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Passive-aggressive behavior

By SGM999 ·
Please give me some tips on dealing with passive-aggressive behavior. The staff members refuse to discuss, or even admit to any problems.

I am a project manager with no direct reports. Instead, I must borrow staff from oher managers (both IS and users). I am careful to put all information requests and deliverables assignments in writing. I follow-up my emails by discussion with the managers and the staff. I have no hire/fire power, but I am responsible for time and budget of my project.

How do I deal with unacceptible work, e.g., poor quality deliverables or ignored assignments. Staff excuses range from "I didn't understand," (but never asked me any questions) and "I asked Jane to do it for me," to THE MOST irritating, "I don't remember [any assignment/conversation]."

Any advice for me???

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Passive-aggressive behavior

by kranky In reply to Passive-aggressive behavi ...

First, is it possible to get quality work? In other words, are others getting good cooperation, but you are not? If the quality of the staff is such that the talent to get good results is lacking, there's no point to trying to solve the problem.

But if you believe it's possible, here's a couple things you can try.

You have to get the staff assigned to you to understand that good results are required. It's tough when you have no direct authority over the people on your project, but you canstill create an atmosphere of quality. Start with weekly meetings of all the people on the team. In advance of the meeting, distribute an agenda and attach an "action item list" - all the assignments that aren't done, who is responsible, the budget,and the due date. People are much less likely to not do the work when their name is on the list, it's distributed to many others, and they would have to admit failure at the meeting in front of others.

That way when you hear those tired excuses,you have a legitimate rebuttal.

They say "I didn't understand" - you say "You didn't have any questions last week when we reviewed the action items. What happened?" They say "I asked Jane to do it" - you say "But you are the person responsible, as noted on the action item list."

Measure your progress in small steps so you can step in immediately if things are slipping. Try to project an attitude of expecting results, not hoping for them. And hold yourself to high standards also, as an example to the rest of the project team.

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Passive-aggressive behavior

by SGM999 In reply to Passive-aggressive behavi ...

Good thoughts! Staff quality varies considerably, and I dislike being a trainer when I'm under time pressure.

I did institute your idea of publishing "action items" WITH NAMES. Successful with one person already!!

Thanks for your help.

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Passive-aggressive behavior

by JoOehrlein In reply to Passive-aggressive behavi ...

To the "I don't remember" crew, I usually respond with a copy of my initial e-mail, as well as any follow-ups. Since you say you're careful to put everything in writing, this shouldn't be a problem.

Is this the same problem group all the time, ordoes this happen with every staff member that you "borrow"?

When you receive poor quality work, I would carefully go over it with the person completing the work to show them what needs changing and ask them to make the changes. I would give them a deadline and point out why you need it so soon (Joe's waiting on it, we need it for a presentation to the director's tomorrow, etc.). I would follow up on the conversation with an e-mail that lists the changes y'all agreed on and I would copy the manager. Essentially you're training the staff on what you expect. After a couple of assignments, they should know. If there's still a problem, I would sit down with the person's manager and discuss the problem. Maybe they have insight into the issue.

I would try to head off ignored assignments so that they can't be ignored. After an assignment has been made, I would follow up to ensure that there are no questions. That could be anywhere from the same day to a week later, depending on the estimated length of the assignment. Always end that conversation with a comment that they should contact you immediately if there are any questions. This prevents both the "I didn't understand" and "I don't remember" excuses. If people never seem to understand the assignment, ask someone outside the project to read it and see if they understand what you want. Perhaps there's a communication issue.

Also, I would work with the staff's managers to ensure that the staff has adequate time to work on your project. Perhaps they're ignoring your work because they're being given tons of other high priority work and it's easiest to slough you off since they don't report to you.

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Passive-aggressive behavior

by SGM999 In reply to Passive-aggressive behavi ...

I admit, my troubles are with only a few people. And I believe that all wish to do a good job.

Your point well taken about work overload. I spoke with one manager and that appears to be the problem. And staff member is too timid to speak up. Manager and I agreed to coordinate better.

Good answer!

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Passive-aggressive behavior

by RealGem In reply to Passive-aggressive behavi ...

Wow! First of all, find out why this is happening. Don't try to apply a solution until you know the problem, and I don't mean the excuse. Here are some possible root causes that you might want to investigate:

1. The borrowed staff are busy with other assignments, and yours is just not a priority because you have no authority.

2. The staff don't like you and are deliberately trying to undermine your position.

3. Staff really don't understand what you want.

Keep on communicating. On the date that an assignment is supposed to start, check in with that person on that date. Do the same on the planned end date. Do the same in the middle of the task.

As the project moves along, give the team updates on when their assignments are scheduled and how things are changing.

As for quality and content, make sure that you tell them what you expect. For deliverables, give them a template that shows the content you want. Or, give them a quality specification or checklist. Ideally, you should develop these things with them instead of just dropping it on them. And, do it during the planning stage so that they know what they are estimating.

Good luck.

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Passive-aggressive behavior

by SGM999 In reply to Passive-aggressive behavi ...

Good suggestion to focus on causes first--The reasons do differ from person to person.

Your #1. and #3. seem true and I must address. I hope that #2. is not true (but I'll investigate anyway).

I like you idea of checklists. Seems a lot quicker than developing templates.

Thanks for your help.

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Passive-aggressive behavior

by SGM999 In reply to Passive-aggressive behavi ...

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