Get a lazy co-worker to pick up the slack

  @Money June 3, 2013: 10:51 AM ET
How to deal with a lazy co-worker
(Money Magazine)

Workers who don't do their fair share typically cost the rest of us an extra one to three hours a week at the office, a recent survey by corporate training firm VitalSmarts found.

Covering for a deadbeat doesn't just get you home late for dinner, either: Four out of five respondents said doing so caused their own performance to slip.

Unfortunately, slouches tend to respond poorly to feedback from peers. "They actively resent it," says Cambridge, Mass., executive coach Stever Robbins.

So while you'll want to try confronting the slacker first, you'll probably have to talk to your boss to get real results.

Before Going to the Boss

Make expectations public. Set team deadlines in a meeting or group email so that everyone knows what everyone else is responsible for and by when, says Robbins.

Try working it out. When someone doesn't deliver, summarize the facts neutrally and ask for clarification. ("Can we talk about how this project went? I never received the data from you. Can you help me understand why not?") It's possible your colleague had a good excuse. If not, go over his head.

When You're Face to Face With the Boss

1. Opening gambit: "I'd like to speak with you about a production issue on the team that could impact our vendor relationships."

Why it works: Putting the problem in the context of business results will elicit more buy-in from the boss than gripes about personality clashes. "You don't want to be labeled a whiner," says Atlanta executive coach Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.

2. Define the issue: "I'm hesitant to bring this up, but I haven't received the data I need from Bob to write the report that the vendors need by next Monday."

Related: Doing business with friends

Why it works: Expressing reluctance to blame Bob as you lay out the situation shows that you're a professional -- and not a tattler. "There are some things that really need to be escalated," says Mark Murphy, CEO of leadership and employee engagement firm Leadership IQ.

3. Illustrate your efforts: "I checked in with him a few times and even offered to help. He says he's swamped."

What's your dream retirement?

Why it works: You're demonstrating that you've made attempts to get what you need before going up the ladder. "You don't want your boss to say, 'I lost an hour for no good reason,'" says Price.

4. Ask for solutions: "Is there another way I can get those numbers? Also, since we've scrambled on the last three reports, would it make sense to tinker with the workflow?"

Why it works: You're forcing your manager to fix the problem in both the short and long term. If Bob's real issue is that his plate is too full, you may never get his work on time unless the boss steps in to lighten his load.

5. Stand up for yourself: "If you'd rather I complete the reports, what work should I put on hold?"

Why it works: Should Bob's share land in your lap, you want to make it clear that it's not okay to treat you as a dumping ground.

"If you don't want to be overworked and underpaid, you have to set boundaries," Price says. Adds Robbins: "I am pretty sure your boss isn't going to say, 'You have to do Bob's job too.' But if he does, jokingly say, 'Do I get his salary, or just his stock options?' " To top of page

Send a letter to the editor about this story to money_letters@moneymail.com.


Join the Conversation
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.