The Happy Fool Coworker

The topic for this chapter came from Lori (New York). She wrote,

“I have a coworker who is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He’s a great guy, and a lot of fun to be around. The only problem is that he’s horrible at his job. Everyone else on the team always seem to be picking up after him. I don’t want to hurt his feelings or get him in trouble, but he’s driving us all nuts.”

This is a tough one. The attitude says ‘great team player’ but the skills just aren’t up to par. The goal, of course, is to try and increase his (her) contribution to the team without decreasing his positive attitude.

It’s important to begin with a closer look at your coworker. In all likelihood, he already knows he is underperforming. In fact, his charming demeanour may in part be a coping mechanism for trying to mask his shortcomings. There are many people who have risen to levels beyond their abilities based just on their personalities. It’s very possible that he might never reach an adequate level of productivity in his current position, so you have to ask yourself if ‘being nice’ is a reasonable trade-off for not pulling one’s weight.
As a coworker, your options are limited. Here are a few things you can try

Look for opportunities

Look for the things he is good at, and try to steer him to opportunities in those areas

Be a mentor

Let him know that you are aware he is struggling, and offer to coach/ mentor him. Whether or not you are successful, he will always appreciate the effort

Don’t gloss over his failures

While you don’t want to scold him, make sure to say something (as nicely as possible) when he has increased your personal workload. Part of his motivation to improve will be to avoid disapproval from his fellow team members.

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