Survival Guide to Dealing With Lazy Employees

3459415984_e39884981c_mManagers face constant challenges in the battle to keep employees productive. It would be wonderful if all employees were self-motivated to complete their jobs to the best of their abilities, but the fact is that some people are just lazy.

In fact, most work environments play out like this: employees try to get the most money for the least amount of work, while managers attempt to get the most amount of work for the least amount of money. Work environments steeped in these opposing mindsets are almost doomed to be fraught with tension, since clashes of will are guaranteed to result. And a tense work environment with unhappy employees is often just as detrimental to productivity as one filled with lazy, unmanaged individuals.

Therefore, in the end, both sides have to decide to make a change in mindset—but managers have to initiate and lead the way. They can do this by viewing unproductive employees—even those who appear to be just lazy—as having the potential to be more than they seem. Many managers simply write off employees who seem lazy, without taking the time to get to know the circumstances—or to understand the effect they can have on some employees through a few simple adaptations to their management style.

Below are a few ways to motivate employees to do more, all of which can also contribute to a positive and supportive work environment that will lead to a happier overall staff—which will, in turn, result in more productivity each work day.

  • Communicate. This is vital for a manager-employee relationship. Employees need to know where they stand, what their obligations are, and how you expect them to meet those obligations. They need to know the potential consequences for not meeting those expectations. All of this can also be done in such a way as to facilitate a better relationship, one of mutual understanding where you, as a manager, seek to better understand how your employee is motivated and what potential incentives you might put out there to further entice a more productive environment.
  • Encourage. As you communicate with your employees, remember that some of your “lazy” people are just individuals who are unhappy or unfulfilled with their work. They might feel discouraged about how well they can complete their work or they may be experiencing personal issues that cause them to feel sluggish and unproductive. It’s important to be encouraging, welcoming in communication, and supportive of your employees. Obviously, you have to set hard limits as to what you can and cannot accept, but in other ways throughout the day, you can provide kind words or small rewards to employees who are showing improvement. These little things often motivate more than most managers realize.
  • Challenge them. Another issue with many “lazy” employees is that they might not feel challenged with their work. It’s easy, especially with repetitive tasks, to become caught in a cycle of boredom, where everything feels the same day after day. This is the kind of feeling that sparks midlife crises and other crazy, life-altering decisions in many individuals who feel their lives, and definitely their jobs, are just boring. Try to provide a spark. Create friendly competition. Offer small prizes for those who are performing. Notice employees who are obviously capable of more and give them the training they need and vision for their own futures. This can be incredibly valuable to somewhat listless individuals who are struggling to find their paths. It will also make your work environment that much stronger and more productive because individuals who might have seemed lazy could rise to become leaders for change and improvement, if you only provide the spark.
  • Be present. For all the rest, the big key to getting people working is to simply be there. For one, no one wants to be caught slacking by the boss. For another, if your employees see that you work as hard, or harder, than they do, they are more likely to respect you and take you seriously. Having that kind of respect is invaluable for leading any group of people, particularly towards improvement. But, it could also be broken down another way: you can always expect people to follow your lead—so if you look lazy, they will too.
  • Know when to cut your losses. Finally, the hardest part is to know when someone is a lost cause. Obviously, I continually advocate for understanding and creative approaches to inspire improvement, but the unfortunate truth is that some people cannot be helped. In those situations, when you have set repeated hard limits for a particular employee and he or she has repeatedly disregarded or broken those understood rules, you have to accept that it’s best for both parties to cut ties. This should, however, be the exception. If you are continuously running through a stream of employees, you may want to consider other sources besides those individuals for your problem.

Being a manager is probably one of the hardest jobs you can do, day in and day out—or being a good manager is, at least. It requires you to be dedicated to your employees, highly observant, and extremely resourceful if you hope to create a positive, productive work environment.

As you make changes for the better, consider what motivates you, what makes you feel sluggish or distracts you from your central priorities, and try to better understand your employees’ perspectives. That deeper understanding will make a huge difference in helping you to inspire employees to work harder and adopt positive attitudes.

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AshleyAbout the Author – Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Morgan @ Flickr CC.