One of my major responsibilities is creating a bi-monthly newsletter. I have to work with a copy editor who is holding onto projects for weeks and pushing us further behind on our deadline. I can't reprimand her because she is actually an administrative assistant for a different department who copy edits because she is good at it. She gets overly angry with any sort of comment about her performance. She is always right and never wrong. Now she is causing problems with the other office diva who's the graphic designer building the newsletter. He also has terrible time management and doesn't take constructive criticism.

How do I get my copy editor to return things on time?

  • No, she is purposely making us late on our deadlines. I'm worried that she will never be motivated to complete them. – CDan Feb 20 '18 at 20:31
  • @CDan Are you required to get her sign-off before publishing? Is there someone else you can use as a copy-editor, or can you just go ahead and publish before she has done her part? – David K Feb 20 '18 at 20:46
  • Currently, I'm pushing ahead without her, because there is no one else I can use as a copy-editor but myself. I hate to cut her out of it because she's going to make my life hell, but if that's the only way forward, I'm fine with it. – CDan Feb 20 '18 at 21:44
  • @CDan, If you can't find anyone to be your copy editor within the company, you could outsource the copy editing to someone on the internet if your department has a budget for it. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 21 '18 at 10:49

"she [..] copy edits because she is good at it"

Define [it], because she's obviously not good at being a copy editor for your project. To make an obvious example: Someone who's good at knowing the law isn't necessarily a good lawyer who makes clients happy and resolves their disputes. Since she's not good at that thing she only does because she's good at it, find whoever is in charge of your project and flag this as a concern. If they are sufficiently competent they will find a "good" replacement.

The specific reasons for this answer are:

  1. Worker is outside of the hierarchy of the project, is not held responsible.
  2. Worker is underperforming.
  3. Worker is difficult to talk to.
  4. Worker has toxic effect on the rest of the team.

If the problem was merely 1+2, I would recommend different approaches, such as trying to involve her boss to ensure she actually has the time to do the job, and receives recognition for it.

  • This is incredibly helpful. It defined is she has always held the position in the 20+ years she's been working, to my 7 months. – CDan Feb 20 '18 at 21:48
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    @CDan While it may feel that working somewhere for only 7 months means your words won't have much weight, it allows you to really ask for why the current situation is allowed to exist. Put away all of your preconceptions, and put the question in the style of "There's probably something I am missing since I am still fairly new, but why do we rely on person X for this task when it seems quite clear they don't have time to do it?". Probably you will receive the answer that you expect, which allows you to ask "okay, but why is that?" to get to the real reason. – Cronax Feb 21 '18 at 9:14
  • @CDan - It does feel like she doesn't even want or need the duty. As long as she doesn't feel insulted, she may not even fight for it (your project manager should contact her boss so they can sell it as giving her more time to do her great work in her own department). If she does happen to feel insulted, things could get more difficult - but remember, different department also means she has far fewer options to fight back. – Peter Feb 21 '18 at 9:51

I agree with Peter, to some extent. While she might have the technical chops for copy editing, if she were actually a good copy editor, she wouldn't be the cause of your projects missing their deadlines.

It also sounds like this isn't really considered part of her job duties, but rather something she or others might feel is a tremendous favor to you, and, because of that, she feels that she's somewhat above accountability.

What can you do to make her get it to you in a more timely fashion? I'm guessing that there's nothing you can do. What you can do is talk to your boss about reassigning that work to someone who will have it as part of their job duties/description. You need someone who is invested and feels accountable to your team.

Maybe the person won't have the technical skills, at first, but if they get the work to you under deadline, then you'll have time to correct any issues and still get it back without grinding your projects to a halt, or forcing people so sit around in wait mode, and then have to shift into hurried panic mode because they're scrambling to minimize the amount of time the deadline is missed by.

And if the person is invested in doing this work, their skills will improve rapidly.

Replace the current person, she's not interested in being part of your team, even in a tangential way.

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