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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Encouraging A "Slacker" Teammate

I was recently asked, "How do you 'bring along' a slacker teammate?" That's a pretty broad question. What is meant by "slacker" -- someone who doesn't do his or her work? In this case, I think the question had to do more with people who are part of work or project teams outside their own normal duties. You've probably experienced it before. You are a member of a team where everyone may not be as engaged as they could be. Some people are pulling their weight and others are just marking time.

The answer is that you definitely DO NOT sweep the problem under the rug and pretend it doesn't exist. Obviously, the work or project team leader should be ensuring all members are doing there fair share. Still, work group team members have both the responsibility and the opportunity to help fellow team members be the best they can be, and in a way that supervisors may not be able to achieve:

Responsibility -- When we are team members, we all have the responsibility to help that team succeed even though being a team member is not part of our normal job duties. It's not just the boss or team leader's responsibility. True professionals look for ways to help the organization and those around them be better.

Opportunity -- Team members are not bosses...duh. Team members are peers and co-workers. We all have different levels of influence and experience. We have "horizontal" relationships that can hopefully allow our thoughts, suggestions, and ideas to be less threatening to others on our team.

Now that we've determined we want to try and help another team member with engagement issues, what do we do? Below are a few possibilities:
  • Broach the issue of engagement. Sometimes others are not aware that they are not considered engaged or are willing to put in more effort when they realize their poor efforts are evident.
  • Ask questions about how the "errant" team member feels about the work the team is doing. Talk through the feelings. Maybe the team member has negative feelings about the team and what the group is supposed to be accomplishing. Perhaps the team member doesn't understand what he or she is supposed to do.
  • Challenge the team member to step up and support the rest of the team, even if being a team member is not something the other person really wants to be. We all do things from time to time that we don't LOVE. It's part of being a contributing member of society, let alone a team member at work.

Are there other ways to help peers become more engaged in work or project teams? Should you go to the team leader about the issues? If so, when should this occur?

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