All of us have experienced "Lazy Larry" at some time. He arrives just after start time, is often hanging out for the next smoko, spends half the day on his phone and takes a bathroom break right while everyone else is pitching in to pack up. He never goes out of his way to lend a hand when needed and would never consider staying back to get the job done. Sometimes he may be seen bragging about how much he gets paid for such little effort.
It doesn't matter if they report to you, you report to them, or they're just someone on the job who makes your life a living nightmare, if you have a Lazy Larry among the team their attitude will wear thin as you and your colleagues pick up the slack. Further, a workmate's lazy actions can jeopardise safety, prevent growth and opportunities for all and create a toxic culture as resentment builds. Everyone else is working hard, getting in on time, and doing their best while the lazy workmate is getting paid for minimal effort.
According to Ernst and Young, businesses lose an estimated $41.3 billion every year due to time wasted by employees. Unsurprisingly, employees who are unhappy with their jobs or felt insecure in their role were more likely to participate in sliding productivity.
While Lazy Larry's come along from time-to-time, it doesn't mean their behaviour needs to be blindly accepted. So, if you're currently sick and tired of that one colleague who just won't put the effort in, here's the ultimate guide dealing with a lazy workmate.
Don't Let Them Rent Space in Your Head
The behaviour of your lazy workmate could very well be getting to you, and that's just not good. You may feel that the situation is entirely unfair. After all, how do they get away with it? Why don't you get to come in late, leave early, and do the bare minimum on the projects you've been assigned.
Just remember, this is one person. Their actions will come back to bite them. You're a good worker; you should pride yourself in that, and by distancing yourself from the emotion of the situation, you're keeping yourself from falling into their negative spiral. Do you own thing and don't let their behaviour get the better of you; it will only drain your energy.
Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt
After watching your lazy colleague slacking off for weeks, or even months, it can be tempting to go to HR or a supervisor and complain. We suggest you don't take that course of action until your other options have been exhausted. Not only may you get the reputation of being a moaner, but you also may not know why your workmate is acting lazily.
Ask yourself, is this new behaviour or has it always been the case? Presumably, if the workmate in question has been doing this for many months, it would have already caught up by now. If the behaviour is more recent, it's possible something may have happened at home that is affecting his or her performance. Has there been a death in the family? An illness? Financial worries? Health concerns? Mental health issues?
Have a Direct Conversation with the Lazy Offender
Find the time to talk with an open mind about their behaviour in private. Try and ask some respectful, open questions to help them open up. You may suddenly discover the laziness is just a symptom of something more serious. And you could be able to help. You may even become a hero in this situation. It may well be that the lazy workmate is struggling with the task and needs some extra guidance that you or your supervisor can provide.
If you discover it's all just down to laziness and attitude, then decide your next course of action from there.
Don't Criticise Their Behaviour in Front of Others
The goal here, ideally, is to get your sloth-like workmate to stop being so lazy. You may think that by disparaging them in front of other staff, it will make them lift their game. But that usually doesn't work, and what's worse, it makes you come across as unprofessional. You've only succeeded in bringing yourself down to the level of the offending team member.
So, whether you're on the site working, or taking a break for lunch, just keep your opinion to yourself and don't join in if others bring up the lazy workmate. You need to stay above the gossip, be the adult, and solve this problem through the correct channels.
NEVER Pick Up Their Slack
Depending on the kind of relationship you have with this team member, you may feel guilted into working harder to do the tasks that are on their plate. If it's a really good friend, you may even feel obligated to help out. You put in a few more unpaid hours to get them caught up, or you let your own work slip by doing your lazy workmate's job. That's a huge mistake.
The second you start doing their job, you are signalling to them that their behaviour is acceptable. You may well complain while you do it; "this is the last time I'm doing this for you." But deep down, you know it isn't. And so do they. You have no obligation to do work for them, even if they are related or you've been mates for a decade. Adults have responsibilities. You're taking on your own; you do not need theirs as well.
Another issue with doing their job for them is that it hides the problem from the company. The job is being done; the supervisors are happy; they have no idea that someone isn't doing their job which could stretch the problem out for months, or even years if they're good at guilting you into helping out.
Consider Whether it's Even Worth Your Time to Do Something
This lazy workmate you're dealing with is a problem, and you know it. But is it on you to do something about it, or should someone else be dealing with it? Maybe you're not well-placed in the company to say anything, especially if the workmate has more sway with management than you do.
Sometimes, the best course of action is no action. Will your decision to report the lazy workmate to the people in charge backfire? Will you come across as the troublemaker? Weigh all this carefully. You know the company. You know the people. You know the culture. It may be better to let someone else handle it.
Gather Evidence of the Lazy Behaviour
Some people are masters of deflection and can often appear to be ideal employees in the eyes of the people who matter. They may take credit for the work other people have done. They may even push the blame onto you, and if you don't have evidence to back up your side of the story, you could be the one getting in trouble.
So bide your time. Make a record of the issues and when you have enough information, take it to the right people. That may be your supervisor, HR, or even the owner of the company. With everything you have gathered, it'll make it very hard for the lazy workmate to work out of it.
Have Solutions Ready for the Problem Workmate
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again often in your career: "don't bring me problems, bring me solutions." There's a reason so many managers say this. They hear complaints day after day, often without any kind of thought put into the issue. Don't be that person. You've gone to the trouble of gathering evidence. Now go one step further and have several possible solutions to the problem.
What this does is take some of the pressure off the boss. You have done your homework, thought it through, and come to the boss not only with an issue but with ideas on how to solve it. This will stand you in good stead and give the boss several avenues to explore.
Take Your Case to the Boss
You've talked to your lazy workmate. You've avoided enabling their behaviour. You've kept quiet, and you've got a whole lot of proof. Now is the time to act on the foundation you've laid. Ask to speak to the boss and give a heads-up about the subject you'll be discussing.
It may transpire that the boss already knows about this lazy workmate, and the wheels have been set in motion. By simply calling attention to the problem with the workmate's name, you could tip the scales and encourage the boss to take appropriate action. And if proof is required of your accusations, you've got it. Plus, you also have advice on how to solve the problem. At this point, you've done all you can. It's out of your hands, and hopefully, you've done enough to resolve it without putting yourself in a bad light.
• Don't go straight to management. Have a private talk with the lazy workmate first.
• Try not to let them get to you. Their actions aren't right, but you control your emotions.
• On no account should you do their job for them. It only makes things worse.
• Avoid talking about them in front of other employees. You'll look bad.
• Figure out if this is an issue worth your time. It may be a lost cause from the start.
• This could become a "he said, she said" situation, so have proof of their laziness.
• You know the problem, now figure out solutions to it that you bring to the boss.
• If all else fails, report the lazy workmate to management. You've done your part.
A lazy workmate doesn't have to be something you need to accept. You can do something about it. But the most important thing to remember is that you must put your career first. If that means the lazy workmate sticks around, you can at least feel satisfied that you did all you could.
Do you need help with hiring? Then contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group to receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.