Slacker at Work

Question:

I have a co-worker who’s work I always, or almost always, end up doing. We each work alone but there are certain tasks that need to be accomplished during every shift. She does the work that directly involves the customers, but usually leaves the clean-up and non-customer related work to the next person. It is getting very annoying to come in and do my work PLUS her work. I have talked to her about this. I have talked to the boss about this. He has talked to her about this. I have even written her notes about this and made checklists for her to use. I don’t know what else to do about this situation. Please help.

Signed,

Frustrated


Answer:

Dear Frustrated:

It seems you have tried all the things that a mature, professional person should try–and which would work if you were dealing with someone equally mature and professional. Sadly, you will likely have to be much more adamant to make any difference at all. The negative part of that is that for awhile you will probably feel that you are spending more time thinking about this unpleasant situation, than anything else. Hopefully you can get through the worst part quickly and move on.

The other negative thing is that your co-worker will likely never be your friend again–but it doesn’t sound as though she is close to you now or cares how you feel, so it might be no loss.

See if any of these thoughts might be something you can do.

1. Develop a list of the tasks that were the responsibility of the co-worker but that were not done–and you did them. If there is something photographable, take a photo. If you need a witness, ask someone to come over to see the situation. Clearly identify and list what work you are doing that is not your responsibility, or that is a shared responsibility but that she never does.

See if you can develop some startling statistics out of that list. To say that you nearly always do her work isn’t as dramatic as to say, “In the last month I have done twenty-three tasks that Carol was supposed to do, in addition to doing my own work. Carol has not done any tasks to help others and hasn’t done all of her own tasks either.” Or,”On average, every day I spend two hours total, doing work that Carol is supposed to do. Carol doesn’t spend any time helping others but also doesn’t do all of her own work.”

Your statistics might also include such things as, “Over the last two years I have talked directly to Carol eight times to ask her to do the work that is her responsibility, I have prepared checklists and other aids to help her do her work, three times. I have talked to you about her ten times.”

Those specific facts will not only present your case better, but may remind you more of what you’re dealing with and either reinforce that you’ve done all that can be expected, without results, or that you haven’t really had to do her work all that much, or haven’t really been direct with her about the matter.

2. After you get the statistics you need, or the overall picture you want to develop, write to your supervisor again. Start by saying something like, “I am requesting that this ongoing and long-term problem be discussed with someone higher or someone who can help you find a solution for it. I don’t feel I can do any more, as a co-worker and think this a supervisory issue. However, I am adamant that I will not do her work for her anymore. This must stop.” Then, list your statistics or the facts of the situation. Discuss what you’ve done in the past to make things better. Finally, make sure you link all of this to the impact on work. “I don’t feel that I can focus on my own work as much as I’d like, when I’m so frustrated over doing her work as well. I am asking for your help to stop this negative habit that Carol has had for the last three years.” If you have access to your evaluation forms, you might want to see what aspects of it apply to the issues you have with your co-worker, and cite those:”Our evaluations ask about whether or not we support the team. Carol hasn’t been doing that, so she isn’t acceptable in that area. If that is an important enough area to evaluate, it ought to be important enough for supervisors to do something about it in an extreme case like this.”

3. Then state your plan: To not do the work of the co-worker unless you are told to do so by a supervisor. So, you will call a supervisor to the area everytime there is something that needs to be done that your co-worker was supposed to do.

That may not be possible in your work setting, but worth a try. Call someone over every time, and say you will do it if they tell you to, but it was Carol’s task and it points out the need for her to be made to do her work. You might want to soften this in your letter by saying, “This isn’t the way I like to work, but it seems to be the only thing left for me to do. What I would prefer is that each of us do our work as well as the extra things necessary for clean-up and that involve non-customer work. What I want to stop is the current situation in which Carol or any other employee handles the customers but leaves everything else to me or someone else.”

4. Deliver your message. If you are close to your supervisor you might tell him that you put it in writing so there would be no question about how serious you are.

5. Stop doing her work, unless you have brought it to the attention of someone else. You know the things that could easily be shared versus the things that clearly should have been done by her. As long as you are reasonable and use good judgement about those things, you should have no problems with being viewed as not doing work the right way or purposely being difficult. 6. Wait and see what happens and if nothing does, decide if there is someone higher in the organization you can go to–or if you want to consider looking for work where you will have supervisors who handle such problems better.

These steps may be more harsh than you considered, but they are also more likely to get results because they take you out of the griping stage and into the action stage. While we’re mentioning griping though, make sure you don’t get revenge on the employee by gossiping or complaining regularly to other employees. That will only get you a bad reputation and make it where people don’t want to help you.

Put your focus on doing your own work very well. Be the model employee in every way so that your supervisor and others are more concerned about losing you than they are about losing the co-worker. And, more concerned about your feelings than hers.

You will probably have to adapt all of this for your type of work and your work situation, but the idea should be the same: That you are putting it in the lap of the supervisors, where it belongs, and you expect something to happen as a result, so you won’t give up.

As I said, I imagine this will be very unpleasant feeling for awhile. But,if you are able to bring about a change you’ll not only have better work allocation, you’ll feel positive about approaching it in a professional way.

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

Tina Lewis Rowe