Dear Dave: I have a lot of pride in my work, and I always deliver what I say I will. And I expect others to do the same. Unfortunately, I work with many people that seem to never get the job done and they wait for others to do what they should be doing. This has resulted in feelings of disappointment and frustration. So, my motto at work is to never expect others to turn in quality work on time. This is a lousy way to work. What ideas do you have for me? -- S

I can tell you that your problem is felt by many. I think few things are worse than relying on someone to come through with their share of the work and then get frustrated by their failure to do so. It is no wonder that so many people pledge to do all of the work, rather than trust others to do their fair share.

And no one has the time to chase people around just to find out whether they will hold up their share of the responsibilities and commitments. I can just hear these coworkers now when they say, “Yea, well, I just didn’t have the time.” Well, thank you for nothing — especially when a project or task is due today or tomorrow.

It is no wonder why so many good workers cringe when teams are drawn up. When a project depends on people achieving their share of the work, the “dependable people” never know if they can trust their “undependable teammates” to turn in any work at all. Getting some work from a coworker at 10 o'clock the night before a project is due means that someone has to analyze the quality of that work and modify it as needed — which is almost always.

Good teams divide up what needs to be done and expect that everyone is on the ball getting their work done. I think that the “dependable people” like you need to do the assigned work, but then also must monitor what others may or may not be doing. This means that the strongest workers have a “double duty” of sorts: they do their work while finding it necessary to check and see if the undependable coworkers are doing anything at all.

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Coping with those that contribute little

My hunch is that we both look beyond issues at the surface level and dig deep to find the root causes of problems. I have always tried to determine what will be done by whom and when. I trust that we are both sick and tired of coworkers coming up with excuses for not completing their work on time such as, “I couldn’t finish the report because my dog hid my computer.”

Simply, people who continually do not complete their work are — more than likely — masters at producing excuses; often involving unexpected family issues, because they know it would be inhumane of us to not accept family-related excuses.

I think we can mitigate our feelings of disappointment from the nonperformance of others by just not holding others to our high standards. If I was the manager of a throng of unreliable, shoddy workers, that would be a different matter. But you don’t need to be in management to witness and realize how much unreliable workers are getting away with. I always prayed that smart managers — that are tuned into the dealings of their teams — would be able to see who contributed to a project or task and who did nothing but “talk a good game.”

My wife tells me to quit trying to find perfection in an imperfect world. This may be true, but when your work depends on the contributions and the timeliness of the work of others, a whole lot of stuff may never get done — or gets done so poorly that it’s barely recognizable and acceptable.

In conclusion, don’t allow your happiness and fulfillment to be determined by factors and forces that you have no control over. Associate with people who deliver quality work on time — those people that hold themselves to a high standard (like you) and won’t disappoint you.

Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at conradd@augsburg.edu. Conrad is an associate professor of business at Augsburg University in Rochester.