They lurk in the hallways and in the conference rooms, right there among your hard workers on every team. Slackers, also known as lazy people, can gradually degrade the morale of even the best workforce. Team members know that they will probably have to either do the slacker’s work or risk missing a deadline, leading to resentment and anger.
For leaders, it can be difficult to know how to deal with these slackers. Repeated reprimands are usually ineffective, since the behavior is often a core part of a person’s personality. It can help to understand the inner workings of a slacker’s brain and possibly learn how to get the most out of their work style.
The Cream Rises to the Top
The most important lesson you can learn from your more sluggish workers probably relates to your own hiring processes. Top talent gravitates toward jobs that offer high pay, great company culture, and plenty of perks. Take a look at your hiring processes and determine how you might identify lazier employees during the interview. Are your competitors recruiting your top workers away, leaving you with more than a couple of slackers? If so, it might be time to reconsider the salaries and perks you’re offering.
The Quickest Solution Is the Best
One long-held line of thinking says that the best person to do a difficult job is a lazy person. According to this wisdom, a lazy person might find the easiest, quickest way to get the job done, assuming that person doesn’t procrastinate. While you may not necessarily want to trust your biggest slacker with your most important work, he or she may be the best person to advise you on how to do it, especially if you have a project that could be approached multiple ways. Also, keep in mind that lazy employees aren’t necessarily incompetent. They could be highly intelligent with a less-than-stellar work ethic.
Some Teams Create Slackers
Not all slackers are lazy. In some cases, you may find that your slackers simply feel bound by the environment they’re in. One team member may be overbearing, taking over everything and leaving the perceived slacker feeling unsure what his or her role is. Micromanagement can also create slackers. If someone feels a lack of trust from supervisors, that person may give up and settle for doing only the minimum required. It’s important that leaders learn to delegate, watching in particular for situations where one team member is doing more of the work than others.
Failure to Engage Creates Slackers
When employees are invested in the work they’re doing, they’re more likely to want to work hard without prodding. If you have one or more slackers in your workplace, consider whether or not those workers feel sufficiently engaged in the end result of the products or services you provide to your customer base. You can eliminate lazy behavior and improve your overall workplace culture by making an effort to engage your workers on a regular basis. As a result, you’ll likely find turnover decreases and candidates contact you with an interest in working with you.
Rewards Motivate All Employees
Sometimes the very thing you need to get your laziest employees going is a more immediate reward. Simply working on tasks day after day with only a paycheck to motivate them won’t necessarily get the most energy from your workers. There are numerous cost-effective ways to reward your employees, but it’s important to do so in a way that makes other team members want to achieve the same recognition. If you choose a reward lunch for those who reached a particular goal each month, for instance, those who see the lunch invitation may want to be part of it next month. For even better results, make the reward something that appeals to slackers, such as an afternoon off.
I want to say that there are no good or bad employees, but who am I kidding? Some them just aren’t up to snuff. Most of the time though, there are simply employees who take different approaches to their work. By making the most of any supposed slackers on your team, you may be able to turn them into your hardest-working employees, improving your company culture in the process.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.