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An armadillo had been struck by a car near my house. I live in Florida and anything that dies, quickly has vultures on its remains. I was close enough to the carnage to hear the vultures and the sliding of the Armadillo’s carcass, as it was being dragged on the street as the vultures pulled and tugged on it.
As I watched from my garage, it was apparent that a few vultures were doing the majority of the work, while some just observed from the sideline. These sideline vultures did nothing but position themselves near the Armadillo’s carcass, while the other vultures worked on it. However, as soon as one of the working vultures pulled out a large chunk of fresh Armadillo, the sideline vultures sprang into action by trying to steal the meat from the vulture that had worked to remove it.
These sideline vultures did no real work, other than to wait and try to steal from the vultures that did the work.
Unfortunately, during my career I worked with more than one sideline vulture. In the work environment, sideline vultures tend to sit back and be critical of what is going on, while offering no solutions or help for the situation they are being critical of. Or sideline vultures can offer lots of ideas and input, they just don’t want to do the work to implement any of their ideas.
If there is a bad outcome these sideline vultures then become masters of publicizing the “I told you so” even though they offered no solutions or work contribution towards a positive outcome. However, if there is a great outcome, they also jump in and steal credit for the success, sometimes even saying something like “if it had not been for my input, the solution to the problem would not have been found.”
As a positive outcome becomes apparent or draws closer they are skillful at jumping in near the end of the process to become part of the success. Sideline vultures are masters of avoiding accountability and dodging real work, all the while sunning themselves in the light of success should it appear.
Sideline vulture behavior should not be allowed to exist in the work environment and it is the role of the leader to protect teams from it. Sideline vulture behavior destroys the positive culture necessary for work teams to thrive.
Leaders must assure absolute, clear, single point, individual accountability.
In the absence of clear single point, individual accountability side line vulture behavior, and other organizational disorders thrive. This is why, number one on my list of project management success factors is clear lines of accountability
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