Coping with Coworkers that Do Not Do Their Jobs

My jobs have included more than my fair share of coworkers who refuse to do their jobs, often with ingenious ways of looking like they’re working (doing the work really poorly so someone else has to redo it but they’ve spent minimal effort, only responding to every 10th email/call, constantly running around with nowhere to go, etc.). Besides the obvious solution (find another job), below are some ways of coping with this particularly perplexing, gaslighting stress that I have tried with varying levels of efficacy. And I’m not saying everyone shirks their work or nobody in a particular industry does; this can be found in any workplace. These suggestions are also only suggestions and might not work for everyone or in every situation. Please note that I am only referring to situations in which your work depends on someone else’s work being done. I’m not referring to situations where you work independently of someone at the same place but think that person is not doing their job (that’s a different issue).

Remind Yourself That Its Not You

Often, having coworkers that shirk their work can lead a person to question whether they are sane or asking too much. Don’t. Find some phrase, like a mantra that you can tell yourself over and over again in response to any thoughts questioning your own sanity. No person is an island. We rely on each other to do jobs we can’t do either because of time or skill; it’s reasonable to expect someone hired to do a job to do it, especially if your work also relies on their work.

Try 10,000 Different Ways to Ask

This is a hyperbole but find as many different ways to ask someone to do their job. Some people hate email. I personally hate voicemail. Some people won’t respond to one method but will to others. Yes this is annoying and they should meet you half way; but if you can adjust and the other person can’t, it’s worth the effort. Another part of this is how the request is phrased. Some people need a lot of background to know why the request is important and know it isn’t capricious; others find that much information overwhelming. Do your best to tailor requests but in general shorter is better (but don’t leave out critical pieces of information).

Go to Their Supervisor (or Yours)

Yes, you read that right. This is not a judgment of the person not doing the work. It could be they have too many projects or tasks and use a ‘last hired, first fired’ mentality for new requests including yours. Their supervisor might be able to help them establish priorities and get help. Often, some people are too nice and do not want to cause trouble for someone. However, the work should be the priority and you are doing no one favors by bringing in supervisors too late.

So You’ve Tried Everything

Perhaps you have tried all these solutions and nothing’s worked but you do not want to leave your job (or you can’t leave). The other option is a work-around, finding someone else to do the work or finding a way to make it happen without the person who is shirking. Regardless, the most important thing is too take care of yourself and do whatever stress managing you need to do so you don’t go crazy. Every workplace will have a difficult coworker (or several) but you shouldn’t let it impede your feelings of well-being.

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