I’ve been asked to manage a low-priority, on-going project amongst my colleagues. Having been a team member on other projects, I’ve overheard the grumbling when a project manager assigns tasks to the team. Therefore, I decided to take a different approach in hopes of getting the team to enjoy the project more. After outlining what needed to get done, I sent an email asking individuals to choose their task. Well, even after a follow-up email, I’ve only had two of ten people respond. I’ve even heard from one source that the team wished I just would have assigned them a role. What should I do now?
-Flexible and Frustrated
Dear Flexible and Frustrated,
Since you mentioned this project is low priority, I’m going to assume your colleagues feel it isn’t going to gain them any bonus points in their supervisor’s eyes which doesn’t help your cause. Yet, it still needs to get done. I applaud you for having both the awareness of the team’s past complaints and chutzpah to approach this assignment in a new way. However, given the results, I would recommend bringing the team together for a short meeting. If you’re not at the same location, can you arrange a video call so everyone can see each other to create more comradery and accountability?
Here’s some phraseology: “When I was assigned to oversee Project XYZ, perhaps I was mistaken thinking you would prefer to choose a role rather than have it chosen for you. Since I only heard back from Person A & Person B, is it safe to assume the rest of you would prefer to be given a task with guidelines and deadlines?” Sit back and listen. If no one speaks up, let the silence permeated the air for a good minute. Trust me; someone will break the ice and you can determine which way to roll. Still not getting what you need? In a playful, positive tone say, “C’mon, help me out here. I’m doing my best to be hands off and still get the job done.” For those that don’t speak up, follow-up with, “Okay, so those of you without an assignment at this time will be sent an email later today containing your project outcomes.” Thank the team and sign off!