Tangled Workplace Web

Q I am asked to get a lot of things done at work, but many of the people whose help I need don't report to me. So I'm constantly frustrated because I can't make them complete the tasks I ask of them.

A The situation sounds discouraging and all too common. Here's a suggestion: When you request something, do you best to motivate the other person to do it. What you lack in authority you have to make up in encouragement. You might think: ”Hey, they're paid to do their job. Why should I have to motivate them? Isn't it their job to be willing to work?”

True, sort of. Most workplaces, however, run with lean staffs to keep costs down. So employees usually have more on their plates than they can manage, and every item in an in-box is a competing loyalty. Eventually deadlines encroach, and pressure gets things unstuck; but then other work is neglected and the cycle continues.

You can motivate others from top down, or from bottom up. Top down: Motivate the other person's boss to give your work the priority it deserves. Bottom-up: Encourage your colleagues to see the importance of what you're asking for. When you're not in charge you really have no other choice.

To motivate colleagues, begin by letting them know you realize they're already busy with important work. Then explain the significance of what you're asking them to do. No one wants to be a hamster on the wheel; they need to see the big picture and how the details fit in. Think about what John Paul II says: People are not objects; they are subjects and they want to understand. Connect the dots for them.

Your empathy toward them and your enthusiasm for the job can light a fire in others so that they want to work with you.

Art A. Bennett is a licensed marriage, family and child therapist.

Reach Family Matters at familymatters@ncregister.com