When Your Coworkers Don’t Measure Up

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I work in a large financial organization. I’m frustrated that many of my coworkers don’t pull their weight. I work hard and am very committed, but those around me run out the door at 5 p.m. I want to talk to those in charge, but I am not sure how to go about doing it.

Name withheld

Dear Financial Professional,

I can validate the feelings of frustration you have and your desire to do something about it. What I can’t do is recommend that you go to your superiors to tattle on your co-workers.

This is a complex issue and it happens in organizations everywhere. Here are a few things to think about before you do anything. I know it is hard to believe, but it’s possible that those in charge simply don’t care about this, don’t want to do anything about it or, on a more positive note, may have information you don’t have. Many senior folks dislike confrontation, so even if they disagree with what’s happening, they may not want to address it. Or you may be mistaken and the senior people may have more information than you. Perhaps these co-workers have an arrangement and they are taking on additional work elsewhere. Perhaps they are sick or dealing with a sick family member. Perhaps they are physically unable to work later hours. You don’t know all of the details.

Second, spend time on what you can control, not what you can’t control. These people don’t work for you. All you can do is focus on your piece of the world. If you are frustrated because you are working longer than they are, you can pull back on your hours too. Watch out for “martyr syndrome” where you feel sorry for yourself, but actually you could make different choices to change your circumstances.

Watch your attitude and self-talk. If you stew about these people, it’s likely going to start to impact your own performance. While “they” may be the problem, you will become the problem if you cop a bad attitude or otherwise show your frustration over something that isn’t yours to deal with in the first place.

Be careful of your motives. Think about whether this culture is the right one for you. Sometimes the person who is frustrated needs to change and be around like-minded people. That’s an option – and something you can control or influence – too.

Dear Bev,

We recently embarked on a marketing campaign to increase our visibility in the community. I support running ads and raising awareness that way. But I heard you speak at a conference and you were negative about advertising. What are the pros and cons?

Stephen H., Chicago area

Dear Stephen,

There are a number of questions I want to ask you: What is your objective with the advertising? Is it targeted advertising (i.e., to a certain market or target audience) or general “Calling all readers!” kind of advertising? Do you know specifically who your market is, and what matters to them? Are you hoping to get business from the advertising or just do general awareness raising of your firm and name?

When I speak negatively about advertising, it’s usually in the context of very expensive, broad-based campaigns that don’t have a target or a way to measure its effectiveness. If your market is defined, you are doing niche advertising, and you can measure the response rate, it can be an important part of an overall plan.

Just don’t count on broad “see what sticks against the wall” advertising to bring you new clients.

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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