What to do when your colleagues aren’t pulling their weight

By Bec | Productivity and Goal Setting

Do you feel like your colleagues aren’t pulling their weight? I feel you. This is super frustrating and research now shows that it is one of the reasons people feel dissatisfied and demotivated in their roles. Read this post for more info about how to manage it! – Pop Your Career

We’ve all experienced frustration when colleagues aren’t pulling their weight. You know the ones. They’re too busy taking personal calls and socialising with their friends in other parts of the office to stay on top of their work. Funnily enough, they’re usually the ones who are often complaining about the fact that they’re sooooo busy. And I am sure that whenever you hear those words roll out of their mouth, you feel like choking them (figuratively speaking, of course). But what can you do about it? Aside from stooping to their level and gossiping endlessly about them at the photocopier? Let’s talk about it.  

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How many people are being affected by a lazy colleague?    

Well, I have to admit. I was inspired to write this post, when I received some interesting data from a recent survey conducted by my friends at CV-Library. Their survey showed that up to “77% of the UK workforce believe that their colleagues don't work hard enough, leading to negative feelings of job dissatisfaction and demotivation in their role.” Wow.

Now, on one hand this data is not all that surprising. I have encountered loads of people throughout my career who weren’t pulling their weight. I’m a little ashamed to suggest that earlier in my career I might have been one of those people. But 77%? That is mind blowing.

So, what can you actually do about it?    

I don’t want you to suffer in silence. But in the same token I also don’t want you to blow up and call out your work colleague in a public shaming, because you’re so frustrated and you lose your cool. Instead, I’d much prefer you to use the practical and useful tips in this article and to deal with the issue (or decide not to) and maintain your professionalism and dignity. Let’s dive in. 

1. Decide if you need to do anything at all 

I know. You might be thinking I’ve gone a little nuts. After all, if you’re totally frustrated by a work colleague shirking their responsibilities, why would you just do nothing and let it continue to build up? 

Before you go down that rabbit-hole, I want you to stop and think about whether your colleaguebehaviour is actually affecting you. I mean, aside from being annoying. Are you having to pick up their slack? If they don’t complete their work does it fall to you? Are you having to step in and fix their mistakes or repair relationships with clients that have faltered due to your colleague dropping the ball? 

In some work environments, these hypothetical situations could be reality. If your work colleague’s lack of work ethic is impacting you directly, then you should definitely continue reading my other tips. But if this is not the case and the behaviour doesn’t directly affect you and your work, you need to maintain your lane and take Elsa’s advice. Let it go.

You see, you can’t control other people’s thoughts, feelings or actions. The only thoughts, feelings and actions you have control over are your own. Choose to take the higher road and focus on something else. It might be difficult, but life is short and you shouldn’t waste yours being angry about something that is none of your business. (Do you feel me clicking my fingers all sassy over here?) 

2. Consider whether there is something else going on

I’m not making excuses for your colleague, but is there something going on in their life that might be causing their behaviour? It might be worth considering this, especially if your colleague is usually on the ball and their neglectful attitude is a recent change.

I’m definitely not advocating for you to go and pry into your colleague’s business, but if their behaviour is out of character, you might choose to push your annoyance to the side and check in on them. There are a couple of ways you can do this. 

Firstly, if you feel comfortable doing so, you can approach your colleague directly. Obviously not like, “What up Susie, why are you so lazy lately? Got something going on?”. I’m thinking a more empathetic approach, like “Hey Susie, I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. I just wanted to check in on you and see if everything is okay…?”.

Secondly, if you aren’t comfortable having a conversation with your team member directly, you might want to mention it to your manager. “Hey Mitch, I’ve noticed that Susie hasn’t been herself lately. She missed XYZ deadline and I’ve had a couple of calls from clients who she hasn’t been in contact with. I’m a little worried about her and was hoping you could check in on her and make sure she is okay”. Now, your manager might already know what is causing the change in behaviour, but there’s a good chance they may not have noticed. 


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3. Speak to your manager about the situation

As I’ve already mentioned, sometimes you just need to involve your manager if your colleagues aren’t pulling their weight. I know that sometimes this can be scary, because we have it ingrained in us from a young age not to be a dibber-dobber. But the truth is that handling situations like this is part of your manager’s job.

But, before you race into your manager’s office and start word vomiting about how your colleagues aren’t pulling their weight, think about how you would like to present your argument, and how you would like to present yourself in this situation. It would be a shame for you to rush your manager with a lengthy complaint, only for them to think you’re being a bit of a drama queen. Or worse, thinking you are bullying or targeting your colleague. 

When speaking to your manager about a colleague’s behaviour, you want to remain cool, calm and collected. It’s important that you avoid getting too emotional. You want to stick to the facts and talk about what has happened, not about how you feel about what has happened. Of course, your feelings are relevant, but they can cloud the real issue if you aren’t factual in your comments.

If you’re thinking about speaking to your manager about an issue with one of your colleagues, you might also want to choose your battles. I say this with kindness, but if you are constantly approaching your manager to complain about the people you work with, this is not a positive reflection on you, your ability to work as a member of a team, or your relationship building skills. You should really only take up your manager’s time if the issue is important and having a considerable impact on you or the business.  

4. Approach the problem directly

I provide this final tip with caution, because there are certain ways to approach a colleague about their behaviour and if you get it wrong, there could be catastrophic consequences. If you do decide to speak to your colleague directly about their behaviour, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid making accusations or being confrontational. Your aim is to prompt change, not to start a fight, and you always catch more flies with honey. 
  • Try using open questions to gather information and find out what is going on, rather than getting into the habit of telling – for example, “how can we prevent this from continuing to happen?” rather than, “you need to stop ignoring client emails”. 
  • Don’t group together with your other colleagues and approach the problem as a group. This is like an intervention and will never end well.  
  • Be kind. As we’ve already discussed, there could be something going on that you aren’t aware of. You don’t want to jump to conclusions or be a total jerk, so revert to that old phrase, “kill ‘em with kindness”.  

Are your colleagues not pulling their weight 

Let me know what your colleague has been doing to ruffle your feathers and how you’ve chosen to manage it! I’d love to hear your stories.  

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Do you feel like your colleagues aren’t pulling their weight? I feel you. This is super frustrating and research now shows that it is one of the reasons people feel dissatisfied and demotivated in their roles. Read this post for more info about how to manage it! – Pop Your Career

Are you sick of sending out applications and not getting any traction when what you really need is to be securing a job? I hear you. In this post, we’re going right back to basics to talk about how you can increase your chances of receiving an offer letter with your name on it! – Pop Your Career

About the Author

Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.

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