September 17, 2014 Management and Training en_US 4 Strategies for Dealing With Lazy Employees
Management and Training

4 Strategies for Dealing With Lazy Employees

By Rebecca Lake September 17, 2014

Employees who don’t pull their weight cause business owners a lot of frustration. Even worse, when their performance is consistently poor, it has the potential to impact your company’s profitability. The latest State of the American Workplace Report estimates that disengaged workers cost the U.S. between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity each year. If you’ve invested a significant amount of time and effort in training your staff, it may be worth it to try to re-energize a team member who’s gone off-course. Take a look at these four tips for helping slacker employees get their mojo back.

1. Talk It Out

When someone consistently falls short of your expectations, you shouldn’t allow it to become the elephant in the room. Scheduling a time to sit down with your employee and discuss the issue makes it easier to pinpoint the root of the problem. Taking a direct approach is best, but you don’t want to engage in finger-pointing. Explain that you’ve noticed a decline in the person’s work effort and give him or her a chance to fill you in on what’s going on. The employee could be going through difficult times at home, for example. On the other hand, you may be able to chalk it up plain old-fashioned boredom. Only by identifying what’s behind the apparent lack of enthusiasm will the two of you be able to work toward a solution that benefits everyone.

2. Create Accountability

It’s tempting for employees to spend part of the workday loafing when there’s no one keeping tabs on what they’re doing. For instance, handing them a project without setting a hard deadline virtually guarantees that it’ll get done later rather than sooner. Without a defined system of accountability, employees who are left to their own devices may have a tougher time getting things done. If the rules aren’t clear, it’s time to get everyone on the same page.

Reviewing your expectations with employees who aren’t shouldering their share of the workload helps them more fully understand their role in the company and how the business is impacted when they don’t contribute. You also need to be clear about the consequences for employees who don’t follow through. once you’ve established these boundaries, it’s up to you to make sure everyone is toeing the line. Checking in with your staff regularly and offering feedback may be just the push they need to stay on task.

3. Play to Their Strengths

When employees feel like they aren’t being challenged, it doesn’t take much for them to fall into a routine of doing just enough to get by. Getting them excited about their jobs again is a lot easier if you know what it is that ignites their passion. Creating opportunities that cater to their interests and strengths can help fan the flames. For example, an employee who never seems to get much done working solo may thrive in a group setting. Someone who gets assignments done quickly but spends the rest of the day hanging around the water cooler may actually be ready for more responsibility than you think. The key is to make sure when you throw down the gauntlet, you’re giving them a chance to excel. Putting an employee with time-management issues in a leadership role on a major project won’t do either of you any favors.

4. Offer Incentives

A pat on the back is nice, but sometimes lackluster employees need a more tangible reward to reach their full potential. A clear-cut incentive system gives wayward staff something concrete to work toward, and it can improve your bottom line. Rewards can be earned on an individual or group basis, depending on how many employees you have, but they should be tied to tangible goals, such as hitting a sales quota or aiming for a certain amount of quarterly revenue.
Incentives can take many forms, from a catered lunch to a paid day off. If you’ve got the budget for it, you may consider offering bigger bonuses, such as cash or a prepaid trip. Whatever kind of carrot you decide to dangle, the most important thing is that it makes employees feel as if it’s in reach. Otherwise, they may decide it’s not worth the effort.

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Rebecca Lake

Rebecca Lake is a University of South Carolina graduate. She covers topics related to small business and finance. Read more