Team Member Doesn’t Share In Collaborative Tasks

A new team (two members and a lead) was recently formed to provide technical support for a new product. I started a few weeks before the second member and built up some knowledge and resources. As soon as the new member joined, I shared everything I had.

Two tasks were put to the team and we decided that we would meet to discuss the best way forward. However, the new team member has spent a great deal of time to move forward with the task without discussing it with me and sharing any of the documentation until I mentioned it today.

This makes me think that there is potential for competition conflict to arise, and for such a small team this would be a big problem.

I would like to know how best to handle this? Is it possible to keep somebody like this onside without directly addressing the issue? At this stage, it would seem petty to me to ask why he had not discussed a team task for which we are both responsible before going ahead.

The Team Doc Says…

Given what you've described, it probably feels like a slap in the face since you were so open to sharing when this new team member came on board.

It's not clear to me whether you are the lead on this team or not. I'm assuming you are not or you would have already taken the bull by the horns and dealt with this issue.

This situation is unacceptable. When a task is supposed to be shared between team members, that's what should happen.

So let's assume the team member was acting with good intent. Perhaps he was getting prepared to collaborate with you so the two of you could move the task forward. That's a good thing. Maybe not as collaborative as you would like, but his focus was on a good outcome.

On the other hand, let's assume he just doesn't like working in a team and wanted to do it all himself. That's not a good thing. And you got left with the short end of the stick. This may be an indicator of how this team member will behave going forward.

It would definitely not be petty of you to address this issue with your team member. The two of you need to have a good working relationship or your team will be sunk. I recommend you have a conversation with him to set the stage for your future work together. Don't make it a confrontation, use an information seeking approach such as,

“John, you and I were tagged with working on the x project together. Before we could get started, you did a lot of the work and brought it to the table. While I appreciate your enthusiasm and effort, I was wondering why you felt you needed to do that rather than the two of us work on it together?”

Then, just listen. At the end of the discussion, identify some working agreements that will help the two of you move forward. And do let me know how this works out for you.


About Denise O'Berry

Denise O'Berry is President of The Small Business Edge Corp, a small business consulting firm. A small business owner since 1996, Denise understands the challenges facing small business. She's lived them herself and helped hundreds of clients work through the frustrations, fears, and joys of owning a small business. Denise is the author of Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success, a practical guide about keeping the cash in your business - where it belongs. Find more resources and tips at deniseoberry.com and askteamdoc.com