[Skip to Content]

Check Up from the Neck Up: How to feel like part of a committee

Hear psychologist Rich O'Neill's weekly Check Up from the Neck Up on from 9 to 10 a.m. Sundays on WSYR radio.

Hear psychologist Rich O'Neill's weekly Check Up from the Neck Up from 9 to 10 a.m. Sundays on WSYR radio. Or, visit the website at www.upstate.edu/healthlinkonair

By Rich O‘Neill

Q: I was asked to join a committee at work, but after two meetings, it‘s clear that the committee members have no voice. The leader calls us together to report what he‘s doing, but our opinions aren‘t sought or appreciated. It seems like a huge waste of my time. What can I do?

A: How do you get yourself into the group and contribute in a way that brings the whole group toward its goal? One way to begin is by clarifying the committee‘s job and your role in that work. There are three key words: Authority, accountability and responsibility. You can ask ‘What are we authorized to do? Who are we accountable to? What are we responsible for? What is our goal?‘ Just asking can get the committee thinking and back on task again.

The assumption I have is that everybody in the room is there to help the leader be the best leader they can be. So you want to ask yourself, what might be useful for this leader in this situation? You might even ask the leader: How might I contribute in a way that will help you with your task here?

Q: My workplace has a shared kitchen. Some coworkers are good about washing their dishes immediately while others pile their dishes in the sink. Every week or so things pile up so much that my boss sends an email gently reminding us to clean up after ourselves. What else can she do?

A:  That sink with those dirty dishes reflects the team and the group culture. This is a great example of people living in their “person system” without a sense of responsibility to the rest of the people in the group. This can happen in any team, partnership, or family. In this case, what‘s happening is people are acting as if they don‘t have any relationship with other people. They don‘t have any responsibility, any connection to the other people and shared goals.

One of the things the boss can do is call the whole team together and ask questions: ‘What kind of values do we want to have? Do we want to be responsible to each other? Do we want to work together as a team?‘ Turn it over to the group. Say, ‘I‘m concerned about this and how it reflects on our team.‘ And then support people in creating a culture of responsibility. Make it clear that interpersonal responsibility and contributing to the team is what gets people ahead. The people who do not contribute, who stay inside their self-focused person and just do whatever they want without regard to the consequences for the team, those people don't get ahead. You have to work together in order to function well as a team.

 Hear psychology consultant and researcher Rich O‘Neill PhD during Upstate‘s weekly radio show, Health Link on Air from 9 to 10 a.m. Sundays on WSYR, or visit the website at www.upstate.edu/healthlinkonair. Submit your own question by emailing [email protected]