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Getting Colleagues to Carry Their Weight - Adam Grant

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Meaningfulness of the task matters:

Make the task more meaningful. People often slack off when they don’t feel that the task matters. When they recognize the importance of their efforts, they tend to work harder and smarter. Years ago, colleagues and I studied call center employees who were raising money for a university, but felt that their individual efforts were just a drop in the bucket. To highlight the significance of the task, we invited a scholarship student who benefited from their work to speak with the callers. It was a randomized, controlled experiment: some of the callers heard about how their fundraising had improved his life, whereas others didn’t. After a five-minute interaction with one scholarship student, the average caller spiked 142% in weekly minutes on the phone and 171% in weekly revenue raised. The largest effect was on the free riders, who quadrupled in weekly donation rates.

Transparency matters:

Show them what their peers are doing. Sometimes people simply don’t realize that they’re doing less than the norm. In this situation, the key is to help them compare their contributions against their peers. For example, a research team including the psychologist Robert Cialdini showed that people conserve more energy when they can see how much their neighbors are conserving. When the company Opower randomly assigned roughly half of 600,000 households to receive home energy reports that included neighbors’ usage, conservation skyrocketed, especially from those who were wasting a lot of energy. Once they saw that their neighbors were conserving more, they raised their own conservation efforts. Simply showing people their neighbors’ conservation rates saved as much energy as increasing the price of electricity by 11-20%.

The part about deepening relationships also resonated with me.

I liked both of these:

Make individual inputs visible. When it’s impossible to see who’s doing what, people can hide in the crowd. Once everyone knows what each group member is adding, no one wants to be seen as a slacker. In an experiment with brainstorming groups, when people submitted ideas with their names attached, they contributed 26% more ideas than when they submitted anonymously. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once put it, sunlight is “the best of disinfectants.”

Build a stronger relationship. If it’s challenging to change the task or the results, it may be time to work on the relationship. People don’t worry much about letting down strangers and acquaintances, but they feel guilty about leaving their friends in the lurch. Karau and Williams demonstrated that people stopped slacking when they worked with colleagues they liked or respected. If you can establish a personal connection, teammates often become more committed and dedicated.

I didn't realize that attaching their names makes people more likely to contribute.

It makes sense that no one wants to be seen as a slacker.

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