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Do I have ‘lazy’ staff?

Take care in diagnosing the ‘lazy’ employee as we all at times are prone to ‘laziness’. We might like to think of this as being unproductive or distracted. What we are really looking for are patterns, not one off’s. Take care too in assuming that because a staff member appears ‘lazy’ that this means they are lazy. For instance they could be fatigued, ill, suffering stress, thinking or resting.

But let’s assume that there will be someone at work who is lazy at times. Lazy workers can adversely affect team morale, contribute to lowered productivity, cause others to work harder. Laziness comes in two basic forms – deliberate laziness and non deliberate laziness. Let’s tackle deliberate laziness.

Someone who is deliberately lazy may show the following:

  • A blatant disregard for the efforts and plights of others
  • Absenteeism (eg days off, long lunch breaks, increased use of internet for non-work related matters, non-attendance at meetings)
  • Distracting others through non-work related matters or work that is not necessarily a priority
  • Providing weak excuses as to why they did not meet that last deadline (‘I didn’t realise it was important’, ‘It was so and so’s fault’, ‘I thought someone else was doing it’ etc.)
  • Poor attitude and lack of engagement

Someone who is not deliberately lazy may show the following:

  • Distractedness due to not understanding task or urgency of work, skill and/or knowledge deficit
  • Incomplete tasks by due dates due to work overload/lack of resources
  • Appearing disengaged due to external factors (eg stressors in personal life) or other factors such as feeling harassed, under pressure
  • Impacting on the performance of others (eg asking too many questions/favours) due to lack of training/professional development/poor induction etc

In all cases with a first conversation do not make the mistake that you have ‘diagnosed the issue’ and that the worker must be lazy. It is imperative to assume this is not the case and to inquire if there is any help they need (it could be a simple matter of educating/coaching the employee or something more serious leading to referral to EAP), identifying barriers to completion of work, advising of the resources/people available to assist.

Should your observations or feedback lead you to believe a pattern is forming you will need to confront the employee with what you are noticing or have been told (especially where you are a remote manager) and state that continued performance may lead to disciplinary measures. (Be mindful however of issues pertaining to mental health). If you have an HR department (or contracted HR advisers) you will need to seek advice from them prior to having such conversations. Remember you can really only operate on factual information rather than opinion only. These conversations also need to have an action plan as an outcome (that is, agreed goals with time frames that both the employee and you can work toward).

There are some assessment tools that can be employed for pre-employment screening and this may save you having to have such conversations in the first place! These tools identify motivation, attitude, work ethic etc and can assist in identifying the most appropriate employees for your business.

For more information contact Gavin on 0413433235.