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How to Handle a Lazy Co-Worker

Ask Savvy: My Lazy Co-Worker Is Affecting My Morale

Dear Savvy,

I don't know where else to turn for some advice regarding a certain co-worker. Our company has been expanding and growing very quickly with a lot of success so I have been moved around to different job titles a couple times. Now that our company is all settled down (for the most part) I just can't help but notice that one employee is not doing any work. We both have the same job titles, but she does one thing which takes about 2 hours at the most and the rest of the time she is browsing the internet or doing her own personal errands. This is not just a guess either, I know for a fact because she would AIM me that she is bored and tell me all her personal stuff. She strolls in at 11 am and leaves around 4pm which I would never had cared about, but it bothers me now because our department is soooo busy and she is sooo NOT busy.

My manager and other co-workers have noticed and we have all brushed this off by joking about it. It has always been a burning thought in the back of my head whenever I'm rushing to get things done at work and come in for OVER TIME about why wouldn't anyone say anything about this? Today my manager IM'd me joking about how she doesn't do much around here and that she would probably leave early AGAIN — I just can't stand it anymore! How can I bring this issue up seriously to my boss that this is bothering me? Or should I even bring it up in the first place? It is affecting my morale for working hard if I know there are other employees getting paid more than me for doing a lot less AND my managers (including all the employees) are aware of it.

To see my answer just

A: Your story brings back memories of a past co-worker, and I grit my teeth just thinking about her! It's easy for other people that don't share a job title to suggest that you just ignore her behavior and laugh it off, but it's a much more personal issue for you and it makes sense that you're so fired up. And of course you're losing respect for your managers for accepting her behavior — what would they do if the whole department slacked off like that?

It's obvious that you're an all-star employee and an asset to the company, so why not ask your managers if some of your responsibilities could be passed on to the slacker who shares your job title? Since she was hired for the same position she should be capable of performing the same tasks. Make a detailed list of your duties and choose a few that could be passed on to your co-worker, and set up a meeting with your managers to discuss.

When you meet with your managers, mention that you're feeling slightly overwhelmed and feel like you could do a better job if you weren't spread so thinly. Your comprehensive list will show them exactly how you've been helping the company. Then, tell your managers that you'll help your co-worker adapt to her new duties. Voila — suddenly you can add that you've trained other employees to your resume! Also, instead of complaining to your bosses in a negative way, you're proactively helping them find a solution.

I seriously doubt that your managers would shun your suggestion of passing on some responsibilities to your co-worker, and they may even consider reorganizing the job duties of other employees in your department. If everyone is killing themselves to get things finished everyday, then everyone would be happier if they had a little bit less on their plates. And in the rare chance they don't think your suggestion is a good one, you've put yourself in the perfect position to discuss compensation.

Keep in mind that just because your bosses let her get away with murder, it doesn't mean they're not recognizing your hard work. Good luck and keep me posted!

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kismekate kismekate 6 years
I have a co-worker like this, but I have no problem complaining to my bosses about her. They'll joke about it, and I'll confront them by saying, "I'm seriously concerned that she's wasting your time and money. I think someone else could do the job better." I am the office manager, so I suppose it's easier for me to say. But people like this will never get it until they're put in a situation in which they are threatened with the seriousness of losing their job.
kismekate kismekate 6 years
I have a co-worker like this, but I have no problem complaining to my bosses about her. They'll joke about it, and I'll confront them by saying, "I'm seriously concerned that she's wasting your time and money. I think someone else could do the job better."I am the office manager, so I suppose it's easier for me to say. But people like this will never get it until they're put in a situation in which they are threatened with the seriousness of losing their job.
Tessera Tessera 8 years
Deja vu! I was in exactly the same situation a year ago. Savvy has the best approach and the other commenter's are 100% right too. No amount of mentoring, encouraging had much effect in my situation, for any length of time -just like loagrape's post. I took Savvy's approach but it was verbal (the job list is a good idea) Approaching my manager to 'inform' him (only monthly)of the situation, requesting re-organizing job duties. This was not confrontational, but serious. A non-confrontational manager can be ineffective in these situations, so not much changes, except your stress level. I was at the end of my rope, I couldn't stay in the situation any longer and finally confronted my boss & HR dept. about it - did it work out well? Yes and no. They decided to keep the slacker, and fire the long-term hard worker, me. -so let my situation be a word of caution. I'm fine with my situation the way it played out, I needed it to change. It made no sense, but it can turn out that way. Ask yourself tho, why put yourself through that kind of stress and frustration, its not always worth it in the end. Taking commenter Fiend's approach may be the only practical solution.
Tessera Tessera 8 years
Deja vu! I was in exactly the same situation a year ago. Savvy has the best approach and the other commenter's are 100% right too. No amount of mentoring, encouraging had much effect in my situation, for any length of time -just like loagrape's post. I took Savvy's approach but it was verbal (the job list is a good idea) Approaching my manager to 'inform' him (only monthly)of the situation, requesting re-organizing job duties. This was not confrontational, but serious. A non-confrontational manager can be ineffective in these situations, so not much changes, except your stress level. I was at the end of my rope, I couldn't stay in the situation any longer and finally confronted my boss & HR dept. about it - did it work out well? Yes and no. They decided to keep the slacker, and fire the long-term hard worker, me. -so let my situation be a word of caution. I'm fine with my situation the way it played out, I needed it to change. It made no sense, but it can turn out that way. Ask yourself tho, why put yourself through that kind of stress and frustration, its not always worth it in the end.Taking commenter Fiend's approach may be the only practical solution.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 8 years
If you have the same job title, why don't you have an equal amount of work? Is she connected with your boss somehow that she can get away with murder like this?
magickalrealism magickalrealism 8 years
There's also the remote possibility that the situation is reversed: the person who shares your job is doing something right, or recognizing priorities, or even working at a time or in a way so you don't see it. That said, saying she's bored to ANY co-worker is asking for trouble.The next time the coworker tells you she's bored, why don't you say, "well hey, can you help me with this?"
magickalrealism magickalrealism 8 years
There's also the remote possibility that the situation is reversed: the person who shares your job is doing something right, or recognizing priorities, or even working at a time or in a way so you don't see it. That said, saying she's bored to ANY co-worker is asking for trouble. The next time the coworker tells you she's bored, why don't you say, "well hey, can you help me with this?"
Fiend Fiend 8 years
Honestly i think if yor manager is iming you and joking about it then you should take a moment to say "hey, can i speak to you about this on a serious level?" and let your manager know that it is seriously affecting your morale that this person is not doing any work. I had the same situation at my last job; i spoke to the manager, he said he would do something about it but didnt, and i COULDNT TAKE IT so found another job. And guess what, 1 month later she left too. And you know why she left?? because i left, the manager forced her to do all the work she used to slack on (the work she was supposed to be doing mind you) and she said i am not here to slave, and work this hard. And now 2 years later that job has just filed for bankrupcty. I feel like going there and saying HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! but anyhooo, my point after all that rambling is that you should speak up, especially if youve been there awhile and you are a good worker. And if your manager doesnt do anything about it then it might be time to move on. Just make sure you resign gracefully. I would have a formal and an informal resignation. The informal one can be verbal were you tell your manager the problem. the formal one should be how you learned so much, loved the job blahblah..
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Why does your manager let her get away with this???
lolagrape lolagrape 8 years
I could have written this letter. I was already overwhelmed at work and found out I would be receiving MORE job duties (per our Director), so it was decided that a new person would be hired to handle the new job duties. I had an aquintance from another department who I knew was unhappy in her current position, so I encouraged her to apply for the new position (which has the same title). I thought we would do well together. I was wrong!She came in and showed little motivation to learn the new duties. And refused to learn how to cover my work. The job she was hired to perform ultimately wound up not requiring as much time as was thought, although with motivation, it could be! She sits and sighs all day (she sits RIGHT in front of me--so I know!) that she is bored and has nothing to do. She will even ask me if I have anything for her to do, but if it's not something easy, she'll flat out tell me no! In addition, she has repeatedly taken work from my desk and started "working on it"--which means going and asking someone else (!) what is going on with it, which makes me feel undermined and frustrated! I realized that a lot of her problem is that she's not a self-starter but also that she doesn't feel confident in making decisions, so I decided to start empowering her in certain ways, but also setting boundaries in others. Which was hard for me. She has still pulled the undermining behavior or refusals, but the way I try to circumvent that is by asking "Why did you just do that?" And then we talk about it. And to encourage her to take on things, I praise her when she does something well or takes initiative. So far, it's not perfect, but the situation has gotten better. Sounds like you don't have a lot of free time, but if you can figure out her motivations (or lack of them) it might go a long way, especially if your management isn't willing to help. After all, you have to spend at least 8 hours a day with this person, which is more than you get with anyone else!
lolagrape lolagrape 8 years
I could have written this letter. I was already overwhelmed at work and found out I would be receiving MORE job duties (per our Director), so it was decided that a new person would be hired to handle the new job duties. I had an aquintance from another department who I knew was unhappy in her current position, so I encouraged her to apply for the new position (which has the same title). I thought we would do well together. I was wrong! She came in and showed little motivation to learn the new duties. And refused to learn how to cover my work. The job she was hired to perform ultimately wound up not requiring as much time as was thought, although with motivation, it could be! She sits and sighs all day (she sits RIGHT in front of me--so I know!) that she is bored and has nothing to do. She will even ask me if I have anything for her to do, but if it's not something easy, she'll flat out tell me no! In addition, she has repeatedly taken work from my desk and started "working on it"--which means going and asking someone else (!) what is going on with it, which makes me feel undermined and frustrated! I realized that a lot of her problem is that she's not a self-starter but also that she doesn't feel confident in making decisions, so I decided to start empowering her in certain ways, but also setting boundaries in others. Which was hard for me. She has still pulled the undermining behavior or refusals, but the way I try to circumvent that is by asking "Why did you just do that?" And then we talk about it. And to encourage her to take on things, I praise her when she does something well or takes initiative. So far, it's not perfect, but the situation has gotten better. Sounds like you don't have a lot of free time, but if you can figure out her motivations (or lack of them) it might go a long way, especially if your management isn't willing to help. After all, you have to spend at least 8 hours a day with this person, which is more than you get with anyone else!
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i 100% understand this situation. it's a pain to know that your work ethic is different and 'better' than someone elses. i've had to deal with this a lot in my job situations. it's hard because you can talk until you're blue in the face to someone about how there's always something that needs to be done - yet if they don't feel the need to change - then they won't.
gooniette gooniette 8 years
I think the reason you're so busy is that you are better at the job than she is. So, when your managers give you tasks, it's because they know you will get it done right and she probably won't. I've seen this happen a lot. The person who is the best at the job gets all the work and the other not so good employees are left alone. It's almost like a punishment for a job well done, but I hope you can look at it like a compliment. Savvy's advice is pretty good. Also, the next time your coworker tells you how bored she is, maybe you could suggest that she help you out with something, you know, to help her pass the time. :-) Good luck!
gooniette gooniette 8 years
I think the reason you're so busy is that you are better at the job than she is. So, when your managers give you tasks, it's because they know you will get it done right and she probably won't. I've seen this happen a lot. The person who is the best at the job gets all the work and the other not so good employees are left alone. It's almost like a punishment for a job well done, but I hope you can look at it like a compliment. Savvy's advice is pretty good. Also, the next time your coworker tells you how bored she is, maybe you could suggest that she help you out with something, you know, to help her pass the time. :-)Good luck!
megnmac megnmac 8 years
I hate when I am busy and someone else at work is not! It can be really frustrating, and I'm usually able to deal with it when the not busy part is just the regular flow of work, sometimes there is a lot and sometimes there is a brief respite... but I cannot stand when I know someone else is not kicking their own ass, never working hard and just letting things fall behind puttering around on the company dime... work at work people!
jessy777 jessy777 8 years
I know how frustrating that can be as I am in the same situation now. I hope it all works out for you.
RosaDilia RosaDilia 8 years
I hope it works out, good luck.
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