A Workover: An Employee is Getting Off to a Slow Start

Advice I gave to a caller to my NPR-San Francisco radio program.

Posted May 23, 2015

Mrs. Zaoiua CC 2.0
Source: Mrs. Zaoiua CC 2.0

On my KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco) radio program, I do Workovers: People phone in with their work problem and I try to help.

Here, I've been posting edited transcripts of Workovers that might interest PsychologyToday.com readers. Here is today's offering:

CALLER: I started a job five weeks ago. I like it and love my team lead but there are two things that worry me: I’m working slowly and I’m making mistakes. Maybe it’s my not being that familiar with technology—I’m an older worker. I’m doing my best to learn but I hope they give me enough time. I’m not feeling pressure yet. I’ve only been there five weeks.

MN: Five weeks isn’t so little. Just checking: Are you in the wrong job? Do you need a tutor? Do you need to ask more questions?

CALLER: I think it’s the right job but I haven’t had the exposure to computers that younger workers have had…but I’m not going to surrender to fear. So I kept reading success stories in those motivational books and writing mantras like, “I will succeed. I’m not sure yet how but I will.” 

MN: It’s easy to believe those mantras in the beginning but if after a moderate amount of effort, things aren’t working, it may be wiser to look inward and ask if you need to make a pivot. If your inward look gives you a new idea--maybe in this case, ask coworkers or your team lead for help, get a tutor, study more at home, whatever, that gives you legitimate basis to believe the mantra: "I will succeed.”  Should you check in with your boss to see if she thinks you are making adequate progress?

CALLER: Does that put an idea in her head that I’m not learning fast enough?

MN: You don’t need to sound like a basket case but I believe you have far more upside than risk if you say something like, “I like my job and you, and I’m working on getting up to speed and want to be sure I’m making enough progress.”

Her answer can be reassuring, keeping you from going nuts worrying you’re in trouble. Or she may give you a suggestion for what you might do. Especially since you say you really like your team lead, I’m guessing it’s worth asking.

CALLER: That was wonderful, really helpful, Marty. Thank you.