How to deal with a lazy coworker?

There is one secretary at my office who is not performing as well as the other secretaries. He is supposed to help me complete minor tasks that I don’t have time to do. The tasks are still important, so if they do not get done, it looks really bad because clients think we cannot get simple things done on time.

I have tried gracefully complaining about him, but my boss hasn’t really done anything about it. I think she’s ignoring the issue because we run a high volume business and customer service is not a high priority for her. On my own, I have no authority to discipline the secretary.

I think the guy is just lazy and doesn’t have enough incentive to improve. There is a chance that he has too much work, but everyone else is performing much better than he is with the same amount of work.

The problem I have is that I would like to reduce the number of people complaining about him to me. With my boss not being responsive to my complaints, is there a way for me to improve his performance?


I’ve got this problem too at the moment. I don’t even have the leverage of HR because I’m a consultant who has been allocated a full-time [del]idiot[/del] assistant, who recently fucked up so badly that the UK CEO of the massively internationally well-known blue-chip corporation for which I am doing work received a direct customer complaint. There’s nothing I can do about it.

It’s a small business. No HR.

Maybe given them less and less to do…but what you do give them REALLY needs to be “done right” and when the can’t even do THAT right…given their workload…then maybe the picture paints itself?

I don’t think you can necessarily improve his performance, but you can at least attempt to insulate yourself from blame for the work not being done. I recommend providing him with written instructions on what needs to be done and when. At least that way, if the things don’t get done, he can’t claim you didn’t tell him to do the work, and you can cover your ass when management tries to blame you for the shortfall.

Direct those people to your boss. No reason for you to listen to complaints about someone out of your control.

Implement the suggestions in both post #6 and #7.

The problem with people like that, is they take very good care of their boss and do nothing for everyone else. So when there are complaints, the boss just thinks people are trying to blame the secretary for them not getting work done on time.

Don’t worry about being graceful. Be factual. Keep a log of time/date you give work to the secretary along with details of when you need it by. Continue to log any problems, like if it is late and if it isn’t done correctly. Be sure to include time/date of those complaining about it. If you can get anyone else to keep a log, have them do it too. Then sit down with the door closed someplace and speak to the boss/owner about it, and show your log and explain how this is causing problems.

If after that, the boss does nothing, I’d find another job. Working with bad management will drain you and it kills moral for everyone too. Because it is less likely for you and others to care about the quality of the work and getting it done on time as promised if you know there is someone who is a dead weight.

As a secretary (one who learned long ago how to avoid being blamed for people not getting their work done and then shifting their failure to me), the policy I strongly, strongly encourage with my bosses is for them to please email me tasks if at all possible. Helps me keep track of my workload (and, frankly, the chronological order of requests, since most offices work on a first-in, first-out system for the most part), helps them keep track of thing things they’ve requested me to do. This is especially key for me since I almost always have more than one boss.

You could always just start emailing your lazy bastard of an employee all requests - if he protests feel free to tell him you’re doing it because you think it might help you with your own internal task organization process. But emailing requests gives you a) proof you made the request and b) the date and time you made the request. That way you can follow up with him (again, I’d do this via email) and say “hey, I asked for X at Y date/time, what’s the status?”. Creates you a paper trail, and your secretary might be less lazy and more ‘easily distracted’, so it’ll give him a framework.

Plus, if he is lazy, the first few times he gets a follow up in writing about a task he received in writing that isn’t done when it ought to have been, if he’s not an idiot, he’ll get the goddamn work done, which is the thing you actually care about. If he is an idiot, you’ll have documentary evidence of both his failure to perform his function and implied evidence of his dipshittery.

You are going to have to stay on top of him yourself forever. Some people just think differently and he’ll never change on his own. When you give him tasks, give him a firm timeline of when you want it done. When that time arrives, ask him for the results. If he doesn’t have it done, ask when it will be done. If he still doesn’t have it done at that new time, ask when it will be done and why he doesn’t have it done. Keep doing this and he’ll either get tasks done so you get off his back or he’ll quit.

These days there are too many distractions and it’s quite easy for someone with a lack of focus to goof off most of the day. Keep the pressure on him to stay on task. Bring up his performance with your boss and maybe he’ll eventually get fired, but don’t count on it. Some people are reluctant to fire a poor-performing employee.

I was just reading about a study that concludes that a pool of lazy workers is the key to long-term organizational efficiency. Is your secretary an ant by any chance?

Can the OP clarify, who this guy reports to? Does he report to your boss? If not, why are you complaining to your boss, complain to his boss.

Professional HR person weighing in.

In full agreement with #s 6, 7, and 10. Insulate yourself as much as possible from any harm this individual can cause. Document. Everything. Use your email as a log. When you email with a project, ask for an expected completion date, time. Save the response, in fact save the entire correspondence between the two of you. When those dates/times aren’t met, email again and attach a copy of his original email stating expected completion date and time. As evidence begins to mount, collect it all, identify the patterns, and then take it to your boss or his supervisor, if they are not one and the same.

Ultimately, if that doesn’t get the attention or your or his supervisor, you should probably think about asking for a transfer or find a new job. If you are not properly valued over a secretary, you are most likely not in the right job.

Kinda this. Give them the rope to hang themselves.

I’ve had lazy co-workers, and I largely ignored them. I did my job properly, and thus shone by comparison. When I got good annual reviews, year after year, and the other guys didn’t, it wasn’t hard to management to see where the problem was.

(I do feel bad for one poor guy, though. He wasn’t competent to the job…but he was fired in bad faith. The boss made up a false excuse against him and fired him on that basis. Just plain lied. We were all glad to see him go…but the dirty nature of his firing left a lot of us feeling very ugly about the boss. Every one of us would have testified on the fired guy’s behalf if he’d decided to sue.)

This, plus make sure to include written, detailed directions about how tasks are to be completed. If the individual is expected to do repetitive tasks, develop a written manual. Make sure that he knows how to do the job in the way you expect it to be done, and don’t give him any excuses not to do that.

I had a similar situation with an individual I was training. There were a lot of essential tasks that he just stopped doing, and since the position is considered critical to the agency’s operations, that’s not a good thing. However, because I had documented all of the tasks exactly as they needed to be done, it was easy for me to take the issue up the chain of command for corrective action. Otherwise, it’s nitpicking and fault-finding, and that kills morale for everyone.

You will find lazy people are lazy but not stupid. They know exactly what they can and can’t get away with. This is why he is there, because he’s already gotten called out for what he can’t get away with and you’re now living with the left over.

If you believe the situation isn’t going to change, and it sounds like it’s not, than it’s time to move on. It sounds drastic, but your life is too short to live with this crap. Go where you are appreciated and stop trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

I’ve been working with a guy like that for over a decade. About 3 years ago, the new manager took very careful documentation to the owner of the company showing how he shipped a major order to the wrong customer. The owner said if he ever did that again, he would be fired. He did that again. He’s still with us. The guy even walked out of the plant one day when he was being told by his manager that he wasn’t working hard enough. He was allowed to come back and is still doing the same job.

The sad truth is, you may not be able to do anything except get a different job, or maybe get him transferred. Mmmm, I just had an idea. Does your boss need a personal assistant?