One of the most stressful things about work is having to deal with lazy coworkers. It can be frustrating for everyone when they slack off or talk about their personal lives instead of doing what needs to get done for the day.
Luckily, there are ways to deal with a lazy coworker. Let’s look at these strategies, as shared by experts:
Conflict Management Expert, Conflict Remedy
Before you can decide how to deal with a “lazy” coworker, you need to define and clarify what you mean. When you say your coworker is lazy:
- Are they arriving late or taking too long for lunch?
- Are they not finishing work in a timely matter?
- Are they trying to push work off on you that they’re supposed to do?
Being clear about the specific helps you craft the best response because each situation has a different best approach for coworkers and for managers.
Be curious — and ask why
If they’re arriving later taking a longer lunch, you need to ask why, with curiosity rather than judgment or assumptions.
If you can talk to them about it in a neutral way, you might find out that they have to catch a bus that arrives a few minutes after or they’ve had childcare issues to resolve at home before they can start work or during lunchtime.
- Are they overwhelmed or uncertain?
- If they’re not finishing their work in a timely way, again why?
- Do they have too many projects, are they feeling overwhelmed?
- Do they not know how to do the work or prioritize, or ask for the help they need?
Most people want to do a good job and when they don’t, there’s often a good reason for it that can be fixed.
If they’re trying to push work off on you, set boundaries and say “no, thank you,” clearly and politely. And, encourage them to talk to their manager if they need help prioritizing the projects, or if there really is too much for them to do.
Listen with compassion and curiosity
You don’t have to take on their issues, but you do need to manage your own irritation, gather more information, listening with compassion and curiosity, and set limits for yourself about what you’re going to do.
If you can, focusing on your own work and not paying attention as much to what they’re doing is also helpful. If you’re on a team together, then more direct action and talking to the team lead might be called for.
I know what it’s like when you have a lazy coworker. I had this situation, just like most of us did in school, when you did teamwork projects. Everyone except one does all the work and gets the good grade too. It doesn’t feel fair.
Well, it isn’t fair, but I believe we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt first. So, follow these steps when your coworker is a professional procrastinator:
Talk to your coworker in a non-attacking way
Simply ask them what’s going on. Say you’ve noticed some things weren’t done and ask if everything’s okay.
If your coworker has something going on that’s making it difficult to attend to their work, then cut them a bit of slack if possible. Also, encourage them to talk to the boss so that the management can work with them if possible.
Unfortunately, if the coworker cannot attend to their tasks over time, you’ll have to approach the boss yourself. I recommend just being direct and saying that work is not getting done due to your coworker. No blaming or shaming. Just the facts.
Chief Marketing Officer, Better Proposals
Insist on sending daily or weekly report to the management
Many people don’t like working hard, but they dislike looking bad in front of their managers even more. If you have a lazy coworker, simply insist on the entire team sending their daily or weekly report to the management.
That way, the managers will get a nice overview of who’s done what in a given day or week, and the lazy employee will look bad in front of their peers and managers. It’s a super-easy way to get people to start working more.
However, this approach only works if you have a nice, measurable way to show how productive someone is.
PR Manager, My Speech Class
Working with a lazy coworker will definitely test your patience and affect your productivity if you allow it. So here’s how you can handle a lazy coworker.
Talk to them
This is the time to put your interpersonal skills to good use. Reach out to your coworker and let them know that you are worried about their lack of interest in doing their job. Give them an opportunity to open up to you about their work struggles and if it’s something you think you can assist them with, kindly help.
Coworkers are human, just like you, and they go through their own personal struggles and challenges, which can affect their performance at work.
Inform your superiors
If talking to your coworker doesn’t yield any meaningful results, inform your superiors and let them know that you tried talking to your coworker before approaching them to lodge a complaint and you trust their judgment to handle the situation in the best possible way.
Keep a record of your daily activities
One way to handle a lazy coworker who’s on your team is to keep a record of the daily tasks at work. Document everything and make sure you copy them via emails as proof in case you have to report their nonchalant attitude to work to your superiors.
Set reasonable deadlines
Deadlines are a lazy coworker’s worst nightmare, especially when a superior is involved. Make sure you set reasonable deadlines for your lazy coworker that will give him enough time to deliver on his tasks, and if he doesn’t give a reasonable explanation for not meeting his deadlines, escalate it.
Some lazy coworkers have mastered the art of convincing others to become lazy like them. Your employer hired you for a reason, don’t let someone who has no future career goals be the reason why you’re fired from your job.
Be firm when talking to your lazy coworker and let them know the actions you’re willing to take if they keep up with their lazy acts.
CMO, Prize Rebel
Out of my experience, it is best to try and not let someone else’s attitude or laziness affect your own unless it actually has a negative impact on your work. In this case, there are some ways to help make the situation better:
Give the lazy coworker deadlines
To prevent an employee’s laziness from affecting your tasks, give them deadlines before you would need them. It doesn’t matter how long it takes them to get the job done, but what matters is that it doesn’t end up getting in your way.
With deadlines and reminders, your co-worker will get the task done at their own pace, deliver on time, and prevent their laziness from affecting your work.
Try and figure out what the problem is
Before you judge the employee and just assume that they’re lazy, try and find out if there’s a reason behind their low productivity.
Maybe they’re unhappy with their job due to reasons that can be fixed. Maybe they’re having issues at home, and it’s just a phase, or maybe they’re suffering from health issues, or maybe they’re just bored and need a change of job.
When you find the root of the problem, you could find a solution such as helping them find an internal position that will get them excited again, see the company’s therapist or doctor or just work remotely for a change.
Use motivation techniques
Sometimes laziness or low-productivity comes from being demotivated. If this is the case you can try and motivate your coworker by praising them, giving them advice, tips and tricks to improve their workflow or even break things down into tasks for them to feel productive during the day.
You can also include a bit of healthy competition by putting targets and goals and competing against each other. Things like these can really make a difference.
Head of Branding, Squadhelp
Understand that everyone has their moments
Going into dealing with a lazy co-worker, it is important to understand that all people will have their moments of laziness. Be it the end of the week, stressful home life, or even just being mentally/physically exhausted, it is important to simply understand that it is life.
Now in dealing with this, communication is key. Historically, I have seen many people not putting in as much work/effort after a large company change. People all deal with change differently, and it is extremely important to stress the “why” of the change and how it positively affects the business.
Fielding worker concerns and questions is an important step because it shows the open line of communication, and that their concerns are valued.
Another important aspect of dealing with laziness is to be repetitive and even slightly micromanaging certain tasks so that the employee knows the importance of it. This also ensures communication is left open and that the issue does not need to escalate into something bigger.
So your buddy at work has been slacking off and it’s beginning to affect your performance, what do you do? Communicate. I can’t stress this enough, but communication is key to fixing anything.
This conversation does not need to be hostile in any way, but simply expressing concerns can go a long way. Now should the situation escalate, a supervisor should be informed and the previously mentioned steps can be taken.
Senior Consultant, Knowmium
Inspiring before informing
Our view of a coworker might be “lazy,” yet the coworker’s view of the tasks at hand might be “irrelevant.” For example, we may be mistaken about a coworker’s actual duties and goals. If we see someone not contributing to the quarterly budget meeting, we may see their inaction as apathy.
They might see budget meetings as outside their personal responsibilities, and budget meetings might actually be outside of their contractual duties.
In cases where we don’t have positional power to demand action from someone else, we can turn to inspiration.
Inspiration means persuading with your mission and vision, and when it comes to persuading and getting commitment from others, inspiring before giving information and details is key. Inspiration happens when we share the big picture and make a situation relevant to the other person or the greater good.
It can often involve examples and storytelling to sell your vision.
Let’s say you want someone to stay late on Friday to help you with a research project. It will only take 2 hours, but the coworker certainly has no obligation to help you. When you begin the conversation with your coworker, describe the overview of your situation.
What is this 2-hour research project building towards? What larger project is it part of? How does it help the department and the company? If applicable, how might it affect and help your coworker now or in the future? Notice you haven’t given any specifics about the research project other than it will take 2 hours.
This approach isn’t guaranteed to work but consider the alternatives. If you approach your coworker and begin talking about the specific research needed, the files the coworker would go through, and how it will be cataloged, all you are doing is throwing more work at your coworker.
Who wants more duties and work? No one. Who wants to be part of a bigger achievement? Many people.
In most cases, laziness continues to be an issue, when nobody points it out. However, you can make the whole process easier for yourself by having a private conversation with your co-worker.
But make sure that you aren’t too passive-aggressive about the situation. This because if you try to indirectly address the problem with jokes, hints, or just plain sarcasm, there is a chance that your message may not be taken seriously.
You should also try to address the problem as soon as it pops up. This way they are clear on why you are upset about it and at which point they were not being helpful.
Again, be direct, but try not to be too confrontational about it. After all, you don’t know what personal issues they may be dealing with, so be friendly and be understanding. You can also try to suggest solutions that will help them snap out of their habits and make the situation better.
Ask a favor
If you feel that you don’t want to take the direct approach and would prefer something a little more subtle and psychological, then you can always directly ask them for help to complete a project.
It’s very simple for someone to ignore tasks, but it’s more difficult for them to ignore a request for help. This puts your coworker in an awkward place, where they have to either say no or just go ahead and help. This puts them in a place where they have to decide between their laziness and the risk of looking like a discourteous person to the rest of their coworkers.
One of the best ways to battle laziness on a project is to make sure that everyone involved is given a deadline to meet and this will create a layer of accountability that the co-worker cannot avoid. So, if they fail to finish their assignments, the blame can only fall on them and the burden won’t be on you.
We all have times when we are not in the mood to be productive. But if it’s already a habit for that person to goof around and not be productive, here are my strategies for these kinds of situations.
Communication is key
Sometimes it’s not about them being lazy, instead, they might be unclear of their tasks and deadlines. Put yourself in their shoes. Do your best to be fair and approach the situation from their point of view as well as your own.
Approach them professionally and don’t let your feelings fester. Knowing where they are coming from could help you deal with the problem fairly.
When you are feeling frustrated about a lazy co-worker, gossiping is not a long-term fix. Saying negative comments about your lazy co-worker could make more harm than good. It could also backfire and will make matters worse. Instead, offer some guidance as they might need some help.
Keep a healthy attitude
Don’t let these kinds of people distract you. Don’t let it affect your attitude and waste your time being angry and annoyed. Don’t let them impact your work and influence your attitude toward work.
Instead, pray for them and offer some guidance on how to manage their tasks and workload so they can be more efficient and productive.
Head of People and Culture, Tidio Chatbots
Working with reliable and goal-oriented colleagues has a tremendous impact on our professional development. Ambitious team members can infect coworkers with passion, ambition, and creative thinking. With lazy colleagues, the situation is the opposite – they can drastically lower team productivity and negatively affect the team’s spirit.
If the laziness of our colleagues has a destructive impact on our work, we should address it as soon as possible. But first, before we start hurling accusations, we should think twice if the behavior of our colleagues stems from laziness.
The reasons might be completely different: family problems, health issues, or unclear tasks and deadlines.
Approach the colleague and honestly speak about the problem in person
The majority of problems come from miscomprehension of tasks or a lack of organizing skills. If we suspect that our colleagues are overwhelmed, and that’s why they waste time, we can offer them help in prioritizing the task, explaining their goals and deadlines. A good option is to share our best tips and tricks on dealing with the workload.
We should approach coworkers with patience, calm, and willingness to help; however, we need to remember that the tasks of our colleagues should never be our responsibility.
Sometimes the simple, honest and straightforward conversation will be enough to resolve the problem with lazy colleagues. If not, then we should look for support among our managers and HR department.
Jonathan Steele, RN
Nurse Consultant | Professional Public Speaker, Speech Mastery
There is a saying, “You cannot motivate anyone…but you can create the circumstances in which they can become motivatable.”
If I go up to someone and say, “Run for your life,” they will look at me like I am crazy. If I yell it I will be arrested. However, if they hear what they perceive to be gunfire, they will run. We have to create a circumstance or situation that a person can be easy to motivate. This can be done with words.
That’s Not Like You
So, to motivate what we perceive as a lazy person, we could use some psychological Jujitsu.
This will take time. It will take the collaboration of other staff to work even faster.
Framing: First, it is necessary to frame what you are going to say in such a way that it is a truth. It may take time and deep thought. The best way I can explain it is a true life experience but I would ask you not to use this.
I complimented Francine for the presentation she recently made, even pointing out the points she used that impressed me. Her response was that she did not do a good job. Francine was well loved but negative about everything to a fault. There were five of us together.
I said, “Excuse me, that’s not like you to be dismissive about a sincere and honest compliment.“
To this she replied that I did not know her.
Then saying (it has to be a truth) that it was not like her to put anyone down as being worthless or no good and she agreed. Then saying it was not like her to even verbally put down an anmial as being stupid or worthless (she was an anmial lover). With a couple of more examples, then came the final knockout punch. It is not like you to put any of God’s creation down (she was religious)…..(she is getting upset with me now)….which would of course include yourself.
Not another word was said in the car as we drove to our destination.
However, everyone noticed what happened. Without saying a word, anytime Francine said anything negative, they would respond with…“That’s not like you to…..” This went on for a month I am told.
In time she changed. The driver was with her alone one day and asked her about the change. Turned out she was put down by her father. She said she came to realize she did have value and did have something to offer. A year later, we were together in a car, with one different person in the car. That person commented and asked if Francine had changed her hair style as she looked different. She responded that she changed the way she thought. The rest of us laughed as we knew the rest of the story.
PS. My wife used this on me one day. I grew up with my grandma. It was a special privilege to help wash the dishes after supper. My wife on the other hand, rather than handling a pot or dish twice, would wash it as she went along.
I chose to make supper one night…spaghetti. She came home from work to find the kitchen a mess. She came up, greeted and kissed me and as she turned around, said that it was not like me to leave the kitchen such a mess.
Well…..when God created man, he put this Knight in Shining Armour Gene within us so that we are programmed to kill any dragon that threatens our princess. However, when we are the dragon, rather than fall on our own sword, we prefer to comply. I cleaned up the kitchen before supper, this, even though I knew what she had done to me.
Complimenting Into the Conduct You Want
There was a 21-year-old CNA who worked on my floor. She was as cute as could be and looked like she was 16. If I had a daughter, I would only hope she was this beautiful. For context, I was the only male nurse on the floor. Nobody liked her because they thought she was lazy. Everyone complained about her.
She had never worked for me so I had no thoughts good or bad about her (other than the daughter comment above). In the course of the morning, I always helped my CNA’s whenever I could. One patient in particular who was at risk for a skin breakdown, I helped her provide care as she was bathing her to both help and to check her out. I remember specifically looking at the pressure points and saw nothing. Leaving her to finish up, she came out to the nurses’ station and said there is something you need to see. She showed me an area that, to my embarrassment, I had missed.
Of course I complimented her. But the rest of the day, I went around telling the other staff, how embarrassed I was that I missed it and how glad I had her for my CNA.
Something incredible happened. Everyone wanted her to be assigned to them. And she rose to the call as she was appreciated. Again, I do not know how good or bad she was but now, she was one of the top CNA’s and was well loved by everyone for her work ethic and the quality of work she did.
Perhaps her perceived laziness was because of the way she was treated.
Certified Life Transformation Coach, Online Divorce
A lazy employee can disrupt corporate culture, thereby breaking the overall workflow. These workers must be closely monitored by the HR department. If you don’t have such experts, here are some tips on how you can deal with lazy coworkers.
Talk to them and find out what interferes with their work
It may turn out that they do not suffer from laziness, but have some work blocks that prevent them from performing their duties efficiently. If you are a manager, be demanding enough. You are not obligated to solve the personal problems of your subordinates. Give a warning note to theemployee.
f your rank does not exceed them, talk to your manager. Tell them what concerns you about co-worker duties and how it affects your productivity. In no case do the work for your colleague, thus you will allow them to relax even more, and you will acquire additional problems.
If your coworker’s laziness doesn’t affect your professional performance in any way, stop focusing on what they do (or rather don’t). Instead, try to do better on your immediate responsibilities.
It’s better not to get into conflicts or gossip, as this can ultimately work against you. Use every opportunity to improve your professional skills against this background, and thereby move up the career ladder.
Communications Coordinator, Helpside
Consider alternative scenarios
Even though we spend a lot of time with our co-workers, we likely do not know everything about them. An employee who appears to be lazy may have special accommodations for a disability or may have issues outside the workplace that their manager is aware of.
Out of respect for the employee’s privacy, these things are often not disclosed to co-workers. Labeling someone as lazy, just because they appear to work less than you is unfair.
Control the controllable
Having the mindset that you can control the way your co-workers behave will only leave you disappointed. You can only control your own work. If you co-worker’s laziness Is impacting your ability to do your job, address that with your managers.
Focus on the work that is not getting done, rather than the behavior or personality of your co-worker. Explain the impact to your manager and ask for suggestions to handle the situation appropriately.
Be direct and point out something specific that will improve things
It is not your responsibility to encourage or monitor your coworkers. You’d be their boss if that were the case. However, having a lazy coworker can be a drain on your team or a team project—and a coworker’s laziness can grind on you and negatively impact your work life in large and small ways.
When you add in a sense of disappointment at what other colleagues get away with, you’ve got a formula for resentment and disappointment at work. But you don’t have to give up and despair—there are a few things you can do to ensure that someone else’s laziness doesn’t cause you to have a bad day at work.
One way to deal with a slacker coworker is to:
- If you are genuinely irritated, never call out a coworker, as this would almost certainly result in unprofessional conduct.
- It’s better to solve a problem as soon as it arises, so your coworker has a good understanding of whether they were being lazy and doesn’t think you’re holding a grudge.
Waiting too long can make it seem as if you’ve been stewing for days, and rehashing the past can add another toxic aspect to the mix, making your coworker defensive. Again, be direct and point out something specific that will improve things and assist your coworker in breaking their bad habits.
Marketing Associate & Writer, Mira
Address the issue with the person
While it’s easy to allow the person to continue to be lazy and just let them deal with the consequences, you’re doing both the person and yourself a disservice by allowing it to worsen.
The first step would be to let the person know (kindly and openly) that you feel there can be an improvement in their work quality and efforts. You can do this by analyzing their goals (which are likely not being met) and even asking them how they are doing; perhaps they are dealing with a personal issue that you don’t know about and you can be open with one another. This actually creates a better work environment as well.
Offer help or guidance
Think of their prior work history and consider they are not being lazy, but are unable to manage their workload properly. You can offer the person help or guidance with their tasks and see how they respond. They may open up and express that they don’t know how to manage the work they’ve been assigned.
If they respond negatively, you now have more insight regarding the type of worker they are and you may need to address it with your superior or take action yourself.
Don’t allow it to affect your work
It’s definitely bothersome when you’re working with someone who isn’t putting the same effort in as you (whether it’s their fault or not). However, don’t allow it to consume your focus and take you away from your tasks and workload. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your tasks and that’s what your superiors will recognize.
If you’re working on something together, and they’re still not pulling their weight, you may want to temporarily pick up the slack, or mention the issue with the person (as previously mentioned). If this is unsuccessful, you could discuss it with your manager when the project is finished.
Managing Director, Eat First
Confront the person but from a place of goodwill
Just because a person is lazy, it does not follow that they are untalented and incapable of adding a lot of value to team efforts.
I’ve pulled coworkers aside before and made it clear that it has become quite obvious they are no longer making an effort or pulling their weight, that it is irritating people and that, more than anything, the entire team wants to be able to count on them because we know how much potential they have.
Framing it this way allows you to call the person out while still acknowledging positive qualities, which is always important when trying to convince someone to change their behaviour or attitude. This is, after all, what you should ultimately be after.
It can be tempting to commiserate with other non-lazy coworkers when someone on the team is clearly not pulling their weight, but this could end up getting you into trouble with HR and ultimately do nothing to address the person’s laziness.
At the end of the day, you are not in charge of motivating this person or micromanaging their work and the most important opinion is that of the lazy person’s manager, so finding ways to make it known to them is important.
If there is something this person is consistently not doing, you can send them an email requesting their help next time around and cc your manager on it. This way you avoid being confrontational and increase the pressure on them to actually contribute because now their manager’s attention has been drawn to the task.
CEO and Founder, Home Grounds
Don’t jump to conclusions about their lack of performance
It’s easy to assign the label of lazy to someone who isn’t turning in work on time and isn’t responding to emails with the urgency you would like. I choose to proceed first with compassion. I don’t always know what is going on in the personal lives of my coworkers. I would feel terrible if I called them out for being lazy and later found out they had had a recent tragedy in their life.
I always make an effort to check in with the employee one on one in a video chat so that we can get a chance to talk face to face about what might be going on in their life.
Once I’ve established that there aren’t any outside factors bringing down their work performance, I set strict guidelines.
I let them know in clear instructions if things need to be turned in at a certain time and to a certain caliber of work. In many ways, I can’t fault a coworker for being lazy if the guidelines that are set for them are not clear.
Finally, I let them know that their lack of work is affecting me personally.
If their laziness is making me stay late at work to make up for their lack of effort I will let them know. Sometimes a little guilt trip is all someone needs to get back to peak productivity.
Founder, Assisted Living Center
Never gossip to other co-workers
When it comes to dealing with a lazy co-worker, the first thing to remember is what not to do: Do not gossip about him to other coworkers.
Instead, don’t let his behavior affect or influence you, and simply make a mental note to minimize his or her involvement in projects you both are in. This way, your work quality, and productivity will not be affected.
If you notice that his laziness is negatively impacting your team’s productivity, you need to talk to him privately to understand what is causing his ‘laziness’ issue. It just might turn out that he or she is simply disorganized. Ask what kind of support would help him or her get on track.
It’s always better to deal with the issue and exhaust possible solutions at your level before escalating it. When you do need to talk to your superiors about this, be sure you have documentation to back up your concern.
Founder, Pro Paint Corner
Define the root of the problem
Is your coworker failing in their own work, separate from you, and you’re just noticing? Or are they failing to get you what you need to succeed? Are you having to give time and energy each day to helping them?
Name for yourself the root of what is bothering you. Once that has been defined you can clearly think about how to address it.
Craft an empathetic plan first
If your coworker is coming to you each day for help, or failing to get you the materials you need, this can lead to your performance being dragged down. Have an empathetic conversation with them. Check in on how they are, and mention that you’ve been noticing that work has been slipping through the cracks.
Often, work-related performance issues can be rooted in life difficulties. It can be extremely helpful to show your coworker that you care. Direct them towards helpful resources in HR if needed. The performance issues may be addressed after this conversation.
State your boundaries
If your coworker continues to lag on their work, and you’re pulling up the slack, have a stern conversation with them. State your boundaries around your workload and help them to understand how their laziness is affecting your workload.
Hopefully, at this point they get it. If not, it’s not unreasonable to tell them that you may have to mention their issues to management. Be polite but firm.
Business Development Consultant, AccountsPortal
Start by professionally approaching your co-worker, and clearly articulating some of the issues you have regarding their work output.
Remember, if their perceived laziness does not directly affect your performance, then refrain from getting entangled in an avoidable office conflict.
Your approach should be strictly professional, but should also be empathetic.
If communicating directly with the coworker does not improve the situation, it is time to speak to your superior. However, before you do this, please document how the coworker’s inaction or actions are hampering with your productivity and interfering with business activities. This way, you are able to present a solid case to your superior.
Marketing Content Writer, TechnologyAdvice
Start giving measurable goals
If you’re a manager with a lazy direct report, start by giving them goals that are measurable and time-sensitive. Try SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. If they don’t meet those goals, you have concrete evidence to present to them or your manager when you talk about their work ethic; it’s no longer based on your subjective opinion.
It also doesn’t hurt to be transparent and empathetic. Maybe they’re struggling with something in their personal life. Maybe they need clarification about what they should be doing and they haven’t figured out how to ask.
If you’re their manager, ask questions to make sure that you’re on the same page, and if you discover that it’s strictly a problem with their work ethic, then it’s time to talk to them about their performance and how they can improve.
Go about your business as usual
If you are dealing with a lazy coworker and you’re not their manager, start by going about your business as usual. Your work shouldn’t be measured by a coworker’s work, especially if you work on separate projects or teams. Chances are, their manager is already looking for ways to tackle the situation.
However, if you have concerns about how their performance will impact your work, especially if you’re working on a project together, don’t be afraid to be honest about whose roles and responsibilities are not being handled appropriately.
Start by speaking to them directly, if you feel comfortable, and asking them what their plan is to meet or recover missed goals. You can also talk to your manager if you’ve missed a goal because of this person or are about to miss a goal and want to prevent it altogether.
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