Posted by: kenwbudd | September 6, 2009

Other People Don’t Work as Hard as Me or Contribute as much!

If you work with someone whom you think is lazy and not doing enough of their share of the work, you will be critical and resentful of it.

They don’t carry their load. They waste time socialising and miss important deadlines. They spend all their time at the coffee machine chatting to everybody, instead of getting their head down.

Hmm! Is this really true, or is it simply your perception that’s misaligned? As with car tyres and the human eyes, check your alignment regularly.

When we compare our own work with others, we can easily overvalue ourselves and undervalue them. That’s partly because we know much more about our own work, and partly because most people have a self-serving bias. That is, they believe they have made greater contributions than they have or that others have difficulty in recognising their real value.

Your perception of how much time someone spends working, is not necessarily a valid reflection of the real effort they are expending or of the beneficial results they are achieving. They may have terrific time-management skills, stay late or work weekends and have an extensive social network that compliments and influences the work they do.

They may other circumstances that effect their behaviour or have legitimate personal reasons for what they do and how they do it. The stress of dealing with a sick partner or close relative, problems with a spouse or increasing debt that may lead to the foreclosure of the family home, are all extreme examples of external circumstances that will definitely affect how people behave.

To avoid overreacting, ask yourself why you are so disgruntled or angry. Did you miss a deadline because of this person? Did you have to stay late because they left early? Your goal is to establish their impact on your performance and to be more open and realistic about the cause and effect of your colleague’s behaviour.

In these tough economic times, why would anyone put his or her job at risk by slacking off? It just doesn’t make sense or stand up on its own merits. There have to be other reasons affecting their behaviour.

Although, it makes perfectly logical sense to see people make more effort and to work harder now, in a recession but this is not the case. We’re actually seeing peoples’ performances dip.

Staff and managers alike, are feeling uncertain and insecure, so they spend more time dwelling on the negative aspects of their work environment i.e. talking more about the problems they are facing, rather than getting the work done. They may also want to talk about subjects that having nothing at all to do with work, as a way of taking their mind off of their job-related insecurities.

You have to consider that they may be unconsciously invoking a protective displacement behaviour, which appears frivolous and superficial to others, but is in fact a security blanket thrown over the psychologically traumatised mind, to soothe it and stop it overloading.

Some people just have different characters and simply aren’t aware of what you see as ‘time-wasting tendencies’. They see themselves as friendly, sociable and outgoing, until they are confronted about it and made to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed by it. People will only change their behaviour when it is pointed out that the behaviour they repeated show, is both inappropriate and could have painful repercussions on them, career-wise.

The real, bottom line question to ask yourself is this; Is this person’s failure to get the job done affecting your productivity, and if it is, what can you do about it?

First, try dealing with it directly and approach them yourself. For the person who continually comes into your office to chat and distract you, make it clear that have to get on with your work, but offer to talk more at the coffee break or have lunch together later.

Your intruding visitor is probably in your office just to fill in their time, not to have a serious heart-to-heart conversation, but if they do need to talk seriously then the office is never the best place. Be sure to establish that boundary without being confrontational. You are not rejecting, you are simply re-scheduling.

Focusing on the need to get your work done will make it hard for your co-worker to feel personally insulted or slighted. You are staying focused on the client, the customer and the business.Who could argue with that?

Don’t stew over the problem and vent your troubles to others. You will end up spending a lot of time dwelling on the negative performance of another person. It saps your own energy and can make you appear more negative than you really are.

The best way to handle a direct discussion with your co-worker, so they don’t become defensive, is to keep it on a professional level. Your entire discussion should be a professional presentation of the facts, cause and effect. Don’t be personal, judgmental or accusing.

Look at it as an opportunity to exercise your leadership skills. It is good practice for you, because you will have to deal with people like this throughout your career, but be careful it is not your perception. Always check for misalignment first!

If all your efforts fail to deal with your co-worker and have yielded no change, you can always escalate the problem and go to your boss, but remember, this is always as your last resort because it can reflect badly on you.

The worst case is when it is your boss that is wasting your time. Then you do need to be very diplomatic. If your boss likes to talk and socialise, you will have to try and steer the conversation back to work, without offending them.

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