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Are You Tired of Teammates Riding Your Coattails at Work?

Your employer encourages employee collaboration -- and a lot of it! -- but your co-workers always look to you to provide the details, the documentation, and even the party decorations while they never seem to bring anything to the table!

I'm sorry my company morale is low because I'm the only one who does any damn work
around here.

Another day, another way your teammates find creative ways to ride your coattails at work. Somehow, you've become a grab-and-go corporate convenience mart for your under-performing teammates. The spreadsheets are on Aisle 4, and your past PowerPoint presentations on Aisle 2. One at a time everyone, and please don't crowd!


Sigh. Talk about taking one for the team! There you are, cutting down heavy brush and blazing another trail while your teammates drag their feet and take the path of least resistance. But complaining about it might make you look like a poor team player.

The Everybody Gets a Trophy Workplace
Welcome to the 21st-Century workplace, where high performers always feel like they're doing the lion's share of the work. In fact, teammates who ride our coattails at work continually rank as a Top-10 most annoying workplace problem.

So what happens when your entire team is leeching off your prolific output, but you feel like you can't say anything about it?

Welcome to the "everybody gets a trophy" work era, where everyone on the team expects to be credited equally, even when they don't deserve it. It's sort of like that episode of Oprah where everyone in the audience gets a new car. Everybody wins. But do your teammates who didn't do any work really deserve that new car?

What can you do when you're a high performer on a low-performing team that always looks to you to carry the water? Here are five tips:

1. Keep working hard. It's very easy to take your foot off the gas pedal when you realize your teammates are piggybacking off your productivity. Keep working hard, however, because you're running your own race around here. Plus, high productivity looks good on your resume.

2. Know your worth. Look at it this way: you're the star of the team, even if nobody will say so! Your leeching co-workers look to you because you know what you're doing. Their lack of initiative may be a training issue where management has failed to on-board new hires properly.

3. Anticipate requests. The boss hands a teammate an assignment, and this teammate turns around and expects you to help. How will you handle this request, and what are your boundaries as a good, team player? Decide how you will handle these situations.

4. Redirect some questions back to them. When a teammate asks for help, you might occasionally ask, "Well, how would you do it?" and wait for the response. This way, your teammate must think a problem through instead of relying on you for the quick and easy answer.

5. Talk to your slacking teammates. Can you talk to your teammates one-on-one? The risk: they talk to each other and decide you're just a whiner. The benefit: they know you're on to them. If you leave, then they would have no choice but to pick up the slack. Only you can make this decision based on your particular work situation. Tread carefully.

Playing the Credit Card at Work
Should you demand your share of credit? Ah, now we get right down to it! You can ask to be credited for your lion's share of the work, but -- as we've noted -- breaking out a set of carefully-crafted productivity pie charts could make you look like a poor team player in today's team-driven workplaces.

Managers looking to credit all employees equally should wonder if it's possible to do so without damaging the morale of the highest performers on the team. If everyone gets the same trophy, then it's hard to feel like a real winner. The only motivation for highly-talented employees in this situation is to find a workplace that gives them the credit they deserve.

And who would blame you for shopping your resume around if you're always pulling the team across the finish line? Feel free to share your advice, or just to vent. And if you find your dream job, then please take the rest of us along for the ride.


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