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So, I often send out emails regarding how to improve the team's work and productivity. Usually 2 coworkers (out of ~10-20), at most, will submit their opinions. The pattern I have discerned is this:

  • The laziest (i.e not outright lazy) coworkers will not engage in this discussion 99% of the time
  • Ultra-busy coworkers will not engage in this discussion 80% of the time
  • Managers/coworkers not in my core team (i.e people from adjacent teams in the same department) basically never bring anything to these discussions unless it's in their main scope of responsibility



My problem:
Ignoring other coworkers' plight is disrespectful to the team. Ignoring the team under-performing is disrespectful to each member in the team and all teams who depend on said team's productivity.

My goal/question:

  1. Is there a way to make coworkers feel more responsible/engaged in the team's workflow?
  2. OR should I simply find a way to cope in this culture of coworkers not bothering?
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    Email isn't a particularly good medium for more of the freeform discussion you seem to be looking for here. Have a meeting. – Dukeling Dec 11 '17 at 11:15
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    If you have ideas for new procedures to improve productivity, shouldn't you be putting those suggestions to people further up the hierarchy instead of sending mass emails to your co-workers? – Jonathon Cowley-Thom Dec 11 '17 at 11:41
  • Improving workplace efficiency is a whole field of study, and I doubt it can be covered to any real degree in an answer here. You could start by reading up on one the systems used to improve efficiency, e.g. Lean. – eirikdaude Dec 11 '17 at 11:43
  • The number of recipients is inversely proportional to the number of people that will involve themselves. This also goes for action items. Shared responsibility, is nobody's responsibility. What you are doing, while well-intentioned, is waste. If you really want to work on the team workflow, find a way to visalize it on a whiteboard and have a short stand up meeting, 10 minutes max. Expect some pushback. Ensure you have management's blessing before even starting... – Stian Yttervik Dec 11 '17 at 12:29
  • I think your real problem is that your team isn't behaving like a team. You can't make someone be part of a team. – Erik Dec 11 '17 at 12:34
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As a leader, it looks like you are trying to improve working conditions and productivity. This is a good thing, but when you say "I often..." means that you are doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

It seems to me that you are trying to get the team/group to find its own direction, when they really lack leadership. Democracy works when you have engagement and a common mission.

Without a common vision and mission in the group, everyone will just focus on their own personal needs (for some this means doing a very good job and others it means doing as little as possible).

What I recommend is that you read books and articles on leadership; especially on how to encourage people to follow your vision.

  • Thanks for this answer @Phil M. It is very apparent that your observation is a very apt description of our situation. Unfortunately I am just a team member (albeit senior) and could easily work solely as a team leader, but I have my "measly team member" duties as well, which is a focus disruptor indeed. I will try to chisel myself into a team leader which would show the manager that I am suited for building morale etc and should not spend as much time on the "grunt work" as it were. – ImmaWizzurd Dec 12 '17 at 19:44
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    Wanting to help the business succeed and improve things is laudable, throwing terms around like "measly team member" and "grunt work" however is not a good start. Imagine how your fellow team members would feel if they saw you saying as much? Also aiming for promotion by taking on extra responsibilities is great, it really is and I love to see it in those I've managed but the key word is extra, and referring to your current primary job function as a "focus distractor" spectacularly misses that point and comes over as incredibly unprofessional. – motosubatsu Dec 12 '17 at 22:08
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Mass e-mails of this type very rarely see high levels of engagement, partly because they don't generally seem particularly important and are easy to ignore - as Dukeling touches on in his comment a meeting is more likely to a) get responses and b) impress a sense of urgency and importance that a general canvassing e-mail will.

Something else I picked up on is:

I often send out emails

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "often" but if the frequency of these e-mails is too high you may actually be contributing to people's views that they aren't important and reducing their impact. They can easily become nothing more than "background noise".

Let's look at your specific points:

The laziest (i.e not outright lazy) coworkers will not engage in this discussion 99% of the time

If they already have a tendency towards laziness then it's probably not a surprise that they don't willingly engage with optional tasks.

Ultra-busy coworkers will not engage in this discussion 80% of the time

Again this shouldn't be a surprise - if someone is "ultra-busy" with their actual work then they are unlikely to be taking time out of these tasks to look at something optional, even if it was something that they would otherwise have wanted to have input on.

Managers/coworkers not in my core team (i.e people from adjacent teams in the same department) basically never bring anything to these discussions unless it's in their main scope of responsibility

Why would they? Their area of responsibility is, by it's very definition going to be the area that they look at and I wouldn't expect them to be sticking their oar in to other teams.

Honestly I think the problem you have here is either an unrealistic set of expectations, a poorly communicated message or a combination of the two.

Dukeling's suggestion of having a meeting is probably the best way to go at this point, it's more likely to get people involved and will give you a much more accurate gauge of how "bothered" your coworkers are (or not as the case may be).

  • If you are within a shouting distance of each other, I wouldn't recommend emails as items of action. If you are working in remote offices, then email is a great way as well as a phone call. In a meeting say something to the effect of, "I'd like to hear opinions on our workplace, and please feel free to send an email. I am expecting to hear something from everyone but take your time until the end of the week." – Dan Dec 11 '17 at 17:07
  • The team is comprised of people from 4 countries so emails are a must as well as audio meetings. – ImmaWizzurd Dec 12 '17 at 19:37
  • Unfortunately in our audio meetings most people remain pretty quiet which I find appalling. EDIT: i should not have said "often". Basically i send one email a week tops. – ImmaWizzurd Dec 12 '17 at 19:45
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    Once a week?? That's far too often for that sort of thing. A week is not a long enough timespan to garner any meaningful perspective on how processes etc are working, our scrum teams have retrospectives after each two week sprint which works because of the narrow focus on just that sprint. Wider process reviews outside a specific section of work (think ITIL service review type meetings) should be done quarterly at most. – motosubatsu Dec 12 '17 at 21:51

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