There's no excuse for going-dark behavior, of course, but in our frustration, trying to turn the lights back on, we often select tactics that are ineffective and can even be counterproductive. Avoid these:
- The Tweaking CC
- Public embarrassment
- Pillorying the offender in a general email to the team, or at a meeting — especially in his or her absence — is likely to arouse anger and resistance.
- Spreading poison
- Describing the problem to anyone who will listen will likely be seen as character assassination.
- Harassment and intimidation, in person or in other media, are always unethical and unacceptable. And they just plain don't work. See "When You're the Target of a Bully," Point Lookout for March 17, 2004.
- Suspending privileges or reassignment as punishment
- Indirect, threatening, or abusive
tactics are unlikely
to address the problem
- The deterrence theory of punishment is questionable in any case, but in the team environment it's downright toxic.
- The nuclear option
- Waiting until the annual review period to then clobber the victim with a truly horrible report doesn't resolve the immediate problem.
Try the following steps instead. They're arranged in roughly increasing order of escalation.
- Email, voicemail, interdepartmental mail, fax, stopping by, and notes on the chair
- You probably already tried all of these. They haven't worked.
- Email with a return-receipt and high priority
- This probably won't work either, but you have to try.
- Call at odd hours
- Calling in the early morning, during lunch, late evenings, or weekends might work, if the subject is avoiding answering calls during business hours.
- Mask your caller ID
- If the subject is screening your calls using caller ID, mask your ID or call from an unusual number, such as a conference room, a friend's mobile, or a colleague's phone. Next level: call from the credit union, HR, or Security.
- Make a personal visit
- If you're remote, this isn't an easy option, but it might work.
- Ask for help
- Consult your boss for ideas, influence, and moral support. This is a last resort, but it usually works when all else has failed.
When you finally make contact, remember to remain calm. If the incident is a first-time offense, explain your concerns seriously and respectfully and demand respect in return. If the incident is part of a pattern, you've got a larger problem, and you need more information to figure out what that problem might be.
For instance, the "offender" might not be an offender at all — he or she might have been directed to go dark by someone up the management chain (I've seen this happen). Tread carefully.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
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More articles on Project Management:
- Project Improvisation as Group Process
- When project plans contact reality, things tend to get, um, a bit confused. We can sometimes see the
trouble coming in time to replan thoughtfully — if we're nearly clairvoyant. Usually, we have
to improvise. How a group improvises tells us much about the group.
- The Politics of the Critical Path: II
- The Critical Path of a project is the sequence of dependent tasks that determine the earliest completion
date of the effort. We don't usually consider tasks that are already complete, but they, too, can experience
the unique politics of the critical path.
- Deep Trouble and Getting Deeper
- Here's a catalog of actions people take when the projects they're leading are in deep trouble, and they're
pretty sure there's no way out.
- Down in the Weeds: II
- To be "down in the weeds,' in one of its senses, is to be lost in discussion at a level of detail
inappropriate to the current situation. Here's Part II of our exploration of methods for dealing with
this frustrating pattern so common in group discussions.
- How We Waste Time: I
- Time is the one workplace resource that's evenly distributed. Everyone gets exactly the same share,
but some use it more wisely than others. Here's Part I of a little catalog of ways we waste time.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 29: Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
- And on December 6: Reframing Revision Resentment: I
- From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks, an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration, and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease the burden. Available here and by RSS on December 6.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenEKYyFKupnwniihBMner@ChacrtIIYLGUJnynSmRCoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.