I have a coworker who is known for being quite lazy. He often does things just to get out of doing much work. I would like to give him feedback before going to upper management, but I am not sure how to approach him. He is NOT very open to feedback, so I worry how this will go. I just feel wrong going straight to management without giving him a chance to improve.

What should I do or say?

closed as off-topic by gnat, jimm101, Michael Grubey, Dawny33, paparazzo Mar 29 '16 at 11:45

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  • 6
    what do you want to achieve as a result of having spoken to him? Always know what you want from the meeting. – Kate Gregory Mar 28 '16 at 19:17
  • 1
    you just described half the workforce. – Kilisi Mar 28 '16 at 19:53
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    Very few people are open to 'feedback' from folks that think they are lazy. As @KateGregory has asked, what is your goal? If you are just going to browbeat him before you go complain to management that he's a loser, don't waste your time. – ColleenV Mar 28 '16 at 19:56

I wouldn't give feedback unless you are his manager. What I would do is concentrate on your specific interactions with them and give him feedback on that.

If he tells you that he will do X by 3:00 PM follow up with him. This is where email is your friend. You might have to do this for 3-4 weeks. Don't explode. Even though he has done this for months/years, act like it is new. Document, document, document.

When you get to 6-7 specific instances, then say "Hey Jim, I noticed that you haven't come through on a lot of things I have been working on with you. It has caused me a lot of time not only helping but following up. Is there something wrong?"

  • If he has accountability, let that serve as a wake-up call and give him another couple weeks.

  • If he denies and gets hostile, schedule a meeting with your managers.

  • If he is in-between, mention that you would rather handle this between you two but you are also open if he wants to involve management. See what I did there - you make him involve management. So when the hammer comes down he knows he had a chance to stop it.

The key is don't say anything unless you are talking specifics. If you don't have specifics and he just annoys you mention his name lightly to your boss and maybe hint at what his responsibilities are and see if your boss has the same reaction as you.

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    Upvote "even though he has done this for months / years, act line it is new. Document, document, document." – MealyPotatoes Mar 28 '16 at 19:35
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    @MealyPotatoes - the worst thing that you can do is assume. I have actually been given the "lazy" talk because another employee was wondering why I am always late for their stuff and why I never came to work. Well I was working in another building in a lab - so was at work - and my boss told me that this other employee's stuff only got done when I had nothing to do. So when he chewed me out, then went to management, and then told management he hasn't done anything because he was waiting for me... things didn't work out well for him. – blankip Mar 28 '16 at 19:39

As with just about every other issue, how you relate to this person is more about you than about them. There will always be people who don't pull their own weight in a given work environment for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, you really need to make sure that your gripes are because you are being regularly blocked by them, for example, or if you're just peeved that you seem to do a lot more work than they do. If it's the latter, I would propose not doing anything about the situation and instead learn how to deal with this issue internally.

If it is the former, you can try going to them but it's often hard to have a face to face discussion with a peer about stuff like this. If you do, it is imperative that you use "I" statements ("I was unable do complete a task yesterday because Document XYZ was not filled out" instead of "you need to fill out Document XYZ") and, really, not be straight up accusatory. The "this guy is lazy" thing especially is at its root an accusation. Even if you know in your heart that the root cause is this guy's laziness, you ought to be prepared for the chance that you're seeing things incorrectly.

I also wouldn't go the route of asking about their personal business unless you are really and truly interested in their well-being. That kind of thing is hard to fake and if you go up asking how someone is doing in an insincere way, chances are they will notice it straight away. Instead, keep things on the business end and if they proffer an excuse that is personal, try to address it in business terms ("Okay, so you're going through a messy divorce and have to be out of the office by 4? Can you make sure that Document XYZ is completed by 3, then? If you can do that, I can know that I have to get all of my stuff done before that time"). On the flip side, that also means you shouldn't include personal stuff in your criticism of him. "My work is being affected by your not hitting deadlines" is professional; "I feel frustrated that you are not working as hard as I am" is personal and likely to be taken as an insult.

Otherwise, if you'd prefer to go to your supervisor, and I would not blame you if you did, you need to make sure it's not just a gossip/gripe session. Continue to present things as "I" statements (if you feel like that is overly clingy, well, don't worry about that - others will attribute bad statements to you whether you say them as "I" statements or as "they" statements) so as to make your boss understand the personal impact this person's laziness is having on the workplace. Be open to alternatives, and as mentioned in the first paragraph being peeved that a colleague isn't pulling their weight isn't really reason enough in and of itself for your boss to intercede on your behalf.


If his work or lack thereof is effecting you directly, I would point out to a difficulty you are experiencing and tell him that, your work depends on his and these errors are taking place more than once, hampering your ability to product quality work and taking too much of your time to fix them. And add to that, unless he fixes them, you will have to let the management know the reason why you are "insert your deficiency here, such as late/wrong/inaccurate/etc." And be very sweet while letting him know about this. Make sure he understands, you are trying to protect him, not report him. If he doesn't get it to his thick skull, you have no qualms about talking to your manager/supervisor about the situation.

As you are not this person's supervisor, any stance you are going to take as admonishing this person, can and most probably will blow up on you, even before you talk to the boss. So, being sweet and tactful is the key. I personally bring up the issue at the coffee room or walking to another part of the building with him or any chance you can find, catching him out of his office. This way, you are not on the "work" clock but two buddies going somewhere or doing something.

If you directly report him to the management, you have every right to do so, but should he finagle his way back into his position and knows that you were the person who complained about his workmanship, you will have a very uncomfortable time as long as you are in the same work environment with this person.

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