"Oh oops I forgot", " What?? Oh yeah I guess I remember now, what was that detail again?" How to address a colleague that constantly drops balls?

Edited to add: e.g. I told them how to do task X yesterday (and it's a simple one) but it seems to have gone in one ear and out the other - and when reminded of it, I just get "oh yes now you say that it sounds vaguely familiar".... Or in another example, leaving on the dot with a task half finished and when it screws up other's work, saying " yeah I suppose I shouldn't have done that" or such like. I point out the errors in a 'helpful' way but they just bounce off..

They're a "co" worker, not a direct report. If they reported to me I'd have it sorted quickly!!

  • 8
    ...stop tossing balls to him? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – Caffeinated Dec 18 '15 at 21:10
  • 4
    Make sure you have a paper trail on anything you're involved with so that you're clear. Then don't let it worry you, if they mess up, they mess up. With any luck they'll be fired and out of your hair. – Kilisi Dec 18 '15 at 22:08
  • 1
    Not sure why this was put on hold because then we would need to put 100 other questions on hold. You can add more info - maybe an example - but I voted to reopen. – blankip Dec 19 '15 at 18:44
  • Email, Email, Email... – CGCampbell Dec 19 '15 at 19:04
  • What do I need to add/change further to the edit, to get it reopened? – user43744 Dec 19 '15 at 19:09

Follow up on every single work related conversation with this employee via email. I would even go as far as to say never have the same conversation more than once and the rest is in writing.

It doesn't have to be a project manager type of email. You can even disguise it as a thank you email.

Hey Tom

Thanks for agreeing to help fix this this and this by the 15th. I really appreciate your help and if you need anything please shoot me an email.

Note that these are also the types of people that want to do everything via meetings or conversation. Again no matter how agonizing it is for you to have these conversations leave them clear bullet point actions via email after.

The good news is if you do this and this employee knows they have issues, they will only deal with you when they have to - so you win in two ways.

  • 2
    I don't like the idea of taking notes for someone because they are too lazy to do this themselves. These kinds of people in a couple of days will start bothering me again even if i sent them everything as they forget that they got the email – Andrey Dec 18 '15 at 21:57
  • 2
    @Audrey - Of course. But then that is something tangible to take to your boss and then let them deal with it. – blankip Dec 18 '15 at 22:26
  • 2
    And then your response is: "It's in the email I sent you on Monday." – HLGEM Dec 18 '15 at 22:51
  • @HLGEM - YES! But that type of employee also doesn't look at emails unless sent by his boss. So chances are that conversation will happen. The key to dealing with an employee like this is not sending the emails - that is the given and only way to deal with them. The key is to not go absolutely apeshit berserk on them before they are properly dealt with. I hate when I have to discipline a good employee that goes a little nuts because of dealing with this type of employee. We know whose fault it is. – blankip Dec 19 '15 at 0:08

How many tasks does this person have going at any time? Is there a way of tracking his or her tasks? You didn't specify whether the colleague is overworked or not.

Some people do better in some situations that others. I know brilliant people who work best on one thing at a time and tend to "drop the ball" when assigned a myriad of tasks and I know idiots that are otherwise capable of handling numerous tasks under huge pressure. I'd rather have the idiot as my waiter and the ball-dropper as my mechanic.

You could consider going to an organized system of task management. Google "project management software" for a list of professional solutions. There are also open-source things like Kanboard which are very easy for someone with a bit of programming knowledge to set up.

Maybe your colleague is an idiot, but if he's being assigned tasks by his or her manager verbally telling them once, leadership could be part of the problem as well.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .