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Try collaboration over criticism to motivate co-workers

Marie G. McIntyre
Tribune News Service

Q. I am having a serious problem with some lazy co-workers. As the sales manager for a conference center, I book events for customers, then send the requirements to our two event planners. Their job is to handle all the details, including room set up, catering and audiovisual needs.

The planners are quite capable of doing the work, but they just don’t seem to care. On the day of an event, they will often show up late, bring the wrong equipment or arrange the room incorrectly. Although I apologize profusely to the customers, many of them never return.

As the public representative of this facility, I’m afraid these mishaps are damaging my professional reputation. Whenever I ask my boss to make these guys do their jobs correctly, she accuses me of questioning her ability to run the department. What should I do about this?

A. Losing business through the ineptitude of others is maddening, so I understand your frustration. At this point, however, additional complaining isn’t likely to help, so you must look for other ways to influence the situation.

Start by assessing your own relationship with the planners. If they see you as an adversary, their indifference could be a passive-aggressive response to criticism. In that case, a different approach might help to get everyone on the same team.

For example: “Unfortunately, we have recently experienced a decline in repeat business. This could jeopardize our job security, so I hope we can put aside past differences and develop a plan to turn things around. Since we each play an important part in creating successful events, we will be much more effective if we work as a team.”

If the planners seem receptive, you can begin discussing the reasons why customers don’t come back. Just be sure to stay focused on solutions, avoid belaboring past mistakes and remain open to feedback about your own actions.

On the other hand, if collaboration seems unlikely, try going back to your boss. Instead of criticizing your colleagues, provide a written summary of the issues encountered by dissatisfied customers. Suggest using a staff meeting to discuss this list and create an improvement plan.

But if all else fails and the screw-ups continue, encourage disgruntled customers to contact your boss directly. Explain that you feel sure she would like a chance to address their concerns, then give them her email address. Perhaps their comments will motivate your manager to act like one and fix this problem.

Q. If someone asks you to assist with a task that is outside the parameters of your job description, what should you do?

A. That totally depends on who asks, why they are asking and what your manager expects. Some people spend so much time helping others that they get in trouble for neglecting their own duties. Others refuse to pitch in and assist co-workers who legitimately need their assistance. But one thing is certain: If the request comes from anyone in your management chain, the only acceptable response is “Happy to help!”

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”

Twitter: @officecoach