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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More articles on Project Management:
- Restarting Projects
- When a project gets off track, we sometimes cancel it. But since canceling projects takes a lot of courage,
we look for ways to save them if we can. Often, things do turn out OK, and at other times they don't.
There's a third choice, between pressing on with a project and canceling it. We can restart.
- Make a Project Family Album
- Like a traditional family album, a project family album has pictures of people, places, and events.
It builds connections, helps tie the team together, and it can be as much fun to look through as it
is to create.
- Communication Traps for Virtual Teams: I
- Virtual teams encounter difficulties that rarely confront face-to-face teams. What special challenges
do they face, and what can we do about them?
- Seven Ways to Get Nowhere
- Ever have the feeling that you're getting nowhere? You have the sense of movement, but you're making
no real progress towards the goal. How does this happen? What can you do about it?
- Design Errors and Groupthink
- Design errors cause losses, lost opportunities, accidents, and injuries. Not all design errors are one-offs,
because their causes can be fundamental. Here's a first installment of an exploration of some fundamental
causes of design errors.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
- And on December 25: Disjoint Awareness
- In collaborations, awareness of how our own work might interfere with the work of others is essential. Unless our awareness of others' work — and their awareness of ours — matches reality, the collaboration's objective is at risk. Available here and by RSS on December 25.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
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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.