So much of getting your work done well and on time can depend on how other people in your department do their work, i:e: you need someone else’s data in order to complete your report. If they’re late or undependable you can be caught in a scenario where your work ends up looking bad or being late when it’s not your fault.
Now, most people either:
1. Keep complaining to or pleading with their erring colleague, or
2. Tell the boss ” it’s not my fault, it’s really because “X” was late with her report.”
Neither one is a good or permanent solution. If you choose #1, you end up making an enemy and/or changing nothing because Ms. X doesn’t have the same set of work standards that you do. If she did, the reports to you wouldn’t be late! If you choose #2, you’re branded a tattle-tale, and you might lose the trust of your other colleagues as well as Ms. X. Another thing is that your boss might see you as defensive, or worse yet, not a team player.
Here’s another option: Find out what goes wrong and negotiate a solution and a work plan with your colleague.
Here are the steps:
1. Explain your problem to her without being judgmental: her lateness ends up making your reports late and creates problems all around. No blame, no criticism, just a statement of the facts as they are and the consequences. Watch your tone of voice especially since you may sound accusative, critical or whining. Just give the facts, ma’am.
2. Find out what’s at the heart of her lateness problem. Again, no criticism or blame, no comparison with how it should be done. When you hear what gets her stuck, you can see through to the heart of the problem and focus on the facts, not the personalities involved.
3. Now, solicit her ideas about how to fix the problem and give some suggestions of your own. Focus on solving the issue and avoid finger-pointing. If you can work it out between the two of you, great. But you might also recognize that there really is a flaw in the system that you’re using, and attention by a higher authority is necessary.
4. Now it’s time for both of you to go the boss and explain the problem — what’s at the root of it and what suggestions you have for ways to fix it.
End results: You have solved the problem so your work doesn’t suffer any more. You have made friends with a colleague by listening, analyzing and helping with a solution rather than complaining or tattling. The boss sees you as a positive, creative force in the workplace. Not a bad outcome, right? (By the way, this advice is good for you as a manager dealing with a staff member, as well. The ability to keep away from carping/criticizing/blaming and focus only on what’s at the root of the problem and what’s a good solution is the most constructive way to get results).
So here’s your checklist:
- A problem needs to be solved by talking it through with the other party, not just complaining or tattling to the boss.
- Talk to the offending party without judgment or blame. Just state the facts of the problem, starting with “I think you may not be aware of this but…,” and the consequences.
- Discover the root of the problem; analyze why it happens and ask him/her what solutions would help fix it. Add your suggestions second, after you hear his/hers.
- If the problem is a systems one, both of you go to the boss with an analysis and suggestions. Let each of you participate but you can surely lead the discussion, since the final report is your responsibility. The boss can only see you as constructive, creative and a good mediator.