How To Regain Your Sanity Now When Your Co-worker Slacks

co-worker - man sits at desk on his phone
Credit: Mikhail Nilov

I worked with a co-worker who said he doesn’t work hard, he works smart. His idea of working smart was having someone else do his work. This is more than delegating, he simply used his authority to have everyone do his work. He took credit when his team’s hard work shined; but he always blamed others when mistakes were made.

To him, the “buck” does not stop with him.

Working with someone who doesn’t do their part is very stressful.

You may have to work even harder and put in more time to cover your peer’s lack. Even if you get everything finished, you may feel resentment watching them text their friends and stay on social media all day while you make sure projects are on track and take care of problems.

Whether you are a co-worker or a manager, there are ways to discourage slacking. Consider these tips for keeping your peace of mind while promoting productivity and comradery.

What to Do When the Slacker is Your Co-worker

1. Focus on productivity.

As frustrating as it can be, put your emotions aside and figure out whether you colleague’s behavior really affects your job. Otherwise, it’s probably not worthwhile to pursue the issue.

2. Assess the situation.

Laziness isn’t the only reason why employees neglect their responsibilities. There may be an underlying situation. For instance, your colleague could have a chronic illness that affects their productivity, or there could be distracted by trouble at home. In any case, you may want to think about how to approach the situation.

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3. Strengthen your relationship with your co-worker.

Build a connection with your peer through collaboration. When your teammate feels like they are part of the solution, they will most likely want to avoid letting you down.

4. Revise the process.

If discussions deadlock, you may need to act on your own. Is there a way to restructure your job to bypass the co-worker who misses deadlines?

5. Fill in the gaps.

Similarly, maybe you can cover the tasks that are slipping through the cracks. This may be feasible if it tasks are minor.

6. Speak with your boss.

For more serious cases, consider speaking to your supervisor if you and your coworker are unable to find a mutual resolution. Document specific examples of how your teammate’s behavior impacts the company.

How to Deal with Slackers When You’re a Manager

1. Share the mission.

Employees will feel more engaged and motivated if they understand the purpose behind their activities. Talk about how their efforts contribute to the good of the organization and help others.

2. Clarify roles.

Give staff members unique responsibilities to increase accountability. Design tasks that leverage their personal strengths.

3. Establish measurable goals.

Employees may underperform if standards are imprecise. Set targets they can aim for, like making 10 calls an hour or bringing in 12 new clients each year.

4. Reward progress.

Follow up to let employees know that their accomplishments are noticed and appreciated. Praise them for taking on a heavier workload successfully. Reward the entire office to reinforce a sense of teamwork.

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5. Offer training.

If workers are fall behind due to lack of confidence in their abilities, provide resources to upgrade their skills. Online courses, workshops and seminars are excellent ways to provide training.

6. Decrease the size of the team.

In large teams, it is easy to become lost in the crowd. Smaller teams allow for everyone to be seen and individual performance is more conspicuous. Employees may work harder on these teams since their performance is in the open.

7. Ask for input.

If you’re unsure how to proceed, ask the employee for feedback. They may be able to suggest whether they need closer supervision or a quieter workspace. Just being consulted may help them to feel more engaged.

8. Limit cyber-slacking.

The internet has spawned more ways to waste time. Create policies that set reasonable limits and define appropriate sites. Set a good example – limit your non-work-related browsing.

If office productivity is suffering at your organization due to employees who slack on the job, there are ways to overcome it. Dial down the tension by focusing on the positive aspects of your work and create opportunities for everyone on the team to give 100%.

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