7 Simple Tips for Dealing with Lazy Coworkers

A sleeping young man with his feet on his desk
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In any workplace, teamwork is a key part of ensuring a productive and successful environment. Organisations are at their most effective when each and every person is contributing equally, pulling together to achieve goals and targets. Just one weak link in the machine can potentially have a ripple effect on the performance of an entire department.

So, with this in mind, what should you do if one (or more) of your esteemed colleagues is refusing to pull their weight? Dealing with lazy coworkers might not feel like it should be your responsibility, but when it’s starting to have a detrimental effect on the company’s output – and making you look bad in the process – you might need to consider taking action.

If you’re experiencing this problem at work – and wondering what is the best approach to take – then these tips may come in handy. Find out what you should do and who you should speak to in order to eradicate this common workplace issue once and for all.

1. Don’t Let it Distract You

In any aspect of life, it’s easy to get caught up in what other people are doing – often at the expense of focusing on your own affairs. But it’s important that you don’t fall into this trap; not only will you become bitter and toxic and difficult to be around, but your own work output will undoubtedly start to suffer as a result.

Instead, concentrate on ensuring that your own performance levels stay high. It may be irking to see your coworker scrolling through Facebook while you wrestle with your workload but focusing your energies on the fact that someone else isn’t working only means that you’re not getting anything done, either. Block it all out and carry on as normal.

2. Don’t Help Them Be Lazy

Working with a slacker can be difficult enough, but it will be even harder to break the cycle if you start enabling their behaviour; therefore, at some point, you’re going to need to draw a line in the sand.

Of course, if somebody has left everything until the last minute and then comes to you asking for help, then in the aforementioned spirit of teamwork, you should try to do so. But you should also make it clear that next time this happens, you won’t be so generous; if your colleague continues to make the same mistakes, then that’s on them – not you. By constantly bailing a lazy coworker out, you aren’t doing either of you any favours in the long run, so stay firm and teach yourself to say ‘no’ every once in a while.

3. Don’t Gossip about Them

As your frustrations about your sloth-like teammate start to boil over, it can be tempting to leave your desk, grab the first coworker you see and start venting. Try to refrain, though, as this signals a lack of professionalism on your part, as well as singling you out as a gossip.

Also, it will likely get back to the person in question, therefore driving a further wedge in your relationship and severing any hope you may have had of getting through to them. If you really need to, you can always head up to the roof and scream for a couple of minutes or so, or you can revert to Tip One and choose to focus on your own work instead.

4. Don’t Emulate Their Behaviour

Another potential reaction to seeing a lazy coworker get away with, well, anything is to question why exactly you’re putting in the hard yards when nobody else seems to be breaking anything close to a sweat. While this is a fair point, you shouldn’t drop your own standards in protest; this is because, aside from the fact that you’re letting yourself down, you’ve also got no real standout case when it comes to promotion time.

Don’t be afraid to politely explain that you’re busy when cornered into a conversation about last night’s big game or that you need to return to your desk when lunch is carrying over. You don’t need to be a robot, of course, but once you slip into their routine, it can be easy to lose sight of your drive and your ambition.

5. Don’t Absorb Their Responsibilities

While it can be difficult (especially if you share the same job role), it’s important to clarify early on who exactly is responsible for what – and not to make a habit of picking up the slack when your colleague is falling behind.

Not only will you become resentful, but your own work will start to suffer, too, as you spend more and more time correcting or completing their tasks. You can still issue reminders of deadlines or certain tasks that need to be completed, but always remember that you are not being paid to be a supervisor and that you’re certainly not being paid to babysit.

6. Say Something – But Be Careful

If it’s getting to the point where your colleague’s incompetence just can’t be ignored any more, then you can say something to them – but you should do so with a degree of caution. Don’t go in all guns blazing but, rather, approach the subject with tact; after all, it might not be a question of laziness at all, but possibly poor time management skills (or even your colleague being in way over their head).

If this isn’t the case, then rather than lambasting them for their poor performance, explain firmly but fairly how their inaction is having a negative effect on the team and you in particular. They might not be aware of the impact of their behaviour or be fully clear on what’s expected of them, so make sure that everybody is on the same page before things go any further.

7. Speak to a Manager

If you’ve raised your concerns with the person (or people) in question and clearly nothing has changed, then you are within your rights to take your complaint higher; again, though, you should be careful in your approach.

Telling your boss that Dave spends half his time on Reddit might be true, but it can also come across as though you’re trying to sneakily undermine a potential promotion rival. Instead, you need to switch the focus on how your ability to perform your tasks is being significantly affected. To support your claims, it’s a good idea to keep a log of their actions as well so you can draw upon specific examples when questioned.

Finally, give your boss some credit, too. If they are on the ball, then it’s more than likely that the performance levels of the person in question have been noted; if they say that they are aware of the issue, then you don’t need to get involved any further.

Dealing with lazy people at work is a common bugbear for many committed and dedicated professionals who get frustrated by those who don’t share the same level of pride and ambition. It’s important, though, not to allow other people’s attitudes to affect or influence your own.

If you find that you are experiencing this problem, then follow the tips as detailed above, and the issue should get resolved fairly. In the meantime, don’t let the quality of your work suffer, and always remember that you can only control your own career, even if others don’t care about theirs.

Do you have a lazy coworker? How did you deal with them at work? Let us know in the comments section below!