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Help! My Co-Worker Has Poor Boundaries


Boundaries are knowing where one person’s job ends and another person’s begins. A coworker with bad boundaries takes advantage of others — unless you know how to handle him.

(Photo Credit: nathangibbs/Flickr)

Occasionally, we all need a helping hand. It is nice to work in an environment in which coworkers are willing to help each other out when necessary. The problem is when one coworker assumes that others are simply there to pick up his slack.

Don’t do their work for them.

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Imagine this scenario: your coworker gets a phone call that her child is sick and she must leave to pick her up. She asks if you have time to finish something up for her this afternoon. In this situation, one would hope that any other employee would make the time to help. And on an occasional basis, this is OK.

Some employees, though, take advantage of that goodwill. When, “I have to leave now” happens every week, resentment can build among the teammates who do the extra work. In this case, it is appropriate to say, “When will you finish the reports for tomorrow morning’s meeting?” She may say, “later tonight” or “I’ll come in early tomorrow.” However, if the answer is, “thanks for getting that for me!” don’t do it.

Don’t be afraid to talk to management.

Talking to management does not mean whining and tattling. Rather, it means pointing out what gets done and what does not. In the scenario above, you may say, “Sorry, Bob, but I can’t this time. I’ll get the manager so we can figure this out.” There is no reason you should feel guilty about not doing Bob’s work.

If management is unaware that this happens often, you may be the one who looks like you are not being a team player. It is appropriate to calmly point out your own job responsibilities, and if you are accused of not helping, mention the times you have covered Bob’s responsibilities for him.

In the long run, somebody else saying, “I can’t” or “I have to leave work unfinished” reflects on that person, not on you.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you do when a teammate is not doing his job? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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