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How to Deal With Slackers

Slackers are everywhere at work. So what can you do?

Key points

  • Dealing with slackers may be a lifelong endeavor.
  • Having tools to deal with slackers is more important today than it ever was.
  • Implementing slacker management techniques may help boost your career.

No matter where you work, no matter what you do, you may have noticed that just a few people at work do most of the work. There are, however, people at work who are motivated—they show up on time, participate actively in meetings, show initiative, take on responsibility, and otherwise engage at work at an active level.

And then there are the slackers. Unfortunately, these seem to be the largest group of people at the workplace, and so it begs the question: Why do just a few people at work do all the heavy lifting while slackers are allowed to—well—slack? It’s unfair. It’s counterproductive. And it needs to stop. It’s likely one of the most common workplace complaints, and the question may be familiar: I have a coworker who is a slacker and I have to pick up most of the weight! What should I do?

But fear not. There are strategies for dealing with slackers in a creative, problem-solving way to ensure that you not only get your work done but also help the slackers step it up.

1. Find Your Own Motivation.

When surrounded by slackers, it is easy to get caught up in the negative culture. Tasks at work seem to grow larger than they really are, and bad attitudes take hold, making mountains out of molehills.

But we can control our attitude and perspectives and maintain healthy goal setting away from getting dragged into the mire of the slacker by finding our own motivations. When we compare ourselves to others and judge our performance at work against the performance of others, we are bound to lose. Comparing ourselves to others at work is a one-way street to failure, especially if we compare ourselves to slackers, so instead find your own motivations.

Your motivation could be to secure an account that is faltering. It could be to ensure, in a tactful way, that the boss knows you are not the slacker. It could be the prospect of a raise, or a better assignment or marketing plan. No matter what that motivation is, it is yours and yours alone, and having that guiding North Star will help you succeed and rise to the top in a sea of slackers.

2. Take on Responsibility That Is Not Yours.

Nothing differentiates a slacker from a doer more than taking on responsibility that is not your own. This is also the key to getting a raise or moving up in an organization, but for the sake of this article, it is a tailored way to differentiate yourself from the slacker and show how you bring true value to the role.

A slacker will systematically shrug off responsibility, shirk from accountability, and duck away from everything outside the narrow scope of their job description.

So do the opposite. Show up to meetings, take on the responsibility that others shy away from, and take on accountability. Do all the things that the slacker is not doing. Eventually, it will become obvious that there are slackers in the group, and you are not one of them.

3. Communicate the Slack.

Sometimes a slacker is slacking because they feel lost in the shuffle. They feel as if their input does not matter, and therefore they slack, hide away inside the organization, and hope to quietly fade into the furniture.

But there is hope: When folks get lost in the shuffle, a simple recognition of the importance of the job ahead can make all the difference. Sometimes people slack because they feel as if the task doesn’t matter in the first place, so hey, why even try? But recognizing the importance of the task and improving the environment for task success can help slackers become contributing members of the team.

Communication is key: Point out the reason the task is so important and make it clear that input from all team members is critical, and the slacker just may feel compelled to contribute.

A few people doing the majority of the lift at work is a common occurrence. But using these creative, problem-solving techniques may help carve a new path out of slackness and into productivity. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s taxing to be a leader among slackers. But trying to get work done in an honest and direct approach is a noble undertaking and a worthwhile pursuit. It may be a sad fact that there will always be slackers at work, but not being one of them just may be the greatest reward.


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