People work around my colleague, help!

People work around my colleague, help!

My colleague is a subject matter expert. However, he is also an *ss. I am constantly cleaning up after him. Everyone constantly excuses his behavior because he provides so much value. Any suggestions? P.A., New York, NY

This situation is a good reminder that how your value is perceived by influencers has a major impact on your work life. If his behavior truly is “constantly excuse[d]”, then his value is worth more to the business than the disruption he causes.

As his colleague you are not responsible for managing (i.e., “fixing”) his behavior. If his behavior is impacting your work in a practical way—causing inefficiencies, ineffectiveness, etc.—then you need to raise the issue with your manager. If it’s just a frustration for you, then you need to refocus your attention on your own deliverables and let his situation play out. It’s not your problem to solve and involving yourself has no upside for you.

If you need to raise the issue with your manager, keep your tone/language as neutral as possible and stay focused on the bigger impact of the disruption. It could sound something like, “Mark, I’m concerned about how Project X is progressing. As you know, we have a hard deadline of Y and a big part of our deliverable is the [whatever your colleague supplies, e.g., strategic positioning, contract parameters, etc.]. We discussed and agreed with Z department that we’d have the info in 2 weeks. We’ve passed that deadline and I’ve rearranged everything I can to give them extra time but we’re [not “you”—you don’t want to personalize] not getting what we need for the project. I’ve been in constant contact with Sam both before and after our internal deadline but am getting nowhere. What do you recommend?”

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