Avoiding the Training Trip Hazard, “Call If You Have Any Questions”


“Çall if you have any questions,” is often the closing comment for an onboarding, orientation or training event. This short phrase, six little words could be the first step to failure for a newly hired or recently promoted individual.
As the supervisor, the team leader, it appears that we are always available;”just call,” “call anytime, day or night,” “I always have my phone with me.”

Time goes by, critical deadlines are missed or errors continue in work product.

As the time leader is faced with correcting mistakes and missed deadlines the question hangs in the air, “Why don’t they call?”

Marketing numbersIf we consider the psychology in this situation, we create an environment where our new employee must ask for help.  Essentially, they are admitting a frustration or a failure.  We have created a win lose proposition.  You are losing.  Call me, and I will give you the information to secure a win.  As leaders if we anticipate deadlines and scheduled completion dates, offering help and assistance we build confidence.

The key is in the question asking yes and no questions, will not provide much information.  “Is everything ok?”
“Do you need any help?”

What To Ask

A new employee might not know what help to request. They could become concerned that asking questions or requesting assistance indicates they are struggling with the new responsibility.

Asking specific questions of a new employee,

  • What project were you working on today?
  • Was any of it confusing for you?
  • Can we provide some additional background or supporting information that would give you a broader understanding of the task?
  • Why don’t you show me what you’ve completed and explain the process as you understand it.
  • Which projects have completion dates for this week? Are you comfortable that you will be ready to turn in a final product before the deadline?

Long Distance Support

For trainers/supervisors not physically sharing workspace this might appear to be a difficult or time-consuming task. Placing reminders on the calendar or in Outlook, to initiate short follow-up conversations throughout the week will provide quick recaps to understand how the individual is comprehending the assigned task.

How often has a project been assigned to a new employee; when the report is submitted, it’s “all wrong.” Is this the result of the employee not preparing the report correctly? Could there have been better  direction when assigning the task? Asking for feedback at the time of the assignment, “where will you start collecting the data needed for this? How do you anticipate organizing the results? Why don’t we meet again, at the end of the day to see how you’re organizing this project?” Could prevent frustration on a number of avenues.

Regular Recaps

Investing less than an hour a week, three or four short recaps could open doors to understanding instead of slamming them in frustration when the new employee fails, is fired or walks out.

Whether its realized or not, the “call me if you have any questions”..establishes a very uncomfortable win-lose balance. “I’m the manager, I have the answers.” The new employee has to “admit” they need help. It employs the power position of the supervisor:

-acknowledge that you need me.
-ask for intervention to fix, solve or intercede.
Creating confidence for an individual with new responsibilities, involves recognition for grasping new concepts, not limited to correcting errors. A proactive approach to employee development can establish an open and honest communication that will assist in the development of a future superstar.

Lori Hammond
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4 thoughts on “Avoiding the Training Trip Hazard, “Call If You Have Any Questions”

  1. These are great tips for giving a new employee the best chance for success. Everyone has been in the new employee’s shoes at one time and can remember how scary it can be.

  2. This is so encouraging for me to read. Thank you so much for writing it. I recently had to “walk away” and it was for all the reasons you mentioned . I was new in town and had just got my realtors license when I started working for the biggest brand in the area. The company was very supportive as was my broker and mentor as well but the problem was I had absolutely no idea what to do and no idea what questions to ask. I just wanted to make productive use of my time but could not figure out what I was supposed to be doing . I blamed myself and thought I should have been able to communicate my needs better but as you pointed out in this post, sometimes when your very new you don’t even know what those needs are. Thank you for offering insight . I hope my mentor reads it and I know I will remember this helpful advise should I be given the mentor’s role.