5 Ways to Deal with Slacker Co-Workers

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Tue, Nov 4 - 1:45 am EDT | 10 years ago by
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Wendy Terwelp shared an excellent article about how to deal with slacker co-workers. The only tip in the article is the most important one I share with each member of my team as a first step:

  • Confront the slacker’s slacking behavior – If you don’t care enough to talk to the person slacking, then why should your manager care enough to take your complaints seriously? Sure, it doesn’t always work. You have to try or it doesn’t matter to me as your manager.

As a manager, I am not always available to micro-manage every slacking co-worker. YOU are in the best position to see the slacking first hand, and I count on YOU to do what’s in the best interests of our clients, our team, and have our outcomes in mind when things happen when I’m not around.

Other than confronting your slacker co-workers, what else can you do to deal with your slacker co-workers?

  • Tattle to Share slacking with your manager – If you find someone who consistently is slacking AND you’ve already tried to deal with the slacker, then going to your manager is the next best step. It’s not tattling if you have examples.
  • Thoroughly document the slacking – Is it occasional slacking that bothers you? Then make sure you document the slacking, pointing out the times and dates of the slacking, as well as the impact to the team. Did customers wait? Orders delayed?
  • Appeal to the slacker’s desire to be a contributor – Was the slacker ever a good contributor? If so, appeal to his desire to be a contributor again. Point out how NOT being a slacker is in the slacker’s best interests, and will actually enable her to be MORE of a slacker.
  • Catch them in the act of slacking – If someone is slacking, catch them in the act. Email them right away to point out the slacking, and make sure you copy in your manager.

What are YOUR tips for dealing with slacker co-workers?

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  • CK

    Been there – done that! But what if the slacker co-worker and boss are in the same clique? And they have their clique friends as well. The clique protects their own as well as promotes their own – aka I’m not going anywhere (but out the door)!

    What did it do for me? It made my work life a living hell. When I say a living hell I’m saying it almost put me in the hospital or cost me my life – literally!!! The doctor said that I may need surgery to correct the damage but I wanted to heal naturally. (I’m OK now but it took almost a year!)

    If they would have kept it up my widow would be suing them now! That is how uncaring my employer is … but get this! You’d get a laugh over this! Or executive always says in meeting that “it’s all about the people” or “it’s about taking care of your people” – what a JOKE!

  • http://LearnThis.ca Mike King

    Wow, CK, sounds like a pretty extreme example. I’d suggest that if people are not willing to discuss ways to be more productive in the workplace and they make your job worse by trying, then its time to leave. Seriously.

    As for these tips, I think the method that you deliver the message of slacking is going to determine how response people are. Email is just a bad idea to point out poor performance. And copying a manager or boss is asking for a fight.

    I’d suggest that regular brief discussions work best with that person and ALWAYS offer help so you are showing some compassion and desire to make them more productive. If you are on their case without offering to help, it will go nowhere except leading them to NOT liking you. Then your influence is useless anyway.

    Regular comments, review, discussions and feedback about their behavior are to me, the best ways to deal with this.

  • http://www.gtdagenda.com DanGTD

    If you have reason to believe that the slack in your workplace can damage your vital interests, then you will probably have to change jobs. It’s almost impossible to change a workplace culture from the bottom-up.

  • CK

    If you think that is bad, I wrote of my experience and would like to see it published here. The thing is that I have to update it becuase of changes (not for the better). I titled it “Preditory Management.” I don’t name names, places or organizations to protect the guilty.

    I agree with Dan that you can’t change culture from the bottom up. And Mike, yes, I know and I’m looking! Issue is that employers want sonething for nothing! Some employees have hired lawyers to protect themselves for our employer!

  • http://frugalnyc.blogspot.com FrugalNYC

    I just found this site via someone’s comment from lifehacker. Good stuff. I agree with Mike King, regular review and open ended discussions go a long way if done properly.

  • CK

    That was me if I recall right.

  • Greg

    It all depends on how someone’s slacking affects you. Are they preventing work from being done? Or they just an oxygen thief?

    The other thing to keep in mind is we each bring certain value propositions to our company/boss/supervisor. Is the slacker bringing something of value to the boss?

    Finally, when I have been in supervisory positions and received complaints about others, my first question has always been “How is this impacting you?” Most of the time the answer is “It does not, it just is not right.” To which i would reply “If you have issues with the morality of how we do things, I will give you a good reference.”

    If there was really an issue that was fouling up the works, I would investigate. Most of the time it was communicating that I expected adults to at least pretend they were adults on my watch.

  • http://LearnThis.ca Mike King

    Greg, I definitely disagree with you about only asking how it affects a person and leaving that to decide on. If someone is annoyed enough to tell you, it is already affecting their work. It is distracting to see and frustrating to know they get away with it. It also makes people feel undervalued when they are working hard and that the expectations on people are unfair. That is a huge risk to the extent you can demoralize the team and you will be more likely to lose people. All these things affect the performance in a team and you can safely bet that if it affects one person, it affects others as well who are scared to tell you about it. That person who did tell you likely told other colleagues first anyway!

    Just having the discussion about it takes time and takes away from doing productive work so it needs to be addressed.

  • Greg

    re Mike,

    You are right if the following is true: 1)The slacker gets paid/rewarded the same as the rest 2)The the slacker brings no unique value proposition to the company/boss.

    I am at a loss why anyone would keep an employee that brings no value to an organization. In my experience, there usually is a value, just that organizations/bosses often look at the value proposition different than employees.

  • http://LearnThis.ca Mike King

    Sure Greg, I can understand where you are coming from but we’ll have to agree to disagree then. If a highly paid employee is distracting and frustrating others, I’m going to confront it. And if they are paid less, well they better have other value you are right, but I’d still confront it. There is really no reason not to if it affects the performance of anyone else on a team.

    Your #2 point is separate and like you said, if they don’t bring value, get rid of them.

  • CK

    @Greg – I try to bring value to my organization only to find out they don’t appricate value. I worked hard on my computer certifications only to be ignored for any advancement. I graduated with my Masters Degree only to be abused by management and staff (I was told by a co-worker/friend that they consider me a threat) only to be transfered to a LOWER position!

    Yea, I know, I’m being shown the door! I don’t share my ideas any more only to have them follow me and what I have beem doing for the past few years (if at all). I’ve had others make suggestions in meeting only to those co-workers close to me state (in private to me) that I had been doing XXX for 2 to 3 years!

    The only thing is that we all get the same percent raise no matter what! The resule is most become slackers becuase why put out more than anyone else becuase they will ge the same raise anyway! So I work in a sea of slackers! But the issue is that managemtn has is that I am not one of the slackers or mindless drone!

  • http://www.hollisterstaff.com Holly

    I think there is a point where a slacker needs to be dealt with, but first and foremost you need to worry about yourself. I’m not sure how necessary it is to write down what the slacker is/isn’t doing, but you can take a mental note. I work at a staffing company, Hollister where slackers are not a problem. Management works closely with employees and they would take notice if someone was slacking. I think the best approach would be to say something to the slacker and if nothing has changed after a couple weeks, management should be contacted.

  • Slim

    Our recently new (about 1 year) boss brought 2 people over from his old department with him. There were already 4 of us in the department when he got here and we all 4 have a strong work ethic. The 2 he brought over are, in a word, worthless. One surfs the net and plays with her iPhone all day. Everytime she is giving an assignment, she grabs one or two of us to help. She’s been doing admin setups on our package for over a year and was trained well, but she still does not understand the most basic concepts of it – she asks me the same questions over and over. The four of us are here by 7:30 – she comes in around 8:10, takes 1:15 – 1:30 lunches (we’re only allowed 45 minutes). They both worked on an AS400 in their old job and still do some. But she refuses to learn VB or SQL and shows absolutely no motivation to improve her knowledge. The other person basically is never at his desk! He must walk for miles a day around the office building in order to not have to sit down and work. No one seems to know where he goes! They were both brought over ostensibly with the idea of helping but that’s been far from the case. I personally think they would have been let go if he had not brought them over. I have talked to my boss about this, he knows about these issues, but it’s obvious he does not like confrontation – that seems to be his only weakness – he’s really a pretty good manager. These 2 extra employees are affecting our morale….they just show up and collect a pay check and that’s about it. Plus, they never seem to be held accountable for what they do, while we are. They are probably two of the most anti-tech people I’ve ever seen in a tech job – no interest in technology whatsoever. I don’t even want to think how much these two are getting for doing nothing! I am not sure what to do at this point. Go to my manager’s boss?

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  • Sean

    I’ve been on both sides of the fence, where my jobs would certainly show a slacker in the midst as it would impact everyone, and because of that, I’ve witnessed false accusations of slacking in return. My job can basically show the stats and goals that an employee met during the shift, my job is to interpret such statistics, and evaluate performance based on them. The top two people that accuse and confront people for slacking, currently have the worst performance records. Everyone else has met or exceeded expectations. If an employee comes in, does what their told, and meets their expectations, then they may surf, listen to music or do what they want (as long as it’s not distracting everyone else). The people who complain and accuse others of slacking I wouldn’t even want to give a good reference for.

  • Sean

    One more quick thing too, I would give out a warning or possible disciplinary action against an employee if they empowered themselves to confront a coworker without bringing the issue up to us first. If we don’t see a problem, the best thing is to just get back to work and deal with it, or consider a new field of employment. This is situational of course, with my workplace having to deal with accusations of slacking, when there really is only a problem with the accusers.

  • jt

    That’s what I am experiencing and it’s tied in with warped racial allegiances to make matters worse. When I say something the slackers get even cushier assignments. I am really depressed and can’t fight the system for fear of losing my crappy low paying job. My supervisor is a racist, slacker always late jerk who appoints even more incompetent cronies to watch over the team when he’s in a so called manager’s meeting.

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