Q. Dear Zenagos, my work depends on receiving things from other departments at the company, but the other departments don’t deliver, and my boss doesn’t do anything about it. I’m getting criticized for being late. What can I do?
There’s no Judge Judy at work. If you are waiting for someone to solve your problem for you, you could be waiting for a long time. Most of the time, you’re going to need to come up with a solution on your own.
But isn’t HR supposed to help me?
Most employees think of their HR professional as a friend who is there to help them. Here is the list of responsibilities of an HR professional, according to Indeed (which posts thousands of HR jobs every month):
- Fostering a safe work environment
- Managing employee relations
- Administering payroll
- Managing compensation and benefits packages
- Handling disciplinary needs
- Ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations
- Overseeing training programs
- Supporting employee development
- Assisting employees
Clearly, your HR professional is too busy to deal with very many complaints from one employee that another employee is not working quickly enough. Also, if the HR person is responsible for both employee discipline and employee relations, then calling attention to yourself may invite evaluation of your performance. People who complain about co-workers are often branded finger-pointers or even trouble-makers. It may not be fair, but trying to enlist someone else to solve your problem doesn’t win you any respect.
Isn’t this my boss’ job?
Yes, some bosses can and will solve this kind of problem. A confident boss who has strong tactical and political skills can find a way to trade favors with the boss of the other department to solve a workflow problem. However, your boss has a limited number of chips to play in the game of corporate politics. Asking your boss to solve the problem makes it your boss’ problem. It certainly doesn’t demonstrate your skills as an influencer and a problem-solver. If you want to win your boss’ respect, then you want to be seen as a person who brings answers, not problems.
A less confident boss may be conflict-avoidant and unwilling to entertain friction with another department. This kind of boss can become angry with you for asking for help and may even retaliate in subtle ways. Asking this kind of boss for help can be risky.
One additional thing to consider is that your boss actually may be doing something about the problem, but your boss and your co-worker’s boss can’t talk about one employee’s discipline to another employee. It can take several rounds of a “performance improvement plan” and several months to terminate an employee for poor performance. For all you know, your boss or your co-worker’s boss have already been working on this for months.
So what do I do?
Every situation is different, but here are some tips that can help with most challenging co-worker situations:
Acknowledge Your Own Feelings
Your feelings are valid. It stinks when you depend on someone else and they don’t deliver. It is no fun, and you don’t deserve it. It isn’t fair. It’s okay to be annoyed or even angry. There should be justice in the world, and there isn’t. Feel those feelings!
Keep Your Feelings Private at Work
It may feel good to share your feelings about one co-worker with your other co-workers. You may feel that you can trust the people that you are telling. However, people are complicated. The fact is that conversations like this almost always get back to the person who is being talked about, your boss, and your boss’ boss. Share your feelings with your partner, your family, or your outside-work friends. At work, keep it professional.
Don’t Ascribe Negative Motives to Your Co-Worker
When your life is being made difficult by someone else’s behavior, it is normal to try to figure out why that person is behaving that way. You will be tempted to come up with a negative motive – that your co-worker is doing it on purpose to sabotage you or that your co-worker doesn’t like you. The truth is that you can’t know your co-worker’s thoughts or motives, and it doesn’t help to make up a story. This is going to be a challenge, but try to develop this discipline: Assume that your co-worker is going through something you don’t know about, and if you did know what it was, you would understand the behavior. Getting angry won’t solve anything, and your co-worker will be able to sense your anger and may perform even worse!
Make It a Game
Come up with a way of measuring success (such as “number of days the input is late”) and start documenting that measurement. Then, try new tactics, and see if they affect your measurement. If you compliment your co-worker on the way in to work, does that reduce the number of days late? If you start the work for your co-worker (say, by providing an outline or a list of bullet points), does that help? If you explain the benefits of the work’s being done, does that help?
If you are a justice-oriented person, it may make you angry to try helping your co-worker. After all, it isn’t right. It’s that person’s job. It should just get done. Helping them actually rewards their poor performance, right? Try to turn your thinking around. If you can demonstrate that you are a person who can influence others and make positive things happen, that will accrue to your benefit. You will be seen as a problem-solver and a winner. It’s really not about your co-worker. It’s about you and your skills.
Keep Your Boss Informed
If you are getting criticized for being late, it is important to let your boss know the root cause of the problem. But, when you share the problem, share your solution at the same time. Try something like this: “I haven’t received X yet, so I’m going to do Y, so I can still deliver.” This tells your boss what’s going on without making it your boss’s problem. And if your boss has a better solution, you’ll get to hear it.
It would be awesome if everyone performed at the same high level at work, but human beings are complicated and they have busy lives. Still, there are some people who always seem on top of their work, no matter what the people around them are doing. They are the people who stay positive, have some empathy for their co-workers, and keep experimenting until they find a way to get the job done. Make that person you!
What does human resources do? (2021, November 3). Indeed Editorial Team. Retrieved on December 11, 2022, from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/what-does-human-resources-do