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‘Slacker’ co-workers require finesse

  • Published Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at 10:26 p.m.

If a recent survey of 549 workers is typical – and I’m sure it is – more than nine out of 10 employees can name at least one co-worker who doesn’t pull his or her weight.

And at least one in four of those surveyed said their own work load increases as a result. Drives you crazy, right?

Ideally, subpar performance conversations are held between managers and those they supervise directly, and slackers who don’t meet standards are let go.

In the real world, though, that doesn’t always happen. So what to do if you’re miserable at work with an obvious, unaccountable slacker?

Joseph Grenny, who co-wrote “Crucial Confrontations,” says only 10 percent of co-workers tackle the challenge of confronting slacker peers in the workplace. Most keep quiet and carry on, for good reasons:

• They don’t think speaking up will make a difference.

• They don’t want to hurt existing relationships.

• They don’t think it’s their place.

• They fear retaliation.

• They simply don’t know how to broach the subject.

But if you’re up for a performance-improvement attempt, here are Grenny’s tips to try to hold a peer accountable:

• Don’t charge into a blame game. Start a conversation with the slacker as a “curious friend” instead of an angry co-worker.

• Be sure to tell your co-worker that you have mutual goals (even if you’re not sure that you do). Explain why you’re concerned.

• Be specific. Share facts. Describe the work gap between what’s expected by the organization and what’s delivered.

• Ask if your subperforming co-worker sees the situation differently than you do. Let him or her know you’re open to hearing a different perspective.

Good workers who are sincerely concerned about quality and productivity sometimes decide to intervene. But it requires finesse to not make bad situations worse.

The goal is to avoid exacerbating your individual stress, damaging group morale or harming the organization.

In the end, if you can’t stay silent or if your intervention attempts don’t seem to improve the situation, you have a decision to make: Stay and accept the inequality of labor – or leave.

Reach Diane Stafford at stafford@kcstar.com.

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