Someone’s Lack of Planning, Again

So, today’s workplaces, including home offices, are not islands. The realm of business is global and people work together inside a team. I like it! What I don’t like is when a team member drops the ball, forcing someone else to pick up slack. Sorry, but that is unacceptable behavior. I’m not talking about the occasional slip up, missing a meeting, family emergency or forgetfulness. I’m talking about the consistent laziness that pervades society.

A scenario: You are a grants manager in charge of quarterly reporting to the Federal Funding Agency. You’ve been reminding a team member for three weeks that the report deadline is next Monday, and you need the purchase receipts. He keeps saying “Oh, that’s right, thank you. I’ll get on it today.”  Several days go by, and now you find yourself hunting in desk drawers, calling the accounting department and running around like mad – and you’re more than angry! So, how do you handle it when someone’s lack of responsibility reflects poorly on your work? It can be a trick.

The first thought is to meet with the offending individual one on one and make it extremely clear: “I am committed to a high work and ethical standard. What has been happening is simply not acceptable, and I refuse to tolerate it any longer. We need to resolve this now, or I will have no choice but to…” You can fill-in-the-blank. The second thought is to refuse projects that involve the offending individual, explaining to the whole team that you will not put yourself in a position of cleaning up another’s mess.

The third choice is to perform your duties regardless of the missing piece, and make it clear who that piece is. For example, in our scenario, you could submit the report without the purchase receipts and send an email to the entire team. I might say something like this: “I submitted the Grant report on time. However, I was not provided with the purchase receipts I requested, so it will eventually be returned for audit, at which time I will forward to Mike for reconciliation. Just a head’s up!”

Notice this was not accusatory. Also notice everyone knows who the irresponsible party is. Finally, notice that I removed myself from correcting the poor habits of others. Remember: Someone’s lack of planning should not become your emergency.

I vote for option three! How about you?