What to Do When a Colleague is Slacking Off
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Article by, Dr. Chris E. Stout
In our daily work lives we often are faced with a multitude of issues and problems. Some of these are due to the nature of the work, that is, your job may be to solve problems, manage crises and basically put out fires.
This current semi-post-recessional climate of layoffs and downsizing doesn’t do much to reduce anyone’s stress levels. But, what can you do if you feel that a colleague/co-worker (perhaps even a friend at work) isn’t carrying his or her weight?
As a result, you may feel an increased burden on you, the team or the department. What should you do if you believe this situation puts not only that person at risk for being shown the door, but also you and your department?
You may experience disbelief or perhaps anger. “How can John be so cavalier about this deadline for the annual report? I was here until 10 PM last night working on it and that son-of-a-gun did not even come in today!”
Resentment is not uncommon. But before you make assumptions as to why this is or what is going on, take a little time to cool down and get some perspective.
Check in with your colleague
With a cool head and an attitude of genuine concern, find a time and place where there will be little chance of distraction or interruption and share your observations with this person. Be careful not to trigger her defensiveness; don’t say, “I am really concerned about your attitude, and it is just got to stop!” Instead, try something like “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. Are you feeling OK?”
For some people this can serve as an adequate shift into a discussion, but others may need a little more prompting and encouragement to open up. And, of course, it also depends upon the nature of your relationship with the person and the nature of the problem as well.
If your co-worker does share with you what the problem is, you may wish to suggest that he or she seek the help of an appropriate third party — perhaps a counselor, a physician, an attorney, a religious leader, a mutual friend or perhaps contact with the employee assistance program is there is one.
Consider talking to your director
In some cases, you may find that your attempts may have proven to be of no avail. Then you may want to discuss your observations, concerns and attempt(s) at solutions with your director.
Depending on the size of your organization, your supervisor already may be aware of the problem and may be initiating steps to help rectify the situation. In some cases there may be issues afoot that your supervisor is unable to discuss with you in order to protect confidentiality—so don’t feel as if you are being rebuffed. Instead, know that you have acted in a responsible and caring way to a person in need.
Sometimes we need to accommodate a college going through a rough patch, Golden Rule-wise, you know it would be meaningful and appreciated if you were in such a spot. So if it’s appropriate, ask your colleague what you could do to be a support and imply that the problem will pass and after a time, things can get going again as they should be. This not only gives perspective and hope but properly manages the expectation that things will be better. That perspective is sometimes difficult to keep when things are not going well.
Bottom-line, keep your perspective and positive outlook rather than “blaming-the-victim,” consider what you can do to help, and chances are you’ll optimize the chances for a better outcome than if you hadn’t taken action.