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
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmMFSZArdUHdwcXuuner@ChacWxBCofMvJYgLKXgeoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Workplace Barn Raisings
- Until about 75 years ago, barn raising was a common custom in the rural United States. People came together
from all parts of the community to help construct one family's barn. Although the custom has largely
disappeared in rural communities, we can still benefit from the barn raising approach in problem-solving
- Changing the Subject: I
- Whether in small group discussions, large meetings, or chats between friends, changing the subject of
the conversation can be constructive, mischievous, frustrating, creative, tension relieving, necessary,
devious, or outright malicious. What techniques do we use to change the subject, and how can we cope
- The Perils of Piecemeal Analysis: Content
- A team member proposes a solution to the latest show-stopping near-disaster. After extended discussion,
the team decides whether or not to pursue the idea. It's a costly approach, because too often it leads
us to reject unnecessarily some perfectly sound proposals, and to accept others we shouldn't have.
- Indicators of Lock-In: II
- When a group of decision makers "locks in" on a choice, they can persist in that course even
when others have concluded that the choice is folly. Here's Part II of a set of indicators of lock-in.
- Top 30 Indicators That You Might Be Bored at Work
- Most of the time, when we're bored at work, we know we are. But sometimes, we're bored and we just don't
realize it. Here are some indicators of boredom that might escape some people's notice.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
- When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
- And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
- Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenWvIvcSxnKmsjqcMener@ChacgOuomrMCQwscfeVDoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- 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.