In August 2018, Epic Games said nearly 80 million people played “Fortnite”. (source)
‘Carried in squad’, a common term used in this game normally means you haven’t contributed to the team but you can stay in the game and your team can still win – they have carried you. You can be carried in squads if you haven’t had a solo win, suggesting you only get wins if you rely on others help.
Take this analogy into the workplace and you will see how common it is to carry a team member. Someone who is not “carrying their weight”, someone who is relying on or expecting you to do their work for them, (maybe they don’t even recognise you are). At the same time, they are being paid – like you. When teams are surveyed, one of the most common complaints from staff is “carrying the deadwood”.
This type of colleague will bring down team morale and the overall performance of the team. But if you are already carrying a team member, that’s a good thing – at least in the short-term. It means you are working for the team and putting the end result and the team’s performance before your own.
I say short-term because if you continue to carry someone for too long, without question, the situation will get worse. You will feel too much pressure to continue carrying them but equally, you are not helping them improve by not addressing the problem.
Common reasons: probably the most common reasons for carrying a team member are:-
- Bad behaviour: wherever you work, there will be those who under-perform. These people can present as lazy, negative, destructive or disruptive and will do absolutely nothing to help the team or the end result – they just want their pay. In most organisations, you can assume the bottom performers make up somewhere around 10-20% of the workforce.
- Personal reasons affecting their productivity: it’s good to remember that you don’t know what goes on in people’s personal lives, especially people you work with as most choose to keep that separate from their work and try not to let it interfere. Interfere it will though if they are stressed, anxious or distracted.
- Competency: are they relatively new to the organisation? Were they trained properly? Can you actually identify the skill they are not bringing to the table that they may need to develop? There is a big difference between lack of skill that they need help with and those who fall into the first category above.
What can you do?
- Don’t assume you know why: we do this everyday – make assumptions based on other’s behaviour. Quite often our initial assumptions are wrong. It is important to remember this before you lose your patience because depending on the why, you will likely see things differently. Keep the judgement aside and start working through the problem.
- Speak to them: obvious right? Well, it may be but lots of people would find this conversation difficult to have. Lots of people think it’s not their place to interfere. There is a Manager after all – they should be doing it. But the Manager may not be around much, maybe your colleague behaves differently in front of them, maybe the Manager knows the situation and is, or is not dealing with it. Be curious – “Yesterday, I thought you were going to be doing X, but I ended up covering for you and doing it. Did you realise that? I feel that’s a little unfair, can we agree that this is your responsibility, not mine?” This type of conversation should bring out the issue hopefully and you can help fix the problem. If they are already isolated in some way from the team because of their behaviour, you can bring them back in at this stage and it becomes a team issue to fix or something you can support to improve.
- Action Plan: If they can’t see the problem or you feel it is bad behaviour, this is a situation to escalate to your Manager. In fact, it is better to make them aware you are going to raise it with their Manager. You are trying to support them but at this stage, if you feel they are behaving badly, then this is affecting you, your team and a Manager can help fix the problem at this stage. Try not to make it a team versus colleague though and take an objective view to your Manager. If they share with you they have problems at home or anything personal that is affecting their productivity, support them. Help them to work through this – you can’t carry them forever but you should have a supportive plan for them. How do you know you won’t need someone to carry you at some stage? If it is a competency issue and they are lacking some type of skill, again, support them. Is this something you can help with? Can you encourage them to speak to the Manager, is there another colleague who would be good to help them? Just make a plan to fix the problem.
The biggest question here is this: What kind of team worker do you want to be? A good team worker evidences good communication skills and a desire to work for the team. If you are carrying someone and it’s bringing down team morale and performance, if you ignore it, you are not working for the team. Just don’t carry someone too long.
If you want to be a good team worker, if you want to tell your next employer you are a good team worker, try to deal with this.