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  1. Good morning, friends,
    My office has experienced a lot of turn-over this year, and I’ve been in charge of hiring all of them (including a new boss for myself). This has been a chore, to say the least.

    In August, I hired a new administrative assistant. That happens to be our busiest time of year, so when mistakes were made and we were behind deadlines, I helped out and completely understood – it’s tough getting thrown into a new job. We also hired more part-time staff to assist her. I noticed she tended to ask a ton of questions, many of which could have been answered had she bothered to read the 4 pages of “how to do this job” written by the person who did the job for a decade. (I’ve found those 4 pages invaluable.)

    Well, we are no longer behind, but I find myself getting increasingly annoyed with her for asking me questions to which she should know the answers. Many are on those pages I mentioned, but others are like the following:
    “What do you want me to do with this file?”
    I answer, “What does the post-it note I placed on it say?”
    “It says you want me to file it.”
    I stare at her until comprehension occurs.

    One other example, from this morning.
    She holds up a file and asks me what to do with it.
    “Why is the file’s label handwritten?” I ask.
    “Because the computer with the label maker is off.”
    “…so let’s turn it on.”

    These are small things, and she’s a very nice person. I just can’t seem to get across the idea that I’m not here to answer silly questions or figure out solutions to simple problems. Perhaps I’m overreacting.
    I welcome your suggestions.

  2. Jody

    Just Laura, I don’t think you’re overreacting at all. It sounds like a conference is in order, something along the lines of “you’ve been here X weeks/months and we’ve gotten through the initial backlog, let’s see how things are going.” She could be told that she needs to be more careful about reading the task instructions before coming to you with further questions, that most times she’ll find the answers there or in the “how to” manual. She may not like to hear it, even if you keep the tone objective, but it will benefit her in the long run. You’re looking for somebody to assist you, not somebody that you feel you need to micromanage.

    I don’t like to hear criticism either, but I’m more irritated if I find out that I could have been corrected much earlier and avoided making more mistakes.

  3. Amanda

    When I started my current job, I was right out of college and simply put, afraid to make a mistake. That lead to me asking a lot of questions, not because I didn’t know but because the fear of a mistake made me want to “clarify” everything.

    The best thing my boss did for me was to say in an evaluation, “Ok, now its time for you to start making decisions.” He highlighted that occasionally mistakes will be made, and I would need to fix them, but that I needed to gain the confidence in myself to start making the decisions. So perhaps you can turn it into an empowering moment. Say something about now that she knows the ropes, you know she is ready to start working more on her own.

  4. Vanna Keiler

    Hi Just Laura. It seems like you have been an exceptionally generous and patience supervisor to this administrative assistant. I agree with Jody and Amanda that it’s time to start giving her more responsibility for her responsibilities. If this were my situation, I would start by making a copy of the four pages and give them to her the next time she asks you a question, by way of helping her find the solution herself. If the solution is not in the pages, but is common sense, I would sit her down for an informal meeting and ask her about her own perception of her performance, how she thinks she is doing, what she may (still) need assistance with, and any questions she may have. At that meeting you could also let her know that NOW you will expect her to use her own judgment with some tasks and that is why you hired her: to some day think independently. You could also suggest that if she has questions, she can email them to you and at an appropriate and convenient time you will answer them for her.

    If you think she needs hand-holding and cannot rise to the occasion, you may have to consider that she feels out of her depth, and transition her responsibilities out with someone who is more “hands-on” until you decide if she is going to remain full-time or part-time. Because ultimately, she is creating more work and distraction for you and you are currently doing your job and assisting her with hers.

    • I’d like to thank all of you for your helpful suggestions.
      As it turns out, she will be leaving us in December. I’m a little irritated that she didn’t view this as long term, but she needs to do what’s best for herself, and a full-time job is not it right now. In this economic climate, I can’t figure out why hiring solid workers is so difficult. Oh well.

      Thanks again!

  5. karen

    In law question. Recently, after years of always checking in on my in laws, I have stopped. I told my husband that it is his family amd he ahould pursue the relatioahip not me.

    • Good afternoon, Karen,
      What is your question?
      If you’re asking if it’s okay to stop always checking in on your in-laws, I guess it depends on what you mean by always. Certain you don’t have to do this daily or even weekly – there are services who could do that (medical/maid, depending upon need), or your husband or other family could.

      • Karen

        Sorry Laura. I was trying to write on my phone and it submitted prior to me finishing my question. I am now at a computer and have sent the entire question.

  6. Karen

    In- law question. For years, I have always checked in on my in-laws, who are divorced. Recently, I stopped because I feel like it’s not reciprocated. I also feel that my husband should be responsible for that, since it is his family. I’ve done well with it until now. My daughter is a ballerina and will be performing in the Nutcracker. My M-I-L recently sent me an email (which I haven’t received one in months) and said she and her husband would like to come see us during that time and then added “unless you would like us to come at Christmas”. She hasn’t been to visit us in 2 years and her husband has never been to this house. My parents have already confirmed that they are coming. I’m not one for alot of company in our house to begin with but during the Nutcracker, its a bit chaotic. But I don’t really want her here for Christmas either. (It’s a difficult relationship with her) Should I let my husband answer her or just tell her that Nutcracker is fine and list local hotels?? HELP!!! Terrible that I’m already stressed about it! – See more at:

    • Alicia

      The solution has not changed since you asked two weeks ago. You and your husband offer what hospitality you wish to offer and have them stay at a hotel if that is not stay at your home. Discussion needs to happen with husband and a united front. That said he and your daughter seeing them over the holidays is something you should try and encourage. I also see that this nutcracker is stressing you out for months in advance. I suggest de prioritize this performance if that means not allowing daughter to do so next year that may be what your family needs if only for your joyful holiday.

    • Elizabeth

      It seems that you are unhappy with the spotty contact you’ve had with your in-laws, but now you are also unhappy when they have contacted you and wish to see you. I would present this email to your husband and daughter and decide how to proceed as a family. Right now, you’re in the role of gatekeeper, and it seems as though your husband and daughter might have more positive feelings about them and want to see them more than you do. I’m not suggesting you overburden yourself with guests or having them come for an extended period, but perhaps this is the time to reestablish contact and good will. Discuss with your family what would make the most sense and then go from there.

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