Many of us have been there

One of your department’s team members is not pulling their weight while everyone else is working their butts off and putting in extra time to get stuff done.

(NOTE:  Just for arguments sake, you’re not close to this person, they are not a new hire, and you don’t feel comfortable broaching the topic of their undesirable behaviour with them)

What do you do?

You don’t want to be singled out as the jerk who squealed on someone else or be perceived as a “complainer” by your peers.

At the same time, you feel that allowing someone to continue to take advantage of yourself and the team will eventually only cause more problems down the road, like a deteriorating work environment.

Here’s a possible scenario

The slacking co-worker (a.k.a. “The Slacker”) puts less time into work than everyone, often arriving later and leaving earlier than the rest of the team.

They typically take more and longer breaks during the day.

You might have caught them spending company hours taking care of personal business.

To add insult to injury, management seems to be oblivious to the fact that this individual appears to be completely taking advantage of a situation.

It’s creating a problem for you

You’re not one to really care about how others conduct themselves, but this is really pissing you off.

Why should everyone else be expected and required to put in extra time while this other person gets to seemingly work less hours and still get paid for it?

I hear you. I don’t like slackers. They bug me on so many levels.

My fantasy is that I would either tell the person to their face their behaviour is not acceptable and they need to smarten up and/or I’d march into their boss’ office and register my complaint.

Of course, I wouldn’t actually do that. Why? Because I don’t really know the whole story. I’m seeing it through my lens only.

Hold your horses and tread lightly

Maybe The Slacker is actually productive, but you’re so focused on what you consider “poor work etiquette” that you don’t see it.  That might explain why the boss doesn’t say anything.

Maybe they’re dealing with a personal issue and for whatever reason, it’s affecting how they show up to work – literally and figuratively.

Everyone deals with stress differently and it could manifest as self-sabotaging behaviour. The co-worker in question could even be dealing with a mental health issue that should be addressed.

If that’s the case, they do deserve the benefit of the doubt and some help to get back on track, particularly if they are long-standing employee.

Don’t make assumptions

My advice is this – if you don’t know 100% what’s going on behind the scenes, everything you see and hear is how you’ve interpreted it. 

Better to approach the situation with a cool head (don’t bulldoze management with your grievances), some compassion (the person might be struggling with something) and some caution ( you might be misinterpreting what you see)

Mind your bees wax

If The Slacker’s behaviour isn’t really hurting anyone or the company’s performance and is more of an annoyance than anything, it’s probably better to ignore it. Mind your own business (literally) and get back to work.

Why rock the boat if you don’t have to?

Alternatively, if you’re going to rock the boat, you better be prepared to be accountable for what happens as a result.

You don’t know what you don’t know

Maybe The Slacker’s boss is fully aware of the situation and is dealing with it or chose to let it go, so any complaint you lodge about someone they may have hired might backfire on you. Undermining someone up the food chain doesn’t typically go over very well.

When you should say something

Now, if the individual’s behaviour is impacting you in a negative way, you should probably say something to the appropriate persons, but you still have to do it in a thoughtful, professional, and compassionate manner.

If your co-worker’s boss is the same as yours, then the most logical step would be to have a confidential conversation with your boss and explain your concerns and stick to the facts without getting emotional about it. Make it more about how business is being affected because at the end of the day, money talks.

For instance, if the guilty party’s behaviour is making you less productive to the point that it could reduce potential sales which will ultimately prevent your and/or the team from making targets, then focus on that than on the fact that you don’t “like” the way they are “behaving” at work. That just sounds whiny for lack of a better term.

Here’s the thing:

The behaviour of another employee isn’t really any of your business. You don’t have to like it.

What is your business is how their behaviour negatively impacts your productivity and enjoyment while at work, so that’s what need to look at when deciding if you should approach management or not.

Be a part of the solution

You’ll look like a winner if you can come up with a quick fix to the problem.

For instance, maybe you or the other person could be moved to another work area where you won’t be disturbed by them constantly interrupting you. Problem solved.

In any event, the best strategy is to go into a meeting with not just a complaint, but a workable solution to show that you are a problem solver and not a problem maker. There’s a fine line.

Now, if your co-worker reports to someone who’s not your boss, you might want to talk to your manager to find out the best course of action.

Your manager might end up talking to The Slacker’s manager and voila – problem solved.  Or it might become an HR issues that involves you and other parties until a solution is found.

In any event, it’s likely better to first approach a manager and/or HR than to try to deal with the issues yourself which might only escalate into a bigger problem.

When the team gets involved

If The Slacker’s behaviour goes beyond just annoying and is negatively affecting you along with everyone else on the team, then the issue can be addressed as a group where no one person is being singled out as the ring leader.

Just be careful that the grievances are based on undeniable facts that show how business is being impacted and not a scenario where everyone’s ganging up on one person because of a jealous, pack mentality.

Wrapping it all up

So, in conclusion, if your co-worker’s behaviour negatively impacts your ability to perform your duties and is reducing the enjoyment of your work, I feel that you and anyone else affected has the right to approach management but do so with compassion (because you don’t know the full story) and try to offer a solution while you’re at it.

Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst

Regardless of how valid your complaint is, be prepared that no solution might be offered, and your grievance might even fall on deaf ears.  

At that point, you need to decide if this is something you can live with and if not, what your next course of action might be.

But that’s a whole other article.

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