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7 Steps to Cope With an Underperforming Colleague

We all know those coworkers — the ones that are just not getting it done. You may feel like it’s your responsibility to bring them back up to speed and into a good performance, but if you’re not their direct manager, there’s really not much you can do. Here are seven tips to lessen the frustration.

1. Remember who you are.
You are their colleague. Their co-worker. Their cubicle neighbour. You are not their boss. Therefore, your relationship is ideally one of equality and respect. You may not feel that this person is on equal ground with you, and you might be struggling to respect them. Yet, you must fake it ‘til you make it.

2. Remember who they are.
They are your colleague. They are a human being with their very own ideas about work.

3. Remember where you are.
You’re at work. You’re not at the bar. Not at a game. Not in the living room watching Game of Thrones. Keep it professional.

4. Remember the trap of insider knowledge.
Perhaps they’re also your gym buddy. Your wings-on-Friday friend. Okay. Nevertheless, do not muddy the waters with your insider knowledge. Why? Because you’re at work and this is a work conversation.Which means you don’t say things like; I know you went a little overboard Saturday night. Or, I know you’re worried about your Mom. Let them lead on what, if any, insider knowledge they choose to bring to the conversation.

5. Remember what your goal is.
What is your goal? Do you know what it is? Is it to get the work done? Is it to provide outstanding service to clients? Is it to be a rock star and get a promotion? To be part of a successful team?Are they hurting your ability to reach your goal? If not, let it go. You are not their boss. It is not your job to correct their performance.

6. Remember to ask questions.
You can cover a lot of difficult territory by asking questions. This allows you to share and receive information. Did you know the report was due at 3:00? Do you think we had different ideas about what we had to deliver?  If they don’t answer your questions, you can take those questions and reframe them so that you can share what you consider critical information. If you were to ask me whether we should review our process, I’d say that sounds helpful. I’d say that I’d like to be better prepared for our next assignment.

7. Remember to take a deep breath.
Their failure to perform is not your failure to perform. It may be crazy making and frustrating and annoying and infuriating and blood-pressure-spiking stuff. Remember to protect your health and sanity. Take a deep breath. Take a walk. Let it go.

Eventually, their performance will be managed. By someone who is responsible for managing it. And if that doesn’t happen and you just can’t stand it anymore, remember to take a deep breath and take care of you.

Tracy McCabe is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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