that task gets tacked on to my list of responsibilities.

There is an employee who comes into the sections to replenish the racks with more clothing from the stockroom and if he notices that the signs haven’t been changed, he gets annoyed and if I happen to be in the section that he is replenishing then he confronts me about the signs. I don’t think that the tasks are difficult, but it takes a lot of time to complete them, specifically doing the markdowns and reorganizing the clothing on the racks according to the sales prices. And I am usually assigned five sections, when I get my form at the beginning of the week.

This week, it took me three days to complete just one of my assigned sections, and my supervisor expects me to have all the sections done by the end of the week. And on top of that, without having finished all of the sections on my first form, I saw another form in my work folder with more section assignments.

It’s gotten to the point where I feel like the workload is overwhelming, and I don’t know how to approach my supervisor about this. read more

Accused By Manager Of Lying

Question:

My manager accused me of being a liar in an email sent to her superior and that I pose a risk to the clinic. I am a physician in a VA clinic and my office manager works in a remote location. There used to be three doctors in our clinic and one quit recently. That left me scrambling to cover for the work of the one who left. Three and a half months passed by before a replacement came. During those difficult months that I was struggling, I acknowledge that I may have missed details in my work.

My manager wrote the email to her boss accusing me of lying (pretending not to know that I have to do the Compliance Certificate); plus she enumerated several more incidences in the past, for which I am checking to learn if those things are a direct result of my work. This email has devastated and demoralized me. What should I do? I am contemplating filing a complaint to the HR of the main office for the “lie” and “risk” word that my manager wrote in the email. read more

Can I Be Asked If I Have A Learning Disability?

Question:

Yesterday my supervisor and I were in a meeting discussing how I can improve some of my skills in the work place. In mid-meeting he says, “Bluntly, do you have a learning disability?” I responded saying “No I do not in any way shape or form”

He replied “I disagree, but we can talk more about this later” to say the least I was taken aback by this statement. I then told him I was offended by what he just said and he just kept on with the meeting like he did not say what he said.

I have never been in a situation like this. I have spoken with him once about the incident. I don’t know if I am over-reacting but what should I do here? I am sort of in a bind. read more

I Upset A Coworker And She Filed A Complaint

Question:

I work in a corporate environment with stringent rules and regulations regarding sexual harassment, hostile work place, etc. I am in a training classroom setting currently. The training environment has been extremely lax and many comments have been very close to the line of acceptable behavior. I joined a class of nine others who have a brief history and have formed a clique. The trainer advised me during the first week that my classmates complained that I typed too loudly (they were testing and I was finished and responding to an interoffice email). I have had difficulty fitting in. The trainer also advised that “they” had complained that some of my comments were not funny and to be careful because she didn’t want anyone to be offended. There’s more, but that covers the essentials.

Earlier this week, the trainer lost her balance and accidentally grabbed the leg of another female classmate. I recall her apologizing twice by saying she really didn’t mean to grab her leg. The classmate responded with something to the effect of “are you sure?”. I was called upon to read next and said that I would if the trainer would grab my leg. She laughed (as did the classroom) and said no. Still laughing, I said something like “Oh, you only grab the leg of the people you like.” I honestly did not feel I was being untoward and that I was just going along with the “joke”.

Yesterday, I was called into a private meeting with the supervisor of the floor and he inquired about this comment. Until that moment, I didn’t even recall it happening!! Another very small comment came later that day with the same classmate and that was when she began acting angry, so the following morning, I apologized to her and advised that I thought I was being funny, but that the true test of the joke is the reaction of the recipient and I apologized for it. Asked for forgiveness, which she said she could do, and she walked away. When questioned, I thought this was the issue, not the grabbing comment. I explained my position to the supervisor and provided a little background (real estate management for last 20 years, well thought of by peers, very versed in workplace conduct, etc.). I told him that I didn’t realize it was improper and had I realized it I would have apologized for the correct issue. He met with her and our trainer last evening. Today, this classmate and two others were called out of class at different times to meet with this supervisor. The complaining classmate, the trainer, the other two classmates plus two other classmates have become very tight knit in the last 36 hours.

What should I do? I cannot afford to lose my job and certainly not for something I did not realize was wrong based on the permitted conduct in the classroom for the last 3.5 weeks…. any help? read more

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? read more

No Training Even When I Ask

Question:

I have asked for more training in a certain area, but no training was given. Now I am getting a verbal warning for not doing well in the area in which I asked to be trained! What can I do to respond to this?

Signed,

Frustrated

Answer:

Dear Frustrated:

There are no easy answers to a situation like this, because so many issues could be involved. Let me mention a few considerations and maybe they will help you think about the best thing to do in your specific situation.

The most obvious step for you is to communicate with the person administering the warning–probably your supervisor–in writing, so you have a record. (You could talk to him directly then give them your request in writing too.)

Remind that person of the times you have requested training. As nearly as you can, give the dates when you requested training and what responses you were given each time. Appeal to his fairness about it or ask him to explain the warning and if you could have avoided it if you had gotten the training you requested. Ask again for that training.

If that doesn’t work, maybe you can go a level higher. You would know the culture of your organization best, and if that is an option.

If your company is large enough to have an HR section or personnel section, it probably also has a formal process for official warnings and is more likely to be concerned about the fact that you have asked to be trained. That could present a liability problem for them, according to the nature of the training you requested.

Maybe you can talk to that group or ask to have the warning reviewed, or ask them how you could receive training you need.

On the other hand, the nature of the work you are being warned about could make a difference too, as well as what it is you are doing or not doing that is problematic. Would a reasonable person think you would need training in order to avoid the thing you are being warned about? If so, you have more of a case.

When you were hired was there an expectation that you could do this task already? Have others received training but you have not? Those are all things that might be considered by your bosses as well.

If the warning still holds you need to find out a way to prevent another more serious warning. That is when you need to clearly identify what it is that you need to do differently. If it involves the use of machinery, perhaps there is a coworker who could assist you. Or, maybe you could talk to your supervisor and ask if you can observe someeone or get training in some other way.

As much as possible, put everything you request in writing, so you have a way to prove that you are trying to learn what you need to learn. If your request is reasonable, ask at least monthly, so there is no doubt that you are concerned.

In the meantime, look at the other areas in which you are evaluated in performance ratings and make sure you are able to show strong accomplishment in those areas. It could be your best bet at this point is to offset this one area or at least to show that you want to be a dependable and effective employee.

I wish I could tell you something more specific and definite, but the reality is that there are probably many issues at work and some of them you may not be able to control.

The one thing you know you can do is to make sure you are doing all you CAN do, even without training, and to do your best to do the tasks correctly, so you can show a good faith effort.

After that you will have to rely on your working relationship with your supervisor or manager. If you want to keep your job and do well, try to avoid letting this make you bitter and angry toward them–even though I can imagine there is a temptation for that. Just show in every way that you want to do well and that you will do well if given the training you need.

Best wishes to you with this! read more

Can I Be More Proactive Instead Of Reactive?

Question:

I work in a Data Center that is going to a Lights Out Data Center, meaning they won’t need as many people. Also it means we need to move into other areas of the contract. That requires training or else. While some are finding new positions, I am reluctant to want do anything, after 15-20 years in the same area basically doing the same thing. The boss’ view is he wants people to be in the fast lane, going around, over, under any and all hurdles. He encourages college classes, on the job training, etc. but basically his bottom line is: if we don’t move, we’ll get left behind. I know I need to upgrade some my job skills to stay competitive, but I still feel like I don’t know what I want to do. Time is of the essence. Management is pushing us to come up with career plan and to move in on it, and go from there. My problem is I don’t know what area or areas to concentrate on and I don’t have a career plan. I have I communicated this to the boss, but, but he still said it’s up to me where I will end up. What do you think? I’ll appreciate your response. read more