Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => All In A Day's Work => Topic started by: White Dragon on July 05, 2013, 10:34:26 PM

Title: Helping Co-worker return to work Update #18
Post by: White Dragon on July 05, 2013, 10:34:26 PM
I am currently working on a contract covering a maternity leave.
"Tanya" is returning to work in two weeks. There will be a brief (about 9 days) transition period and then Tanya resumes her old position.
I have been offered a contract extension and, after a holiday, will be moving to another temp position.

Tanya has been with the firm for 5 years. Shortly before she left, she'd been moved into a newly-created position and been building the list of tasks and procedures.

In the past year, the position has evolved a great deal and there is quite a bit that Tanya will have to learn.

I have been working on writing up all the various new procedures (that's actually why I'm being kept on, to complete the documentation) and I have a "cheat sheet" that summarizes the key things she'll need to be aware of.

I'm trying to find a way to make this as easy as possible.
But I have some concerns.

First, I'm not sure Tanya particularly likes me. She is polite, but has a habit of suddenly just ending a conversation in a way that feels very abrupt and dismissive.
Maybe  it's just me - I admit I'm not great at reading people, but it is kind of awkward being with her.

This idea that she may not like me has me worried that she may not want to listen to what I need to tell her.
I've worked really hard in the past year to get this role defined and get everyone used to the changes.
I want to make it clear how important it is to follow the new procedures, but I don't want to be pushy about it.

Any ideas about how I can approach this transition/training and deflect the awkwardness?
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: Nemesis on July 05, 2013, 10:43:32 PM
Yes. Keep it professional. List down what you need to cover with her, and then carry ite out one. By one. Do not worry if she likes you or otherwise. Your job is to hand over the responsibilities and knowledge that she needs to know. Go through what is important, ask her politely and professionally if she has any questions or doubts about the system or procedure. Once you have done everything in your list, you can discharge your duties happily.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: Pen^2 on July 06, 2013, 03:05:46 AM
Nemesis has the right idea. Keep it completely professional: don't go out to lunch together to discuss her new role and gossip like old friends. Do it in the office/wherever you work and stick entirely to what needs to be done.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: Hmmmmm on July 06, 2013, 06:45:38 AM
Tanya may be socially awkward and not know how to end a conversation. Don't take her attitude personally, it's her problem not yours.

Also, give a list of all the procedures and a copy of the cheat sheet to her/your boss with a note saying this is what you plan to use to transition the role back to Tanya, but can add anything else she would like added. It's a bit of CYA so Tanya can't later say you didn't tell her. But it also makes sure the boss has a copy to reference if needed.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: SeptGurl on July 06, 2013, 08:15:31 AM
POD both Nemesis and Hmmmmm. There are any number of reasons why Tanya might be coming across this way. Whatever those reasons are, they're not your concern. Your concern is to provide her with the information she needs to do her job. Make sure your boss knows what you plan to discuss with Tanya and then present the same information to Tanya professionally regardless of her attitude. What Tanya does from there is up to her.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: veronaz on July 06, 2013, 08:55:09 AM
As others have said, you should stop worrying about whether Tanya “likes” you.

Often a temp is looked down on regardless of skills, qualifications, education, and personality.  To some people the person is just a temp, and I suspect Tanya resents a temp telling her how to do her job (even though you’re following instructions).

It’s only for 9 days.  Keep it professional.  Don’t try to be friends.  And above all, don’t say a word to others about Tanya not liking you.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: bopper on July 06, 2013, 08:04:17 PM
The other thing I would do is talk to your and Tanya's boss and tell him/her that you will be briefing Tanya on the new procedures and roles...and that since Boss is okay with the changes you need his/her support to make sure Tanya can make the change to the new system. Say that everyone says good things about Tanya so it probably won't be a problem, but it is natural to want to do in the way she used to.  You will talk to her the first day she gets back and then follow up with her over the 9 days and you will let him/her know how it is going.  Also if boss could talk to Tanya also early on about the new system that would be great.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: White Dragon on July 06, 2013, 11:21:27 PM
My impression has been that Tanya was well liked and I know she will be welcomed back.
I'm not sure if the job "as is" will be to her liking, but all I can do is be pleasant and approachable.

Question: should I go into this period with a plan or just help her process the workload as it comes in?

My concern about the second approach would be that I'd spend a lot of time saying "We changed how we handle X (and Y, and Z...)"

I don't want to come off as telling her that all she does is wrong.

I'm also pretty sure that 9 days will be way more than she needs - I only had 5 days training from her and things worked out okay.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: JoyinVirginia on July 07, 2013, 09:39:58 AM
I would say have a list of tasks, procedures, important changes, and share with her day one. Ask what she would prefer, go over list first then tasks or do tasks and as things come up do it?  and check off the list daily together to see what is left.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: veronaz on July 07, 2013, 12:08:03 PM
Quote
My impression has been that Tanya was well liked

OP, why is that even a concern of yours?
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: White Dragon on July 07, 2013, 08:04:32 PM
Quote
My impression has been that Tanya was well liked

OP, why is that even a concern of yours?

Sorry. I realize I didn't express my thought process very clearly.

I should have elaborated.
Tanya's return will be a happy occasion, and I don't want to make anything about it negative for her. I really like this job and the people in it, and I don't want to be seen as making Tanya's return difficult.
Does that make sense?

I am very pleased to have gotten the contract extension and I'd like it to become permanent. I don't want there to be any perception that there is conflict/issues between myself and Tanya.

Is that a bit more clear?
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: veronaz on July 07, 2013, 08:18:04 PM
Quote
My impression has been that Tanya was well liked

OP, why is that even a concern of yours?

Sorry. I realize I didn't express my thought process very clearly.

I should have elaborated.
Tanya's return will be a happy occasion, and I don't want to make anything about it negative for her. I really like this job and the people in it, and I don't want to be seen as making Tanya's return difficult.
Does that make sense?

I am very pleased to have gotten the contract extension and I'd like it to become permanent. I don't want there to be any perception that there is conflict/issues between myself and Tanya.

Is that a bit more clear?

OP, thanks for your efforts but no, it doesn’t make anything more clear.  Clarity of your post isn’t the problem.

I don’t see you doing your job as resulting in negativity.  I think you’re overly concerned about people liking Tanya (which shouldn’t even be on your radar), Tanya not liking you, Tanya not liking the way you explain the system, other people not liking you, etc.

It’s only a few more days, then you’ll be moving on.  Members (especially bopper) have given you excellent advice.  If you go back and read that post, and follow the suggestion you’ll be fine.  Don't get bogged down in the "likes".
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: EllenS on July 07, 2013, 11:02:14 PM
It sounds like you perceive - or are afraid Tanya will perceive -the changes in the job function as criticism of the way she was doing her job before.  But apparently that is not the case - it sounds like a lot of new tasks and responsibilities have been added to the job.

I think you should carefully consider what parts of your list are duties/policies driven by what needs to be done, vs. processes/methods that you prefer, have developed, or work best for you.

The new duties/policies of the organization as a whole, and specific tasks/deliverables that will be expected of her, are what Tanya needs to learn.  Your own method of getting it done is optional.  To use an example from my own job, when I took it over the outgoing person spent a LOT of time showing me her detailed notes of all the instructions Boss gave her on a daily basis, cataloging where she kept individual files, and a history of various changes to client information.  She spent very little time training me on the required procedures to get things processed through accounting, requesting library documents, and using the specialized in-house software.  That was really backwards. 

I think if you keep it task-oriented rather than process-oriented, there will be little opportunity for Tanya to feel criticized.  She will have ample time to adapt her own work process to the new requirements.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: veronaz on July 08, 2013, 09:07:18 AM
Pursuant to what bopper said in reply #6, boss needs to be the one to talk to Tanya first.

“Welcome back, Tanya.  We missed you.  There have been some changes in (the system. Procedures).  I’ve asked White Dragon to go over things and work with you for a few days.  I’ll be touching base to see how things are going.”


Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: Rockstar420 on July 08, 2013, 11:50:26 AM
When you say Tanya was not being terribly polite - when was this? Probably right before she went on maternity leave and was 8 - 9 months pregnant, or did you know her prior to providing coverage for her? I assume you aren't close enough to have kept contact while she's been away.

It's possible she was just tired and cranky due to the pregnancy and it had nothing to do with you. Maybe she'll be different when she returns.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: White Dragon on July 08, 2013, 02:12:23 PM
It sounds like you perceive - or are afraid Tanya will perceive -the changes in the job function as criticism of the way she was doing her job before.  But apparently that is not the case - it sounds like a lot of new tasks and responsibilities have been added to the job.

Thank you EllenS, that is exactly what I was concerned about.
I do not want to appear (to both Tanya and our colleagues) that I am being critical or patronizing when I explain the new procedures.
I very much want to maintain a positive atmosphere throughout this process.

My concern about her possibly not liking me is that she may take things the wrong way, leading to conflict. As I am trying to stay with this company long term, I do not want to be seen as the source of conflict.
And, as the newcomer, to be seen as causing conflict with a popular, long-term employee would not only be unprofessional, but could affect my long-term prospects with the company.

Quote
I think you should carefully consider what parts of your list are duties/policies driven by what needs to be done, vs. processes/methods that you prefer, have developed, or work best for you.

The new duties/policies of the organization as a whole, and specific tasks/deliverables that will be expected of her, are what Tanya needs to learn.

I have been giving some thought to this and trying to separate "my way" from "procedure".
It's a bit blurred because I have been creating the procedure, so "my way" *is* now the procedure for some things. So I'm trying to sort out what is essential from what is just my preference.

Tanya is intelligent and well versed in the company's jargon and overall process. Most of what I will be showing her is the day to day execution of various tasks.
Example: she knows that we transmit documents to various agencies. She knows the terminolgy and content of the documents. What's new is the forms, the process and the controls.

Our supervisor has told me to train her as though she were a new hire who hasn't seen any of these forms before.
If Tanya says "Oh, that's the way we used to do it", then we move on to the next thing.
If not, I train her.

Supervisor is going to tell Tanya that this is the approach we're taking. Hopefully, that will help convey that this isn't a criticism of her former work, but rather an evolution.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: EllenS on July 08, 2013, 02:34:20 PM
I see where you are coming from. Great that your supervisor is leading this. I would, whenever possible, attribute any new stuff to what "they" want or "they" are expecting to receive, even if it is something you developed.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work
Post by: KB on July 12, 2013, 08:28:08 PM
Our supervisor has told me to train her as though she were a new hire who hasn't seen any of these forms before.
If Tanya says "Oh, that's the way we used to do it", then we move on to the next thing.
If not, I train her.

Supervisor is going to tell Tanya that this is the approach we're taking. Hopefully, that will help convey that this isn't a criticism of her former work, but rather an evolution.

Having recently been involved in a lot of cross-training at work, I think this is the best possible approach to take. I would also consider why things work for you. If Tanya comes back with "Oh, I always did it this way" then you need to have a response that goes something like "I found this way to work really well for me because of X." That way you aren't criticising her processes, but you are giving her something to think about. (This may particularly be the case if there are new steps/follow-up processes that Tanya was not aware of before.) Also Tanya may later realise your processes ARE better, but she will prefer to do the things she knows and remembers in the beginning so that she feels more comfortable and 'at home' with everything so she may dismiss your ideas out of hand. You probably won't know if that happens, and you certainly can't say it, but it can be a consolation for you.

The thing that should be uppermost in your mind is not what Tanya thinks but what your supervisor/boss thinks because it is them who will be responsible for the future in the company, not her. If they are happy with you, regardless of Tanya's attitude, then you have done the right thing.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work Update #18
Post by: White Dragon on July 28, 2013, 12:40:15 PM
I want to thank everyone for the advice. As so many of you calmly pointed out, how Tanya feels about me isn't something I should worry about. Key for me was  how *I* dealt with her.

I am happy to report that things are going excellently.  Any "issues" were my misinterpretation. Tanya has been a pleasure to work with.

Her first words were "So, you're going to teach me my job" and I started to worry.
But I gave her the notes I'd prepared and asked what she wanted to start on.
We agreed on the first task and off we went.

Turns out we laugh a lot when we work together and both roll our eyes at some of the stuff our coworkers do.  :)

Tanya likes the changes we've made and seems pleased that I'll be getting her input as I refine the procedures.
She's gotten back up to speed really quickly and is settling right in.
Looks like my work here is done. ;D
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work Update #18
Post by: EllenS on July 28, 2013, 02:30:56 PM
Awesome.
Title: Re: Helping Co-worker return to work Update #18
Post by: AmethystAnne on July 29, 2013, 09:11:43 AM
I love happy endings.