How To Deal With Lazy Co-Workers


I wrote this post back in 2013, but feel it is one that is worth reposting.  In my consulting practice this is one of the most common employee issues I deal with on a regular basis.  It can be fixed quite simply by having policies, protocols and procedures in place and then adhering to them to resolve the problem or rectifying the problem by terminating the employee using progressive discipline actions. Far too often these employees are kept and allowed to continue to cause dysfunction in the workplace, I really wonder why?

One of the most difficult type of co-worker is one that does not carry his or her portion of the workload.  We all have days when we move a bit slower, but with this type of co-worker it is their normal behavior.

For example: They wait for someone else to answer the phone first so they do not have to.  Or they see things that need to be done around the office, like trash that needs to be emptied or filing that is sitting there, but just leave it for someone else to do.  They always appear busy, but they really are not.

Because these employees do not step up to the plate and are not actively and engaged players of the office team, they weigh down the rest of the team by leaving them extra tasks to take care of.

As long as they have not been confronted with this issue, they feel that their behavior is acceptable.  For busy office managers this type of employee can fly under the radar for a long time unless the problem is brought to their attention to monitor and address.

Early in my career as an office manager we had hired someone who we soon found out was a “boat anchor,” she weighed us down with her unfinished work on a daily basis.  At first, I thought it was because there was so much work to do, and I was so busy that I was not watching her closely to see what exactly she was accomplishing each day.

It was not until my boss mentioned to me that I could do her job twice as fast that I realized she was just pacing herself and collecting her paycheck while the rest of us were picking up the slack.

Having a “boat anchor” on your team does not allow everyone to move forward the way they need to because of the extra weight that they have to pull and will eventually tire them out from trying.

Here are three steps for raising the anchor:

  1. Write specific task issues that are not being completed and spell out what the expectations and time frames are for completion.  Make sure the employee has demonstrated to you that they can complete these tasks to your expectation.
  2. Address the fact that no one likes to pick up the slack for a less productive co-worker.  All team players need to equally do their part or they do not play on the team.
  3. Monitor progress and give feedback on improvement. This is a very important step as the “boat anchor” will realize that you mean business and are paying attention to what they are or are not doing.

By letting this type of employee know that you are monitoring their work progress, you should have smoother seas for sailing ahead of you.

If they continue to drag the boat down, then cut them loose; your team will greatly appreciate being able to move ahead without them.

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