What If I Can’t Do A Task I’ve Been Given?

I feel scared about a new task delegated to me. I don’t know how to do it and I am not sure if I want to do it. But it’s my job and I can’t lose my job. What should I do?

An effective supervisor or manager will not delegate a task that an employee has not been trained to do, has not done correctly in the past, or cannot easily learn to do. It may be that your supervisor did not follow that important rule. Or, it may be that even if you do not know exactly how to do the new task, your supervisor thinks you should or could be able to learn to do it easily. Your boss may have more confidence in you than you do!

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How Can I Politely Let Customers Know I Can’t Help Them?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to handle calls for assistance that aren’t really part of the work.

Question: A couple of months ago I got a new job as a system design architect. That is basically a fancy way of saying that I install smart home technology and audio systems. We put in a lot of Televisions for home theaters and there are a lot of people that believe we are like TV repairmen.

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How Can I Avoid Being a Lame Duck Employee?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to
respond to being pushed out of a job. 

I work in a very small office, one attorney and two legal assistants, including myself. I worked under an attorney who recently retired, and am finishing up working on his cases with the other attorney. However, the case load is very light, leading me to have little to do at times. The remaining attorney is still taking on cases, and has many on his plate at the moment.

My issue is with the other legal assistant, who was working directly under the remaining attorney. When I was first hired, I was promised to learn several skills, including bookkeeping. However, throughout my time here, the other legal assistant has constantly shut me out of learning how to do many of the office manager-type duties, things that I was told I would be doing when I accepted the job.

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My Boss Wants Me To Do Leadership Training

A Letter to Ask the Workplace Doctors about Leadership Training


My boss asked me to incorporate leadership training into our Conference department to help benefit the team as a whole. I was eager to begin working on this, as I reflect back to my college experiences both in your class and the organizations I was involved in. Not only am I referencing team building activities I learned, but I’ve also started reading your books to help lead me in the right direction for my team.

I’m starting with Value-Added Attitude and Action to help introduce a more family based approach to leadership within my conferences team. (Time Capsules and Working for the Best are next on my list.) I’m only a few chapters in, and have already made notes and marks to share with my group. I’m fascinated and disappointed at the same time – Fascinated by your research and words of wisdom about the work place, and your perspective on complicated issues; Disappointed in myself that I’m just now reading these books five years after receiving them.

I’m very inspired by your work, and hope to bring these ideas and concepts to my work place. We’re only a 30 person company, but I think if we can start small with the Conferences team (4 people), maybe we can branch out and change the whole company. This was just want I needed, as I was beginning to feel like I was starting to dig a rut in my career – but this as sparked me to better my company and see what I can do.

I’m keeping moderate expectations so I don’t get discouraged, but I know in the end I’ll get more out of it personally than anything. Thank you for reminding me that I can attempt to change the world, even if it starts with my team of 3 other co-workers.

Response from Dr. Gorden: You have recently been challenged by your boss to build leadership training in the Conference Department of an amazing company, Benjamin Media.

From this distance as an outsider, I sense you are at a stage of seeking clarification–Clarifying what that means to your boss is a beginning point and gradually learning what his/her definition of leadership training means will come as you share with him what it might mean to your team. So mapping that out can be a collaborative process of invention.

Although you didn’t ask for it, my advice is not to think in terms of leadership training in general, but rather as to how it might be integrated in your current and future Conference Products, such as how companies in a specific field of one of your magazines do train and develop leaders.

And secondly, as a communication expert you might explore what leadership trainers might make conference presentations from outside a particular field. This is a form of bench-marking leadership training by seeing what others are doing both in different fields and by those of us who train in organizational dynamics.

What my partner, Johnny Miller, and I did for General Electric is one example. What my associate workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, does for police departments and city government is another. She speaks to many conferences.

Leadership training is integral to any company’s workforce management planning. My study of Union Carbide’s effort to respond to the chemical spill disaster in India is another story of corporate leadership.

These are the kind of thoughts I would give if you had submitted a question about what you should do to Ask the Workplace Doctors and I hope they will assist you. read more

Appointments More Efficient?

Question submitted to Ask the Workplace Doctors about sales: How can I avoid time-wasting questions and improve scheduling?

We sell copiers, printers, software and any kind of service. I am fairly new at the whole sales process and never thought that I would even get into this career. Now that I am here, I am working hard to do the best that I can and understand what I need to do to be a successful sales person. The biggest problem that I am having at work is that I don’t think my appointments are always as effective as I they could be.

The goal is to get people interested in what I am trying to sell them, and after that, create a process where I can show them a demo, and if they like the demo, then we will get them pricing. It’s important to ask customers a lot of questions, such as closing questions, to get the deal moving forward quicker. My problem is that I don’t know all of the right questions to ask, which causes the deals to get delayed. So I need more help on my appointments to get them moving faster, but I’m having a hard time making appointments due to scheduling conflicts.


A Loss for Questions


Dear A Loss for Questions:

Apparently you are learning sales, and learning entails the two areas you are finding difficult: scheduling appointments and asking appropriate questions. What you don’t mention is product knowledge. Have you actually been introduced to the many aspects of you company’s copiers, printers, software and any kind of service? Do you know their selling points as compared to others? How do they stack up with independent agencies who rate them? Have you been sent to or been given access to training of the various companies that make the printers, copiers, and software your company sells. And what feedback does your company have as to the quality of your services?

Too often, new hires are expected to learn this kind of information by osmosis and that is a slow frustrated learning process. Have you been allowed to shadow those you schedule appointments and makes sales? If your answers is no to this barrage of questions, here’s another: have you asked your boss for help? That’s what bosses are paid to do. They should do more that give you a list of talking points. You should not simply be thrust into selling without ample product knowledge. If you are put out there to sell and consequently fumble that does more than not make sales; it damages you company’s credibility and future sales.

Selling is not simply attitude and process–thinking you can sell anything to anyone. Rather selling entails curiosity about what are the product needs of potential customers and who and where they are. If you are genuinely curious, you will ask questions that can begin with: How are things going for you? What do you do where you work? And having any problems lately with your copiers, printers or software.

Options to coping with your frustration you boil down to:

–Continuing as you are and gradually learning from observation and trial and error.

–Confiding in coworkers who might guide you.

–Asking for training and monitoring by your boss or coworkers assigned to you.

–Searching for product know-how on your own; study your company, handle the products, gain product knowledge via the Internet, direct contact with producers of the products you sell and if possible do informational interviews with potential customers.

Meanwhile, don’t take yourself too seriously. Talk to yourself. Say, “Don’t expect too much. Pat yourself on the back for effort and small successes. Work as if you owned the company, but also have a life outside of the job. Walk, dance, sing, and help someone less fortunate once a week. Maintain balance. Say, “Girl/Guy, you have attitude and you’re doing all that is reasonable for to make this job a learning experience. “You are not alone. You are new but with hands, head and heart do what it takes to make big WEGOS with all with whom you come in contact.

William Gorden read more

Holiday Help Unprepared

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about training: Helping untrained holiday employees adversely affects my sales; what should I do?

I work for Macy’s Co. Obviously this is a large corporation and we have a large corporate office that controls how the stores are run. I have been at my Macy’s location for a year and a half. During the holiday season, from approximately Halloween to New Year’s we are very busy, which magnifies the problem that we have.

The training program Macy’s provides is very generic and hands free. It is an eight hour computer demonstration that involves little to no human instruction. The computer trains the newly hired employees how to use the cash register, complete merchandise returns and how to interact with the customer. Although eight hours is a long amount of time, the missing human interaction leaves many questions unanswered.

During the holidays we hire many new employees to assist with our increased store traffic. However, many of the new employees are unsure what to do on the actual sales floor. This places a strain on the more veteran employees who not only must assist the customers, but must also help and even sometimes continue the training of the newer employees.

My question is what advice to you have for me when I am busy with my own work and my co-worker is not able to do his or her job? Should I help them as much as possible or focus on my assigned tasks? Macy’s does value teamwork; however, we all have our own individual sales goals to meet and balancing the two is often difficult.

Signed, Should I Help When I’m Busy

Dear Should I Help When I’m Busy:

I think it is very important that you speak with your supervisor about this issue. Maybe she/he is unaware that helping unprepared holiday help inhibits your customer service. I believe that this problem is bigger than you and that management may want to consider supplemental training to aid the corporate program. Is this an issue that would cause you to leave? If not, speak with your manager or move on from there.

The new employees will learn the ropes over time. Be patient and helpful, but do not do their job for them. Stay positive during the holiday season, even if your manager does not notice, the customers will. This answer is short, but makes sense. If you want a more detailed advice scan the Workplace Archives, they have detailed suggestions, such as focus on cutting wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted money and also ask your manager to have you who are in your area to develop a set of dos and don’ts about when you assist one another. Best of luck.

Guest Respondent Courtney Sveda read more

How To Make Tasks Manageable for ADHD


My question is coming on the heels of a written warning for poor performance. Without getting into too much detail, I was using my company’s operating system functions “inappropriately.” I knew what I was doing was wrong, and now I need to fix it. But I’m not sure how to go about “fixing it.” The task involved can be just a bit too big for my brain. I have ADHD, so what I’m pretty much saying is I can do the work itself, but I need tips on acceptable ways to make the task more managable while meeting productivity goals. In the past asking for help seems to just get me into debates about what is and is not part of the task. Then I start feeling like an idiot because I need to break the task down and can’t think like the trainers do. This is where I give up to save face and slink back to my desk. Is asking for tips on acceptable ways to make a task more managable for me too much to ask? (genuine question, no sarcasm intended)


Needing Help


Dear Needing Help:

I’m wondering if your manager knows that you have a learning disability. If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, there are probably organizational policies that would at least protect your employment while you learn some methods for being more effective at work. At least you should express honestly the problems you’re having understanding instructions. (Most of us do better when instructions are given slowly and clearly and we have a chance to work through a new process slowly at first, so that is nothing to be embarassed about.)There are many websites and local and state organizations that are focused specifically on how to modify workplace methods and training to accomodate learning problems of various kinds. Check those out and see if there are suggestions offered by experts that might help you. I often suggest checklists and “go by” work samples as way to make work easier for many people. But, the most important thing is to let the trainer know if you’re not understanding. Otherwise the attitude of management is that you were taught it, you understood it, you just aren’t doing it right.It may be that there is some aspect of your work that must be done a certain way, no matter what. More often than not, adjustments can be made if the outcome is the same and can be done in the correct amount of time.The idea of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) is that employers must make reasonable accomodations if the employee could do the work with those accomodations. Employers are not required to make unreasonable accomodations nor are they required to retain an employee who, in spite of accomodations, makes excessive errors.So, this is something for you to discuss with the person who diagnosed your disability (so you can get verification and some ideas for accomodations) and with HR as well as with your supervisor and manager, according to how your business works.In the meantime, if you have a friend at work, perhaps you can ask that person for suggestions for how to fix the problem you mention with the operating system. Or, ask your manager if she could assign someone to assist you with it while you’re working out the disability concern.I know this can be worrisome to deal with. But, it would be better to get something on record now and try to find a solution for all of your work, than to try to slide through this one instance knowing that the same problem will come up again.I might note as well that this is one of those times when it will be very helpful if you have influence with your manager and coworkers and a good working relationship with them. If you are able to get it worked out, be sure to write a thank you note to your manager for any extra work he or she did to assist you through this.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe read more

New Job And Boss Demanding Perfection


I have started a new job. I have been there 11 work days. I have made a few errors while being trained. However, the boss/owner is expecting perfection already.The person training me tattles to the boss about every error I have made so far. He called me into his office to discuss the errors. I have been an office manager in the past and I did not feel that the errors I made were noteworthy for the boss. How do I handle a co-coworker who tattles about every little error? I feel as if my confidence has been shaken. I work in office administration, but this is the first time in a medical setting. An example of one error that I see as minor is the placement of trash bag liners in the trash can. I put them in the trash can incorrectly.


Still LearningAnd Not Perfect


Dear Still LearningAnd Not Perfect:

I can imagine that the issue of trash can liners was frustrating and irritating, if that is absolutely all there was to it. From an outsider’s perspective that does sound excessively picky. But, as you probably know from your own experience in office management, when something sounds absurd as reported, there was most likely something else going on and the reporting person is leaving that part out, either inadvertently or on purpose.That may not be the case here, but perhaps a mental review will help you decide if all you did, from your trainer’s perspective, was put the liner in differently than others might. Maybe it had to do with cleaning a surface, firmly attaching it, following a written guideline or even just acting frustrated over some aspect of the training about it.Or maybe none of those thing apply. In many offices newcomers are treated badly as a test, but also as a way of hazing. I know of one office where the trainer was so nasty to trainees that she prided herself on how many times she made them cry.one day a new boss arrived and that person not only wasn’t a trainer any more, she was demoted to a different job. But, that’s the way it is many places, I’m sorry to say.Whatever the situation, I can understand how that could become the last straw for your patience about it all.It sounds as though you are discouraged and have quickly lost the pleasure of getting a new job. You apparently have been successful in your work before this, so it would be doubly hurtful to have errors pointed out–especially if the person doing it doesn’t have your experience overall. You probably thought that at this time in your life you were past that kind of critiquing. To overcome discouragement, focus on getting your courage back and being able to go to work with confidence and assurance that you can learn what needs to be learned and you can move forward. Or, (and I hate to mention this for fear of sounding too negative) it may be that you will need courage to question the validity of some of the requirements or criticisms. You may need courage to look at the job and decide if this is where you want to be. Hopefully you will just need the courage and strength to get through a training phase, heave a sigh of relief and keep going.Consider some of these thoughts:1. I would bet you don’t feel very good about your trainer anyway, which is why you are willing to think she is reporting on your unnecessarily. There is often friction between one-on-one trainers and trainees. If your trainer reports things she has not told you about or not told you how to correct it, that would be wrong and you should courteously ask her to be sure to let you know about things that are important enough to tell the boss about. But, if she brought something to your attention, she may very well be expected to report it to your boss as most trainers are instructed to do, even if it was minor. If it’s a fairly small business and the boss is interested enough in what’s going on to call you in and talk to you personally, your trainer has probably been asked about you every day: “How is Marcia doing?” “Any problems today?” “What did you work on today and how did she do?” He probably said, “Let me know how she’s doing.” “Tell me if you think there are problems.”Using the trash can liner example. If the boss thought the trash can liner situation wasn’t important he wouldn’t have mentioned it to you, even if she reported it to him. Undoubtedly, since he talked to you about it, he thought it was important and she knew he would think so. (It could be that is not something he talked to you about, I just am using it as an example to show that your trainer may be following orders.)2. One way to avoid feeling beat down by critiques is to ask for them before someone can give them to you. It makes you look positively interested in doing well and it puts you more in control of your destiny, no matter what critique you hear.You wouldn’t want to ask at every step, but you could stop now and then while she’s showing you something and ask, with an upbeat tone, “How’s that?” “Lisa, could you check this quickly and let me know what you think?” “How did I do today?”Another way to handle it is to seek even more critique. So, she says you did this one thing wrong. Concentrate on that, accept it, plan on fixing it or fix it then, if you can, and ask for more. “If there’s something else let me know.” “OK, that’s been corrected. Are you sure there isn’t something else, because I want it to be right.” “What else do I need to fix on this?” “If you were doing this, what else would you do to make sure it was right?” It’s very difficult to find fault with someone who asks you for corrective critiques!3. Another way to rebuild your confidence and courage is to get a copy of any performance evaluation form that will be used for you down the line. Then, use it now as a daily guideline for your performance and behavior. That way if there are serious problems you can point to each category and show how you are fulfilling it. I always say that every day is a performance evaluation. You can make that work in your favor.4. Work to make the office your home mentally and emotionally. Right now it’s an alien country. Be careful about getting involved in cliques or gossipy groups, but reach out to everyone and be friendly.You don’t have to spend a lot of time with anyone–and you probably will be better of to limit interactions right now. But, you can smile, ask about family, say something positive and ask for their help. “If you see me doing something that won’t go over good here, I’d sure appreciate you telling me. I know how easy it is to mess things up without meaning to.”If you’re older than the others, they will appreciate your openness, in spite of your former experience. If you’re younger than they are, they’ll be willing to help someone who humbly wants their assistance.It’s also good to realize that there are probably others who could use encouragement–give then some of yours! 5. Keep lines of communication open between you and your trainer and you and your boss. Consider being honest and open to a degree, about how you feel. “I have to tell you, I went home last night feeling very beat down. I’m not used to making mistakes and I’m not used to being in training, so it’s been hard for me to adjust to.” Stop at that rather than talking more about it. See what they say next. They may say something supportive that will make you feel good. They may say something that lets you know you’re having more problems than you realized. At least you’ll know.I imagine they’ll reassure you. That will be a good thing for them to do and for you to hear!6. The final way I’ll suggest for getting your courage and confidence back is to picture yourself a year from now when you won’t be in training. You know you won’t be in training that long! Picture this as paying dues. Smile to yourself and act your way through it. Picture your favorite actor or actress being you, in your situation, and doing it successfully. Make it a comedy and be the quirky but brave heroine who is able to overcome the picky trainer. Maybe you can write the script to where the trainee figures out that the trainer is not so bad after all. It’s a gimmick, but it has worked for many people!Of course, you have to put good work with that. You need to be dependable and you need to be adding to your knowledge and skills every day. But, you seem to think that’s not a problem, so go with that for now and honest check yourself often to see if you are correct in your self-assessment. Then, at the end of the shift, go home and find peace and enjoyment there until you can find more of it at work.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe read more

Can I Recover From My Work Errors?


I have been working for five years and have made some considerable mistakes on reading and understanding in putting items up over these years. I have been given verbal and written warnings. I do not notice these mistakes until it’s too late. If I notice that I have made a mistake, I can correct these problems that I know of. I have the support from colleagues, but I feel as though they say one thing and do another. However I do put a lot of pressure on myself and plan too far ahead which could be a major cause of these errorsI try my hardest not to make these mistakes. However, I now doubt myself and I am unsure of what to do. I enjoy the job I am in. Moving onto something else has occurred to me but I have no desire of doing so. Is there any advice to stop these mistakes, or have I gone too far and past the point of no return?


Don’t Know What To Do


Dear Don’t Know What To Do:

This is probably the longest response on our website! Both Dr. Gorden and Tina Rowe are going to respond to your question because it is one that many people could or should ask: “How can I do my work so well that it is nearly perfect all the time?” The other question is also universal: Is there a point at which it’s too late for me to fix the problems of the past?”Dr. Gorden’s response is first, followed by Tina Rowe’s response. Because there are two responses and because Tina’s is quite lengthy and detailed, there is much more reading than usual, but you will find them both worthwhile.Dr. Gorden’s response:Been there five years? That’s an indication that you must have been doing some good things. But you acknowledge you’ve made in your words “considerable mistakes”–some caused warnings. Could your mistakes could be caused by distraction, failure to be well trained, pressure of multitasking, inability skill-wise, communication breakdown, and/or the system? Have you analyzed why you make them? Is there a pattern? You and your supervisor should discover why, especially if some of them were serious enough to provoke warnings.That’s my first suggestion: to have a time-out session with your supervisor in which he/she will assess your performance and in which the two of you will describe the context of the “considerable” mistakes; the what were they and their causes. To prepare for such a session you ought to review your strength and weakness pointed up in past performance evaluations and note what you have done to improve on the strengths and correct for those weaknesses. Such a self-analysis is like looking in the mirror and seeing both the good and the flaws and then planning on what you might do to enhance what you see and correct what you think needs a make over. You say you “plan too far ahead which could be a major cause of these errors I try my hardest not to make.” From here, it’s difficult for me to understand what brought you to that conclusion, but you and your supervisor could determine what steps you need and she/he might take to help cut down and prevent mistakes. Making mistakes can be a lesson of what not to do and/or what to do. Have you had such a session? If not, is not that past due? My second suggestion is to think through what you want in a career and of what you should be capable to succeed on that particular career path. You say, “I enjoy the job I am in.” Most of us must work as something even if it’s just a job and not a career. You are fortunate to enjoy your job and to have rejected looking for something else. Therefore, you have or should have weighed if it enables you to feel like you are doing more than simply earning enough money to feed and house yourself and possibly your family.Have you talked with someone who knows you well about what you might do where you now work to better qualify for your current job and to advance in other ways; possibly finding ways to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted money?If you want a career, your mind should not be focused on mistakes, although at this time it must be because you’ve had warnings. But, it should be focused on ways you might join with coworkers and others to improve the quality of goods and service to internal and external customers. One tangible way to do that is to think “team”. I mention this because you say, “I have the support from colleagues, but I feel as though they say one thing and do another.” Team members need to make it OK to describe how they see themselves and to check with one another as to whether that self-perception is really accurate. ********* Tina Rowe’s response:Not many people are as honest as you are about acknowledging their work errors and saying they want to do better. That is probably one reason you still have your job and why your coworkers try to be supportive. But, as your concern indicates, there is a point at which coworkers become frustrated and irritated no matter how much they like a team member. There is also a point at which warnings stop and a manager has to say, “Enough.”However, as long as you have a job, it’s not too late to correct problems. And the more you show that you are willing to correct them and are working at it, the more likely you are to be able to keep your job.Let me share some thoughts to help you consider your situation and to help you decide if you can improve things dramatically or if you should find other work before you are forced to do it. Don’t think about trying to do slightly better, because that’s not the way you want to do things. Instead, think about doing your work in the high quality and high quantity way you knew was expected when you were hired. Aim for perfect not “somewhat better” or “good enough.”There’s an old rhyme for children that says, “Good, Better, Best/ Never let it rest/Until your Good is Better/And your Better, Best.” Children have years to get to the best level, but employees have to do it quickly and maintain it. So, this project of yours will require focus and continual effort. But the pay-off would be wonderful if you can relax and enjoy work as you want to, while gaining the reputation of being dependably excellent.1. The person who is most able to evaluate your work is your supervisor or manager. I’m sure you’ve had many discussions with that person, but this might be a good time to take the initiative rather than waiting for him (or her) to talk to you. Since it’s the beginning of the year, it would be easy to start the conversation.You might say, in a tone of voice that is confident and positive, not frightened or hopeless sounding, “Mr. Morrison, I feel bad about making mistakes and having to be warned about them. You know I don’t make them on purpose and I fix them when I find out about them. But, I want to figure out why I make them in the first place, then learn how to keep them from happening. Where do you think I ought to start?” If you’ve already had that kind of discussion, do it again but with a twist: “I’ve been thinking about what we talked about last week. I’m going to apply every suggestion you gave me and I was wondering if I could meet with you for a few minutes once a week or so to see how I’m doing. Also, is there something since our discussion that you’ve noticed and think I could do better?”You would word all of that for your own situation and work culture, but that kind of approach is one that is most likely to get a positive response. Almost all supervisors and managers are very happy to know that an employee wants to do better work, so that may open the door to a good discussion about things you could do to focus better and prevent mistakes.Another benefit to it is that your manager is certainly talking about the situation to his or her manager, and it is much better to report that you have asked for help and seem to be doing better than it is to just say you seem to be doing better.Having said that you should first talk to your manager I also have to say that unfortunately, many supervisors don’t know how to help employees improve. They know what they’d like to have changed but they don’t know how to coach an employee to make the change. As a result they may sound impatient or end up giving unhelpful advice, like, “You know how to do it, just pay attention and do it.”You may find that a coworker who does similar work or who understands your job could help you make the improvements. I’ll mention a work aid that might help, further on.You may only be able to take a couple of hours one or two times, but try to get that focused time without being required to answer the phone often or leave your desk for non-essential work. It will benefit your organization and help your supervisor and coworkers, as well as helping you. If you do it, be sure to thank coworkers who might fill-in for you while you are learning. That’s just the courteous thing to do, but I imagine you are noted for that anyway!The main thing I wanted to emphasize about this first point is to let your supervisor know that you’re committed to doing well and you’re trying to find work improvement tips and techniques. Mobilize yourself and show it in your demeanor and efforts.2. Before you talk to your supervisor or manager, do some purposeful thinking about the nature of your mistakes. Ask yourself these questions: *What tasks do you make mistakes about? *What part of the task is most often in error? *Do you make mistakes all the time or only some of the time; and what might cause that difference? *Who catches the mistakes most of the time? *Why don’t you catch all mistakes? *How is it you can make mistakes without noticing them until later, but once you notice them you have the ability to correct them without help? *What do you think is causing the mistakes? *If you could wave a magic wand and change something about your work to keep you from making errors, what do you think would have to change? *Is that possible? 3. There are two components to good work: Willingness and Ability. That means if someone is frequently making mistakes the problem is related to their willingness, their ability or to both their willingness and ability. The lists after those two are lengthy, but do yourself the favor of considering if some of them apply to you.*Lack of willingness to do work is usually caused by one or more of these: Lack of confidence, fear of failure, fear of harm, fear of being embarrassed, the feeling that results will be bad, feeling that the reward for doing well isn’t enough, lack of personal incentive to do well, dislike of the work, a preference for doing something else or for doing the task another way, negative feelings about the person directing the task or about the organization, negative feelings about the ultimate user of the work, lethargy or inertia that resists the efforts involved in doing the work.*Lack of ability is usually caused by one or more of these: Lack of knowledge about what is required for good work, lack of the required knowledge and skills, lack of initial training or re-training, failure to apply the training, doing the task in a personally preferred way that is not effective, being trained incorrectly, lack of practice doing it the correct way, lack of feedback as the task is being performed, in order to identify mistakes and correct them, lack of supplies and materials, lack of required assistance, an incorrect required process, lack of reasonable time allowed, failure to use the time allowed or failure to use allotted time effectively, physical inability due to temporary or permanent conditions, mental or emotional barriers or conditions, learning disabilities, motor skill issues, personality traits or personal habits that are resistant to change, purposeful or inadvertent distractions that prevent sufficient attention to the task (sensory distractions, other tasks, one of the fears or negative thoughts mentioned above), external or personal life situations that are distracting, lack of mental or physical energy or the strength to perform a task.Someone may be willing to do a task correctly but not be able to do it. Someone may be able to do a task correctly but not be willing to do it. Or, someone may not be able to do a task correctly for any of the reasons listed, and not be willing to do what it takes to change the situation, for any of the reasons listed.So, which would you say applies to you and your mistakes?*What is keeping you from being willing to put the effort needed into doing work without mistakes? Look at that list and think about it.*What is keeping you from having the ability to do the work without mistakes? Again, consider that list of causes.*What if your manager said, “Today is a test. If you make even one mistake you’ll be fired instantly.” Would you be able to work all day without a mistake with that kind of threat?*What if your manager said, “This week is a test. If you can work all week without any mistakes we’ll give you a ten thousand dollar bonus.” Would you be able to go for a week without mistakes with that kind of incentive?There are some tasks that even if I tried very hard to do them correctly all day, I’d end up being fired because I simply do not have the knowledge and skills to do them. There are tasks that I repeatedly make errors about and often try to get others to do for me, that if I thought I’d get ten thousand dollars, I’d be able to figure it out and do it right. What about you?The whole point of #3 in my advice is that it will be helpful for you to decide whether you can or can’t do the work correctly, given your mental, physical and emotional condition during a workday and given your knowledge and skills.4. If you want to be error free you’ll have to do some focused work improvement. This is when you could use a free hour or two every few days. If you can’t take that time, you can still use these methods.One of the best ways to learn anything or to correct errors in work processes, is to talk or write about the task as you do it. By doing that you break it down into steps and can see the places where you have the most problems, which allows you to focus your improvement. It can also help you see what external situations are causing you to lose focus. Try what I call “Running Commentary Working.”. Talk to yourself or someone else as you do a task, explaining what you’re doing and why, how you’re doing it, how you’re feeling about it, what you’re watching out for in errors, how you know you’re correct and anything else that explains the work. That kind of commentary can cement the correct steps in your mind. The next improvement aid is to use any written material available, even if you’ve read the instructions or steps before. If nothing is available, make your own guideline or checklist. It is much easier to do the steps of a task if you can immediately check-off each step as you do it. Perhaps someone who knows the tasks well could help you develop such a checklist for the tasks that are the biggest problems for you.Develop some “go by’s” as they are sometimes called. A “go by” is a sample item that is perfect and that you can use to compare to each item you do. I have used “go by’s” for reports, financial items, folded tents, flip charts and even how my work locker was supposed to look. Big businesses use those so that every employee, even those who have some problems with learning the tasks, can put out items, file paperwork, finish reports and do other work correctly.A final work improvement tip is to empty your mind of what you think you know about doing it, and teach yourself all over again or let someone else teach you. Often when we’re re-learning, we still have the wrong practices in our minds. It’s like painting over a rough surface. Sometimes we need to just sand the surface down and start again.5. This is the last suggestion! Work as hard as you can at work, then go home and relax as much as you can there. If there is something you can do at home to help you at work, do it. Otherwise, leave work at work but resolve to not let home interfere with it anymore than you let work interfere with home.Many people spend a good part of their work days on email, texting or using the Internet to research, resulting in their private lives continually being a distraction to work. Or, their work becomes their social life and they spend far too much time talking, emailing or getting coffee to stay away from the desk. I don’t know if any of that applies to you. But, it’s something to consider as you think about what is preventing you from doing well.Best wishes to you with your work improvement project. Let me close with a personal story: When I had been employed for about a year I was called into the office of a high level person in my organization and he confronted me with an error of judgment I had made. He was very, very angry and told me I didn’t belong in the line of work I had chosen as a career. He predicted I would be fired within the next year and he wished he could do it right then.However, I worked hard to improve, did improve and had that career for 35 years, moving into the highest executive levels. Now, I train others in that career field. That shows you that if a person is willing and able they can do what it takes. But, there have been others in my same career area who have found that no matter how much they tried or how many times they were retrained, they simply didn’t have the personality, traits and abilities to improve enough to be good. That shows you that willingness alone isn’t enough for some work.The bottom line on both of these lengthy responses is that you will need to work on your own or with others to evaluate the cause of your errors and work to change what needs to be changed, if it’s within your power to do so. If you can’t make the changes, no matter how much you want to, especially if you are prevented from it in some way, you may decide it would be better to find a place where you can be more successful. But even then, you will know you have done your best. Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe read more

Retired/Trainer Coworker Wants Me To Fail


My coworker has already retired and has stayed on to train me until December. She continually holds back information and does not train me to the fullest. She has given me work and then says she hasn’t. She keeps the most difficult and important assignments and gives me busy work. I know she wants me to fall.


Don’t Want To Fail


Dear Don’t Want To Fail:

Plan. We don’t plan to fail. We fail because we fail to plan. · Q. How might you apply this maxim? · By planning. List the tasks you have already learned and those you as yet need to learn. You now have two options: 1. Take this list to your retired/trainer. Engage her in review of your list and ask her modification and expectation of when each task can be adequately learned between now and December. Say you might be wrong but that you think that she is holding back and wants you to fail. Explain why you feel this way. This should evolve to candid collaboration or a three-way meeting with both of you and your superior. Hopefully it will result in posting the list with dates when training for each should be complete. Check them off with pride and praise for your trainer. Log her instructions and get her to sign off on or to correct them. 2. Check with your supervisor to see if your list is complete and when she/he expects you to be able to do them all. Prepare a schedule for that. Frankly tell your supervisor that you want her oversight because you think your retiree/trainer is holding back and wants you to fail. Propose that your superior have a three-way meeting with the retiree/trainer to go over the list get her buy-in or modification of when that schedule can be accomplished. You might think of a third way to help this individual train you; such as being more grateful for what she is doing well and praising her. Realize that knowing how to do something is akin to learning new dances. That requires instruction; step by step, repetition, correction, and doing it on your own. Help her learn how to train. Make her continuing employment enjoyable. Tell her that if she can train you well that that could be a part-time job she could do for others, and that you could be her Exhibit A. Remember that ego is ever present, but also be mindful that working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Do what you can to make WEGO live.

William Gorden read more