How to Energize a Reluctant Co-worker

Dear DW,
I’m working on a group project, and one of my colleagues isn’t pulling her weight. We need all hands on deck in order for this project to succeed. What should I do?
Signed, Burdened by Too Much Weight

Dear Burdened,
Even if we don’t have a formal leadership title, we can use leadership tools to help others and drive change, says Vicki Brackett, author of The Leadership Toolbox: 14 Strategies That Build a Chain Reaction of Success.

If you confront your coworker with criticism, her defensive walls will likely go up. Instead, look for ways to motivate her.

One way may be to keep the project’s endgame in front of the entire group. “People want to believe in something bigger than themselves,” Brackett says. Remind your colleagues how your collective efforts will impact the company, and whether they will save the organization money or shatter sales expectations. Your reluctant colleague—and the rest of the team—may become more motivated to take further action.

We all need to feel valued. Acknowledge something your colleague has done right, even if it’s simply that she asked a question that helped you get your thoughts together. Your genuine appreciation might inspire her to step up her game, Brackett says.
If that doesn’t work, try pulling her aside and asking her opinion about something related to the project. Maybe you need a second set of eyes on something or you’d like her advice. Then, thank her for sharing her perspective, reminding her that her contributions are important.

Finally, suggest tackling an aspect of the project together, perhaps over a working lunch, Brackett advises. If insecurity or a lack of knowledge has been keeping her from participating, this may give her the confidence to move forward.

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