I am increasingly frustrated by a lazy colleague? What should I do?
Not everybody has the same work ethic and that usually stems from differing goals and value systems. I was at a workshop recently where a franchisee admitted that he bought into the business because he was looking for a passive income. Imagine the stunned silence from head office who are looking to their business partners to help grow the business!
While his honesty was appreciated, the day-to-day reality of working with people whose ideas are not aligned with ours can be very frustrating. Here are some ideas for managing such situations:
Build personal resilience
Hard-working people often feel that they are being taken advantage of or that their hard work is neither recognised nor rewarded. They get disheartened and then they allow the poor efforts of others to set the standard of what an acceptable standard of work is.
Rather, look internally at what you believe is an appropriate effort and focus on delivering on that. As soon as you allow yourself to be distracted with criticism of others, you detract from your ability to do your best work. Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
In other words, be an example to others of a good work ethic. Be a role model. Raise the standard. Fill your mind with these thoughts; they are more powerful than the negativity that will come from focusing on the poor behaviours of your colleague.
Get clarity regarding deliverables
We are not all objective observers of others and may only be seeing a part of the picture. To the extent that it affects your work, seek clarity on the deliverables that are expected of you and your colleagues and focus on whether these are being achieved or not.
Some people are very efficient and can achieve deliverables with less effort or time than others; my business partner can pull a training programme together in half the time that I can. That means that she has more time than me in a day to do what I may perceive as “lazy” activities.
It is a poor business practice to focus only on “face time” (the amount of “time spent at the place where you work especially before or after normal working hours”[i] ) and not on the quality of work being delivered as a result. By shifting your focus to deliverables, you are again taking an action-oriented, results-driven approach that is positive and impactful.
Hold people accountable to agreed deliverables
Once expectations have been understood and you all know what results or deliverables are required, you can hold people accountable. Remember that the process of achieving those deliverables may be different for people. Other deliverables, different priorities, varying energy levels are just some of the factors to consider here.
So, if you are working in a team and you rely on each other to do a “part” then you need to agree how you will do this. Part of the agreement should involve a discussion about accountability; outline the potential impacts of a person’s failure to deliver as agreed and agree ways of holding each other accountable.
For example, you may agree to have meetings at regular intervals to check progress and identify potential problems. Or agree to remind him of tasks and deadlines. Do not do any work that your colleague needs to deliver on; allowing him to get away with avoiding his work is only going to perpetuate the problem.
Be realistic about what can be achieved
You may not ever be able to elevate your colleague to high levels of effort and engagement. Be realistic about how you can effectively work with this individual. For example, you may need to extend the lead times on deliverables to allow for his slower pace.
You may also limit the scope of his contributions to non-essential or low value tasks that will not derail any team work completely. The more you can marginalise him, then the less of an impact he will have on your work.
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