How to deal with corner-cutters

Ever wonder how that colleague always seems to get away with taking two and a half hours for lunch while you slave over a seemingly endless stream of work? Welcome to the corner-cutter’s world, where the ends always justify the means, and the means are as few and as perfunctory as possible.

The Sloppy Joe (Sloppy Jo, if you prefer) is never going to sweat the details—at least, not without a well-crafted carrot-and-stick approach. This collabohating type regards the old adage “measure twice, cut once” as prescribing two measurements too many. Corner-cutters can be easy to identify, even if they’re difficult to actually see because they’re the last to arrive and first to leave. Here’s how you can make these collabohaters a more productive component of your teams.

Reining in the reckless

Corner-cutters aren’t all passive office-holders looking for a lazy way out of their responsibilities. Breaking out of calcified patterns and shaking up obsolete processes is definitely a good thing and can advance team goals. Large enterprises looking to make a new splash in growth markets often try to encourage those who innovate and skirt typical bureaucratic channels. To the traditional gatekeepers in that bureaucracy, that can look like sloppy behavior when in fact it’s just a new route to victory.

“To me it may look like corner-cutting, and to you it’s being competitive in a fast-paced world,” says Joseph Gier, VP of consulting services at EASI Consult.

But without consensus, these active types are still disruptive to collaborative flow because they act as though rules and standards don’t apply to them. “When corner-cutters are action-oriented, it means they have prioritized action over doing something the ‘right way,’” says Matt Poepsel, VP of product management at PI Worldwide.

It can be difficult to separate a push for ruthless efficiency from a genuinely reckless manner, and that’s when corner-cutting becomes truly dangerous. “You don’t want people who suffer from analysis paralysis, but a propensity to cut corners can be a contributing factor to operating in an unsafe manner,” Gier says.

Checking the confident

Corner-cutting can be rooted in self-assuredness and confidence run amok. “To throw something out there that’s half-baked and walk away requires a combination of risk-taking and arrogance,” says Michael Sanger, consultant with Hogan Assessment Systems. “Getting through to somebody like that can be an uphill battle, because they don’t recognize evidence that anything has gone wrong.”

Other times, it’s more a matter of self-preservation than self-confidence.

“Most people don’t cut corners maliciously, they do it because they feel it has to be done fast, or they have five other responsibilities which are all high priority,” Gier says.

Be clear and upfront with corner-cutters about how their understanding of minimum requirements is falling short of reality. Back it up with action by instituting procedural tools such as digital checklists, which can be automated through collaboration platforms or project management systems. And put skin in the game by tying compliance with tangible rewards, such as receiving project credit or full shares of bonuses and incentives.

Poepsel stresses that it is vital to communicate with corner-cutters to explore and expose the root cause of their race to the finish line. “Otherwise, I’ll just cut corners more, and you’ll put more process on, and we won’t meet in the middle,” he says.

Another approach is to give corner-cutters leeway to seek their efficient paths, but pair them up with team members who will make up for deficiencies in process and safety. “This particular personality type can be counterbalanced easily in the group with more diligent, prudent, conscientious, and humble people,” Sanger says.

Yes-men make good partners for corner-cutters because they tend to adhere to systems, rules, and procedures, and can help the corner-cutter with compliance tasks that would otherwise not interest a Sloppy Joe.

Cleaning up your act

Concerned that your allergy to process, discipline, and diligence has gotten out of control? Take charge of your reputation and your career path. Start by spending some time empathizing with those who have greater regard for detail and discipline. Gier recommends studying the art and science of project management to help build that perspective.

Change not because others demand or expect it, but because you value the end results. Corner-cutters can be difficult to trust with sensitive projects because of the risks of a high-profile failure, so Sanger says a greater attention to detail comes down to a simple matter of determining how dependable and trustworthy you want to be. “Competence is a core area of leadership, and if you’re cutting corners, you’re cutting into your credibility.”

Post by Jason Compton

Jason Compton is a writer with over 15 years of experience covering marketing, sales, and service. Based in Madison, WI, he is a regular contributor to Direct Marketing News, previously served as executive editor of CRM Magazine, and has been published in over 50 outlets.