When you work on a team that must collaborate on competing priorities and yours always seem to be the last to get added the “to do” list, how do you advocate/influence the team to give your work/tasks priority over their own? Do you just say, “OK guys, it’s been two months and I still haven’t gotten any support from team member X to finish the Acme project. Are you going to have some free time next week?” What if they say, “Sorry, still working on the Jones project, maybe next month?”

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m not all that surprised that your colleagues aren’t tripping over themselves to prioritize your projects. It sounds like you are approaching them with the attitude “I need you to help me with my projects,” and what exactly is motivating them to do that?

Here’s a hard truth about the business world: other people don’t care what you want or need. Human beings are selfish creatures and want to know what’s in it for them. If you need your colleagues’ assistance, you have to make them want to help you.

How do you do this? First, examine the situation from their point of view and determine their work priorities. What do they have to get done, and how are they being evaluated? Then, in your initial approach, talk about what they want and how your completed project can help them get it.

Here’s an example from my own career. Once upon a time, my colleague Alan knew that one of my job responsibilities was to find and publish the latest online marketing statistics on our team’s blog. He needed my help convincing our supervisor to buy us access to a new monitoring service. While this new service would benefit Alan and his team, he knew it would also benefit me.

Here’s what he said: “Alex, I think this new service would help you research your stats in half the time. If you could mention this to Paula, that would be great.” I had no trouble supporting Alan’s cause because he had made clear that it was going to help me as well. It was a win for Alan because he got his service, a win for me because my research time decreased, and a win for the company because productivity went up!

This approach does take a bit of extra time and consideration, but you’ll more than make up for it by cutting nagging time and more quickly harnessing your colleagues’ cooperation.

Alexandra Levit