This is the first article in, what will be, a larger “Disgruntled Employee Handbook” which will contain various articles on what employees often find to be unacceptable or intolerable in the workplace.  This really doesn’t have much to do with my personal work-life but it’s more of a compilation of observations I’ve made either working for different employers or just through conversation with people venting about their day. 

Project Land Grabbing

“Land Grabbing” is the practice of acquiring as much land as possible so others will be forced to go without or seek out land that’s less desirable.  In the workforce, land grabbing refers to an employee or department that excessively volunteers or forces their way to acquiring company projects or tasks, creating an uneven distribution of projects.

The reasoning is generally attributed to the employee or department wanting to appear highly proactive and productive to upper management.  While taking on projects to maximize your own productivity is never a bad thing, taking on too much never ends well for any parties involved.  This form of land grabbing almost always results in employees surrounding the land grabbers to become annoyed and feel as if they are unable or unwelcome to contribute to these projects.  The land grabbing person/department will unknowingly create a rift between themselves and other employees because they’ve now shown everyone how territorial they will be about all future projects (even projects unrelated to themselves or their departments but will find a way to show reasoning for the assignment).

What’s so bad about land grabbing?

Land grabbing generally equates to a sub-optimal performance level on projects consumed by land grabbers.  This is due to having an “overflowing plate” of projects.  Initially, land grabbers will attempt to delegate the excess projects to other employees or departments and later claim victory for themselves.  This is a recipe for creating hostile coworkers who have already noticed the land grabbing behavior and no longer wish to do the work for no reward.

In the end, land grabbing will result in a person/department that now has an overflowing plate of projects and no one willing to help; Project stagnation anyone?  Lastly, it’s embarrassing for them to admit their gluttonous wrongdoings and they will generally fabricate excuses as to why their projects are being completed slowly and poorly.

What employers can do

Employers can make a huge impact on this particular situation by staying aware of what departments or individuals will be the most effective for upcoming projects.  Keeping abreast of land grabbing behavior will keep all departments on an even kilter and will allow for other employees and departments to show talent on projects that would have previously been consumed by the land grabbers.

Employers have the best chance of thwarting this behavior without causing additional hostility because they can change the game without pointing fingers or saying that anyone is doing anything wrong (usually).  If a project is being assigned in a meeting and the land grabber already has their hand(s) up, simply consider who(m) would be the best fit for this project, or if there are any departments light on work, and assign the project based on reason and not just whichever person starts foaming at the mouth in excitement.

If challenged by a land grabber about why you chose someone else for a project, simply explain your valid reasoning (they’re qualified, their department is low on work, so-and-so requested their involvement, etc…) and move on.  If they persist, or attempt to argue that they’re the more proper fit for the project, simply re-iterate your previous judgement and diffuse the situation so the next conversation can be taken offline (out of the meeting).  If this happens, let them know (in private) that, while you respect their ambition, that other departments are useful in these projects and that maybe their department’s plate is getting full and it’s time to distribute workload more efficiently.

Disgruntled Employee Handbook

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