Thought Leaders//

How to Deal With an Unmotivated Colleague Without Losing Your Mind

Are you tired of picking up the slack for someone who just isn’t putting in the time or the effort? Here are four tips to handle this tricky situation.

We have all been there: your boss assigns you to a new project, and your colleague just isn’t pulling their weight. Maybe this isn’t uncharacteristic of your co-worker, but you had hoped that the added pressure of a new deadline and someone else being part of the project would light a fire under them to get the job done, and quickly! 

If you find yourself in a position where you are doing the majority of the brainstorming, communicating, and developing of materials, it’s important to not develop a “this is not what I signed up for” attitude. While it’s unfair for your colleague to be relaxing on the sidelines while you find yourself overworked and struggling to get stuff done, remind yourself that this is temporary and it’s an exercise to challenge yourself. That being said, finishing the project doesn’t mean that your coworker gets a forever hall pass. 

Here are four tips for dealing with a lazy or unmotivated coworker:

Take notes of interactions, emails and situations:  Especially if this is an ongoing problem, it’s important for you to document instances in when you have to pitch in more than you normally do or are putting in more effort than your teammate. Keep in mind that your boss might not be privy to the whole situation and you are going to need to put it into context, so don’t immediately think that your boss will immediately understand everything from your perspective.

Keep emotions at bay: No matter how badly you feel things are going, it’s never appropriate to yell or belittle another colleague. If you feel that you are in a position to speak to your co-worker without the emotions getting the best of you, it’s perfectly ok for you to check-in and ask how he or she thinks the project is going. Maybe your co-worker has questions, feels confused, or there are other things going on internally that are causing them to pull back. If that’s the case, then you potentially can both find a middle ground that permits the two of you to work together to get the job done.

Be open and honest with your boss: Your boss isn’t a mind reader, so don’t be afraid to communicate that you feel that you’ve been handling the bulk of the work and that you don’t feel the divvying of duties has been fair. Refrain from using accusatory statements or reverting to name-calling, but be sure to make it clear to your boss if deadlines have suffered, if deliverables haven’t been met, or if there has been interactions between your colleague or the client that are out of line. Be prepared that your boss might be surprised to hear all of this especially if this isn’t an issue that has been brought up before, and that it might take some time to get resolved.

Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint: Hopefully your boss will be willing to come up with solutions or advice on how to handle this problem if it arises in the future. For example, your boss might agree to oversee the start of the project, and to see first-hand how your colleague is contributing. Or maybe your boss will switch up team assignments to see if the outcome is different with another co-worker, or will talk to that person-one-on-one. In the best of all possible worlds, your boss will listen and work with you.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to transform your coworker into a hard worker overnight, but it’s important to be an advocate for yourself and to speak up if your colleagues lack of work ethic is affecting the way you get your job done. Having some control over the personalities in your office, how your boss handles situations, or the work environment itself is difficult, but the one thing that you can control is how you respond to the situation. 

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