Co-worker Not Following Procedure

Question:

Each month we are assigned to different duties. When assigned to boxes, the person doing them is to place a flash on a folder that is done incorrectly and mark what is wrong and place it on the person that has that assigned number’s desk. Then that person is responsible for correcting it. The individual assigned to this duty right now is not handling it that way. She takes any error to the lead and also shows it to everyone that is interested. She broadcasts the name of the person who made the error and makes it into a big production. Under normal circumstances, the folder would quietly be placed on someone’s desk for correction. I have been the victim of this person, too. Help!!

Signed,

No, To Making It A Big Deal


Answer:

Dear No, To Making It A Big Deal:

In short, you don’t like a coworker loudly saying, “You goofed.” The individual, I’ll call her Megan, handling folders, appears to enjoy pointing out a coworker who has made an error. And in so doing, Megan’s action points out, “You got egg on your face.” That is the opposite of what should be the norm of face-saving of a coworker.

Such belittling should be stopped. How? Here are two overlapping approaches: Confront and Establish Process Rules.

Confront. Say, “Megan, Stop!” Tell her what she is doing hurts; and it is impolite and unnecessary. Tell her that it also makes her look bad. Tell her that you don’t like her to make a “big production” of a mistake. You can do this firmly and quietly face-to-face the next time she first drops the name of one who made an error. Say, “Megan, Jon will make that correction. You don’t have to belittle him to get the error corrected. When you put his mistake in headlines and on the front page, you not only make him feel badly, you smear your self with graffiti saying, “I’m better than you.'” Establish Process Rules. Perhaps, it would be more accurate to say, re-establish process rule of how errors were handles before Megan took over. In your words that process rule was: “place a flash on a folder that is done incorrectly and mark what is wrong and place it on the person that has that assigned number’s desk.” To re-establish that rule, call a meeting of those of you involved. Or possibly you will want to have your lead call such a meeting to define the process of flagging and making corrections.

Ideally, your workgroup would have regular staff meetings; what I call skull sessions such as those held before and after games of most college and professional team sports. As you might see in our Archive under the topic of teams, we have suggested again and again that work groups hammer out do and don’t communication rules. The most important of these rules is to frequently ask and collectively answer such questions as: What went well this past week? What did we do that deserves applause? And what might we do that would make our work more effective and less frustrating?

Establishing do and don’t rules makes defining and re-defining and on-going process: what should be done, when, and by whom. Do these suggestions make sense? If not, please don’t mumble about how much you dislike Megan. Rather engage her in thinking through the meaning of my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and how that might be realized by your workplace.

William Gorden