Many of us think that others never get what they deserve. They get away with sloppy work, errors, undercutting, having a ‘good enough’ attitude, or just plain not caring. They go from one project to the next and nobody in management ever seems to find out that they are creating problems, ducking the blame, and avoiding the hard work.
You, on the other hand, put in your time. You work above and beyond and go the extra mile. You rework other people’s below-grade efforts, you cover for their errors and generally never blow the whistle on the slouch in the next cubicle.
And then you think to yourself: Do others even see this? How long can this go on? How long until someone sees that others are causing problems? And most importantly, will this person mess up our files again?
Most of us have had these thoughts from time to time. People who create recurring problems appear everywhere, and it is annoying at the least and even more frustrating when you dwell on it. Thinking like this may lead to frustration, cynicism, anger, and a very sour attitude. If it is extended over the long haul, it might even sabotage your career or your health. You can’t be grumpy all the time.
So what do you do when you see the same person make the same mistakes? What do you do when you feel others have not seen a mistake that appears obvious to you? What do you do when others seem to skate past the impact of their own errors and laziness?
Keep your emotions in check. Do not rail on the offenders to your friends and others. Attacking the person is not going to win you any friends. In fact, if you rant about others, it will make the person you are speaking with think “what is he saying about me when I am not around?” So do not just ‘go off’ on uninvolved parties.
Work with the Person
No matter what the problem is – the first stop is directly with the person who might be causing you concern. They may have caustic attitudes, get defensive, or deny the problem, but you should talk to them first. Be very gentle and understanding as you seek to find out if they even see the problem. By taking a direct route, you may find that they simply did not know or they had a valid reason for doing what they did. Ask questions without accusing. Probe a little and see what you get. At worst, they get upset and respond negatively. At the first hint of pushback, stop talking about it and come back to it later when they may have a better perspective. Everyone has a bad day now and then.
Ask Questions – but do not provide answers
Start by asking a few leading questions about the issue. If someone is consistently making mistakes after they have been informed of their errors, then start asking others about the problem. Example: if someone always puts things on the wrong layer, then ask the Project Manager “We have seen some data put on another layer from the standard, do you think the standard should be changed? Maybe the layer list needs to be reviewed”. What you are looking for is a response that allows you to explain in depth. If the PM does not seem to care, then your complaints may fall on deaf ears.
Don’t be a complainer/attacker
No one likes to see others attacked. If you appear to be complaining about a person’s action, most people will take the defender role. I have seen this process in action. Someone defends the other person, even if they are in the wrong, because they feel you might be “out to get them”. When you are perceived as attacking someone, the outcome may not be what you expect. You may be seen as a crybaby or – worse – a spiteful employee. Take care if you ever broach a problem when it may seem like you are attacking.
Remind yourself that the problem is not the person
Even if it is the person, the initial process will be to correct the problem via reminders, encouragement, adjustments, and possibly reassignment. Management may not want to address the “people issues” at first or they may not see your concerns as being so critical. Either way, give the person the benefit of the doubt – most are not out to sabotage the project. The work ethic of others may not be as high as yours, but they are still trying to be productive.
Be ready to take on more work
The person who created the problem is not the best person to fix it. If it was done by accident, you may see progress through educating them on the concern. Usually you want someone else to fix the problem or at least back check it once it is fixed. This may mean that you will have to get it done. Those who point out errors are usually called on to fix the problem. You may get more work that you did not bargain for, which may increase your frustration level (since you are cleaning up someone else’s mess).
Understand that others do see what you see
Most of the time, others have seen the same issues you have. If you introduce the subject gently and get others to participate in the resolution, you will make progress. Graciousness by coworkers is to be applauded. When others overlook small errors or cover for one another, it is a good thing. When they do it to the detriment of the project, then it becomes a concern.
Stay positive. Do not get an overly critical spirit and work directly with the person who is the focus of your concerns first.