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Young employees don't know how to act in the office

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I work for a government organization, so we get a lot of newcomers for whom this is their first job. They range from people straight out of high school to fresh college graduates. Either way, the majority tend to be horrible workers. 

In addition to teaching these newcomers their job, which I have no problem with, we end up having to teach them life lessons: chip in for the candy jar; if the bathroom stall is closed, that means someone is in there; the private bathroom isn't your phone booth; asking you to do your job shouldn't be the world's hugest inconvenience (aka "I'm sorry to tear you away from Facebook/candy crush/Internet."); wipe your feet when walking into the building.... I could go on forever!!

I bring some of these issues up to my boss, but I think he thinks I'm a tattletale. He's not the best manager, and there is a ton of stuff that goes on at our level that he has no idea about. So the blatantly obscene stuff I make sure he knows about, like people cutting out of work five hours early when all the bosses are off work one day. Should I just shrug this off, or just start to take matters into my own hands? I want to be easy-going, but life won't let me!

Dealing with young employees' lack of experience -- and sometimes glaring holes in their basic life skills -- is a huge problem that I'm hearing more and more about. Work involves all those little things, and most entry-level work isn't full of exciting and groundbreaking projects. So it's kind of boring.

However, you can be easygoing about young recruits' inexperience if you want to be -- or rather, you can pretend to be easygoing. Your boss doesn't see a problem with any of this because you're solving the problem for him. After all, what's easier? Let you bother and criticize the newbies or do it himself? Of course, it's easier for him if you do it, plus it has the added bonus that the newbies see you as an old shrew and him as the cool boss. It's a winning situation for him.

How has this role been working out for you? Do the new people look up to you and think, "Wow! It's so nice of Jane to tell me that it's inappropriate to hang out in the bathroom texting on my phone! I had no idea!" I doubt it. So what you have is a boss who calls you a tattletale and coworkers who resent your intrusions into their important Facebook posts.

This vision should help you see your options a little more clearly. He doesn't want you to tattle. They don't want to be tattled on. So you can continue saying, "Wipe your feet!" and "Stop looking through the bathroom stall, you pervert!" and not tell him, or you can just stop.

That's right. Just stop. What will happen? Well, first, you'll run out of communal candy in the candy bowl. Or you'll decide that the candy is important enough to you to keep buying it on your own. Lots of people will reach new levels on Candy Crush Saga and less and less work will get done.

It's at that point that your boss will either begin to care, or it will be abundantly clear that he doesn't care. If he does care, then he'll take it upon himself to tell them how to behave. If he doesn't care, then you'll have to make the decision to stay in this environment or to find a more professional one and leave. It's also possible that your boss will be angry at you for not training them as you have been. When they leave five hours early, just assume they had permission. Don't cover for them, of course, but don't bother speaking up.

It won't take long before you see which way your boss will react. And you may find out that, except for the empty candy jar, it's not as bad as you thought it was. The youngsters will face the natural consequences of not getting their work done or they'll step it up. Or maybe they can do the tasks at hand while texting. Either way, not your problem.

The not your problem thing is hard for good workers to accept, but it's your reality. Embrace it.

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