Workplace is a complex set up of collaborative partnerships; the work of each employee depends to some level on the work of his co-workers. Especially in the current scenario, considering the scale at which the organisations are expanding their horizons, it is almost impossible to find a job where you are completely disconnected from others. And when a colleague is making mistakes, this interdependence shows up as a peril.
Positive relationships are vital to get things done at the workplace. So, when a colleague is not doing his work properly and it is affecting your performance, you should deal with the issue prudently and gently. Your approach will have to not only lead to a solution but also remove any barriers between both of you.
The first step in this direction is to find out the reason behind the mistakes. Mistakes can be anything from missing a deadline to making errors to providing misinformation. These may all be innocent mistakes or a part of well-planned conspiracy.
In case they are innocent mistakes, the cause may be lack of knowledge and experience.
Sometimes the person might be unaware of what exactly is expected from him. Or sometimes it can be the result of some issue at the personal or professional level that is bothering him.
Ascertain your findings by checking with others. At the same time make sure that you are not making unnecessary propaganda the issue.
The best way to deal with this case is to speak with your colleague directly. The conversation should be informal, promising confidentiality. Do not blame or accuse him, nor should you threaten him with serious repercussions if he fails to mend his ways. Tell him how his work is affecting yours and use concrete examples to explain what you have concluded from your observations.
Discuss the issue keeping mutual goals in mind. Richard Hackman, the author of Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances says , “We tend to attribute what’s going wrong to an individual and specifically to something dispositional about them.” This is nothing but offending the person.
If you find that the cause is some short-term problem like a health issue or difficult time at home, offer support. It can be in the form of counselling to help the person build positive relations, offering to share the person’s work and allowing him go on leave or double-checking his work. However, make sure that this is only for a short period and you are not going against the book.
If the cause is some long-term issue like lack of skills, sit with the person to discuss and arrive at a solution. May be you can suggest to him a course and institute that suit his requirements. Or you can suggest on whom to approach for advice.
Do not allow your colleague to continue making mistakes. Allan Cohen, author of Influence without Authority says, "In very competitive organisations, the temptation is to let people die on their own swords. But in those environments, it’s even more appreciated when you don’t let them die." The investment you are making today will definitely reap benefits in future. In fact this is the way professional relationships are built.
In case the person is deliberately making mistakes, which is a less frequent case, confront the person directly. If this does not work, follow the steps given below:
Make your work more visible
Be the one to make presentations when you share joint work
Take due credit
Be in constant touch with boss, let him know your contributions
Do not bad mouth the colleague
If the problem persists, try to avoid working with that person. Consider approaching your superior. Do not complain or ask your boss to intervene, but just ask for his advice.
Mistakes of a colleague can, depending on their gravity affect your performance, team’s or that of the organisation and sometimes prove too costly.
So it is better that you handle the issue at the right moment in the right way to ensure success.