You’ve all met one form or another of ‘the project troublemaker. Whether it was in your early days at school, or current days in the workplace, you’ve had to deal with that one colleague who seems to want to make a project fail--or perhaps worse, doesn’t seem to care either way about the success or failure of the project.
These colleagues can be devastating to a project, especially if you’re unsure of how to work around or with their challenging personality. Don’t make the mistake of thinking all project troublemakers are the same, they come in all shapes and sizes.
Although it is tough to deal with these individuals, it’s important to identify the problem early and deal with them effectively.
There are multiple types of problem causers that you will come against; some more hostile than others. So what are some common types and how do you deal with them?
The Classic Procrastinator
We all know who this is.
This is the person who doesn’t pitch in on any of the work until it’s too late. This worker usually has good intent on helping out, but majority of the time this will be a tactic for manipulation. Although they appear to want to contribute to the project, they are really trying to manipulate you into more work. Before you know it, the project is almost over and you’ve pulled more than your fair share of the weight.
Occasionally this type of person tries to claim more work than they participated in, although this can happen with any type of ‘project troublemaker’. If you realize they are trying to take credit for more than their share of the work, subtly thank them for their specific participation in the project, and state exactly what they covered.
This will make it obvious as to what they have completed, and won’t make you look like the bad guy.
To make things even easier, understanding how to fight procrastination yourself can help you understand how to properly deal with a procrastinator colleague.
In order to make tasks clear for the procrastinator, goal setting at the beginning is essential. Set out what needs to be done, when, and how. Having documentation of tasks, and who is supposed to do them can help with organization, and accountability on who was supposed to do what. This leaves no question. Goal setting and delegating responsibility will definitely be a trend in protecting yourself from all project trouble makers, and help you succeed.
Finally, when working with a procrastinator it’s important to remember you are working with them and not for them. Check in on them and their progress regularly, don’t wait until they day the project is due to find out if their share has been completed. Touch base at least three times before the final due date and if no work is being completed try setting up mini deadlines for the person to meet.
The overqualified worker will do one of two things. They will either think they are too good for the project/be too ‘busy’ to take participation or second. All they will do is talk about how qualified they are but not produce any work.
Going along with their ego and complimenting them will encourage them to help, but slowly ease away from that as it quickly becomes annoying. Your goal is to bring them to terms with the project, and make them feel very important in what they do. Try to trigger what they are good at, and let them feel responsible for certain tasks that fit their skills.
Again, goal setting and creating clear tasks is essential. Challenge them. Make them feel like you need their expertise for this certain part of the project (which can be true), or even play reverse psychology and make it seem like they can’t complete the task assigned. This can be risky, because you don’t want to sound like you don’t believe.
This one is tough because the intent to help is usually there, just not the proper experience. This individual will work hard, but fail to make decisions alone because of lack of experience.
Always come from contribution, and make sure not to do their work for them if they ask for help. Teach a man to fish and feed him for life. If you step in annoyed and do their task for them, they won’t learn anything and you’ll be wasting your time, and theirs.
Learn to work with this type of colleague by discovering their strengths, and using it to your advantage. It will help you get along, and make the work a lot easier and less stressful.
Empower the person to complete smaller portions of the overall goal from start to finish and with those smaller task wins they will be learning how to do the project and feel empowered by you which will make them even more willing to perform and excel in future projects.
In a utopia the office would be a lukewarm competitive environment. Although friendly competitiveness is healthy, in a traditional office setting there will probably be some ‘not-so’ friendly competition.
The hostile colleague is the one who wants to make you look bad to better themselves.
They try to make you second guess your work and make you feel dumb by asking questions like “why are you doing it that way?”
Again, it’s very important to state clear goals early. Also make it obvious you want criticism and planning to be done at the start. When the Debbie Downer tries to bring you down later on in the project, you can point out you made it obvious at the beginning. This person will, at some point, likely try to tear you down or throw you under the bus in front of your supervisor. You’ll want to anticipate this happening and make sure to carefully document what your group plans to do and who is accountable for each part of the work.
Working with any type of negative colleague can be difficult, but always take a step back and analyses the situation. Find out what type of person you’re dealing with, create solid goal and a good plan, and work with them step by step.