When someone’s not pulling their weight at work, the whole team can suffer.
More from Success
Of course, it’s a manager’s job to make sure everyone is doing their part.
But if you aren’t the boss and your colleague is dragging everyone else down, there are ways to handle the situation. You just need to tread carefully: You want to make sure your own productivity isn’t compromised, or that you don’t come off as if you’re not a team player.
First, do a gut check
Just because you think someone is slacking doesn’t mean that’s the reality.
We all have different work styles. Some workers plow through projects, while others are very detail-oriented and spend more time planning.
Just because a colleague works at a different pace, doesn’t make the person a slacker.
“Never judge a book by the cover,” said Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.” “John might seem like a schmoozer during the day, but maybe he takes work home at night or works through lunch.”
You also never know what’s going on in someone’s life that could be carrying over into the office. They might be struggling with a personal issue or feeling unprepared to handle the project or under appreciated at work.
“Inject some emotional intelligence,” said Taylor.
Hold everyone accountable
Keeping track of project goals and deadlines helps keep everyone accountable for doing their fair share.
Create a plan detailing each person’s responsibilities, along with deadlines and a schedule for the next progress check-in.
Everyone should be involved in setting goals and deadlines, and make sure the plan is shared with the team and is continually updated when tasks are met.
It will soon become apparent when someone is shirking their duties and then the boss might be more inclined to step in.
Have a chat … privately
If someone isn’t pulling their weight, having a positive and constructive conversation with the offender in private can help get everyone on the same track.
Just remember, you aren’t the boss. So approach your colleague as an ally and without judgment.
Tell the person you’re glad to have the opportunity to work on a project together and that you would like some help in how you two can get more in sync, suggested Taylor.
Be thoughtful about your approach and avoid making accusations.
“If you stick to specifics, there is little chance the other person will think you are accusing them or calling them lazy,” said Kate Nasser, a management consultant specializing in leadership and teamwork.
Enlist your boss for guidance
If a colleague’s slacking is affecting your work and deadlines are being missed, it might be time to approach your boss or project manager on how to best proceed.
Explain the situation to the manager, but tread lightly.
“Be careful. You don’t want to be viewed by your team or boss as a whiner,” said Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert. “Be very constructive in your approach.”
Ask for guidance on how to handle the situation, but keep your emotions in check.
“If the boss perceives any emotion from the person who is going to the boss … the manager starts to wonder if there is something else going on with the two people,” said Nasser. “Emotions cloud the issue. Keep it clear, simple, focused and related to business goals.”
Don’t get infected
Your coworker’s slacking isn’t a green light for you to do the same.
“The best thing for you to do is focus on your work,” said Nasser. “When it comes to getting plum assignments, getting promoted or being on the leadership track, most good companies will look at people who can get things done. Let your work speak for itself.”