Training a co-worker to be independent

Question: I would like some advice on how to train and make my co-worker independent. He is a complete fresher in this line (admin) and although he has been with the firm for almost 6 months, had a very good orientation, training and also a chance to work things out, I have spent (and still do spend) a sizeable amount of each day correcting his mistakes. I have called him in to watch what I am correcting, hoping that he gets the hang of what exactly is required by the company, but he still hasn’t got the idea.

I keep stressing that he must concentrate more, check things more, get into more detail, but all to no avail. I feel drained and am losing focus on my jobs in the process. Am I being over-bearing, and should I just let him figure it out? I am worried that if I do it that way, I will be left either to do the reports myself or to correct them when he hands them in, almost like doing it again.

He seems enthusiastic and hard working, so I ruled out disinterest in the job. I tried asking him if he has a personal problem or any issue that makes him lose focus, which he denied. How much more time do I have to spend on him? Am I doing something wrong? What should I do instead? — Anonymous


Let HIM correct the mistakes while you coach him. Most adults learn by doing rather than watching. You may have to help him more than once.

The first comment is good advice. You don’t mention if you are his supervisor. If not, this needs to at least be called to the supervisor’s attention. If it continues, a verbal warning may be enough to snap him into being more careful.

I would suggest independent training. The individual is costing money in time management already, so convert that expense into training; a documented expense. There are several career training company’s out there. I’m not affiliated or promoting this company, just providing an opportunity to help with this issue. Try this link… you may find that sending this person for training on their own turns over the responsibility to them: “Mistake-free grammar & proofreading” –

Good Luck
Time is money!

Perhaps you should make him correct the mistakes? This way, he is the one inconvenienced by his mistakes. I have found that when someone else will correct your mistakes for you, it is easier to let them do so, than to learn to catch them the first time. I have also found that people generally don’t like to do the same thing twice, when they can do it only once.

I have seen signs posted in a few of the offices that I have worked in over the years that have this clever little witticism on them: “Why is there never time to do things right the first time, but always time to go back and do them again?”

Perhaps you can create a checklist of items for him to go over just before he hands in a report. Check his work, if you find mistakes, call him in your office and give it back to him. Explain that he needs to make the corrections and bring it back to you when he is done.

Finally, the last suggestion I have is to have a discreet discussion with your boss. Explain the situation, add that you are afraid the quality of your work is suffering also, and ask for his/her advice on the matter. Perhaps if his supervisor has a talk with him, he’ll see it as more of a definite “company requirement” rather than “just a co-workers advice”. It almost sounds as if he could be taking advantage of the fact that you will correct his mistakes for him.

Being afraid of what MIGHT happen doesn’t help with what IS happening. Are you willing to continue to do his work and yours indefinitely?

Each time you find a mistake put a note or comment as to what the mistake was and what needs to be corrected and give it back to him. Let him know once the mistakes have been corrected to once again turn it in to you etc. By having him correct his own mistakes, he is likely to not make quite so many!

I also agree with the above comments, about letting him correct his own mistakes. You also need to give him something in writing to qualify exactly what his mistakes are as a guide to let him know what to check for before he turns it in to you. This also qualifies the specific problem should it need to become a warning.

Then again, he could just have a flat learning curve. We had a personable employee with great skills (on paper, that is) who seemed incapable of following directions and who made the same “mistakes” over and over again. The amount of usable work she put out was far too small to justify her cost to the company, as we ended up paying her two or three times (at her hourly rate) to do one task because of “do-overs.” (Mind you, she was very cheerful about this; after all, she was being paid hourly, not by the piece.) Could this be what’s going on with him? Get his supervisor involved. You might need to cut him loose.

This is what happens when companies refuse to acknowledge that secretaries and admins need to be skilled – that we are more than warm bodies! Okay that is out of my system!

Quite frankly, after six months, he should virtually own his job and the fact that he doesn’t, does not bode well for his future! Is the work he doing beyond his skills? Is the problem lack of knowledge of a computer program or inattention to his work? I know that I have a minor dyslexic problem; I transpose letters, and when I look at them they look quite okay to me! It isn’t until I read something word-for-word, that I pick up my mistakes. Maybe that is what he needs to do.

I agree with everyone, you should quit correcting his work. You can mark his errors, but don’t hold his hand, make him fix them himself, and give him a time frame to do so – literally minutes – you can’t stop your work or put it on hold to accommodate him or eventually you are going to have problems.

I agree with letting him correct his own mistakes and the comments from everyone else. I am however, as HR, very concerned with the statement that you asked him if he has a personal problem or something affecting his ability to focus. You stated he “denied it.” Be very careful with what you ask and employee and how you ask it. Are you in a role within your Company that allows you to ask about personal problems or disabilities? This could come back and haunt you, if you end up terminating him. Double check his job description to ensure that he is actually doing his job, as specified. If his work is not up to par with his job description, then begin the progressive discipline that your Company uses. Good luck. LV

I had a similar problem in the past and it turned out that the employee was just a slower learner and has turned out to be a gem. Some of the things that seemed to work for us:
1. Let them correct their own mistakes.
2. Let things go that weren’t important – everyone suffers when I micro-manage.
3. Explained errors if I saw a trend – grammar rules etc.
4. Gave time in training – I sat down with them and demonstrated, giving time for notes, and watched them try new skills.
5. Expected more and checked less. Most people rise to a challenge. The final outcome is important and they can use their own methods in getting there.
Not knowing the person, it is impossible to tell if he is just a slow learner and will raise his game or if he is just unable to do the job. In the case of our gem – it took at least a year for them to solidly know how to do everything they were expected to and to begin taking some initiative. In our case it was a good investment since the person will probably stay long term. I hope that helps!

Just one question. When you attended grammar, junior or high school, how many times did the teacher actually correct your work for you? Mine just marked them right or wrong and it was up to me to find out the correct answer. Usually, the ones that I had to correct were rarely forgotten!

Margaret, Cleveland