Author Topic: Special Snowflakes at work  (Read 3909 times)

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weschicky

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Special Snowflakes at work
« on: October 17, 2013, 12:26:11 PM »
The newest member (NM) of our firm is very focused on the single task at hand.  NM is unable to get me information because NM is too busy doing a specific task that NM deems Most Important, even though I can't even start my tasks for the project until I get information on something different from NM, even if that means I'll have to work late while wasting time waiting for something so I can get started.  NM is unable to answer the phone after the receptionist leaves because NM doesn't want to, and that might interfere with the Most Important task NM is currently focusing on.   NM is unable to commit to a date for an office party two months in the future because NM doesn't know how things will be--NM has a baby now, after all.  In our industry, there are times when project deadlines approach like a freight train at top speed and it's not uncommon for members of a firm to hop in and help with more menial tasks (the equivalent of proofreading or typing the corrections from a reviewed draft) to help get the project out the door, but NM doesn't want to just help out the team--NM does the equivalent of rewriting chapters 1-12 of a 13 chapter novel because NM seems to know best, which negates hours of previous work and can introduce conflicts in the finished product.  After-hours conversations among staff members now frequently center on how unpleasant NM is and how the dynamics of a previously pleasant workplace have shifted since the arrival of NM, so I know at least half the office feels similarly about the Newest Member of the Firm.

I have voiced my frustration with NM to the owners (we're too small to have HR).  The response was "that's just NM's personality.  NM probably doesn't realize how NM comes across." Others have done the same, with the same response.  It seems we're on our own in dealing with this.

Which leaves me wondering--what else can I do?  Is there an EHell approved way to talk to NM directly to say "you are not more special than the rest of us and it's time to learn to play as a part of a team!"

MrTango

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2013, 12:47:05 PM »
I'd go back to the owners and say "It may just be NM's personality, but that doesn't change the fact that NM's actions are detrimental to gettnig this project completed."

Turnipman

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2013, 12:58:33 PM »
Document! Document! Document!

Encourage other staff who are voicing complaints to you regarding NM to also document. During the period when you can't change this, it can be very satisfying to at least document every detail of the problem.

This will eventually come to a head, and in that meeting everyone needs to pull out their notebooks and enlighten the owners. Some day those owners will either have to make NM "Our Most Recent Former Member" or change the name of the firm to "NM and Associates, LLC." Just bide your time until that day comes.

whiskeytangofoxtrot

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2013, 01:31:21 PM »
I document with e-mail. If a SS won't get me the information I request from them in writing, I forward the previous message to them, with a comment like "in case you missed my previous inquiry" or " I'm sure you receive a lot of messages, and perhaps my previous request was overlooked or deleted unintentionally, so I'm resending for your convenience- please see original message below." Include a request for delivery and read receipts, as well. If doing that a couple of times doesn't work, I start going up the ladder, resending to them with a message like, "in case you missed my last x number of inquiries", and copying their supervisors and supervisors' supervisors, progressively. Generally that gets a response, if previous efforts don't. At the very least, I've got a message trail I can use later, if need be.

artk2002

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2013, 04:52:05 PM »
As others have said, Document!

The way to present it to the owners is how it is impacting your ability to get the job done for the company. "Task X cannot be started, much less completed, until NM provides information Y & Z. Every day NM is late is a day slip in task X." To NM, present it this way, with a CC to the bosses: "NM, information Y & Z are required for task X. In order for task X to be completed on time, we need this information by <date>. Please reply with a committed date when you will have this information." (Make sure that <date> has plenty of padding in it.)

Saying "NM's actions impact me" is whining, as far as a boss is concerned. Saying "NM actions are preventing an important thing from happening" isn't.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

hjaye

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2013, 05:35:40 PM »
......... In our industry, there are times when project deadlines approach like a freight train at top speed ...........

Sorry, I don't have anything to add in regards to your question, mainly because I think people like NM like being difficult and don't work well with others.

In regards to the quote above, it reminded me of a sign I saw in an office:

"I love deadlines! I especially love the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by."

Hmmmmm

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2013, 06:22:16 PM »
1. Boss, assignment A will be a day late because I needed X from NM by noon on Tue and NM was unable to provide it.

2. Let the phone ring after the receptionist leaves. You are busy working on your assignment that is already late because NM didn't get your info to you.

3. Plan the party without a input from NM. NM probably won't attend any way.

4. Send an email to the entire office saying "Boss, I want to make sure you are aware Suze, Bill, and Joe all helped complete X assignment by the deadline. Without our full team's engagement, we would not have had a sucessful proposal. I really enjoy working with a staff you is so supportive of each other."


VorFemme

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2013, 07:21:01 PM »
......... In our industry, there are times when project deadlines approach like a freight train at top speed ...........

Sorry, I don't have anything to add in regards to your question, mainly because I think people like NM like being difficult and don't work well with others.

In regards to the quote above, it reminded me of a sign I saw in an office:

"I love deadlines! I especially love the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by."

I had a boss in the Air Force who would let the people in the repair shops slide on turning in various awards submissions (I was the admin officer - I could polish a draft, I couldn't write one from scratch if I had no idea what Airman Whosit did that was so special to get them nominated for base, regional, or even national awards programs.

One time he granted them so much extra time that when they handed it to me, I tossed it in the trash (after they left but while the boss was still in the conference room) and told HIM that the base commander's deadline had been yesterday and that the general (0-7) did not take late submissions, period.  I had been letting people know that I had to have it no later than three days earlier (to give me time to polish it & get it read to make sure that my changes didn't ruin the meaning of what Airman Whosit did) - I didn't know all the jargon for the six different departments in our unit - I did know how to spell, write a complete sentence, and good grammar.

Apparently the boss (O-5) was in their building and was asked when the REAL deadline was and he decided, without asking the admin staff or remembering anything he'd been given in the way of information for the last few weeks (or checking the timeline on the big calendar in my office) to grant them the three days that they "needed" due to the push to fix extra whatchamaycallits due to the whatchamaycallits being in emergency status due to so many being out of service.

This was the early 1980s - no cell phones, no texting, and no email.  He "didn't have time" to read notes or memos for record - he wanted it verbally and FAST - but apparently that verbal "bullet" briefing hadn't hit his memory.

As long as that general was still the base commander and that lt col was still the unit commander - the deadlines were to be marked on the page as "date to the general's office" as well as "date to the admin officer for rewriting & typing in correct format". 
Let sleeping dragons be.......morning breath......need I say more?

PastryGoddess

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2013, 08:15:49 PM »
I agree with others.  Every time she is late in getting you something you need for a project send NM an email to both NM and the boss asking for input on the new deadline.

For example if you need X today in order to get the TPS reports done by Today+3 days.  You can say something like

"It is my understanding that the TPS report deadline has been moved back so that NM can focus on (WrongProject).  Can you let me know what the new deadline is, so I can update the project calendar.  Since that report has been pushed back, I will be working on DEF report and will have that completed by (deadline)"


If every person does this every time they are held up by NM, I think the behavior should stop pretty quickly

blarg314

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2013, 08:44:44 PM »
I agree with others.  Every time she is late in getting you something you need for a project send NM an email to both NM and the boss asking for input on the new deadline.

For example if you need X today in order to get the TPS reports done by Today+3 days.  You can say something like

"It is my understanding that the TPS report deadline has been moved back so that NM can focus on (WrongProject).  Can you let me know what the new deadline is, so I can update the project calendar.  Since that report has been pushed back, I will be working on DEF report and will have that completed by (deadline)"


If every person does this every time they are held up by NM, I think the behavior should stop pretty quickly

Yes.

The boss can do what they're doing because NM's actions don't affect the bottom line - the rest of you are picking up the slack.

You might have to be careful about how you phrase it - something like "I won't be able to complete both X and Y by the deadline, as I don't have the materials yet. Which should I prioritize?" or "We have two versions of Document A - the original one, and the one rewritten by NM. We can use either, but using the rewritten document will add two days to the completion time - which would you like us to do?"

In other words - it's now boss's problem, but in a tactful way.


weschicky

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2013, 06:38:46 AM »
You might have to be careful about how you phrase it - something like "I won't be able to complete both X and Y by the deadline, as I don't have the materials yet. Which should I prioritize?" or "We have two versions of Document A - the original one, and the one rewritten by NM. We can use either, but using the rewritten document will add two days to the completion time - which would you like us to do?"

In other words - it's now boss's problem, but in a tactful way.
I've tried a version of that. NM wants to redo an aspect of the way we do business for what I think is a really dumb reason, and I object because A. It's dumb (although I haven't shared that with the office) and B. It will cost us time and money to change everything to NM's way. I mentioned this to my Boss because I didn't want him thinking that I was objecting just to be contrary--we don't have the time, skills, or staff to fully roll out NM's suggestion, but we can implement some parts of his suggestion to the benefit of all for the cost of only the time NM's already spent. Rather than deal with it, the topic died.

Bosses don't want to deal with this. If I said I was going to be late on a deadline they'd probably tell me I hadn't taken enough initiative to get the things I need to do my work. To avoid that, I cornered NM to ask what time NM would have the files to me instead of being late on the deadline. Boss sits one one side of NM, Project Manager on the other, so I know they overheard me.

Is the best approach to document (or comment when I am sure to be overheard) and send things up the ladder, even though they're not inclined to do anything about it, or to say something to NM directly?


PastryGoddess

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2013, 08:16:23 AM »
You might have to be careful about how you phrase it - something like "I won't be able to complete both X and Y by the deadline, as I don't have the materials yet. Which should I prioritize?" or "We have two versions of Document A - the original one, and the one rewritten by NM. We can use either, but using the rewritten document will add two days to the completion time - which would you like us to do?"

In other words - it's now boss's problem, but in a tactful way.
I've tried a version of that. NM wants to redo an aspect of the way we do business for what I think is a really dumb reason, and I object because A. It's dumb (although I haven't shared that with the office) and B. It will cost us time and money to change everything to NM's way. I mentioned this to my Boss because I didn't want him thinking that I was objecting just to be contrary--we don't have the time, skills, or staff to fully roll out NM's suggestion, but we can implement some parts of his suggestion to the benefit of all for the cost of only the time NM's already spent. Rather than deal with it, the topic died.

Bosses don't want to deal with this. If I said I was going to be late on a deadline they'd probably tell me I hadn't taken enough initiative to get the things I need to do my work. To avoid that, I cornered NM to ask what time NM would have the files to me instead of being late on the deadline. Boss sits one one side of NM, Project Manager on the other, so I know they overheard me.

Is the best approach to document (or comment when I am sure to be overheard) and send things up the ladder, even though they're not inclined to do anything about it, or to say something to NM directly?



I would do both.  So start with a request of NM directly to ask for the things you need.  Then follow up with an email recapping the conversation.  Any subsequent contact should be cc'd up the chain

Also rather than say you're going to be late on a deadline, assume that the deadline has been changed and then let your bosses know what you will be working on.  this way you are CYA, while calling NM out on holding up things.  Instead of your boss hearing a complaint, and blaming you for lack of initiative. Your boss will see that you have solved your own problem.

Again, it helps if every person who is being held up by NM does that rather than just one person

NyaChan

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2013, 10:41:02 AM »
If at all possible, can you make a spreadsheet with your various tasks and projects on it? 
1) The project
2) Task necessary to complete the project
3) Person who has completed it
4) What the next task is
5) Person who is responsible for it (coughNMcough)
6) Deadline for that task's completion

Then I'd make that available to your boss so that they know what you are working on and who/what is holding up the completion of the project as a whole.

Hillia

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2013, 10:51:40 AM »
When I have a roadblock like this, I don't have any communication that isn't written.  Don't give her a chance to deny a conversation, and your boss a chance to say he didn't hear it - if he doesn't want to deal with it, he will become conveniently deaf.

So...say you need the info on the 20th, and the final deadline is the 23rd.

On the 15th, email NM: Please provide the info by the 20th so that I can do <my stuff> in time for the deadline on the 23rd.
On the 17th, email NM: Just a reminder, I need the info by the 20th
On the 19th, email NM and cc bosses: Just a reminder, I need the info by the 20th.  Critical deadline is on the 23rd; if I do not have the info, this deadline will not be met
On the 20th, email NM and cc bosses: Will the info be available today?  Critical deadline on the 23rd will not be met if I do not receive info today

Every day after the due date, email her, cc bosses, and get increasingly urgent about the deadline slipping because you don't have her input.

This nagging would be waaaay over the top for someone who was responsive and  provided required info and feedback on time, but when someone's being obstructive like this, you have to be a nag, and you have to CYA.  Your boss needs to know that the deadline will slip while there's still time to take action; telling him one day before the deadline that you're not going to make it, even if it is due to missing info from NM, will make you look bad. 

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bopper

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Re: Special Snowflakes at work
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2013, 02:24:36 PM »
"Boss, I am supposed to be doing the TPS Report and NM is not giving me the TPS measurements.  She says that she is too busy on Project X.  How should i proceed?"