New worker, trainer need to build understanding

Marie McIntyre
Marie McIntyre

Q: I recently got a new job and am having some issues with the person training me. “Tammy” inundates me with waves of information, most of which seems completely unnecessary. I have trouble fitting everything together, so the entire process has become very frustrating.

Tammy and I got along well before she became my trainer, but now her attitude has changed. Although she’s bright and bubbly with our co-workers, around me she seems irritated and sullen. She often remarks that my training should be moving faster.

To understand this job, I need more specific direction and less general information. How can I get the training I need without upsetting Tammy?

A: Based on your description, you and Tammy may simply have different learning styles. When tackling a new assignment, some people are “doers,” while others are “thinkers.”

“Doers” want to focus on the specific detailed steps required to carry out their task. Being hands-on learners, they are usually eager to jump right into the work. Extended discussion seems like a pointless waste of time.

“Thinkers” are less interested in implementation steps and more concerned with seeing the bigger picture. Because they work best when they understand the context, they want to get as much information as possible.

Trainers automatically favor the approach that works for them, so when a trainee has the opposite style, frustration can build on both sides. While Tammy is trying to provide helpful background, you are starving for explicit details. As often happens, you are each beginning to conclude that the other is inept.

Instead of criticizing Tammy’s teaching methods, try to politely ask for what you need. For example: “Tammy, I really appreciate all your help with my training. At this point, I believe I understand the overall process, but I may not be clear on the exact steps. If I make a list of specific questions, could we spend some time reviewing them?”

Should this approach fail, consider asking a colleague with a more compatible style to provide some informal coaching. Just be sure to avoid making disparaging comments about your official trainer.

Q: My boss said he recommended me for a raise of 50 cents per hour, but when I received my paycheck, the increase was for only 25 cents. To make it worse, I learned that my new co-worker was given a 75-cent raise, which seems very unfair.

This co-worker was just hired 10 months ago, while I’ve been here for four years. When I asked my manager about this, he just mumbled something about company pay policies. Doesn’t this seem wrong?

A: First of all, your boss should never have mentioned a specific increase amount unless he was absolutely certain it had been approved. By sharing this information prematurely, he made your raise a disappointment instead of a pleasure.

As for the disparity with your colleague, seniority is only one factor considered in calculating pay increases. Others may include position in pay range, salary caps or performance ratings. To understand the process in your own company, ask the human resources manager. But don’t inquire about your co-worker’s pay because that information is confidential.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.