The flake...

There are two types of flake: 1) the good type being chocolate; and 2) the bad type being the idle colleague that we all have to suffer and there's usually at least one in every team.  This post is about the latter, and I apologise if I have made anyone think about/crave the former.

So, to the idlesome. You might like them, but you don't trust them.  They might have a position of authority having somehow gained the trust and respect of management (usually at someone else's expense), yet are shockingly unreliable.  Unfortunately I have been on the receiving end of such a flake within the last few months and it has prompted me to note the characteristics of such a person, whether I am regularly guilty of any myself, and strategies on how to deal with it if you are being used as the scapegoat and having your reputation tarnished by a selfish and disrespectful creature.

1. Punctuality, or lack thereof.
The flake is always late. They turn up a few minutes late on every conference call and at every meeting.  Every morning they arrive later than everyone else to the office (in the case of mine after 10am and usually with a hangover) then spends at least half an hour chatting to anyone who will listen, then makes a coffee and heads out for a cigarette.  We make allowances for the odd instance of late arrival, yet habitually late people are of the mistaken belief that no one notices or, if they do, that no one minds.  We do.  Even worse, not bothering to turn up at all! We tolerate the incident once, but after that you drop down my list of priorities.  If this resonates with you, there are simple time management skills that can help you get control of your time and start being known for being a little early.  If you are the affected as the scapegoat the best way is to stop covering for them.  Don't go out of your way to actively point out that they are late again, as that only looks bad on you, but a simple "I haven't seen them yet today" should suffice, especially if your role directly links in with theirs.

2. Not responding to emails promptly.
The flake believes that they are busier than everyone else and has so much more work to do. Everyone is busy, and everyone has a lot of emails.  If we have to constantly chase you, we won't like you. Twenty-four hours is usually the maximum for responding, even if it's just to acknowledge the sender's email if they are requesting something time-consuming.  If you could be the person that causes others to chase you because they are being chased, then an acknowledgement email with an idea of when you can respond is always appreciated.  If you're having to do the chasing, I have found that forwarding on your original request email with a polite message and copying in the person that is chasing you should be enough to show that you have done what you can.

3. Forgetting details.
This particular person asked me three times for the same information.  Three.  In the same week!  They would turn up to meetings unprepared.  They would prepare slides at the last minute.  Forgetting details is perceived as not paying attention.  If this is you it's likely you fall into two categories.  1) It affects us all in the end and ageing means we forget things, if so, make a list, take notes.  2) You're just no longer interested, and if that's the case maybe it's time to move on.  Luckily this one is more noticeable to others.  If you are responsible for collating slides and have a regular flake, the best way to deal with is to send everyone the same email stating the deadline for submission and slides will be printed at that time.  People will soon start to notice when a certain person's slides are never printed in the pack.

4. Over-promise, yet under-deliver.
Countless times my flake would agree to do something and then "completely forget" or "I have been too busy" and dump it on some other poor soul at the last minute.  Booking restaurants, arranging leaving presents, sending paperwork, confirming meetings, the list goes on.  If this is you, see item three.  If you're on the receiving end it's not easy to deal with without seeming a bit passive-aggressive.  If it's agreed in a meeting, make sure that it's noted, and if the task falls on you then make sure people know you it was actually you who delivered.

5. Ignorance vs. stupidity.
Ignorance is when you don't know something; stupidity is when you have been taught, but still continue to do the wrong thing anyway.  I once had a trainee lawyer assigned to me who never managed to learn how to use the scanner or photocopier.  I expect she was hoping I would just do the task for her.  I didn't.  Each and every time I made her stand next to me as I went through the process again.

It's not always a win-win situation.  However you approach the situation, as long as you have kept your own side of the street clean you should come out ok.  Build your network, get to know the politically powerful, be trustworthy, professional and credible, do not gossip, and above all remain positive and true to yourself.  Hopefully the flake will eventually be caught out.  Keep smiling!