I would really appreciate some advice on an issue I’m having with one of my directs.

She joined my team 11 months ago as a graduate trainee and after 3 months with my team, has spent 3-month assignments with two other teams (to get a more broad-based experience). The formal feedback from both was not good, they rated her poorly. The feedback also chimed with what I and other team members had observed previously.

Two main concerns came to the fore: she appears to take longer than we would expect to learn skills, i.e. asks for help from colleagues several times over where others pick it up after one explanation. Perhaps we’re being too harsh comparing her to others (esp. as I have another graduate in my team who is a rising star).

On the other hand, she sometimes does not ask questions when she should, resulting in work that on the surface looks professional, but when read, does not demonstrate to me that she has really understood what she is saying or doing, resulting in rework. Perhaps, again, we’re being too harsh as she has moved around teams.

My boss is aware of the feedback and she is not keen to have a ‘future problem person’ on the team. A number of phrases have been uttered such as ‘she’s not cut out for it’, ‘I’d expect more from a graduate’ and ‘is she a square peg in a round hole?’ I feel this is vague and unhelpful.

I’d really like to get this onto a more behavioural based footing and look at the coaching model to get things back on track. However, I’m really struggling to articulate the bad feedback in behavioural terms (e.g. what she says or does, or her work output).

Could anybody help me articulate in behavioural terms the ‘issues’ above? Would the coaching model be the right approach to address them? Thank you!

drenn18's picture
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Give her an assignment to be completed with the rising star exclusively. The star will benefit from learning the skill of teaching.

Possible feedback:

When you ask how to ________ multiple times, the team is concerned you're not paying attention. What can you do differently?

When your work doesn't meet our standards, we realize you haven't taken the time to fully grasp what we're looking for. What will you do differently next time?

This raises a concern as well with your team's training capabilities. I believe that saying, "She won't succeed here" can and MUST also be stated as "we lack the ability to communicate effectively with this person". Pair her 

3 months might not be long enough for her learning curve to peak. 

Hope I helped!


BAMGR73's picture

Thanks David for your response.

The idea of putting both trainees together is a good one, I'll work out how I can make that happen.

Thanks also for the suggested feedback, particularly the one on "standards". I know I need to tune myself more into looking for the actual behaviours that I can then pick up on for feedback. The podcasts talk about 'work product' being a behaviour, so I'll also focus on the quality aspects of that.

I take on board what you say about the team's training capabilities. I see now that pairing/shadowing is essential.

Thanks again!

drenn18's picture
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Let us know if it works out. I'm not certain it will but at least then you'll have more data!