In any organization, you may be asked to change or transfer to a different team or department. Depending on the size of the organization, you may find yourself working with team members that are new to you and you are new to them. On that first day, I am sure that any of us would have a desire to fit in and become a productive member of the team. So, on that first day your desire is to be as helpful as possible and demonstrate that you are a great team member. You also suspected that you may have to take on some extra work when necessary.
OK, you are ready to go, but not so fast. There may also be occasions when someone tries to take advantage of your positive attitude and demeanor to pass on (or “stiff” you with) his or her work. Also, your team leader probably has some ambitious plans to “fill your plate.” There are probably many scenarios where this may occur, but in this article we will explore three (3) of them and suggest some simple responses that you can diplomatically use to fend of the onslaught.
- Could you help me with this? – As a new team member, you could be put in a position where someone asks you to help out on a project and you agree. On the face of it, that is the right thing to do. But, on some occasions someone may have taken advantage of you. There are many cases where someone has “palmed” of some work on someone else while they were free to socialize, take long lunch breaks or leave the office on time. This is unfair, but it does happen. Here is a suggested response that can be reformatted or tailored to fit more closely with your situation.
The response – Respond to the request with a version of this template: “I would be delighted to assist you, however I have task A, B and C. I must discuss my progress with my team leader at 4:00 p.m. If those tasks are completely satisfactory and accepted, I will let you know how much time I can allocate to your request. This response emphasizes the fact that you have limited time and several important tasks or projects to complete.
- Over-delegation – Consider a situation where a colleague has significant experience in project management, for example. One of the fundamental and first steps in setting up a project is to develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This colleague has significant experience managing projects, but sends you an email requesting that you create and setup a project to remodel the office space. You might actually be interested in developing this skill, but you may not have set up a large scale project from scratch before. The requester does not know this or does not care. Here is a suggested response that can be reformatted or adjusted to fit more closely with your situation.
The response – Respond to the request with a version of this template. If you are open to learning the process, you could respond in this manner: “This sounds like an excellent opportunity, but I would need your help because of your extensive experience and expertise in project management. When can we set a meeting for you to show me the basics and setting up the WBS in The project management software system? On the other hand, if you are not interested in this skill set, you could say something like: I would love to be able to help you, but I have no experience in setting up large projects, nor do I know how to use the project management system software. So, I am not sure if I am the best person to assist on such a large and important assignment.
- A favor please – As a valued team member, there is usually at least one person who seems to become your mentor or “guru.” In due course, they begin to ask for your assistance on various tasks or assignments. Of course you feel the need to reciprocate because of the welcome and assistance that you have received. Actually, you feel obligated. Alternatively, there are team members that recognize your skill level. Cooperation is not limited to those we consider as friends, but we don’t like to be approached only because we have certain skills and someone’s deadline is imminent.
The response – Before we offer the template, it is important to consider the kind of relationship we desire with that person in the future. If you determine that you do not desire or need a relationship with this person, you could formulate a response similar to this: “I would be delighted to assist you, however I have task A, B C. I must discuss my progress with my team leader at 4:00 p.m. If those tasks are completely satisfactory and accepted, I will let you know how much time I can allocate to your request.” However, if you would like to build a relationship with this person, invite them to lunch or a coffee break. You can determine if you want a relationship with this person for business or personal reasons. You can then make a better determination of whether or not the person is just “palming” off work, or you may actually want to assist them.
Generally, all of us want to help people, but none of us want to be “used” just because we are open to helping others. Remember to be an advocate for yourself and do what is in your own best interest.
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