How to Deal with a Slacker at Work

Jake Wilder
5 min readJul 19, 2021

Don’t Let a Lazy Coworker Bring You Down

“There’s nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people,” said Thomas Jefferson. While not his intent, Jefferson’s words help articulate why it’s so frustrating to work with a slacker. You work hard all day while your coworker goofs off and forces the rest of the team to cover for him. It’s demoralizing to feel as though you’re working much harder than the person next to you. It’s hard not to resent a situation where you’re toiling away while your coworker spends the afternoon on social media.

Left unchecked, slackers bring down everyone around them. They destroy team culture and alienate their team members. In one Harvard Business School study, they found that the negative impact of a toxic employee is more than double the potential gains of a superstar performer. Whether you believe these numbers or not, the fact that slackers detract from the bottom line is without question.

Working with a slacker has practically become a rite of passage in most workplaces. It’s a common frustration in many companies and one that becomes even more infuriating when managers don’t do anything to correct it.

Yet despite being a common problem, it doesn’t have an easy solution. People don’t like difficult conversations. They’ll go to great lengths to avoid confronting a poor performer. And no one likes the idea of being a rat, so they hesitate to bring these issues up with their manager. All of which lets slackers keep on slacking.

Unless, of course, you do something about it.

Diagnose the Cause

I’ve found that whenever someone doesn’t do something I ask, it comes down to one of four reasons:

  • Direction — They didn’t understand the assignment.
  • Competence — They’re not trained or skilled enough to complete it.
  • Opportunity — They didn’t have the resources or time to succeed.
  • Motivation — They lacked motivation and simply didn’t do it.

Before criticizing anyone, I run through this list and try to pinpoint why someone fell short of expectation. It’s worth noting that the first three items are my responsibility as the manager. If I don’t…

Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.