Almost everyone has a lazy coworker at work. Those people arrive late, take a long lunch, and dip out before everyone Their behavior is always explained by an excuse, and good luck getting an apology for their actions. And if their actions remain the same — and the boss doesn’t notice — are you ever going to get a “sorry I inconvenience you?” A firm “no” on that one.
While these actions can be annoying, as long as the lazy coworker doesn’t impact your work, simply avoid them. And, find ways to let go of resentment.
The opposite is true if their sluggishness affects your work. If so, then you might need to take action.
However, first, you need to look within. Are you simply being judgmental? What makes you angry at your coworker? The only way to answer these questions is by opening the lines of communication. I mean there could be a simple explanation like a misunderstanding. For example, they might have a flexible schedule explaining why they aren’t physically as present as you are.
What do you do if you can’t resolve the issue with your lazy coworker? Perhaps you should raise it with your boss or HR. Before escalating the issue, though, try these 10 tips for handling a lazy coworker.
1. Follow Business Etiquette at Work
Don’t gossip or tattletale about your colleagues or immediately approach leadership. Have an honest talk with your coworker that adheres to business etiquette rules. Most importantly ask questions to save yourself a lot of embarrassment.
I was mad at a coworker and just asked questions. Come to find out — he was doing extra work projects for the boss before work that set all of us up for success. What if I’d gone in like the proverbial bull in a china closet? But with questions, you can frame them in such a way so as to let them know their work habits are affecting your job performance.
A good rule of thumb for anything in life — is never to approach them when you are angry. Put your case forward matter-of-factly, in a straightforward manner. You’re more likely to lose your temper and intensify the issue if you have a short fuse when you enter into the conversation.
Make sure that you handle this problem tactfully when dealing with lazy coworkers. Rather than criticizing their work performance or character, just point out how their unfinished work actually hurts you, others, and the business as a whole.
Some issues can be resolved simply by informing those involved of your dissatisfaction at work.
2. Establish Boundaries at Work
Getting asked for help by coworkers can be difficult if it’s in your nature to be kind and helpful. There may also be times when you find it rewarding to help others — even if it means putting your own duty on hold. And, for some, it may just be easier to help them than to hold everyone else up.
However, if a pattern emerges, determine whether that colleague is slacking off or taking a genuine interest in learning.
Lazy workers can be very persuasive when trying to convince others to help them — even more so when they manipulate others into doing a bulk of their workload.
In the event that someone is taking advantage of you (and other coworkers), enforce your boundaries first. You should remind yourself that if your coworker is having difficulty doing their work, “I am not going to do it for them.”
And, if they lack technical skills, suggest training modules or courses — and sometimes the best and even fastest way is to do a quick-training yourself. Do a quick video, write up a quick step-by-step for their issue. I’ve found this the best in my work — because sometimes a person is even afraid for their job or that someone will make fun of them for asking a “simple” procedural tech issue.
3. Learn More About Them
More often than not, you give the benefit of the doubt to people you know and like. Well, you may come to like your coworker more if you actually get to know them and what motivates them.
Let’s say that you have an unpleasant coworker. Instead of assuming that that’s just who they are, you find out that they’re going through a nasty divorce or recently passed over for a promotion. Obviously, this would put anyone in a foul mood at work.
After a couple of interactions, though, you find out that you have smiler tastes in music or that you’re both proud dog parents. Not only does this make you like them as a person, you realize that at the moment they have more pressing issues going on. And, maybe your empathy and guidance can give them the jolt to snap out of their fun.
4. Keep a Record
Track instances where people aren’t doing their jobs over the course of a few weeks. Remember to account for it if, as a result, your own workload has to increase. These details will help strengthen your argument if you decide to take further action.
5. Don’t Let Them Become a Distraction at Work
Avoid focusing all of your day’s energy on the fact that your co-worker is daydreaming, scrolling their social accounts, or aimlessly wandering around. Remember, you only have so much energy for the day. So, when it’s depleted, your productivity suffers.
Focus on your work and tune them out. If this is a challenge, try to work somewhere else where you can’t notice their laziness. If that’s not an option, you could put on a pair of headphones and listen to music that gets you in the zone.
6. Ask Them for a Favor for Work
If all else fails, you can directly ask your coworker for assistance. Most people can ignore a task. But, it’s much to ignore a person asking for help.
Also, this puts lazy coworkers at a disadvantage. They are either forced to say “No,” or to lend a hand. It’s important to remember, though, that laziness doesn’t always imply discourtesy. However, the favor will test their sense of decency towards their colleagues. Also, this is another way to see what they’re good at and passionate about your work.
7. Be an Inspiration
Let’s say that you’ve decided to try and motivate your lazy coworker. While no easy feat, it is possible. And, it’s if you know their personality types.
Why? Because this lets you know how they respond to authority. And, more importantly, how you can motivate them going forward.
According to New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, the four personality types are:
- The Upholder. Those with this personality type are driven to fulfill their dreams. For them, the world is defined by their inner and outer expectations. And they approach life with a “what do I have to do today?” mentality. If you want to motivate an upholder, remind them of external and internal expectations.
- The Questioner. This personality type is highly driven by internal motivations. Whenever they receive a task, they question its validity. They complete only tasks that make sense to them. Relate to their sense of reason to motivate them.
- The Obliger. Only external forces motivate the obliger. They do what is requested of them. However, they have a very difficult time motivating themselves. If you want to motivate this personality type, say what you want them to do and ask for it, in a direct manner.
- The Rebel. Rebels are defiant, both internally and externally. It is their present desires and wishes that drive them, rather than commands. Making assignments a challenge can motivate rebels, such as “Do you think we can wrap this up by the end of the week? Because no one else does.”
8. Vent — if you must — Productively
There’s a lot of negative association with venting. And, there is some truth to that. I mean do you really feel better after complaining? Even worse, venting can be addictive.
However, there are times when getting something off your chest can be a positive. It’s just all how you use venting to your advantage.
- Compose a hot letter. This was a strategy Abraham Lincoln used. Whenever he was frustrated with someone he would write a letter to them. Rather than sending it, it would burn it.
- Get outside and go for walk. Seriously. This is one of the most effective ways to improve your mood and clear your head.
- Share your frustrations with a challenger-listener. Ideally, this is someone who can reframe the problem and shift preconceived notions.
- Minimize your impact. This simply means spending as little time as possible with toxic people.
- Balance the negative with the positive. Don’t bottle up how you’re feeling. But, also just don’t dwell on the negative.
- Take action on solutions. After your gripe fest, think of ways on how to solve the issue. For example, maybe the coworker isn’t lazy, they’re just bad at time management. As such, you could help them in this area.
9. Seek Counsel
In the event you have discussed the matter and nothing has been resolved, you may consider seeking outside counsel before taking any further action. In this case, no lawyer is needed. But, maybe you could ask a friend or family for advice.
Or, even better? Speak with a mentor or leader who has been shared a similar experience. It might be possible to learn from their past experiences on how to handle this situation.
10. Remember, Life Isn’t Fair
The other day I was traveling on the highway and going with the flow of traffic. I didn’t notice that I was going over the speed limit until I saw those dreaded blue and red lights in my rearview mirror. Initially, I was exactly in the flow of traffic — some person had just zoomed past me — I was ticked that no other speeders got pulled over.
But, here’s the thing — Life isn’t fair. I was still responsible for myself and in the wrong and had to pay the price. Getting worked up that it only happened to me didn’t change that.
The same is true at work. I get that it’s frustrating to have a coworker who seems to get away with not pulling their own weight. But, ultimately, that’s not your problem. Instead, focus on what you need to get done and how you can be the best you can be. After all, obsessing over fairness, or the lack thereof only leads to negative feelings like anger and resentment — and those feelings are the ones that really slow you down.