Office Coach: Gripes won't avert errors

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Question: I have been struggling for months to keep up with a steadily increasing workload. My manager recognized the problem and assigned a co-worker to help, but this is doing more harm than good. Although "Rachel" completes tasks quickly, she tends to make a lot of errors.

Now, in addition to doing my own work, I have to spend time fixing Rachel's mistakes. I don't want to sound unappreciative, but her assistance has actually made my job more difficult. Whenever I mention this to my boss, he immediately defends Rachel. What should I do?

Answer: If you can choose what to delegate to your error-prone colleague, you might try giving her tasks which are simpler or more familiar. But if you have no choice about her assignment, perhaps you should rethink the way you handle her mistakes.

As long as you continue to fix her blunders, Rachel will never learn to do things properly. Completing the work yourself only fosters her incompetence, so consider returning the errors to her for correction. While this may take more time initially, it will help Rachel become a more useful assistant.

A third possibility is to revise the way you present this issue to your boss. Based on his defensive reaction, I assume you have been complaining about Rachel's ineptitude, but a better strategy is to request his help in solving a business problem.

Here's what complaining sounds like: "Rachel makes so many mistakes that she's really no help at all. Working with her only makes my job more difficult."

This is a more effective approach: "I really appreciate your asking Rachel to help out with my heavy workload. My only concern is that her lack of experience limits her ability to do these tasks correctly. Since working with her hasn't saved any time, I'd like to discuss some other possible solutions."

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach; www.yourofficecoach.com.


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