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Dealing With Slackers on Team Projects

written by: Rupen Sharma, PMP • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 8/23/2010

Every chain has weak links and every project has slackers, which can pull the project down. In this article, we'll explore some techniques that you can use to deal with slackers on team projects.

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    business people Why do people slack? Is it a congenital defect, or is it something that can be controlled and managed? I doubt if it is a congenital defect, unless of course, you lead a team of sloths - literally!

    Let's first address the common problem of slacking by defining the behavior. Slacking is when a team member is not performing as per expectations. Team members may show signs of slacking in the beginning of a project or during the project. Actually, slacking is virus that can hit your project at any time!

    If the Slacking Virus has hit your project, perform a fishbone analysis and figure out the root cause of the problem and then take appropriate action. Fortunately, there are some common causes that lead to slacking, which are discussed in this article.

    In this article, the following techniques for dealing with slackers on team projects are discussed:

    • Setting Expectations
    • Management Style
    • Setting Goals

    Note: This article does not address slacking caused by personal reasons.

    Image Credit: (Free Digital Photos)

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    Setting Expectations

    Looking at the definition of slacking, you'll notice that team members need to perform as per expectation. When expectations have not been communicated, team members may not know that they're slacking. The key here is to set expectations with team members and then measure against those expectations. When you share expectations with the project team, ensure you obtain buy-in from all of them.

    Without buy-in, team members will not be intrinsically motivated to meet the expectations. Also, following the basic principles of communication to ensure effective transfer of information will suffer.

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    Motivation and Management Style

    Even after you have gained buy-in on the set expectations, some team members may slack. This could be caused by motivation and the style of management you have employed. People are motivated by various factors. These factors can broadly be classified as: People-oriented, Incentive, Achieve, and Fear. Peers and incentives are great sources of motivation. Most organizations have reward-based incentive schemes to keep their staff motivated. People can also be kept motivated by driving a sense fear in them. This management style does not inculcate intrinsic motivation, rather in the long run, using fear as a motivation factor will probably lead to significant attrition within the team. Nevertheless, fear has its uses depending on the project scenario. For example, when there is no other way of handling the undesirable behavior, a project manager can use this autocratic leadership approach.

    Lastly, let's look at the Achieve motivation factor.

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    Setting Goals

    People like to achieve. This motivational technique is inherent in almost every person. Managers can help slackers by setting goals and helping them achieve these goals. This sense of accomplishment also helps build confidence in project team members. Remember, before setting goals and objectives, read the article SMART Objectives Examples for Managers.

    This article discusses some common ways for dealing with slackers on team projects. However, there are many more, such as lack of skills, that have not been addressed. When you conduct a fishbone analysis, you'll probably find many more causes of slacking.