If you tell me that you find everyone you work with is intelligent, focused and useful then I’ll call you a liar. No doubt most of your colleagues are most of those things but very few people are all of them and some are, unfortunately, completely the opposite.
One of the features of the portmanteau career is that you work with a range of teams, in varying situations and with none of them full time. You almost certainly weren’t involved in appointments so have to put up with decisions made before you arrived or which are outside of your remit. This causes predictable problems.
You may have to work with people who are a bit vague, a bit unfriendly or a bit disorganised, people you need to work around or manage. You also have to work with the occasional idiot and that takes a whole different skillset. It can be immensely frustrating trying to get your ideas across to someone who can’t grasp them. It can be beyond frustrating trying to get things done when colleagues aren’t pulling their weight or – worse – don’t understand what they are meant to be doing.
Like most of us I suspect my strategies for dealing with such people vary. I may squeeze them out; I don’t have the time or emotional enthusiasm to find ways to work with unhelpful people if I don’t have to. Or I might give them a small task that they can’t possibly get wrong – though it’s amazing how mistaken one can be about that. Sometimes it is necessary to undertake formal procedures to remove people permanently. An alternative, though, is to find a way to make the idiot useful, to get an understanding of their strengths and skills so that you can get the work done AND improve your team.
Where the real challenge lies is when I don’t have agency over who does what. If I’m part of someone else’s team, I just have to put up with the situation and manage the best I can. I don’t want to be that person who causes difficulties because I can’t get on with team members. I don’t want to be the Mean Girl or the class bully, the one who talks behind other people’s backs. If I create more problems than I solve, I become the idiot, so the only way to make it work is to assess the team I have, find appropriate roles for everybody and make sure that any idiocy is safely contained.