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The Case of the Non Complying Team Member

~ By Brad Egeland

Worried businessman sitting at an office desk with documents overloaded with work

Ever had one of those individuals on your team that seemed to be a source of conflict on a regular basis? Or perhaps a team member who was always distracted, missed meetings, failed to complete tasks on time, or often did less than top-quality work…causing problems for you, the team, and the customer…likely even resulting in complaints to you and/or your executive management from the project customer? It's a painful experience to go through because it damages your reputation, causes discourse on the team, and can result in ongoing timeframe and budget issues on the project if tasks are missed or work must be redone.

If this is your project, what do you do? How do you handle a resource like this swiftly without causing further project disruptions? What decisive action or actions can you take to get the resource and the project back under control?

I've encountered this situation a couple of times and I learned the hard way the first time and then handled it better the second time by following these steps:

Review Assignments

If you have a team member like this who is not staying on task or complying with the leadership direction you are providing, start first by looking at what's on his plate. Have you overloaded him? Have you assigned him to tasks that he might not be able to complete - that might be outside his area of expertise? If this is the case then you need to take some time to modify the task assignments and get him redirected to tasks that he'll have a much better chance of success on. And if it's simply a case where you've overloaded the resource, you'll need to obviously shift some tasks to others on the team or possibly request an additional resource for the project if everyone is fully loaded already.

Go to the Source

If the assigned tasks or the resource's overall workload don't appear to be the issue then you need to go directly to the source of the issue - the non-complying team member. Discuss it with them - there may be a legitimate issue blocking their path to success on the project or ability to stay on track and follow your directions. It may be personal, it may be professional, it may be an issue they personally have with you or a team member. And it could be that they aren't even aware and they aren't trying to cause issues. Finally, it could be that they aren't up to the task for this particular project (and it's not really for you to decide if that means other projects as well - stick to your project for now).

Whatever the reason or issue, it will determine how you proceed. Is it something that the two of you can resolve? Was it merely a misunderstanding? Is it a workload issue? If so, then you need to work WITH this resource and with his supervisor to figure out where his priorities should be. If he needs to be moved off the project due to workload and task conflicts, then take the action immediately rather than later…trying to work around an insurmountable obstacle will only set your project back, throwing it off course in terms of timetable AND budget.

Go to the Supervisor

Finally, if it isn't just a workload issue that needs to be addressed…meaning if it is a case where the individual can't handle the work, won't work well with you or the team, or is simple continuing to be unprofessional, then you must go to their immediate supervisor. The supervisor must be notified, he needs to take swift action, and you need a new resource as soon as possible. You can't let the issue linger - especially if it's having a detrimental affect on the rest of the team and if it's been affecting the project. And if you're at this point in the actions you've taken, then it's no small matter and trying to 'work it out' any longer is not an option. Remove the problem and move on.

Summary

This is never a fun situation to be in, but we must be prepared as project managers and resource managers to handle these types of situations when they do come up. Has this happened to you? How have you reacted? What actions have you taken to safeguard the rest of your team, your project and the customer…and hopefully help the troubled resource as well?


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