General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

Special Snowflakes at work

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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!"

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."

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.

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.

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.


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