10 Ways to Cope with a Lazy Coworker


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Lazy coworkers — there’s at least one in every office. They’re the ones who come in late, take a long lunch and leave early. They always have an excuse to explain their behavior and can even be apologetic. But what good is saying sorry if the actions remain the same?

These actions can be annoying, but if the lazy coworker doesn’t impact your work, then simply avoid them. Don’t hold onto resentments. On the other hand, if their laziness starts to affect your work life, then you need to address it.

But first, do a little soul-searching. Are you just being judgmental? Does the lazy coworker trigger you? Before you start tattling and spreading toxic emotions, try speaking to the person. Communications are key. If it’s too embarrassing to speak about in person, reach out via email or other online collaboration tools. It could all amount to a simple misunderstanding.

But if you can’t work out the issue with the lazy coworker, then what? You might have to report the person to your superior. Before you escalate the issue, though, try these 10 tips for coping with a lazy coworker.

1. Don’t Let Your Feelings Fester

Yes, ignore the petty issues. But if there is a real problem, the worst thing you can do is ignore it because then you’re just going to sit and stew. This will pollute your entire person in time.

Naturally, you first need to determine if the problem is small. If it’s not, then be proactive and do something about it. Nothing rash, of course, but the first step is acknowledging that there’s a problem. Then next step is letting the person know. After that, well, it depends on how the lazy coworker responds.

2. Be More Assertive

If the lazy coworker ignores their own work and asks you to do it instead, don’t. Sometimes you need to just stand up and say, “No!” It’s as simple as that. Now helping once or twice is called teamwork. You’re all in this thing together. But once it becomes habitual, then that’s called enabling. You’re becoming part of the problem and not the solution.

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3. Offer Some Guidance

Maybe your lazy coworker isn’t really goofing off; they’re just in over their head. They might need some help. That doesn’t mean you’re going to do their work for them, but it could mean that you’re going to tell them how to manage their tasks and workload so they can be more efficient and productive.

4. Be Dispassionate

When you can’t avoid the problem, and the attempt at guiding them back on track wasn’t fruitful, then you’re going to want to communicate more firmly what the problem is and how it’s impacting you and others. It’s important to try and resolve the issue yourself first, but don’t go into that conversation with a hot head. If you’re upset, then wait, and even if you’re angry, don’t speak from a place of anger. You want to state your case professionally and dispassionately. If this doesn’t work, well, at least you tried.

Related: How to Negotiate in the Workplace: A Practical Guide

5. Talk to Someone

If you’ve talked and nothing comes from it, before doing something like lodging a complaint, seek outside counsel. No, you’re not going to need to hire a lawyer (hopefully!), but you can use a friend as a soundboard and maybe get some perspective on the situation. Do you have a mentor, someone who’s been around the block? They might offer insights that can help you resolve the problem.

6. Don’t Gossip

While it’s suggested you talk with someone about the problem, that’s different than gossiping and complaining. Yes, you’re frustrated, and so there is a tendency to get that off your shoulders by sharing it with coworkers.

Gossiping might alleviate your frustration momentarily, but it’s not a long-term fix. Plus, your negative comments are likely to get back to the person, and that will only make the matter worse. If you talk to the lazy coworker directly, you can control the situation better, but if they pick up on office gossip then they’re going to get resentful and the cycle will continue.

Related: The Dangers of Self-Serving Bias at the Workplace

7. Don’t Enable Them

You could think that by picking up the slack you’re doing them and yourself a favor. After all, if there’s work to be done, then someone’s got to do it. Why not you?

This isn’t dealing with the problem, though. It’s a passive way of avoiding it, and such inaction will backfire on you. You’ll burn yourself out, or you’ll grow resentful. Either way, what might feel like an easy way to solve the situation is really just prolonging it until it becomes something worse.

8. Keep a Good Attitude

A lazy coworker that impacts your work is also going to influence your attitude. You might feel that if they’re not doing any work, well, then you won’t either! That’ll show’em!

Unfortunately, this little act of rebellion will only put you in the hot seat. Instead, do your work, and try and ignore the laziness of others. But if you do feel that bitterness rising to the point that it affects your personality, then you know that action is required.

9. Talk to Your Manager

While it’s never ideal to bring interpersonal issues to your manager, sometimes it can’t be avoided. Again, you should try to work these problems out by talking with the person, but if they are a bad boss and don’t listen, or tell you that you don’t have the authority to tell them what to do, then go to that person in the office who does.

This is especially true if their laziness is impacting the business. Then, frankly, it’s no longer an interpersonal matter, but one that could jeopardize the project or the company.

10. Keep Documentation

Once you’re sure that the problem isn’t your thin skin and that it cannot be ignored without detrimental impact on the business, then it’s time to approach the manager. When you do, make sure you have a strong case. That means before going to a superior you start documenting the actions (or inactions) of the coworker, so that their infractions are clear.

Don’t be a snoop, but you should collect any issues as they arise in a file. So, if it comes to it, you’ve got evidence. You might not even have to name the person, but just mention that some people are not carrying their weight. Either way, when it becomes a bottom-line issue, then it’s one that must be brought up to the boss.

How ProjectManager Helps with Lazy Coworkers

There’s one more thing you can do to help a lazy coworker get out of their rut: give them the right tool to make them work better. You might even spark some enthusiasm if you get them to use ProjectManager, which organizes projects and tasks, fosters team work and holds people accountable.

ProjectManager gives managers a window into the lazy worker’s productivity, so it’s not like you won’t be able to track their progress. For example, there’s a workload page with a color-coded chart that shows how much each person is working and if they’ve too much or too little responsibilities. This provides transparency, so you don’t have to micromanage but still can stay updated.

There’s also the Team page, which shows what everyone is working on this week. That way, no one can skate by with an empty plate.

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Maybe your coworker isn’t lazy, they’re just not a self-starter. ProjectManager makes it easy to assign them tasks and then track their progress on a real-time dashboard, so you don’t feel the need to hover over them. Given that sort of freedom, a lazy worker might bloom into a exceedingly productive one.

But a lazy coworker might just be lazy. Don’t worry. ProjectManager makes them accountable for their work. You can attach all the important files and requirements for their assignment to the task and even comment and dialogue with them at the task level, to make things clear. There’s no way they can say their dog ate the homework, where it’s all present and accountable ProjectManager.

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Maybe your lazy coworker is just not equipped to handle the work, and they need better tools to get the job done. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that supplies real-time data and provides a collaborative platform for teams. Give your team the right tools, and watch them go from lazy to productive. Take this free 30-day trial and see for yourself.