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
- Something that rarely works: sending a query in email demanding information, accusing the recipient of failing to report, and including a CC to the recipient's boss, to the CEO and to the Master of the Universe. See "The Tweaking CC," Point Lookout for February 7, 2001.
- 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.
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More articles on Project Management:
- Dispersity Adversity
- Geographically and culturally dispersed project teams are increasingly common, as we become more travel-averse
and more bedazzled by communication technology. But people really do work better together face-to-face.
Here are some tips for managing dispersed teams.
- Scope Creep, Hot Hands, and the Illusion of Control
- Despite our awareness of scope creep's dangerous effects on projects and other efforts, we seem unable
to prevent it. Two cognitive biases — the "hot hand fallacy" and "the illusion
of control" — might provide explanations.
- Ten Approaches to Managing Project Risks: II
- Managing risk entails coping with unwanted events that might or might not happen, and which can be costly
if they do happen. Here's Part II of our exploration of coping strategies for unwanted events.
- How to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: II
- We know we're in firefighting mode when a new urgent problem disrupts our work on another urgent problem,
and the new problem makes it impossible to use the solution we thought we had for some third problem
we were also working on. Here's Part II of a set of suggestions for getting out of firefighting mode.
- Yet More Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
- Part III of our catalog of obstacles encountered in retrospectives, when we try to uncover why we succeeded
— or failed.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 25: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VI
- Narcissistic behavior at work distorts decisions, disrupts relationships, and generates toxic conflict. These consequences limit the ability of the organization to achieve its goals. In this part of our series we examine the effects of exploiting others for personal ends. Available here and by RSS on April 25.
- And on May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenCwPCFQuMgdWmCekfner@ChacBdgcUyiTjPBtWkRWoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, 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.