Handling Lazy Employees Effectively

Lazy Employee“You are only as strong as your weakest link.” This cliché has been used countless times, but it resonates. Obviously, your company cannot leap ahead if someone is pulling it backwards or dragging it down. While a competing company can hurt your small business by detracting customers and reducing profits, sometimes the biggest problem is internal. A lazy coworker can be more virulent than the competing small business because he or she reduces efficiency for the whole company.

One study conducted by Benjamin Walker, a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales’ Australian School of Business, suggests that the laziest member of a team plays the biggest role in determining the success or failure for that team. In a study he conducted, he divided 158 students into 33 teams. Having given the students a test to determine their levels of conscientiousness and motivation, he then assigned a case study to each team to work on, telling them that they would be graded based on how well the team did as a whole and not on individual effort. The results: even when the rest of the team pulled their weight, the team could not make up for the person who contributed the least, the “lazy teammate.” The lazy person determined the success or failure of the group.

Walker’s study has many implications particularly important for small businesses because of the low number of “teammates.” Having lazy employees will reduce the efficiency of your company. While you or other employees may take on some of the unfinished work of a company slacker, this is unfair and a waste of time and money. The employee was hired to do a job and their failure to do so will lead to less success and greater failure overall. Small businesses are even more likely to suffer the consequences and at a level causing greater damage. If the business produces less because of a lazy coworker, profits shrink and the customer base decreases as old customers are lost and new customers are not gained.

Of course, industry competition can also negatively affect your profits, but having an internal problem can often be more exasperating and disheartening than an “outside threat.” Another company prompts competition, motivating your company to work harder; a lazy coworker is discouraging, making your employees consider giving up. Fortunately, when the problem is within your business you can correct it.

The problem: a lazy worker. The solution: talk with him or her. People are sometimes reluctant to admit their faults, but approaching your employee about their lack of motivation may be the wake-up call he or she needs. Speak with your employee honestly, but refrain from being critical.

Do not say, “Jim, you are a lazy employee who needs to improve, otherwise, I am going to fire you.”

Instead, compliment the employee on the work they have done well, and address the issue of laziness by citing specific examples, suggest measures of improvement, and then discuss the consequences of failing to improve.

Try saying, “Jim, you did a great job closing the deal with Mr. Smith. However, you are going to have to work harder and put in more effort if you wish to complete the rest of the goals we discussed at our last evaluation meeting. Unfortunately, you have not completed the list of contacts I asked for two weeks ago and you have not attended the last three department meetings. If you do not show improvement within the next three months, I may have to let you go.”

This meets all of the requirements and gives a timeline for improvement. If this does not improve the situation, you will have to take the next step, speaking with your

The problem: a lazy employee who has not shown improvement despite being informed that improvements were necessary to maintain his or her job. The solution: a
PEO Company. A PEO company handles administrative tasks, including processing payroll, filing payroll taxes, and handling workers’ compensation insurance for your employees. They can also help you legally and responsibly deal with a lazy worker. They can help determine if employee training is necessary, and if so, which training would best help. If you realize that you cannot keep the employee because he or she is causing too much damage to the morale, you can consult your professional employment organization on the best way to proceed with termination.

A lazy employee is undesirable. Period. Fortunately, as the small business owner, you have the opportunity to address and correct this problem. First, speak with the employee. If improvements are not made within a reasonable amount of time, speak with your
HR Consultant for your options. 

About the Author
Carolyn Sokol is a founder of PEOcompare and writes about administrative issues that affect small businesses.

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