Community//

How Do You Handle Your Sneakiest Co-Worker?

They are busy, busy, busy — but not getting much done.

Someone in the office is driving you nuts. Hoarding information and forgetting where they stashed it. Zipping from one thing to another without any focus. Running ahead of the team. Tough to pin down. Does this sneaky co-worker sound familiar?

Chances are, you are working with one of the most common pests that runs rampant in the workplace — the office squirrel.

And you are not alone. Squirrels are found in nearly every habitable region of the world, except Australia. (Although Australia has plenty of other creatures to contend with.) There are more than 200 different species of squirrels found in nature. Probably even more in the workplace.

Like their wild counterparts, the office squirrel is quite active and scattered. The team wastes time tracking down or covering for things this person did or did not do. On top of that, the office squirrel can be both charming and good at hiding. This makes it easy for people to excuse or overlook the bad behavior.

It is a distraction and a drain on the team’s resources. So whether you are a leader in title or action, you owe it to yourself and your teammates to address the furry creature head-on.

Here are the signs there is a squirrel running wild in your office:

Darting from task to task The office squirrel likes to run ahead of the plan, doing work when it is convenient for them. Help them by showing how this impacts the overall schedule for the work — your team’s goals likely require coordination and collaboration, whether you are developing breakthrough marketing campaigns or working towards a complex product launch. Only when everybody is in sync can the team hope to stay on target and achieve its goals.

Distracted by shiny objects Not only does this person not stick to the plan, but they also have a short attention span. You will catch them moving on to chase a new idea without completing the one they were just on. Keep focus where it needs to be — on the goals.

Hoarding knowledge for the winter Did you know that squirrels fake hiding nuts to thwart thieves? The office squirrel likes to hoard and fake people out, too. Sometimes for deception and sometimes for the lean times. They think that if they amass knowledge and projects that nobody else has, it makes them too valuable to get rid of. Combat this fear with a culture of openness and trust. Show the squirrel you are all on the same team.

Flicking in frustration Squirrels are actually quite smart. If they get frustrated by a task, they will first flick and whip their bushy tail in annoyance. If you see the office squirrel acting out when they are vexed, do not join in on the dramatics.

Strutting their fluff Squirrels can be so darn adorable. It is one of their most dangerous weapons. If called out, they play coy and try to pass themselves off as innocently unaware that they are doing anything wrong. Stay firm and give honest feedback.

Running to their den The office squirrel makes a dash for their hiding hole when there is work to be done. They are nowhere to be found. Remember, it is not your job to chase them down, even if you work for a fully remote team. It is enough to kindly remind them of their role in the plan so they can see the impact their work — or lack of work — has on the team.

Do not give in to the office squirrel’s frenzied antics. Know that most of the nutty behavior is a result of fear and worry.

Show kindness instead. You will find that even the zippiest of co-workers will be much happier as a valuable contributor to a successful team.

What other nutty behaviors does your office squirrel display?

Originally published on the Aha! blog.

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