Team projects are here to stay. Working with others helps expand thinking, generate new ideas, and achieve more with less. But what if a team member doesn’t pull her weight? Whether a “reluctant participant” or downright “sleeper,” a slacker can bring the whole team down. But with a little pre-planning and lots of positive energy, you can keep your team up and running – even with a slacker in your midst.
Here are Seven Strategies for Team Success (in Spite of a Slacker):
- Acknowledge the possibility upfront. Discuss and agree upon a Plan B in case an emergency, illness – or slacker – suddenly pops up.
- Conduct a team member “skills inventory” upfront, and then match team tasks accordingly. For example, one member might be good at numbers while another excels at writing. One might be a wicked-fast typist; another, a whiz at Powerpoint. Early commitment to enjoyable tasks may keep even die-hard slackers engaged.
- Set team guidelines upfront. Agree on team goals and processes. Gently remind all team members of these agreements if they seem to be “forgotten” along the way. Set a timetable with tasks, accountabilities, and deadlines. Document progress and celebrate small victories.
- Recognize and overcome “slacking” for what it might really be: shyness, confusion, insecurity, or external stressors. Accommodate as appropriate.
- Lead by example and stay upbeat. Keep up your own pace and remind the slacker that her contributions are valuable, too.
- Still won’t budge? Address the slacker firmly but diplomatically. Take responsibility for your feelings. “Sara, when everyone – but you – works so hard to do our part, we feel unfairly overburdened. We’re also afraid we’ll miss the due date or flunk the project if everyone doesn’t contribute. Are you concerned about these things?” Listen carefully to her response. Then ask, “Can you finish your part by noon tomorrow?” If she says no, take the high road: ask her, “How can we help?”
- Involve the boss (or instructor) only as a last resort. Your success (or grade) largely depends upon your ability to get the job done, even in the face of conflict.
Collaboration is non-negotiable when it comes to working on teams. But some teams need an outsider’s perspective to “keep it together” and stay on track. Scholar’s Secret can help – contact us anytime!