If working on team projects on the job reminds you too much of group projects at school--you're carrying the load while others slack off--it's time to get firm and set some ground rules:
Identify the slacker. He compliments you, then asks you to do something for him in the same breath. He's consistently late to team meetings. He has excuses about why he can't attend meetings or fulfill his deadlines. These are all sure signs you may be dealing with someone who is happy to let everyone else do the work.
Learn to say no. For many people, it's difficult to tell co-workers no. Mostly you don't want to create discord at work. But being someone who always says yes means you'll take on more than your fair share of the workload, which can bring down morale and create undue stress.
Confront the behavior. Sometimes all a slacker needs is for someone to call attention to the behavior. Share your concerns and be specific about the behavior that troubles you without being threatening or negative.
Give each team member an assignment. One reason that you might end up taking on more work than you should--especially if you're a Type A--is because many team projects don't have clearly defined roles. If you start a project by giving each person a specific set of tasks, that's what she'll be responsible for during the project.
Assess each team member's strengths, and try to give assignments that play to each. For example, if one team member is good at writing, give her the task of creating the copy for the website you're building. Having assignments they're qualified to do can help everyone to want to carry their own workload.
It can also help to designate a team leader. That might or might not be you, but choose someone who isn't afraid to keep team members on task and help them meet deadlines.
When It Becomes Too Much
If you feel you're being taken advantage of on a regular basis and that you have confronted the behavior but none of your efforts to resist are working, you may feel it's time to speak to your supervisor about the situation. If you go to your manager, make sure you have some documentation; otherwise it's just a "he said, she said" situation. Most importantly, if you are going to tell your manager about the slacker, the behavior should be something that personally affects YOUR work on the team. If it doesn't, it looks like you're meddling in a situation that you shouldn't.
Focus on Being a Team Player
A project at work is much more successful if your team members work together. Put aside any personal feelings toward your co-workers, and make your objective completing the project on time and with your best efforts. Communicate openly with your team, and keep any emotions out of the equation. Be an equally good listener; if there are issues others are having, address them now before they get bigger.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.
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