A reader asked:
Do you have any suggestions for how to ask supervisors and employers to explain something to you in a way that they’ll understand you actually want to know?Ex: I had an issue at work with a girl using her sister’s employee discount at my register, and I didn’t know they were sisters? They could have been married for all I knew and my manager came over to talk to me about it and when I asked how to find out if a person is allowed to use the discount, she basically just said it was obvious.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything that works particularly reliably.
One thing I’ve found is that a lot of people really do have trouble understanding that other people don’t know things they know.
Sometimes, if you are really explicit about the fact that you care but don’t quite understand, they eventually get it.
- Manager: You can’t keep letting her sister use her discount card. She’s done it several times at your register.
- Employee: How do I tell if a person is allowed to use the discount?
- Manager: Just don’t let people use it if they’re not allowed to.
- Employee: I definitely want to make sure I’m following the rules, but I’m actually having a lot of trouble telling who is allowed to use the cards. I thought they might have been married or something. How can I tell?
Sometimes that works. Sometimes it just makes them more annoyed. Sometimes it makes them more annoyed, and then works. Sometimes it backfires. Sometimes you have to back down and let them end the conversation by just letting them say it is obvious.
It’s not super reliable, but it’s more reliable than anything else I know of at getting supervisors to explain things.
Another possibility is to accept that the boss isn’t going to explain it to you, and to ask another employee. Sometimes, peers are willing to believe that you don’t understand something and explain it to you, even if the boss doesn’t.