Have you ever had problems meeting a schedule because of the non-responsiveness of people outside your department, outside your division, or outside your company? When your priorities differ from the priorities of the people you depend on, your work and your projects can suffer. Sometimes this can feel like a trap.
When your priorities differ
from the priorities
projects can sufferI've felt trapped many times. And I've learned that it isn't really a trap, though it can feel like one. Here are some tips for finding your way out of the trap of the recalcitrant collaborator.
- Find out what's happening
- Have a conversation with the non-collaborator, and explain the situation as you see it. Try to find out three things: what's preventing cooperation, when the problem might end, and what it would take to make it happen earlier.
- Sometimes the answers aren't forthcoming, but when they are, the information can be useful and it might even be a basis for joint problem solving.
- Gather intelligence about patterns
- Find out what you can about recent history. Is there a pattern of difficulty between your team and theirs? Or is the pattern more widespread, affecting many others who work with them?
- If some organizational elements get preferential attention, the resolution of the problem will likely involve politics. On the other hand, if your experience is universal, a more mechanical issue might be the cause.
- Give your non-collaborator a last chance
- Have a conversation with the non-collaborator before you inform your boss. Explain that because of the schedule impact, you're compelled to inform your boss of the situation as you understand it.
- Sometimes this helps to persuade the non-collaborator to collaborate. And sometimes, it's seen as a threat, gravely damaging your relationship. If you don't tell the non-collaborator beforehand, though, you also risk damaging the relationship. Be judicious about this tactic.
- Keep you boss informed
- If your boss expects progress, and you're falling behind, keep him or her informed. Without asking for help or advice, explain what you know about the problem in a "heads up" conversation or a series of such conversations.
- When you explain the problem, your boss might offer advice or assistance. Usually, you're free to accept or decline, but unless you have some plan to resolve the problem, accept.
- Ask for advice
- Ask colleagues for advice first, and then ask your boss. Some will have bad advice, some no advice, and some great advice. Caveat emptor.
- Be circumspect about asking your boss for advice — you'll have to follow it.
When everything you know how to do has failed, ask your boss for help, especially if you sense that the problem resides somewhere above you in the org chart. Your boss might decline, or might be unable to help, but if the problem isn't yours, pretending that it is probably won't work. Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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take into account all the difficulties we can anticipate. Lock-step thinking — and limited debate
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Changing your boss is one possible solution, but it's unlikely to succeed. What you can do
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 23: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: IX
- An arrogant demeanor is widely viewed as a hallmark of the narcissist. But truly narcissistic arrogance is off the charts. It's something beyond the merely annoying arrogance of a sometimes-obnoxious individual. What is narcissistic arrogance and how can we cope with it? Available here and by RSS on May 23.
- And on May 30: Chronic Peer Interrupters: I
- When making contributions to meeting discussions, we're sometimes interrupted. Often, the interruption is beneficial and saves time. But some people constantly interrupt their peers or near peers, disrespectfully, in a pattern that compromises meeting outcomes. How can we deal with chronic peer interrupters? Available here and by RSS on May 30.
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