Colleague Won’t Help

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Have you ever been in a scenario where a colleague wouldn’t help?  They see your request as a nuisance, not helping them meet their goals much, and not worth their time.  To get their cooperation, you need to find a way to make it easy for them.  You also need to figure out what they care about.  You should also know the minimum you need from them as well as the maximum you’d like from them.  In Influence Without Authority (2nd Edition), Allan Cohen and David Bradford write about getting your colleagues to cooperate with you.

Find a Way to Make it Easier for Them
The simplest way to get a colleague to help you, is to make it easier for them.  Cohen and Bradford write:

The more you know about the pressure on the person who is not leaping to serve your client, the greater the chance that you can offer to do something to ease some of the pressures, whether by getting directly involved in parts of the process, checking out the nature of the opportunity, finding the right internal resources, buffering interaction with the client, and so on.

Figure Out Their Currencies
To get cooperation, you need to know what your colleague cares about.   Do they care about time?  Do they care about money?  Do they care about praise?  If you know what they care about, you can negotiate more effectively.  Cohen and Bradford write:

If the resistance is largely due to being measured on somewhat incompatible criteria, you still have the option of finding valuable currencies.  You can do some homework to speed up the process if time is a factor.  You can work with the client to make the request less undesirable as the rest of the bank sees it.  You can show the great overall benefits to the bank and indirectly to the mortgage officer (or whomever else you are trying to influence) using vision as a currency.  You can express your gratitude and willingness to sing the person’s praises to higher officials.  Probably the least useful currency is one that is important to you but not the colleague such as, “But I really need to satisfy this client to make my bonus.”  As with all influence exchange, sell what the other person values, not just what you care about.

Know the Minimum You Need and Maximum You Want
Have clarity on what you want and need.  If you’re flexible, you have more options.  Rather than all or nothing, know the minimum that you need and the maximum you want.  Cohen and Bradford write: 

You might also think through just what you need.  Is it a rate quote or the complete deal?  Would honest information that your bank isn’t the right place to do a jumbo mortgage on a third home in India (or trade stocks, or whatever the service is) be useful?  Would you settle for a five-minute conversation that lets you explain why helping this client is so important, for example, in bringing in other business?  Know what you want and would accept if you can’t get that.

Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:

  • Find a way to make it easy for them.
  • Know what the other person values.
  • Know the other person’s resistance.
  • Know the minimum you need and the maximum you want.

Back at Work
I used to think people on the same team should automatically help and I’d get surprised when they didn’t.  Over time, I realized that each person has their own world to take care of.  Now, when I have an ask, I try to prepare better. 

A little homework can go a long way.  To prepare better, I first try to figure out what the other person might care about.  This helps me figure out what’s potentially in it for them.  If I expect resistance, I try to figure out what the concerns might be.  I also try to find a way to make it easier for them to help me.  I also have a range from minimum to maximum for my ask, so I can scale it up or down, depending on the level of cooperation. 

It really comes down to some key questions — “do they want to help? If not, why not?  What can I do to make them want to help?  How do I avoid making them work too hard to help me?”

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