5 strategic steps to deal with lazy coworkers

Updated on January 28, 2023
strategic steps to deal with lazy coworkers

Have you found yourself immersed in work, whereas another employee’s file folders are sitting untouched on their desk?

Or do you seem unable to find time for coffee while your coworker is getting ready to leave the office early again?

I hear you! Lazy employees can be found in every company, and having to cope with such a coworker is not only frustrating but can also impair the productivity of the whole office.

However, you can learn to cope with slackers and deal with them effectively. To give you a better idea of how to do it, here I’ll share my set of handy tips on how to deal with a coworker who doesn't pull their weight.

5 signs of a lazy coworker

5 signs of a lazy coworker

Poor performance for a day or even a week does not immediately mean that your coworker is lazy. But if this behavior becomes permanent, then you have a problem.

So before you learn how to cope with a slacker in the office, you will first have to understand how to distinguish the signs of one. Here are some examples of the traits most lazy coworkers share.

1. Lack of motivation

Whether your coworker feels drained, underrated at work or unhappy with their responsibilities, they just can’t seem to find the motivation to work optimally every single day.

Since they don’t get the stimulus to show extra effort while doing their job, they get distracted often, take multiple breaks, neglect their responsibilities and do their work only moderately.

2. They find excuses for everything

Have you noticed that your coworker always has an excuse for any mistakes that they have made or for constantly exceeding the deadlines?

They never seem to take responsibility for their actions and tend to blame everyone else.

Lazy employees are also rarely seen at the desk because they are either on a break, in the restroom or talking with other coworkers, allegedly discussing work-related topics.

3. Lack of self-discipline

To be persistent and hardworking requires some level of inner strength and conviction.

However, people who lack self-discipline fail to manage their time properly, often come late to work or leave early, and tend to procrastinate a lot.

This doesn’t mean that employees who lack self-discipline don’t feel stressed about not working optimally, it is just that they find laziness more comfortable.

They can also dislike their hardworking colleagues because such people make them look bad.

4. Incompetency

Laziness at work is a form of incompetence. And lazy incompetent coworkers can be the worst. They not only don’t know what they are doing and perform their tasks poorly but also don't want to cooperate and show no desire to learn and improve their skills.

Such employees would use every opportunity they have to shirk work and make others take on their responsibilities.

5. Sabotage of work

By poorly performing their duties and frequently missing due dates, lazy employees can negatively affect the success of work projects, make major mistakes and fail their coworkers.

And while they might try to appear busy with work all the time, you can see no real results coming from them and you know they can’t be trusted with important tasks.

Also, have you considered that you might be dealing with something even worse than lazy coworkers? What if they eventually try to shift the blame at you and throw you under the bus so you can pay for their negligence? That is why it is important to take action soon.

How to deal with lazy coworkers in 5 effective steps

How to deal with lazy coworkers in 5 effective steps

Have you ever been told not to compare with others and focus only on your performance? It can prove very hard to stay unbothered by lazy coworkers around you who don’t want to work.

Especially, if your job depends to some extent on this person or you end up taking their responsibilities just because someone has to!

So, how to deal with slackers at work? While you may feel tempted to go straight to your boss and expose your lazy coworker, there are several steps you can take before that to effectively deal with a coworker who doesn't want to work.

1. Don’t make hasty conclusions

I am not saying that you should always try to excuse a lazy person, but my advice is not to assume the worst immediately. Ask yourself why they are acting like that.

Perhaps their personal life is affecting their performance at work. Or they don’t feel in place in the company so they can't fully unleash their potential?

They may also be suffering from burnout and need to take it slow.

2. Collect your evidence

When you notice that your coworker is not giving their best at work and this has been going on for quite some time, start keeping a close eye on them and gathering evidence of their unwillingness to work.

These may include screenshots, copies of documentation, emails or anything that would show their poor productivity.

You can also try to speak with other coworkers and see what their observations of this person are.

3. Have a chat with your coworker

Approach your coworker and offer to speak somewhere privately. It’s best not to raise the issue in front of other people as your coworker may feel publicly attacked or embarrassed.

Ask them politely what is going on and offer to help if you can. Try to gently hint at their idleness.

If they deny the accusations, use the collected evidence to support your case when you approach your boss or HR about the matter.

4. Allow some time for results

Once you have spoken to your coworker, wait and see if they will start showing signs of working to improve their behavior.

Perhaps the weight of guilt after your conversation will serve as the motivation they needed to make an effort and work harder.

Keep in mind, however, that their change of behavior may be brief. If after a while they start to get lazy again, it’s time to go for your last resort.

5. Go to your manager/HR

If your coworker chooses to stay ignorant of your conversation with them and continues with their laziness at work, you should turn to your boss and expose the slacker.

Share your concerns with your line manager or HR staff and use the previously gathered evidence as supporting material, then allow them to take the matter into their own hands. We have a comprehensive blog series about how to deal with difficult coworkers so make sure to check it out.

How to tell someone to do their job professionally

Having to tell a coworker that they are not doing their job decently is a delicate situation. Not everyone appreciates honest feedback, especially when it hasn’t been asked for.

Additionally, you wouldn’t want to appear arrogant and authoritative, when you’ve only had good intentions.

So, how can you gently hint at a coworker that they need to take their responsibilities seriously?

The right way to tell someone to do their job professionally is by making it clear that you are not attacking them but rather that you want to help and you are simply concerned about the productive work environment. Prove your point by providing evidence but try not to appear accusatory.

To help you sound friendly and make your coworker feel more comfortable during the whole conversation, you can start by mentioning some positive aspects of the other person’s work instead of jumping straight to any accusations.

How to work with a lazy coworker

How to work with a lazy coworker

Working with a lazy coworker can be nerve-wracking. Even when you have tried everything to help them be more productive, some people just refuse to mend.

The most important thing when it comes to working with a slacker is not to let them get on your nerves.

Instead, try to follow these simple rules to make the time spent in the office with a lazy person easier:

Don’t let them distract you

Whether by constantly chattering about their personal life or by showing you funny cat videos, they can easily divert your attention from your tasks and influence your performance.

Try to set boundaries and focus on your work. Respectively, don’t let their laziness bother you and preoccupy your thoughts.

Don’t rely on them

Lazy employees tend to perform their responsibilities moderately and have difficulty meeting deadlines. Take note of that and don’t entrust them with important tasks.

Sometimes it’s better to do the job yourself and put in some extra effort, rather than complying with a slacker and risking the success of a project.

Don’t do their job

If it doesn’t affect your work directly or the projects you are part of, don’t feel obligated to do your lazy coworker' tasks.

This won’t improve the situation for you and will only help your coworker get away with their idleness.

Key takeaways - how to deal with a coworker who doesn't work

  • Always put yourself in the shoes of your coworkers and don't assume the worst immediately when they show poor performance at work.
  • Try to speak privately with a coworker first to see what the reason for their lazy behavior is and whether you can help.
  • Have supporting evidence when you are making accusations that one of your coworkers is a slacker.
  • In case an employee refuses to do their job, even after you have talked to them, go to your boss and raise the issue.
  • Don’t allow the job of a lazy employee to become yours because this will only help them get away from responsibility.
Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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