3 tricks to help you cope with a lazy coworker
What to do when you're always pulling someone else's weight.
Part of being a team player is pitching in and helping a colleague meet a crazy deadline, or taking on part of their workload when they need an extra hand. But that’s supposed to be once in a while—a favor, not a full-time job.
If you’re constantly doing someone else’s work, it can be difficult to fulfill your own responsibilities, produce high-quality work and go above and beyond. It could even be the difference between a promotion and staying stagnant.
And as helpful as you want to be, if your willingness to help turns into an everyday occurrence, it may be time to say something. “Follow the rule of three to make sure you're dealing with a pattern and not an incident,” says Leigh Steere, cofounder of the Boulder-based management training tool Managing People Better. “If it happens once, let it go; twice, make a mental note; three times, you have to deal with it,”
Monster spoke to career experts to find out how to politely (but firmly) push back on the work your co-worker tries to push off.
Just say no
It is possible that your colleague doesn’t realize the pattern she has fallen into or how it impacts you. If you’ve helped her out dozens of times, it makes sense that your colleague keeps swinging by your desk at 5 p.m. with a “huge favor to ask you.”
“Your communication and lack of assertiveness may be to blame. Retrain that colleague to know you are no longer doing two jobs,” says Angelina Darrisaw, founder and CEO of the New York-based career coaching firm C-Suite Coach. “This means being willing to say ‘no’ and ‘not right now.’ If you notice that your co-worker always comes to you for ‘help’ and ‘help’ turns into you doing their work, start pushing back.”
Steele advocates for being more assertive by pointing out the issue and offering a solution. She recommends telling your colleague: “I don't mind helping every once in awhile, but I'm noticing that you are asking me to help with things from your to-do list frequently. I have a full plate without taking on more, and I need to say no.”
Give guidance, not time
It is normal to want to say yes when someone asks for your help, but instead of agreeing to take the entire project—aka hours of work—offer to help in a less time-intensive capacity.
“Hold a brief meeting where you offer suggestions and guidance. Give them a roadmap and let them run with it. If you want, you can suggest a follow-up meeting to review the work before they turn it in,” says Darrisaw. “Consulting your colleague is fine, but you shouldn't be always doing the work for them.”
State the facts (and leave emotion out of it)
If the problem persists even after you’ve talked to your colleague once or twice, you should make your manager aware of the situation.
“Be sure to include the impact on you, such as missed deadlines, extra hours, using team resources on unscheduled projects,” says Nancy Halpern, a coach at the New York-based executive coaching firm KNH Associates. “But be careful of your emotions: Don't let anger or whining influence how you present. Just stick to the facts and ask your boss’ advice on what else you should do to resolve it.”