Lazy Co-Worker But Boss Won’t Do Anything

Question:

My co-worker constantly takes hour or two hour long lunchbreaks instead of the half hour we are allowed. She comes in at least 30 minutes late every day and takes time off, but she doesn’t write that down on her time sheet.

I have worked out that she averages about a 28 hour week even though she gets paid for a 38 hour week.

The lady that used to have my job left because of this co-worker and made a written complaint about her, so the boss knows, and does nothing. This co-worker gets paid a fair bit more than me. If she’s asked to do something she just puts it in her box, where it sometimes stays for six months.

The boss is obviously not willing to do anything about it, but it makes me grind my teeth that I am working flat out and my co-worker is constantly trying to get me to take on more of her work so that she can cruise.

It seems pointless complaining to the boss when she already knows and doesn’t seem to care. It is a good job apart from my lazy co-worker. I don’t want to leave, like the last lady did.

Signed,

Frustrated


Answer:

Dear Frustrated:

I can imagine how frustrating the situation is! You have three options for action (and the option of no action.)

1. It won’t be easy, but you may want to try talking to the employee briefly and unemotionally the next time she fails to do something that has an effect on your work. You could say, quietly but with determination, “Lisa, this didn’t get done and it’s going to make a problem for everyone. This happens too often and I’m going to have to talk to Carol about it if it keeps happening.”

The focus will be on a task that was not done rather than on judging why it wasn’t done.

Or, you could say, “Lisa, when you’re gone I have to pick up the slack for you. We have a half hour lunch break and you often are gone an hour.(Or, ..”we start work at 8 o’clock and you often don’t come in until 8:30.”) It’s not fair and I’m asking you to start being on time.” You might want to mention it before the problem, “Lisa, I’m busy with my own work, so could you be back right after your half hour break?” Instead of making excuses for not doing her work when she asks, say it pointedly, “No Lisa. I’m going to to help you as long as you won’t help me and others by being here on time and working a full week. I’m sorry that it has come to that, but I won’t help until things change.”

All of those things would be very difficult to do. Most people are bashful about saying something directly–even though they are in the right and they believe the other person is clearly in the wrong.

My experience has been that someone like this doesn’t care what you think because she is focused on herself not on the company or on her coworkers. But at least you could document that you have tried. That is very impressive when people higher up look at the situation. You don’t have to have a closed door encounter, just say a few words civilly and don’t argue if she argues back. Merely document what you said and when you said it and move to step #2.

2. You can go to your manager and have documentation about the situation. You don’t know what the former employee did or said about the problem. Maybe she just hinted around or maybe she blamed the boss and made her angry. One thing is for sure–it’s to the benefit of the manager to have the work done correctly.

So, don’t start with the approach that it’s not fair to you. Start with a list of the things that haven’t been done right or done on time because of the coworker’s behavior. Link the behavior to work product or you may sound jealous or petty.

The more evidence you have, the more solid your complaint. For example, for a few days list how many things others had to do because she was gone. Or, how many things she asked you to do for her. If there are other employees maybe you can list them as witnesses. That isn’t ganging up, it’s trying to get change when change is needed. Maybe they all would be willing to write a letter or sign it.

At the end of your letter, be specific about what you want. “I would like to be interviewed about this matter so we can resolve this siuation now, before it gets worse.” I think I would not mention that the last person reported it, because your boss may not want that known. If no action is taken about your complaint, you can go to step three, THEN you can mention the former complaints.

As a side note: Since it is to the benefit of your boss to have fully functioning employees,consider if there is something about this you don’t know. You may be in error about the pay or working hours. You may not realize some agreement she has with HR. For example, if she is receiving medical care or has special needs outside of the office. Or, maybe the boss feels that the coworker is so valuable for other reasons that she’s willing to tolerate this.

I would guess the truth is that she knows the coworker isn’t doing the full job but doesn’t want to take it on as an issue. You need to push that a bit. I doubt seriously you would be fired for bringing this problem to the attention of the boss in a good way. You may be welcomed for providing the excuse she needs, so she can say employees are complaining.

3. The third option is reserved for if you find no action is taken. Go to the boss again or write again and say things have not improved after two weeks or thereabouts. Ask for an interview again and say you would like to meet with a Human Resources representative or a higher level manager. Have your facts straight when you do this. But, that will certainly get someone’s attention and I’m betting it will either be resolved or you will be told to stop complaining about it. Then, you can decide what to do next.

That is a difficult step because your boss will not want her inaction to be known. But, if you really feel seriously about it and you like your work except for this situaiton, it would be worth it. If you are doing good work and your complaint is reason enough to get you in trouble, take it as high in the company as you can. At some level someone will care.

Keep all of the discussions about this unemotional and focused on lowered work and lowered morale for others, rather than “She never works and no one does anything about it.” Give the boss a chance to solve the problem so you don’t back her into a corner. And, of course, make sure your work, your appearance and your behavior is excellent, so you won’t be casting stones about one problem while you have been allowed to slide on other things! Please don’t be like your boss and try to ignore it to avoid the unpleasantness of dealing with it. Do something and you’ll feel better for having spoken up. Even if you don’t get all the change you wanted, I’ll bet some things improve. The coworker will probably be cold to you from here on out–but she wasn’t your friend anyway, apparently! (Or anyone else’s!)

Best wishes in your efforts. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens with this.

Tina Lewis Rowe