A few years ago I had a colleague who, not matter what you asked him to do, would always say that he was in the middle of things. I never really exactly knew what it was he was in the middle of, but it was pretty important and obviously quite lengthy because he was in the middle for what seemed liked years! This sort of behaviour – middling – costs organisations hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost time and poor productivity. You can always spot the middler by their response to any question about workload, capacity…
I am just in the middle of something else at the moment
I would love to help out but I am in the middle of a few other things.
I have been in the middle of some ongoing project work which means I have got around to doing the report.
Before you can address middling behaviour you need to have some insight into the motivation of the middler. Understanding what drives and motivates the middler is the key to challenging and changing the middling behaviour. Furthermore you need to be aware of how the organisation inadvertently reinforces middling behaviour because of poor performance management, inadequate managerial skills and lack of training and development.
Here are some of the ways to deal with middlers…
- Ask them exactly what they are working on – middlers are very skilled at being non specific and non committal
- Develop very structured and focus performance measures – make it really obvious what you expect
- Follow up – you need to continually follow up and check in with middlers
- Implement consequences – if middlers don’t perform be prepared to pass on the consequences of non performance