Shoulding on colleagues is a real thing. It is used to express imaginary obligations and probabilities onto others. The only place these kinds of imaginary obligations can be placed onto, meanwhile, is the Corporate Self. Below are some ideas on how to stop shoulding on your colleagues, for good.
1. Focus on function, not on personality
“Adam always misses this”, “Eve never double-checks on that”. We are all guilty of generalizations at work, literally speaking. The one thing to note is that you are not dealing with Adam & Eve at work, you are dealing instead with their corporate identity and their function. It is really none of your business, if Adam is absent-minded (or not) and if Eve is careless (or not). It is rather the question, if the functions they perform allow to minimize that thing you complain about. Thinking that personality equals the corporate persona is a mistake, to say the least. Likewise, it is a mistake to criticize personalities instead of making comments on functions and ways the function is performed. Put it simply, focus on functions, not on people. Unless you are a colleague spouse, in which case you should spare it for the dinner table or bed time.
2. If you want it done, give to a not-so-busy man
In every company, there is someone who “always gets all things done”. Well, stop asking them to before they quit. This one is big. If a manager doesn't understand why employees, who “did everything right” leave, it is time to take a look in the mirror. It is easier to go to the person who will not say No, and get it done. But only in the short run. Because they will run out of energy, time, or both. Turn to those who should in fact perform what you are asking for rather than “shoulding” it onto employees at hand, or those available. This kills 2 rabbits with 1 bullet: you get it done by someone who really should or you find out why you cannot get it done. Either way, you win in the long run. Success.
3. Check in on direction, not means or methods
“Trust, but verify” is an old Russian saying, and it makes total sense. However, the question is not, if you should verify, but what you should verify. It is important to make sure your colleagues know where you want a task or a project to go, it is equally important to give them space to figure out the best ways to get there. Because the moment you start checking in on means & methods, be sure you are available on a daily basis to make changes to those methods and take full responsibility for the (failed) result. Doesn’t sound tempting? Instead, focus on the end and let go of means to an end.
4. Give time time
The deadline (for everything) was yesterday, right? Wrong. The deadline is when the person in charge of the function says it is. Managers often fall into the trap of controlling the time having no clue about the time the function requires. Seriously, it sounds a bit like flying blind, don’t you think? In fact, if there is one thing no one can control, it is time. All you need to know is that everyone is doing their best everyday. Easy, right?
Shoulding on your colleagues brings bad consequences in the long run. All you need to save is today? Feel free to should on them. Planning to stay in a workplace more than a week? Stop it.