Software

What should I do: Co-worker is a slacker

What do you do if you have a slacker co-worker and the boss either doesn't notice or doesn't care? Check out this week's "What Should I Do?"

What do you do if you have a slacker co-worker and the boss either doesn't notice or doesn't care?

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This week's What Should I Do? involves a much-too familiar scenario -- the office slacker. Here's the e-mail from a TechRepublic member:

"I have a slacker co-worker who often doesn't show up to work or says he'll be in, but later calls to say he won't. It's a running joke that our boss does nothing. I was told long ago to adjust, but he leaves things terribly disorganized for me to clean up. I'm always having to cover (per my boss) to my internal clients as to why something was missed or scheduled incorrectly. Since the work has to be done daily, it's not like I can leave it for him when he shows up. How can I (kindly) say 'Dude, what's your damage?'"

I would personally go with "Dude, what's your damage?" I realize, of course, that since this is a workplace issue, you may have to be a little more tactful. Is this guy friends with the boss? Perhaps he's his lazy brother-in-law that he feels he must help out. If not (and I'm not advocating those are valid reasons), your boss sounds like someone who is afraid of confrontation. Somehow, someone must let him know that non-action in a case like this is a huge morale buster for the rest of the team. I'd start with a conversation with the boss. If you get nowhere with that, your next alternative maybe a trip to HR. It's not merely that you have a problem with a co-worker but that the actions of a co-worker are increasing your job duties. And be sure you keep the conversation like this -- not a personal insult to the employee but more of an explanation of how his behavior affects your job performance.

Let's throw this out to the gang. Any suggestions?

Got a career scenario of your own? E-mail it to us here. We'll post it anonymously, and see what kind of feedback your peers have to offer.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

28 comments
lotzik
lotzik

What you should do is focus on YOUR work done correctly and quit looking for excuses for your bad performance. If you had an inch of ambition in you, you would try taking advantage of the situation to your benefit (work more, try more, earn recognition out of all this). But unfortunately your letter has no difference than the one of a hurt 15 year old that split up with her boyfriend. Before you dismiss my advice totally, because I am hard on you, know that I am a deeply experienced person in HR, I've been managing companies since my 25 years of age. So, before you talk to your boss with tears in your eyes for how 'your slacker coworker affects your "performance"' get some things straight with yourself. WORK.

robert.larder
robert.larder

Kick him in the cunt, if you are too much of a pussy to handle that then fuck his wife in the bum and video it. Play the video at the next staff meeting whilst pissing on his shoes. He will soon get the message and resign. If this fails then threaten to bum his children.

lockerridge
lockerridge

Sounds to me like the people who oversee your work do not care how it gets done or who does it as long as it gets done. Your complaint to them about him not coming to work, or when he is coming in late and you save back his work and he doesn't show putting you into a deadline frenzy would not faze them in the least. Your situation is the main reason I quit my last job. I got tired of the people who were drawing a salary just like I was never coming to work or pleading not having enough time to complete their work during their shift and dumping it on me during mine. So I complained to my boss. He said he would have HR look into the problem. HR were unaware he was not coming to work or was late most of the time. Because he was on salary.. no one reported his absenses because I was making up the work for him. I was not getting his salary and mine for it though! I know this sounds cold.. but it is not your family your dealing with here. It is a co worker and apparently he is a co.. without the work being involved. You are not being paid to keep up with him or his part of the work. That is why you are there. To make money. To do your job description and draw your pay. You can't continue carrying this dead weight. The way the job market is being shrunk to a level of almost 100 people qualified for every job opening there is.. you have to think of yourself more now. Keeping your job sound and having good people to work with that you know are dedicated to making their money just like you are with an end product that will keep your job secure is what you have to focus on. Go to whomever is in charge of this. Tell them they must do something. NOW. Wait a week.. if they don't make the guy start toting his weight.. then go to the next higher in the management rant and put your problem to them... and this will get your bosses hind end chewed out.. and it should get you some relief. Do not feel bad if the guy gets fired because of your complaint.. he did it to himself.. you did nothing wrong!

legalyste
legalyste

Sit back and watch. In a few months to a year, the slacker will be promoted and become your boss!

jksawdon
jksawdon

I was lucky that there was an ethic hotline that I could call to report the slacker. Of course, the hotline did say to go to manager, V.P., HR and I did go through all three and they all ignored the problem. The hotline went to the President's office and it was finally looked into and slacker was fired. However, at a place where there wasn't any hotline, I went on a 3 week vacation and left the company with the slacker. Did not leave a telephone number where I could be reached either (knew I would get calls if I did). When I came back and everyone was relieved, I explained to the manager that he now knew how much more work I did and that the other person did very little, and that I was getting tired of doing all the work and was seriously thinking of leaving the company. The slacker was fired. Otherwise, the only other thing I was ever able to do when management (including HR - which I tend to think of as a waste of space as they have never seemed to do much of anything when needed) ignored the slacker is to leave the company. The panic and the desperation of them begging me to stay at my position because what would they do without me. I always pointed out to them that I had informed them of the problem, they choose to ignore it, and now I am leaving them with the problem and it is not my responsibility or my problem to deal with their problem. It was their choice and now they had to live with it. Even after offering to fire the slacker and give me a raise, I refused to stay on the job because I knew it would only be a matter of time before the same problem arose again and I already had promised some place else that I would be working for them. Hate to say, but I faked calling asking for a recommendation and got told I was not a team player. But then when looking for a new position, I rarely agree to have my current employer contacted because I don't want them to know I am looking for employment, and I never use the managers but HR for contact information regarding the position for the specific details and someone I know I can trust for the personal reference.

bdomek1951
bdomek1951

If giving the slacker hints doesn't do the trick, then I would go to your supervisor. If your supervisor won't do anything about it, then go right over his/her head, sit down privately, and with a calm but firm attitude, tell them your feelings about this. After all, that slacker is wasting valuable time and money. No company should allow slackers to continue on. It affects the morale of everyone around them. It needs to be fixed either by the slacker getting to work and becoming a productive employee, or, they need to be let go. Too many people are out of work for any company to put up with someone who won't work. And, there are way too many late teens through 40 something's out in the work force who think they can get by with slacking. Have seen it more times than I can count. My own husband, when a lead, had to report slackers to his own boss, who then warned them and wound up firing them. When I was a lead/supervisor, I had the unfortunate position of doing the same. I would never allow others to pick up the slack & double their work load for anyone to lazy to carry their weight.

kcorean
kcorean

Take a brick to his/her car everytime they're late - maybe they'll figure out the Law of Cause and Effect...

george.flecknell
george.flecknell

Do absolutely nothing. It is a manager's responsiblity to evaluate performance not yours. If it causes you extra work, then indicate this to your manager. Once should be enough. Manager's are supposed to manage. if they cant then they should quit.

martdaw
martdaw

I have a similar problem except the whole team are slackers, from the "boss" down. He says "its part of the culture", I say "its just pathetic". The issues are people who come in when they feel like it, barely do any actual work (spend most of their day surfing the net, or at the coffee shop, or off running their kids around town), always seem to be taking rec leave (they must get 6 months of rec leave a year...for those O/S we get 4 weeks of leave per year), etc, etc. Even worse, they have the gall to request overtime (because they just couldnt get it done during the day...), come in and only do 10 minutes "work" then claim the minimum 3 hours OT! The problem with the "boss" is he's a "yes man" and therefore we have so much work there is little time to do it. however, if even half the team did some actual work (the other half are just clueless and cant anyway), we could eventually make some headway. no solutions here. just a vent!

tuomo
tuomo

Just one question! If your co-worker is a slacker and it lasts longer than a week - what does it tell about your boss / manager? How it is even possible? OK, maybe two weeks but then.. Remember, a slacker may not always be lazy, incompetent, etc - maybe he/she has been given tasks he/she just can't handle? Who gave those tasks? Or maybe he/she has some current personal problems and should be given a little time (for a while) to handle those? Whose job is to see that? Or maybe just too many tasks, the day has only 24 hours? Do you really know why someone is slacking? Not saying it doesn't happen but sometimes "the root cause" isn't what it seems or what someone wants you to see?

OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

Do your job to the nth degree, but not any further! If someone else's function is not being covered that is their problem and covering for someone is usually only something that is done occasionally. Don't let it become part of your job description.

vineet.spikey
vineet.spikey

Give him/her a piece of your mind. i have a similar situation at office.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

One approach would be to let this slacker dig himself a hole that he can't pass off onto you. A meeting with HR could backfire into your bosses face and he'd not be happy that you didn't cover for the slacker so the boss can't get blamed for not doing his job by taking care of the problem instead of having you do his work.

LeonBA
LeonBA

Your advice sounds on-target to me. If your boss doesn't respond and you take it to HR, talk to them about how it's consistently making you do the slacker's job as well as your own. Emphasize that it's forcing you to make excuses for him in front of customers, which HR will recognize as being bad for business. You might also mention that it's having a serious effect on the group's morale, which HR will know affects productivity: BUT, keep it bird's-eye and impartial. Don't talk about its effect on you, but on the group as a whole.

julie
julie

I agree. I'm in a situation right now where the co-worker returned from maternity leave 6 months ago and she keeps making these excuses as to why she's not able to do her best, etc. The company allows her to bring the baby to work, but she doesnt seem to handle her time well and she gets overwhelmed and wigged out when something goes awry. While she was on leave I covered many of her responsibilities. We were to have in-house training and I was to follow-up with the attendees, order laptops, get grocery supplies, etc. Everything went without a hitch. She returns from leave and I expect her to take back her responsibilities. Not only do I do my job, but my boss' since he's "new" and isn't familiar with the process. So my plate is extremely full. Another training session approaches and everything goes to heck. She didn't follow up with the attendees, didn't order the laptops..next thing I know the attendees are walking in the door. As we're apologizing to everyone in comes the co-worker. The boss tells her that these people are here for the training, which I guess was cancelled. The boss calls a meeting to find out what happened and she blames this all on me by saying that she didn't know how the people registered or if they received a confirmation, etc. I was so angry that I went back into my office and found every single email conversation I had w/ the attendees and forwarded them to my supervisor. I wanted to be sure that he knew that I had forwarded all necessary emails to her and she just didn't follow through. He then comes into my office and says that "co-worker" is freaking out and he couldn't ask her what happened. I told him I didn't know. Is it my job to oversee her? No, I'm not mgmt. He's come up to me a few times saying that she has the baby to deal with, blah blah. Well, I'm sorry, but what if I came in to work with all these excuses as to why I couldn't get this/that task done, then I'd I'd be fired. My boss wanted to give me a task (locating certain companies and cold-calling them) which should be the responsibility of the sales/marketing assistant (the co-worker). I told him that I didn't want to do it because it wasn't the path I wanted to go down in my career. It was also because I wanted to see if the co-worker would start pulling her weight. Boy, was I wrong. I don't know what she does in her office, but it just irritates me to know that she's getting paid to do nothing. The company is unorganized to begin with and I'm trying everything in my power to get a more efficient workflow going. But in the meantime I'm having to do what's necessary to be sure projects are completed. I've been asked by 2 managers to show the co-worker what I do so that she would know what to do while I'm on vacation, etc. I've emailed her, tried to show her, but she refuses to learn because she says it overwhelms her. One week I went on vacation and didn't check my emails or answer my phone. I was so burned out that I wanted to be sure that I totally checked out. I returned and got chewed out by my boss bc he was wondering why I didn't answer my emails. I guess the co-worker couldn't help anyone and kept telling the consultants they would have to wait until I returned to get that information. No problem, it just secures me a job bc nobody else seems to know how to do my job. But don't complain to me about how the boss won't listen to any of your suggestions or you feel like office furniture. And don't take it out on me when you get put on the spot bc you don't know how to do my job or when I ask a question where I may think you know the answer. This company is non-confrontational so any internal issues will not be discussed. So, here I am trying to figure out how to not look like the bad guy. The only thing I can do is keep all emails and let all the pieces fall and have the co-worker dig her own grave.

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

If you do the slacker's job, then why should he worry? If you deal with the slacker yourself, then you're doing the boss's job, so why should he worry either? You have to make it a problem for them if you expect them to solve it. Right now, they've each got the solution to your failures in you.

george.flecknell
george.flecknell

Personaly I think you are a slacker and I have reported you to your supervisor.

lobo
lobo

In my department the boss is actually the slacker and at least of my co-workers follows suit (they -off course- are buddies). I am already sick of this and trying to find another job (and btw I am not in a public institution)

Scott_N
Scott_N

I work in the ACT IT sector as well. Like anywhere, there are good shops/teams and bad. You have a choice to stick it out until an IT executive steps in and puts blood on the walls, or move on before it destroys your motivation, commitment and skill.

danagorr
danagorr

Couldn't help but empathise with your situation. It sounds as if you are employed in a govt. position. (ACT?) I've been where you are in a few such 'positions' and they are soul destroying. Never again. Leave - for a better work culture (non-gvt) and maybe better pay lest you rot in that pathetic environment. Best wishes

TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827

It is universal. There are people who will let you do their jobs for them, period. In any meetings, you ask (force with a direct question) "who is responsible for delivering this?". You ask it enough times to force the fact that 1), the boss can't always not assign to the slacker and 2) it shows the slacker that you are on to them. Doing the above, you can be very polite, and not confrontational, and what, seriously can a boss say? It then comes down to simply refusing to do the other person's job. That is a personal conversation between you and the co-worker, you simply tell them "It's time for you to do your own job, I won't do it anymore". Both the boss and the co-worker are depending on most people's work ethic as a tool to enforce and guilt others into doing their jobs. When the boss comes in and asks you to cover for the other person (which will happen, people simply won't give up using people until forced, they will force your hand) you can simply ask "why do I have to do my job and the other person's job?". The boss won't like it, you may at that point have to go to HR, or your boss's boss, but that's where it goes. 1) Do nothing, be a doormat and complain to your wife or 2) Do something about it, and refuse to accept it, which is tougher. TripleII

UAnimosity
UAnimosity

Make sure you follow organizational structure. Go to your team lead 1st, if they do nothing, go to your departmental manager, and if they do nothing, then go to HR. Usually that's not something you'd want to escalate to Executive level unless you think the line of management is incompetent as well. You'll also need to be prepared for harsh feelings, because if HR comes in and terminates this guy, they'll ask your bosses questions; wondering why they did nothing about the behavior. If that happens you need to explain that this was just a professional measure, and keep it as such.

ltreachler
ltreachler

Before you start 'rustling the leaves' you should have a thorough understanding of the political landscape. The 'boss buddy' card trumps the 'diligent worker' card every time. Tread with caution: especially when the slacking is obvious to everyone, or the next rustling sound you hear may be the door hitting you in the butt on your way to job seeker land. Having had this actually happen to me, I speak from experience. That is why I'm now an independent consultant and refuse to participate in client political environments.

IT_Hottie
IT_Hottie

UAnimoisity is right! But I will do it slightly different. 1. The slacker is your worse enemy. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. I will go for "Dude, what's your damage". And find out what's really going on. What you perceive might not be what it really is. 2. You might be in the same level as this slacker, but I'm sure you want to go up the ladder some time some day. So try your management skills with this guy. Maybe you can turn him inside out. Exercise your management skills, at least this guy is your guinea pig! 3. So your management skills is not good enough. Then take it to the next level. But I will only do this if my boss will bring up issues about things not getting done. I will do what I am required to do but I am not taking other people's trash. I will not do extra work for free. If something goes wrong that was caused by the slacker, I will definitely give my boss a hint of what's going on. Bring it to the boss in a professional way. Though I never mention names unless necessary. Thus, I don't rut my team mates out. Just being a team player and not a back stabber. 4. If the boss still don't get it, like UAnimosity says "incompetent" management, then take it to HR. But make sure to always have your butt covered at all times, in any angle. Be always ready to save your ass. Anyone could stab you from behind or bring up an issue different from the battles you are currently facing. I have heard stories where HR takes the lazy bums side since she percieves he/she as the victim. I have a friend who is in your shoes, covering every team mates' ass for their short-comings. He got fed up, brought it to HR and HR told him that one more complaint about a co-worker, he'd be fired. I take my friends' side knowing his team mates are a bunch of incompetent slackers. But HR don't see nor know that. Try dealing with it yourself first, if not, leave the incompetent team. You know you deserve much better. I am in the same shoes as you, but the furthest I have gone is step 3. The hint - hint to management works at times. In step 1, you will build a rapport with the slacker and he will spill the beans. Now you know what's his damage. So when you get to step 4, you have a story to tell to HR or at least you know how to cover your ass. But step 2 works best for me. Since the slacker now perceives you as a friend due to step 1, he or she will now listen to your advice (management skills) in step 2. Now he/she will do better at work.

drnspot
drnspot

I just wanted to add that it's a good idea to document, in some form, what's going on. I used to write myself an explanatory note of the manager's directions, then ask him to sign it... just 'so my co-worker wouldn't wonder what was going on' - you know, you don't want your co-worker thinking you're stealing his job :) The manager may, or may not, ever catch on but at least you've got more than he said/she said when you go to personnel. In regards to making excuses - TRANSFER THE PHONE - right to the department manager that lets the situation occur. If he won't take the calls, or make the excuses, take a message for the co-worker. If the boss thinks the clients don't know what's going on already, he's probably wrong.

Mabrick
Mabrick

In fact, before complaining to an already unsympathetic boss or going into the hornets nest that HR will be start the paper trail. Do it first. This lets your boss know in a professional way that you are serious. If he will not sign the memos then sign in front of him with a hand written note that he refused to sign. And by all means, stop making the excuses for him. If it is his call to let the slacker slid then make him take the heat. I will also add this to the above. If this does not help STOP DOING THE EXTRA WORK. Seriously, you are only abetting the managers' decision when you do the work. He gets what he wants. It is not your job to make the department successful. It is his job. Your job is to do your part and that is all. In the long run your department will be a lot better off when you stop supporting this type of slacker behavior through your own actions.

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