The Couch: Behavior or Personality?

The Couch is a place to exchange ideas and brainstorm, not only for its contributors but also for our readers who engage in the ensuing discussions. Today’s scenario comes from a colleague with a question many of us have been faced with before: intervene or grin and bear it? Thank you to this week’s contributor for the Couch idea.

What do you do about coworkers who just get under your skin in spite of your liking them? This might seem to be strange paradox, so allow me to explain. I have a coworker who seems like he’s just not trying. Either he’s overwhelmed, has too much on his mind and has stopped caring, or has some kind of disability that he is not sharing with other people. Each day, as a team, we have to select our daily interpreting assignments together and have to discuss extensively in our WhatsApp group for planning purposes. He often says things that show he clearly is not paying attention; didn’t read the discussion or just skimmed through it; or asking about things he could easily find out himself by looking at our shared calendar or reading the messages in the chat. His colleagues have expressed annoyance, but he takes it well.

To his credit, he does not hold grudges and has an overall pleasant attitude. By that same token, it also just seems as though he wants to allow others to do the extra legwork in organizing and making decisions as to scheduling and all the rest. “I’m fine guys, you decide; just put me wherever you want,” which actually just creates more work for others since it is each team member’s job to pick one’s assignments.

While interpreting, he also falls into word-for-word mode all the time. He’s been stopped by the client more than once: “Wait, what on earth are you saying?”

Do I simply tolerate, grin and bear it? Do I try to bring it up with him? He’s not a bad person and has not done anything egregiously wrong. The situation described here is just a recurring thing. But I hesitate to bring it up with him, because it may just be personality related and nothing he or I can do much about, and all it would accomplish would be to offend him needlessly. “Choose your battles,” as they say. Have you been through a similar situation? What did you do?

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Body photo “Im Pfründnerhaus in Mainz” (1880) by Heinz Heim (1859-1895), photo source flickr at Wikimedia Commons. Picture in the public domain.

8 thoughts on “The Couch: Behavior or Personality?”

  1. Isn’t he going to see this post?

  2. I think Jack Welch (former GE CEO) is a good example to follow: you can’t keep underperforming employees for too long, there is no room for ‘dead weight’ in any organization:

  3. Evelyn Van Weezendonk says:

    Your manager may have some ideas, have you reached out to him or her?

  4. It sounds to me like your colleague is in the wrong line of work… Perhaps he should find a profession better suited to his personality/skills. If not, his colleagues and the litigants will continue to pay the price for his negligent attitude and/or incompetence.

  5. Konnie A Garrido says:

    Put his very good-natured attitude to work for you – thank him and then let him know you and the other team members will plug him in where you and they see fit. If he ever voices a complaint, remind him he said to put him wherever and you took him up on his offer.

    In the alternative, tell him his put-me-in-wherever approach in fact is a hardship for you and the teams and specifically ask him to pick a spot. If he still doesn’t, only he knows why he is declining to make a work choice. That means you and the other teams have the choice. Turn that into a positive for you.

    As for his lack of initiative to participate in the day’s plans, that will leave him unprepared. If he is unconcerned with the consequences to himself, it’s unlikely he will be concerned with the consequences to his team. But at least tell him specifically what the problem is, give him some suggestions for making an improvement and then give him a chance to work on it.

  6. Sabine H Michael says:

    The first concern is the performance issue. If there is a supervisor, would there not be a random review of recordings and is there not a requirement for certification to ensure that substandard interpretation does not occur? As far as the scheduling issue goes, is there a time where you can all sit and discuss them, involving the lagging team member to maybe pick first once a week? And remember, some things are beyond fixing because they are based on differences in personalities. The Doers will never understand the Thinkers and the Procrastinators and vice versa. I’d leave this matter firmly planted in the hands of the supervisor, or in his/her absence, the HR department.

  7. As the director of the translation office, I cannot work with such people at all.

  8. Ami says:

    Frustrated but fond colleague? Address the workload politely, focus on his strengths, and suggest team solutions; avoid personality judgments. Don’t grin and bear it, but choose a constructive battle.

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