Career challenge in 2022: How should you handle a lazy co-worker?

If you’re trying to do your best at your job, pulling your weight at work and giving it your all, day in and day out — but you perceive that a co-worker is slacking off and being lazy, which impacts your own work — it can be frustrating.

FOX Business asked job experts to weigh in handling co-workers who aren’t quite pulling their weight.

The best-case scenario would be to help these colleagues be more motivated and to a better part of the team; but getting to that position can be tricky.

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Here are some key insights.

Approach your colleague with tact

Some job experts suggest you should not rat out a lazy co-worker without first trying a pep talk with your colleague.

Two professionals discuss documents at work. “Have an open talk with your co-worker in accordance with proper business etiquette,” advised one expert about problems with someone else’s performance and attitude. (iStock/iStock)

“Do not go straight to upper management,’ said David Farkas, who is based in the New York metro area as CEO of The Upper Ranks, a firm that helps brands boost their online presence.

“Instead, you should have an open talk with your co-worker in accordance with proper business etiquette.”

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Farkas suggested telling the person that his or her bad habits at work are interfering with your ability to accomplish your own goals.

doing a zoom meeting at work

If a co-worker has become lazy, the person may not be aware of how his or her actions are affecting others.

“You might be dealing with a co-worker who is unaware of the habit she/he has gotten into or how the actions affect you,” he said.

Be open minded

Gina D’Andrea Weatherup, president of Chantilly Mediation and Facilitation in Herndon, Va., said “lazy” can happen for a lot of reasons — including burnout, a lack of understanding of tasks or priorities or a lack of commitment to the overall team or organizational purpose.

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The best way to deal with a lazy co-worker is to seek to understand what’s really happening for the individual.

“Be honest about the impact it has on you and the rest of the team, and ask the co-worker about contributing more.”

“Have some compassion,” she said.

“People are going through a lot and may be dealing with issues unknown to you. If the ‘laziness’ is truly impacting you, be honest about the impact it has on you and the rest of the team, and ask the co-worker about contributing more.”

Share expectations clearly

You may want to try to help your colleague reach his or her potential at work.

Sharing your expectations may help springboard the person’s work ethic.

work colleagues

Colleagues need to be crystal-clear about purpose and responsibilities.

Tiffany Houser, founder of and coach with EVOLVE in Washington, DC, a company focused on team culture and soft-skills development, suggested considering how you’d like this person to show up instead.

Share your expectations, she said, so a co-worker is crystal-clear on purpose, responsibilities and clarity involving work and the overall team’s vision.

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“When you are clear on how you would like this person to show up instead, you are able to clearly communicate in a way that will land and be understood by the other person,” said Houser. “Just having an expectation may not be clear for the other person.”

Be curious and compassionate

Perhaps your co-worker is going through personal issues, so be both curious and compassionate.

“Consider what might have your co-worker show up this way,” said Houser. “Ask yourself this question without judgment.”

tired or stressed businessman in office

“The secret sauce of being a leader,” said one expert, is about letting go of a single interpretation about a worker’s behavior — and showing a little compassion as you help the person improve his or her work.

There could be several possibilities for a co-worker’s behavior. “When you are able to let go of your one main interpretation that is leading the way — others become available. This takes being compassionate about what your co-worker might be going through and passionate about supporting them to show up in a different way. “

“This is the secret sauce of being a leader,” she added.

Know when to escalate the issue

If you have approached the person carefully, tried to keep an open mind about what may be causing a poor work ethic, attempted to motivate your co-worker and tried to help boost productivity through conversations and dialogue — and you still see no change — then you may need to get higher-ups involved.

workers reviewing an issue together

Go to your own manager, suggested one industry expert, with the examples of how your own work has been affected by the employee in question.

“If the issue is making your own work harder to complete and affecting your productivity, you must address it,” said Amie Devero, president of Beyond Better Strategy and Coaching in Tampa, Fla., a consulting and executive coaching firm that works with high -growth tech startups.

She said there’s a chain of command to follow.

Your hope is that your manager will have a conversation with the colleague, she said — or moderate a conversation between you and your colleague.

First, go to your own manager, Devero said.

You’ll want to be ready with concrete examples of why your own work has been either later, rushed, sub-par or otherwise affected because you did not get what you needed from a colleague when you needed it.

co-workers in the office

You want your own goals and commitment to drive the conversation with your manager about a difficult co-worker, advised one career expert. (iStock/iStock)

Also, she said it’s wise to have clear documentation of the steps you took to handle the situation before this escalation.

“Those should include the documentation of all of the requests made to the colleague,” said Devero. “It should also include at least one attempt to have a one-on-one discussion with the colleague” about the critical issues, she said.

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Your hope is that your manager will have a conversation with the colleague, she said — or moderate a conversation between you and your colleague.

“You are going for advice, support and partnership in fixing it yourself. So, as much as possible, ask for additional ideas.”

“This is not about going to the boss with a hopeless complaint that you want her to fix,” said Devero.

“You are going for advice, support and partnership in fixing it yourself. So, as much as possible, ask for additional ideas.”

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If none of this produces a result and the problem still hasn’t improved — and it’s still seriously impeding your ability to do your job — then one option is to begin looking for new roles within the organization, a new team to join, a request to be laterally reassigned — or some other more permanent solution, said Devero.

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“Deal with those possibilities within the course of your one-on-ones as you and your manager do your career planning,” she added.

“That way, your complaint isn’t driving the train — your goals and commitment are.”

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