I have this colleague. It’s a complicated thing because I’m someone who finds complexity, but on the surface, it’s pretty straightforward. She’s filling a lot of a role I’ve filled until recently to free me up to work on other things, and I’m for it. We have some things in common and she’s decently friendly, so we do okay. There are some areas where I battle defensiveness (“do they think she’s doing it better than I did it?” that are borne, I think, from the fact that I wasn’t promoted before she was hired, I was just moved over), but I think I’ve kept it mostly in check.
But here’s the thing. We meet periodically so I can train her on things. She brings a notebook and pen. She doesn’t take notes. I get a lot of “well that’s pretty straightforward. I’ll take it from here” followed by lots of follow up emails requesting information usually multiple times.
Now, if she said “hey, could you just write up what you need and send it my way?” I would totally do that. And it’s okay to ask clarifying questions. But what happens here is illustrated by an event that I used to train her. I showed her how to do the task. She said “Got it.” There were four pieces that needed to be built, assembled, and then made available. I asked her how she wanted to handle the four pieces. She said she’d handle three of them, and one of them was super-complex, so I said I’d cover that one.
Not one note on her end.
Later that week, I get a “what was I supposed to do, again?” email.
I email it to her. She argues with me. I prove my case. “Okay.”
She asks me where she would have saved things. I kid you not. Not where I saved things, where she would have done it. And get this— I find the thing she lost for her.
A week or two later, I get around to my super-complex thing. I wrap it up and ask her if she’s done. “Yep. Here’s my piece.”
“Okay, but you were going to do three pieces.”
“Hmm. Are you sure?”
I resend her the email. I’ve figured out that part of the problem is that she’s saving things all over the place, so nothing is together, so when she puts it down, she doesn’t know where to pick it up again. I tell her that this is the problem, thinking that she’ll do the sensible thing and save everything to the same place. She does not.
“Oh, you’re right. I just have to finish up x and y.”
“Well, actually, you’ve finished x, I think you just need to do y.”
“Oh, you’re totally right.”
A couple of days later, I check in with her. “This should be ready to go live. You’ve made it all available, yes?”
“Not quite yet, but I’ll have it for you soon.”
She copies me when she lets the next person know that it’s ready. I notice that there are only three parts. Logically, I guess that she forgot about the thing I was in charge of. Nope. We have to go all the way down the rabbit hole to figure out that she didn’t finish y after we talked about it the last time.
She finally gets the pieces done.
Now, she’s new to the job, and I can make some allowance for that. And if this was a one-off thing, I could make an allowance for that (although it’s happened several times now.) And she’s not younger than me, if that’s what you’re thinking.
She requested a meeting last week, we talked about what needed to be done and where she could find it. She took no notes. I gave her printouts for specific parts of it. She emailed me a half-hour ago to tell me I’m wrong about the scope of the project because of a, b, and c. On a day when I spent a full day not working on my urgent priorities but building a project she was supposed to build but didn’t, then got sick and blew the deadline without telling anyone. I reminded her that we talked through all of her questions in the meeting and proved that I’m not wrong about the scope of things, because why? Oh yes, it’s in my copious notes.
I don’t mind meeting with her, if that’s how she learns best. I don’t mind writing it out for her if that’s what she needs. But the whole point was that she was supposed to free me up to work on other things. I accept that I need to take some time to train her, but at this point, it would take me way less time to do all of this myself. And it seems like she needs to argue with me, as a part of this. As nice as it is to win 47 times in a row, if you’re not going to take notes and I’ve proven myself correct 47 times in a row, I feel like the approach should be “I’m so sorry I failed to take good notes about this for the 46th time, and I’m going to do better this time, because I’m just going to write down what you say and I swear I won’t make this mistake again.”
I take ridiculously copious notes as a method of making myself pay attention because I’m highly distractable. You don’t have to take copious notes the way I do, but don’t keep wasting my time, if you’d like us to be friendly.