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Topics: Organizational Culture, Teams
Ghosted on a project
I need some guidance on how to handle being ghosted by a member of the project team who is reluctant to complete his tasks related to the project. As the head of training for a software firm, we rely on his input to complete the upgrade of some training material in relation to a major upgrade. It is clear that he does not 'want' to complete the work, as he continually comes up with excuses as to why he has not made progress even though it is clear he has ample time available. I have offered to help him remove any blockers he has but he will not give me any. He just says he will always be too busy. The company has a very flat reporting structure so am limited in terms of escalation options. Any suggestions from members who have dealt with similar situations would be appreciated.
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The best solution would be to get his commitment to collaborate. You can use influencing techniques for this. A good example is in the book 'Crucial Conversations'. It works but takes time to prepare.

Else
Nobody is not replaceble.

You could remove him from the project and ask somebody else to do their best to provide the solution quickly. It is a challenge. Maybe chose someone your guy respects.

Formally you could go to the sponsor and ask for help, not sure how strong or willing they are and it is better to solve such stuff yourself.

And - though unethically - you can force him out or comply. Avoid emotions on your side. Identify the key reasons for his self-image and -confidence and attack them. It is bullying and I do not recommend it, it is a common tactic though.

You are not a ghost on your project, you are the guy who makes it happen. Display this attitude.
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1 reply by David Cone
Jul 09, 2020 1:20 PM
David Cone
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Thanks so much Thomas. Appreciate your solid advice.
Although the company has a very flat reporting structure, I would assume you need to report your own progress to somebody. I would report that the stoplight color for your project is now Red, because you do not have a plan, and you can't develop a plan without input, so you need help.

You need to do a risk assessment to explain why this is a valid concern, and not that you are being overly cautious. Is the project completion going to slide day-for-day until you get input? Do you have a risk of major rework if the input is not provided? To demonstrate the importance of this issue, you need to clearly describe the consequence. I try to be conservative in this regard and show the magnitude of the problem in a best case scenario to demonstrate you are not overstating it.

If the other stakeholders don't care and provide help, you are in trouble. Sometimes that can be a valuable learning experience for the leadership team. If you come to them with a clear and present issue and they don't help, the issue may become much larger than the risk tolerance of the stakeholders.
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1 reply by David Cone
Jul 09, 2020 1:21 PM
David Cone
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Excellent advice Keith. Appreciate your reply - very helpful.
Jul 09, 2020 12:39 PM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
The best solution would be to get his commitment to collaborate. You can use influencing techniques for this. A good example is in the book 'Crucial Conversations'. It works but takes time to prepare.

Else
Nobody is not replaceble.

You could remove him from the project and ask somebody else to do their best to provide the solution quickly. It is a challenge. Maybe chose someone your guy respects.

Formally you could go to the sponsor and ask for help, not sure how strong or willing they are and it is better to solve such stuff yourself.

And - though unethically - you can force him out or comply. Avoid emotions on your side. Identify the key reasons for his self-image and -confidence and attack them. It is bullying and I do not recommend it, it is a common tactic though.

You are not a ghost on your project, you are the guy who makes it happen. Display this attitude.
Thanks so much Thomas. Appreciate your solid advice.
Jul 09, 2020 1:11 PM
Replying to Keith Novak
...
Although the company has a very flat reporting structure, I would assume you need to report your own progress to somebody. I would report that the stoplight color for your project is now Red, because you do not have a plan, and you can't develop a plan without input, so you need help.

You need to do a risk assessment to explain why this is a valid concern, and not that you are being overly cautious. Is the project completion going to slide day-for-day until you get input? Do you have a risk of major rework if the input is not provided? To demonstrate the importance of this issue, you need to clearly describe the consequence. I try to be conservative in this regard and show the magnitude of the problem in a best case scenario to demonstrate you are not overstating it.

If the other stakeholders don't care and provide help, you are in trouble. Sometimes that can be a valuable learning experience for the leadership team. If you come to them with a clear and present issue and they don't help, the issue may become much larger than the risk tolerance of the stakeholders.
Excellent advice Keith. Appreciate your reply - very helpful.
Honestly, if you can’t get a clear answer I find copying the individual’s boss on an email lights a fire under someone, unless you have the same manager in which case you can have a discussion.


I use this as a last resort for people who don’t reply to repeated emails, when all influencing fails because I find that a CYA email where I copy a manager proves that I’m trying and also covers for a situation where someone might be out of office that I don’t know about.

In the latter case, the manager will tell me then that so and so is out on emergency leave or whatever and try to get someone else to help me.
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1 reply by David Cone
Jul 09, 2020 3:21 PM
David Cone
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Great points Susan. Thank you for your reply. Appreciate it.
Assuming you have bent over backwards already to make it easy for him to help you out, then you need to find some other way to create a sense of urgency in the individual.

One way might be that if he is responsible for training-related content, let him know that if you have to find someone else to do it and the quality is lacking, this will reflect poorly on him.

Kiron
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1 reply by David Cone
Jul 09, 2020 3:20 PM
David Cone
...
You make an excellent point Kiron and that is precisely the reason this person was assigned the task.Thank you for your input. Appreciate it.
Jul 09, 2020 3:05 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
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Assuming you have bent over backwards already to make it easy for him to help you out, then you need to find some other way to create a sense of urgency in the individual.

One way might be that if he is responsible for training-related content, let him know that if you have to find someone else to do it and the quality is lacking, this will reflect poorly on him.

Kiron
You make an excellent point Kiron and that is precisely the reason this person was assigned the task.Thank you for your input. Appreciate it.
Jul 09, 2020 2:41 PM
Replying to Susan Marangos
...
Honestly, if you can’t get a clear answer I find copying the individual’s boss on an email lights a fire under someone, unless you have the same manager in which case you can have a discussion.


I use this as a last resort for people who don’t reply to repeated emails, when all influencing fails because I find that a CYA email where I copy a manager proves that I’m trying and also covers for a situation where someone might be out of office that I don’t know about.

In the latter case, the manager will tell me then that so and so is out on emergency leave or whatever and try to get someone else to help me.
Great points Susan. Thank you for your reply. Appreciate it.
Has any effort been made to establish why the individual is reluctant to participate? Knowing why may provide some direction as to best response. Typically people drag their feet when they don't understand or don't agree with the intent of the project. Maybe its personal - maybe he feels he should be in charge of the project. Being Head of Training he must have some talent and can (and has) produced good work in the past.
Find his motivation buttons and push them.
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1 reply by David Cone
Jul 09, 2020 5:19 PM
David Cone
...
Hi Peter - You raise a very good point. I have a general idea of why he is reluctant but, to your point, I have not asked the question directly. This might be a good idea to get clarity. Thank you for your input on this. Appreciate it.
Jul 09, 2020 4:51 PM
Replying to Peter Rapin
...
Has any effort been made to establish why the individual is reluctant to participate? Knowing why may provide some direction as to best response. Typically people drag their feet when they don't understand or don't agree with the intent of the project. Maybe its personal - maybe he feels he should be in charge of the project. Being Head of Training he must have some talent and can (and has) produced good work in the past.
Find his motivation buttons and push them.
Hi Peter - You raise a very good point. I have a general idea of why he is reluctant but, to your point, I have not asked the question directly. This might be a good idea to get clarity. Thank you for your input on this. Appreciate it.
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