Skillful Sabotage

You’re building a team of contractors or hiring employees for your small business or next project. Most candidates are wonderful people looking to make a positive impact on the marketplace, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on the look-out for the problem contractors and problem employees. Just because you’ve taken one into your fold, doesn’t mean you have to put up with the problems.

The Sniper

You know the person I mean. It’s the person that disseminates negativity through passive-aggressive comments and behavior than cause a face-to-face confrontation. It’s the person who rolls their eyes when a team player or client makes a suggestion or asks a question the sniper thinks is ridiculous or redundant. It’s the person that complains loudly when changes are made but only voices his or her opinion once the decision maker is out of the room. It’s the person that sows the seeds of doubt and discontent among the other team members and watches everything fall apart so he or she can proudly point out that they knew it was going to come to this all along, and that they’re almost always right on these sorts of things.

What’s the best approach if you’ve got a sniper in your midst? Put the sniper on the spot the next time he or she displays passive aggressive behavior and ask the group as a whole if any of them agree with the sniper’s assessment of the situation. It may not be the most comfortable way of dealing with a troublemaker, but it certainly states clearly that as the leader, you refuse to allow yourself, the rest of the team, or clients to be treated as passive targets.

The Helpless Hopeful

When this person joins the team, at first he or she seems so nice … full of hope and energy, set to get going on the next project, and sharing glory day stories about past successes. The thing is, laziness usually plays a large part in his or her professional life. This person seems competent until asked to do something important. Then they aren’t sure how it’s done and they turn to other team members to complete the job or task they were asked to complete. Manipulation is what this kind of person is best at as they swear that if other team members ever find themselves in a bad spot, they’ll absolutely return the favor. The thing is they very rarely do return the favor and they almost always ride on the coattails of their fellow team members.

What’s the best approach if you’ve got a helpless hopeful in your midst? Make it clear to each team member that they are responsible for their own portfolio as each portfolio was determined based on the credentials each team member presented to the team leader. State clearly that any problems are to be brought to the team leader’s attention as soon as they appear so additional supports can be put in place to facilitate the resolution. And let every one on the team know that each portfolio has been created with a specific timeline in place.

The Enlightened Educator

While there’s nothing wrong with team members sharing what they know, the fact of the matter is that each team member is brought on to a project because they bring with them a specific skill set. There’s nothing wrong with sharing what you know on various subjects, however, when each team member is a knowledgeable professional in their own right, chances are that none of them has all the skill sets required to make the project a success. This is where the enlightened educator can unintentionally sabotage the success of a project. Whether they mean to sabotage it is immaterial because their constant sharing of personal anecdotes and snippets gleaned from Internet newsfeeds slows down the entire process.

What’s the best approach if you’ve got an enlightened educator in your midst? Acknowledge that this person truly wants to help. Acknowledge that their personal anecdotes are interesting. Acknowledge that sharing information is valued. However, underscore that the project operates on nuts-and-bolts realities that have proven to work in the past and suggest that the enlightened educator submit his or her ideas to the team leader in writing. By doing this, everyone feels appreciated and knows that they can be heard by the team leader by simply putting their ideas in a document and submitting it for consideration.

The Joker

This team member is the most social of any group and is, for the most part, a pretty likable person. However, jokers tend to fail to understand that not every situation is waiting for him or her to take center stage and regale others with their witty repartee and zazzy insights. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t place for the occasional chuckle or silly comment. This is, after all, the real world where people collaborate and interact all the time. But a joker can really mess things up by distracting other team members and frustrating the group as a whole when work needs to get done.

What’s the best approach if you’ve got a joker in your midst? Give him or her a chance to shine as a comedian in a controlled setting. Set aside a few minutes before the team breaks for lunch or at the end of the day for the entire group to kick back, relax and let off steam. It’s a guarantee that the joker is going to grab those moments to make the most of his or her zaniness and provides other team members with the option to stick around to hear the humor or to discretely sneak out for lunch or leave the work premises.

Now that you know how your team may accidentally be sabotaged by certain types of contractors and employees, you can keep these strategies at your fingertips and address problems before they undo the entire team.  Everyone — including the sniper, the helpless hopeful, the enlightened educator, and the joker — will appreciate your efforts as the team leader to keep everything running smoothly, efficiently, and on schedule.

Elyse Bruce


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