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.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
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About Point Lookout
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More articles on Project Management:
- Scheduling as Risk Management
- When we schedule a complex project, we balance logical order, resource constraints, and even politics.
Here are some techniques for using scheduling to manage risk and reduce costs.
- Films Not About Project Teams: I
- Here's part one of a list of films and videos about project teams that weren't necessarily meant to
be about project teams. Most are available to borrow from the public library, and all are great fun.
- Bois Sec!
- When your current approach isn't working, you can scrap whatever you're doing and start again —
if you have enough time and money. There's a less radical solution, and if it works, it's usually both
cheaper and faster.
- The Injured Teammate: I
- You're a team lead, and one of the team members is very ill or has been severely injured. How do you
handle it? How do you break the news? What does the team need? What do you need?
- Unresponsive Suppliers: II
- When a project depends on external suppliers for some tasks and materials, supplier performance can
affect our ability to meet deadlines. How can communication help us get what we need from unresponsive
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenpPJrYZBpZvWxdQgLner@ChacHtyHofUxwxSKvgUUoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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- 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)
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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.