Have you ever had problems meeting a schedule because of the non-responsiveness of people outside your department, outside your division, or outside your company? When your priorities differ from the priorities of the people you depend on, your work and your projects can suffer. Sometimes this can feel like a trap.
When your priorities differ
from the priorities
projects can sufferI've felt trapped many times. And I've learned that it isn't really a trap, though it can feel like one. Here are some tips for finding your way out of the trap of the recalcitrant collaborator.
- Find out what's happening
- Have a conversation with the non-collaborator, and explain the situation as you see it. Try to find out three things: what's preventing cooperation, when the problem might end, and what it would take to make it happen earlier.
- Sometimes the answers aren't forthcoming, but when they are, the information can be useful and it might even be a basis for joint problem solving.
- Gather intelligence about patterns
- Find out what you can about recent history. Is there a pattern of difficulty between your team and theirs? Or is the pattern more widespread, affecting many others who work with them?
- If some organizational elements get preferential attention, the resolution of the problem will likely involve politics. On the other hand, if your experience is universal, a more mechanical issue might be the cause.
- Give your non-collaborator a last chance
- Have a conversation with the non-collaborator before you inform your boss. Explain that because of the schedule impact, you're compelled to inform your boss of the situation as you understand it.
- Sometimes this helps to persuade the non-collaborator to collaborate. And sometimes, it's seen as a threat, gravely damaging your relationship. If you don't tell the non-collaborator beforehand, though, you also risk damaging the relationship. Be judicious about this tactic.
- Keep you boss informed
- If your boss expects progress, and you're falling behind, keep him or her informed. Without asking for help or advice, explain what you know about the problem in a "heads up" conversation or a series of such conversations.
- When you explain the problem, your boss might offer advice or assistance. Usually, you're free to accept or decline, but unless you have some plan to resolve the problem, accept.
- Ask for advice
- Ask colleagues for advice first, and then ask your boss. Some will have bad advice, some no advice, and some great advice. Caveat emptor.
- Be circumspect about asking your boss for advice — you'll have to follow it.
When everything you know how to do has failed, ask your boss for help, especially if you sense that the problem resides somewhere above you in the org chart. Your boss might decline, or might be unable to help, but if the problem isn't yours, pretending that it is probably won't work. Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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- How much of the time and energy you spend in meetings goes to finding the best way? or a better way?
It's of questionable value unless you first agree on what you mean by "better" or "best."
- Discussion Distractions: I
- Meetings could be far more productive, if only we could learn to recognize and prevent the distractions
that lead us off topic and into the woods. Here is Part I of a small catalog of distractions frequently
seen in meetings.
- The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Strategy
- Much of what we call work is about as effective and relevant as rearranging the deck chairs
of the Titanic. We continue our exploration of futile and irrelevant work, this time emphasizing
behaviors related to strategy.
- Meeting Troubles: Collaboration
- In some meetings, we collaborate not in reaching objectives, but in preventing our doing so. Here are
three examples of this pattern.
- A Pain Scale for Meetings
- Most meetings could be shorter, less frequent, and more productive than they are. Part of the problem
is that we don't realize how much we do to get in our own way. If we track the incidents of dysfunctional
activity, we can use the data to spot trends and take corrective action.
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.
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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.