The Art of Exploitation By Committee

How it is that one person ends up doing most of the work.

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Michael Wade

Two weeks after the first committee meeting, you came to a rather sad conclusion: You are doing most of the work.

You didn’t want this to happen. You hoped the work would be roughly divided with the three other committee members, but, when no one else spoke up, you found yourself volunteering this idea and that. By the time the first meeting was over, you walked away with all of the work and some general promises from the others to help.

That was your first mistake. The responsibilities of each team member should have been clarified from the start, but rather than crawl out of the hole, you decided to dig deeper. You did all of the extra work, thinking that once the others saw your enthusiasm and effort, they’d pitch in out of an inherent sense of fairness.

So at the second meeting, after outlining what had been accomplished, you waited. Everyone praised your work, but no one volunteered to shoulder any part of it. Once more, you passed on the opportunity to delegate, only this time your rationalization was that delegation wouldn’t be wise at this stage since so much of the work was already done. Besides, you didn’t want to be a whiner. That was your second mistake.

The project became complicated, as projects often do. What you believed would be an open field became a briar patch. As you struggled to complete tasks that should have been shared with others, you began to grumble about the unfairness of life and the insensitivity of humanity.

Your associates should have assisted you. They no doubt have a collection of rationalizations for failing to do so. One is that their vigorous team mate seemed so willing to carry the work load.

Simple rule: When you need help, ask for it.

Michael Wade writes, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.