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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

Working with Obstructionists

We've all worked with them. Around them. Tried to avoid them. Some are really obvious. Others are a bit more underground, but their impact is the same.

Obstructionists, often affectionately known as bottleneckers, are those who hold things up. They miss deadlines. They don't follow through. They talk a good talk, and then disappear.

Or they show up, look you straight in the face, and make you second guess - did we really have that conversation? Was I clear?

Yes, you were. And yes, they held up work in their bottlenecking style. And we're all the worse for it.

And let's face it.....their impact on an organization is tremendously damaging. Personnel requests sit on their desks. Calls aren't picked up. Emails aren't returned. Documents aren't signed off. So much of what needs to get done is either delayed or just disappears into Never Never Land, and Peter Pan isn't hear to save them.


So how do you work with these types of individuals, especially if you're one of those who runs circles around? If you're in a leadership role, start by finding out if the person is clear on tasks and interest in the work, not that you can do a whole lot about that interested part because work needs to be done whether interesting or not.

Some easy tips include:

- setting early deadlines (padding the timelines for the person's assigned tasks)

- chunk out the tasks so they are not all due at the same time

- provide some type of reward or incentive (yes, I cringe as I write that, but it does work for some people)

- find someone who can be a backup to complete the work (and then follow steps of progressive discipline for your bottlenecker)

No, it is not easy work and it can be frustrating. Very frustrating. With that said, what are some steps you can do to maintain your sanity beyond screaming out the car window at high speeds while consuming excessive amounts of chocolate?

Deep breathe. Take long walks. Communicate with your supervisors that you have a personnel issue. Talk to the personnel lead if it isn't you. Document, document, document. Take more long walks.

Check this out. And...hey....happy Monday!

Want to go a little deeper. This article is based on a 2010 book, published with the intent to help you coach up the bottlenecker...and this author has a lot of patience. Read it HERE.

This is a video based on a TED Talk by Tim Urban, and he takes us inside the psyche of a procrastinator. May we at least try to understand them better, no?

Have a fantastic week. Get that TO DO LIST completed! You don't want to be the bottleneck in someone else's work flow now, do you ?

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