Working With Lazy People

Motivating Idle Colleagues

Working with Lazy People

Learn strategies for working with lazy colleagues.

© iStockphoto/CarlssonInc

Do you work with a person who doesn't "pull his weight"? Perhaps he wastes a large part of the day playing games, or talking to friends on the phone. Or, maybe he takes extra-long breaks, and he's happy just to do the very minimum to get by.

If you work with a colleague like this, then you know how frustrating it can be. Working with someone who's lazy is always a personal challenge, but it can also lower the productivity and morale of everyone else in the office.

However, if you're not that person's boss, is there anything that you can do? Do you simply have to tolerate this "rogue," or should you confront the situation head on?

Your Options

If you have a lazy co-worker in your midst, you'll probably have several options.

Your first option is to ignore the situation and go about your business. If the lazy colleague isn't causing you problems in any way, this might be the best option.

Sure, it's annoying and unfair that she's getting away with only doing a fraction of the work. But eventually, her poor performance is going to catch up with her. In the meantime, let it go – focus on doing your own great work, and making sure that you get the recognition that you deserve  .

However, if your colleague's idleness is having a negative impact on your work, or that of your team mates, then you need to take action.

So another option is to pick up the work your colleague isn't doing. This will take care of neglected tasks, but it's only going to add to your stress and frustration, since you're now doing her job as well.

Letting your co-worker continue with her bad work habits could also cause a negative impact on your, or your team's, reputation.

Your last, and likely best, option is to get assertive   and take direct action to stop her being so lazy. We'll look at several approaches to doing this.

Open a Dialogue

Begin by meeting your co-worker privately.

First, explain how her actions are affecting you and your other team members. Cite specific dates or situations that will trigger her memory – be as detailed as you can here.

For instance, if she was supposed to prepare a presentation for last week's meeting and missed the deadline, then let her know that you had to stay late to complete her work. Making her see that her actions (or lack thereof) are having a personal affect on you can drive the message home.

This can be a difficult conversation to have, but be respectful and polite throughout, and try to avoid getting emotional   or angry.

If you're nervous or unsure what you're going to say, then try role playing   to prepare for this meeting. You might also want to brush up on your communication skills to make sure you can get your point across confidently and assertively.

If your co-worker regularly dumps her own responsibilities onto you, then it's time this behavior stopped. Let her know firmly that you're not going to cover for her, or take on her tasks, any longer. Stress that if her behavior doesn't change, you'll have no choice but to go to your boss.

Your co-worker might not respond positively to this conversation. So, to prepare for this, you might want to learn more about how to deal with difficult people  . If things get heated, end the conversation and walk away – nothing productive will come from arguing.


Keep a private note of everything that you do and why you're doing it. If your co-worker makes a fuss about what you're doing, you need to be able to defend yourself!

Listen Actively

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