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MANAGE TEAM'S CREDIT THIEF

Q: I've just been put on a project team with a notorious slacker - a guy who goes along for the ride but grabs a lot of credit. I'm not the team leader, so I'm not sure what to do to get him to do some work.

A: Publicize team roles, highlight individual accomplishments and keep your temper.

The inner game

First, don't blow your cool. It won't help to bring anger to the situation. Try coming to terms with how you'll handle it if things go as you're projecting. Big project. Lots of work. Other people produce. He takes credit. Are you steaming yet? If so, take time to figure out which aspects you can control, and how it actually harms you - if at all.

Then, look at the bigger picture. What factors in your business environment allow this to take place? Look at your reaction, understanding if your perspective is shared or if this is more of a one-on-one issue between the two of you. Also, he may have powerful allies, so know if you need to be careful in how you raise this issue.

Finally, understand how you'd like things to play out. If your toes are stepped on, what would you ideally do? If others are being taken advantage of, how would you like to see it addressed? Also define this employee's strengths and ways that he could contribute if he stepped up.

The outer game

Even though you're not the lead, you can influence the course of the project.

Start with the project kickoff meeting. Push for clearly articulated roles and responsibilities, putting names to them where possible. If this employee isn't taking a defined role, you might suggest his strengths make him a good fit for a certain area of accountability. Find the balance between being project-focused and expressing a grudge - "John, you never do anything" would not be productive. This is one way anger management comes into play.

As the project progresses, focus on your areas of accountability. This is where you'll lose if he takes credit. Document your activities, and even more important, let people know what you're accomplishing. Speak up at project updates, let your boss know, etc. Many people get walked on because they aren't advocating for themselves.

If you're feeling taken advantage of, be direct. Have a conversation with him, including your project lead as a neutral third party if you'll feel more comfortable. Express your feeling that he's taking credit for your contributions and have concrete examples to point to.

As far as others' areas of accountability go, you could ask questions such as, "Help me understand: Didn't Susie lead that effort?" However, it's not necessarily your role to be others' protector, and it might not always be appreciated by your teammates. Just try proactively acknowledging others' work so that credit is going where it belongs before he can take it.

The last word

Be your own advocate, and help establish a team culture in which each person's contributions are acknowledged and in which everyone has to step up.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

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