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I am not receiving the training I need

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Dear Office-Politics,

I started a new job 2 months ago. I work in a busy office handling exciting and interesting work, but I am simply not being trained on anything that I need to do. Case in point: a few weeks ago another supervisor invited me down to watch him complete one of our crucial tasks and give me the run down on it. At one point he asked me if I knew what one of our abbreviations meant and what the term encompassed, and he was shocked to find that the answer was “no” to both.

I understand that we are short-staffed and have tight deadlines which limit everyone’s time to work with me. However, at this rate I don’t feel like I will ever be able to do my job independently. My supervisor and co-workers know that I am not receiving the training I need and generally have nothing to do all day. They have made comments about trying to place me on projects and get me out in the field. When they come up with something for me to do, though, it is usually a simple administrative task.

The other offices in our division also hired new people at the same time I was hired. The other new employees are being given the training they need and included in case work. I am certain that there are no doubts about my abilities or work ethic due to statements made at the time I was hired and repeatedly since then about my work, attitude, and capabilities.

Within the next year, I will have the chance to change offices (same work, different supervisor). Most of the people who have left my office did so because they couldn’t handle the work load, and are scorned for it not just by the people in our office but higher-up officials as well. It is important to say that I was placed in this office because of my perceived abilities to handle the work load and work independently. I feel, though, that changing offices may be my best chance to get the training I need and develop my career. If my supervisor does not start including me in cases and training me appropriately soon, do you think that changing offices would be a career-killer because of the stigma attached with leaving this office?



timothy johnson

Dear Underworked,

Confucius once said, “Starving man wait long time for roast duck to fly into mouth.” You were hired because of your ability to work independently and take initiative… I’m curious why you have not done so with your own training.

Granted, you don’t know what you don’t know. Here are some things you could do to avoid sitting around:

1. Begin assembling a glossary of terms. As you hear a new term brought up in the office, or see it cross your desk while performing some of the administrative tasks, write it down and look it up (or ask someone). Then document it and keep a running glossary. Those in your office will be grateful that you are doing this, especially if they are short-handed on training.

2. Ask to shadow other workers in your office who do the same things for which you should be responsible. Watch and learn, young grasshopper. Write down the things you don’t understand and ask them at an opportune time.

3. Batch your questions. As you observe things throughout the office, keep a log of questions you have. Then schedule a fifteen minute meeting with your supervisor at the end of the day to cover these questions, and find out how your questions fit into the bigger picture of how you are supposed to do your job.

4. Ask other offices for their training materials. Even though there is an adversarial feeling about transferring to other offices, it could be advantageous if the offices would share training material. If you know the names of the people who were hired at the same time as you, reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to share. If they won’t, maybe the trainers in the other offices would be. I have worked in that kind of situation before, and I’ve employed each of the above strategies. Then when other people were hired soon after I was, I offered to share my newly received training with them. This ensured that I understood, and as they had questions, we would collectively take them to the person who trained me and it would become part of our collective knowledge. This also demonstrated to my new employer that I could add value even before I was fully functional on all my job duties. The bottom line is that you need to show some initiative and take ownership of your training.

Transferring to another office could be a career-killer in two ways. The first you’ve already identified, even though it would be justified because of the lack of training. The second reason would be due to the other office’s perception of you. They would be hiring somebody, expecting a year’s worth of experience. Imagine their disappointment when they learn that they will have to start from scratch because of your skill level. I’m not saying you shouldn’t consider it, since the current state isn’t working for you or your employer; I’m merely indicating that there are some untapped strategies you may want to try first.

I hope this helps! Thank you for writing to Office-Politics.


Timothy Johnson, Author & Consultant

Timothy Johnson is the Chief Accomplishment Officer of Carpe Factum, Inc. His company is dedicated to helping individuals and organizations “seize the accomplishment” through effective project management, strategic facilitation, and business process improvement. His clients have included Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Wells Fargo, ING, Principal Financial Group, and Teva Neuroscience. Timothy has managed projects ranging from a $14 billion class action lawsuit settlement to HIPAA compliance, from software conversion to process reengineering, from strategic IT alignment to automated decisioning, from producing a training video to creating a project office environment. He is currently an adjunct professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, teaching MBA classes in Leadership, Managing Office Politics, Creativity for Business, and Project Management.

An accomplished speaker, Timothy has enthusiastically informed and entertained audiences across the nation on the topics of project communication, office politics, creativity, and meeting management. He has written two books, both business fables: Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable and GUST – The Tale Wind of Office Politics.

  1. 2 Answers to “I am not receiving the training I need”

  2. Thanks for the response. I did employ some of the strategies you mentioned, and tried some others, with mixed success. Basically, my boss has now started assigning me work, regardless of whether or not I know how to do it. Fortunately, I’ve been here before, so I just try to keep in mind the ultimate goal of the task and make up the details as I go. Scheduling meetings with him to discuss this work has been hit-and-miss. I’ve managed to pin him down for a couple of sit-downs, and he’s generally responded positively to my “make-it-up-as-I-go” strategy, and I seem to be fulfilling the objectives of the tasks. Self-training is better than no training, I guess.

    I asked the people hired along with me about their training. Basically, they are being assigned “mentors” to watch and ask questions. So there’s no real training material to share. I’ve also been told that learning how they handle their cases would not be very helpful by a departmental supervisor. It seems every office has a different style and is assigned cases based on that style. Turns out we’re the “nit-picky” office…at least that works with my work style!

    I’ve also tried to keep lists of questions I have and ask my more experienced co-workers, with the same mixed success. Sometimes they brush me off with a general and unsatisfying answer, sometimes they give me chapter and verse. Maybe if I ask enough times I’ll get the whole story on everything.

    Funny you should mention new employees…we have two more. I’ve tried to pass on what little I know to them, but they are also getting frustrated with their minimal and simple assignments. I finally figured out how to access our case schedule, however, and it looks like in 3 months or so we get a little break. Maybe all us newbies can gang up on the pros then and get all the info we want.

    By Underworked on Jan 16, 2008

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