Proactive career management can be a stressful task to undertake, especially with all the economic ups and downs we have experienced over the past several years. When you are employed, you feel like you need to do everything you can to present every aspect of your work in a positive light and you worry that something could be perceived negatively.
While that is true, there are some parts of the process that are just out of our control. Probably one of the most frustrating scenarios to be in is when the work of a peer negatively impacts the entire department.
Always try talking one-on-one to the person first.
But, there are those times that it doesn’t help. What do you do now?
Rule #1: Don’t blurt out “Joe Blow isn’t doing his work!”
Your first instinct is to notify someone who is in a position to do something about it. That’s a good option, but how you approach your supervisors matters. A lot.
If you choose to play the blame game, you are, in essence, turning yourself into an adult-sized version of a four-year-old jumping up and down screaming because you see someone doing something wrong. Not a pretty picture, is it?
Rule #2: Don’t make yourself completely frazzled trying to cover the workload of a slacker.
It’s important to help out your colleagues if they’ve got a huge project, if they are going on vacation for a couple weeks, or if they are having a temporary rough patch due to whatever life circumstances have come up. You want to be available to assist as necessary because it’s a nice thing to do and you never know when you may ask for the favor to be returned.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. What we’re looking at is a chronic situation in which a person is consistently not meeting the expectations of his/her job.
Regardless of the reason, it is not your responsibility to continue to pick up the pieces for this person. You have your own job to do, so your first priority is to make sure that you are excelling at it. Anything that detracts from you achieving that objective will be a problem for you and your career.
Continually covering up also doesn’t allow upper management to learn about a potentially bad state of affairs that needs to be addressed when it’s still small. The reality is that you can only keep going at a crazy pace for so long. When (not if) you hit the wall from doing the work of two people, it’s all going to fall apart and your boss will have an even bigger mess to handle. Ultimately, this doesn’t help your career at all.
Rule #3: Ramp it up as much as possible.
This not fun, to be sure. Why not use this opportunity to see if maybe you have been getting a little too comfortable with how you have been operating day-to-day?
Are there some efficiencies that can be gained with how you work or how the team you manage is functioning? Can processes be streamlined to increase output without sacrificing quality? You don’t want to overshoot that “sweet spot” where both quality and quantity are maximized, but you may be able to find ways to bump up activities just a bit.
Rule #4: Alert your supervisor of the situation.
While this sounds contrary to Rule #1, it really is not. The approach that you take makes the difference between you looking smart because you realized that a problem was brewing and you looking like a tattletale.
Instead of naming names or blaming a department for causing the issue, make sure you are carrying out Rule #3 well and then go to your supervisor saying this:
“I am very concerned that the department is not going to meet the deadline for the big project that we are working on (or that production goals are going to lag, or whatever applies to your work environment). I have been brainstorming ways to find efficiencies in my work, and I have implemented X and Y to improve my contributions to the team. But I am not sure what more can be done.”
Then step back from it and wait.
Rule #5: Trust that upper management will be able to figure out what is happening.
This is the hardest one of them all to follow because it’s out of your hands now, but it’s imperative that you trust your supervisors to do the right thing.
When I was talking with someone who had similar circumstances at work, he was a little panicked about it all. “But the department could get jammed up because of this and I could be blamed!” he said in exasperation.
I asked,”Do you know how to read the reports that indicate work performance?”
Confused, he blinked and said, “Well, sure.”
“OK, then,” I continued, “don’t you think that your supervisors will be able to read them, as well, and then make good decisions based on what they say? Do you really think they would find fault with you if you are doing everything you say you are doing to keep things flowing?”
“I guess not,” he admitted.
So he went to work and followed the five rules. As a result, upper management was able to act in a way that kept the problem from becoming an even bigger issue. As well, the person actually strengthened his standing at work as someone who can be counted on to keep an eye on what is happening and act in the best interests of the company.
How else can you keep your career on the right path when involved in this kind of predicament?
Image courtesy of cell105
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