Help! My Colleagues Are Stressing Me Out!
Are you stressed at work? Expert career coach Leslie Juvin-Acker discusses ways to deal with situations that can leave you stressed at work.
I received a message from a stressed and exhausted professional who is having a tough time dealing with her team and learning how to let go of control. Find out this professional’s problem and my recommended strategy for accessing the situation and applying some techniques to find more peace and confidence on the job.
I have gone to my manager with my (work) frustrations and I believe he is working towards a solutions to help out such as holding team meetings and resource planning.
I believe a lot of the issue is with my manager’s boss (director) who is way too far in the weeds as well as seems to be favoring one developer over others. Add to the fact that this developer is not a good team player, i.e. never communicates, shares the workload, and sits on projects, I feel like I’m having to pick up after him and we have incomplete work from our team that could have been done ages ago. It might be that the others developers feel this way too, but I don’t feel like a team. I feel we’re disorganized and not communicating which is leading to frustrations. And I am certain that since our manager and director who do not understand technology, they cannot efficient run a team of developers.
Lately, I’ve been questioning if I’m just taking things overboard because I’m not the lead, I’m not in control (I used to manage the developers), and I feel used as I’m not getting recognized for the hard work i’ve put in. Maybe they do notice and I’m looking to get extra special treatment. I just wonder if i’m just not a good team player; that I need to recognize to look for the team to get approval/awards and not look to get singled out. I just feel that I’m carrying a lot of the work load and no one notices.
There are two steps of dealing with this situation. The first being handling the practical matters than can make a difference right away and the second being looking within to better understand our own personal motivations for work and what we really need to be satisfied on the job.
1. Look at the concept of the team differently. Men and women tend to view the concept of the team differently; To men, a team consists of specialized individuals who contribute to different aspects of the production. Women, on the other hand, view the concept of team as a group of individuals who share responsibilities. This perception explains why you’re taking on your co-worker’s work.
I’m not saying to look at everything as a man and start behaving like one to be taken seriously. I’m saying that perhaps your ‘lazy’ colleague knows you’re going to pick up after him because you will naturally pick up the slack to get things done. Unfortunately, you’re not just picking up the slack, you’re carrying burdens and stresses that you’re not paid to carry.
2. Find out why this particular developer is ‘the chosen one’. In the working world, especially in group environments, everyone takes on a type of role. To me, this person sounds like a saboteur who purposely tries to throw people off so he can look good to his superiors and will find any excuse to blame others for any lags in performance. He might even be using his technical knowledge to confound and amaze your manager and director.
Take the time to get closure and understanding as to what makes this guy so special to your director. By doing so, you’ll find how he’s able to manipulate his superiors and take advantage of other team members (if that, indeed, is what he’s doing). Don’t get obsessive, just be observant. By observing his behavior and interactions, you’ll be able to counteract his ‘tactics’ and find out what makes him successful in your eyes.
3. Hold this guy and other team mates accountable in your communications. If this irresponsible team mate is dragging you down, hold him accountable to his job description – even if it means you have to read up on what that is. If he has a particular deadline that you and the rest of the team need, hold him to it and be sure to be clear in your e-mail, written, and team discussion conversations. The more that is done in the public and said aloud, the clearer you are to state your boundaries and actual needs.
Be careful not to be a busy body telling others “what to do”. Everyone has a particular job, so expect that they are fully aware and capable to do it. Make sure you keep your attitude in check, which is most often the toughest part, when you set your boundaries.
4. Determine your exact job description, live up to it and maintain a paper trail. Since you’re holding this teammate accountable, the same must apply to you. Re-read your job description again and if you’re unsure, ask your manager. Do those tasks and jobs as listed in your job description and do them to the best of your ability.
Keep notes on your progress and discussions held in each meeting. Keep a paper trail and write reports on your work. Submit them to your boss from time to time and invite a discussion on the progress of your performance and the caliber of your work – let the focus be on you and you alone. Your manager will see that you’re taking responsibility for your work and leaving it to that; your discussions will surely identify any holes in the team performance. If anything, if any laggers make any attempts to pass the buck to you, you can refer to your ‘journal’ and prove otherwise.
1. Ask yourself, “Why am I here?” Now is the time to ask yourself some serious questions about why you are in the place you are in. Why have you gone from a leadership position to a non-leadership position? Is there something in your leadership abilities that you are lacking?Are there some lessons you need to learn in order to move up to the next phase in your career?
I firmly believe that we are in the exact position we are in because A. We have chosen to put ourselves here through our previous actions and decisions and B. We must become more aware of who we are and the situations that unfold to reveal the answers we need to further evolve spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
What do you feel you’re learning by taking a backseat role and by dealing with colleagues who make your work life difficult? You know the answer, it’s there within you, be honest in your response.
2. What do I want VS what do I really need? Obviously, everyone works to pay the bills and to create an enjoyable lifestyle for themselves and for their families. However, the subject of work raises esoteric questions regarding spiritual and emotional fulfillment. Now is the time to get real and answer these questions that might lend answers for helping you deal with this work situation.
Ask yourself the top three to five things you want and really need out of your work life. Do you really want attention and praise for your work? Or, do you really need a recognizable track record of success so that you can either move up or move on? Do you want people to follow your recommendations and instructions or do you really need people to recognize your expertise and value your contribution as a mature professional and leader? Do you really want praise or do you just need validation of a job well done? Can you see where I’m going with these questions?
Sometimes, our deepest desires are covered by wants. We think these wants will satisfy our needs, but typically we go about achieving them in the wrong ways. When we get honest and clear about our deepest needs, the answers for how to achieve them become clearer as well.
3. Identify what type of control is good control. Everyone who works in a team environment believes they have the secret to group success. If only so and so was more on time with his work and if I could fire X person and replace him/her with someone with more skills, then our team would get the job done. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which control is a mere illusion. People confuse the ability to control with the power to create. I get a sense that you’re trying to create a smoother, more efficient work environment. However, you’re so blinded by the idea of getting control of how others see the reality around them and controlling how they behave that you’re running around in circles exhausting yourself.
Instead of focusing on getting and having control, focus on what you have the power to create or change. It’s like Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” That powerful statement reminds us that exterior change is A. a reflection of our deepest beliefs and motives and B. a reminder that we have the power to create change, rather than to control the behaviors of others. When we focus on making our work shine more, taking our performance to go to the next levels, and showing our colleagues the type of colleagues we want to be around by setting the example, then everyone else will either join you in this effort of excellence or weed themselves out because they’re not ready for greatness. They might even push you out – but that is the risk you’ll have to face with courage.
4. Clarify your definition of a leader. What does being a leader really mean to you? Does it mean having control or does it mean having the respect of others? You can be a leader and not have to have the title of ‘manager’ or ‘director’.
Leaders are people who maintain a vision of excellence and employ that vision at all times. Leaders are consistent in their thoughts, words, and actions. Leaders have developed relationships that are accountable because they are accountable. People respect leaders not because of a title, but because of the actual difference they make. Anyone can be a leader, and that includes you.
You’ll see that you will no longer beg for attention or ask for praise because you are confident in yourself and in your vision of excellence. People will freely give praise and admiration to people they respect and trust. Can people respect and trust the work you do? You’ll notice that people will begin coming to you because they know they can trust you and that your performance is consistent in addition to asking for your insight or advice. Remember, respect and leadership is earned through consistency of action – more than any speech or rhetoric or gossip can garner. By these definitions, ask yourself, am I a leader?
With all of this said, I can simply say that you have a lot of thinking and work to do. Start observing your surroundings to get clarification regarding the situations you face and begin asking yourself tough questions that will further clarify your motives and the root of your personal frustrations. By embarking upon these two strategies, the action plan will become increasingly clear.
Leslie, Inc. offers solutions for finding happiness through one-on-one coaching, mindful leadership retreats, and digital products. If you’re ready to GET HAPPY, check out Leslie’s guide packs. For more tips on achieving your state of happiness, sign up for Leslie, Inc’s weekly newsletter.