The Graduate School of Management at UC Davis first year MBA candidates: Michael Delehant, Lauren Davis, Evan Benway, David Cain, Matt Auman, and Brooke Dodson completed a case and provided their advice on what do to do when a member of a team doesn’t pull their own weight.
Solution: Hold A “State of the Union” Meeting
Hopefully, one person is comfortable acting as the leader or there is a formal leader or project manager defined. This person will take the first action, after the other team members have expressed their frustration with the “slacking” team member. By sending an email (or text or call), this leader can bring the team together to discuss how everyone is proceeding with the project. Once a date/time/location is agreed upon, the leader sends the formal meeting invitation, and asks each team member to come with a general status update on the tasks that they were assigned or took on at the start of the project.
At the meeting, the defined or “default” leader becomes the project tracker (or defines someone else to take on this role). By using a white board or a project tracker (i.e. an excel spreadsheet emailed after the meeting), the leader constructs a diagram or outline that shows each person’s name. As each person names his/her tasks, the leader can list them under their name. Then he/she checks or crosses off each one as the person reports its completion. Be sure that the leader does this for all members, including the person who is “slacking.” When it’s his/her turn, list the tasks that he/she reports as being assigned. Be sure that this person mentions every task that the team thinks he/she is charged with completing. Then, as it becomes evident that very few have been completed, allow other team members to offer assistance or ask what might make it easier for this person to complete these tasks.
The feedback will be most effective if it is more “helpful” and less accusatory. The leader should encourage everyone to keep an upbeat tone, but strive to reach a real response with actionable recommendations for how the “slacking” teammate should proceed from here. At the close of the meeting, each person reiterates his/her next steps and agrees to the next “check-in” date or meeting. If, by then, the team member has not improved, then it’s time to move on to using more direct language, defining one person as the lead communicator who can directly communicate with this individual to let him/her know that his/her performance is detrimental to the group’s progress. Again, the communicator should be as positive as possible, asking how to help accomplish the task at hand. Keep the whole team involved and abreast to the progress on changing the behavior of the individual, so that everyone is aware of the situation. The overall goal is to increase personal accountability and achieve the task at hand without creating tension amongst all team members, which can further distract from completing the project.