9 Ways to Motivate Lazy Coworkers

There is nothing worse than showing up to work every day and giving it your all, when it seems like the rest of your team is just there to take up space and rake in a paycheck. It can throw your whole day off and make it harder to get your job done, especially if managers or team leaders aren’t stepping up to help motivate their team. If a lazy coworker is dragging your team down, here are some tips and tricks to help you know how to motivate a lazy coworker.

  1. Ask, Don’t Order

If you don’t have the title manager after your name, ordering other employees to get to work isn’t going to get anything done — and will probably earn you a few enemies in the process. You’ll have to be a bit sneaky here. Instead of ordering your coworkers around, try asking. Ask them for help with your project, or ask to help them with whatever they’re working on. It might not always work, but sometimes all a lazy coworker needs is a gentle push in the right direction to get them working again.

  1. Be Thoughtful

A thoughtful gesture never hurts anyone. Caffeine might not encourage your coworker to work faster, but a grabbing someone a snack or a coffee can earn you some goodwill and might make them more likely to get to work if you ask nicely.

  1. Something for Nothing

Ever heard of a little thing called quid pro quo? You don’t expect to get something for nothing when you go to the store, would you? Why would you expect your coworkers to do something for you without getting something in return? Offer to do something for your lazy coworker in exchange for something you need done. The more unsavory the task you offer to do — like taking out the trash or cleaning the bathrooms — the better the response will be.

  1. Communicate

If you’ve got a huge quota or a massive to-do list, communicating with your coworkers can be something that gets neglected. Forming professional relationships and networking can be a useful tool, but it’s something you have to take time to nurture. Send an email, text, private message or even handwritten note to see how your coworkers or deskmates are doing and if they need any help. This is one of the best ways to motivate lazy coworkers because you might learn something new or find something they are stuck on that you can help with.

  1. Be Positive

Positive reinforcement isn’t just useful for teaching children or training pets. It can also be a vital tool for encouraging lazy coworkers to get their jobs done. Everyone loves to be appreciated for their work, and offering positive feedback when your coworkers do something right might be the one thing you need to encourage them to pick up the slack.

  1. No Tattling

No one likes a tattletale — we aren’t five anymore! Tattling to your boss that your coworker isn’t doing their job will cause resentment and can make you look bad, too.

Instead, if you have to take this problem up the chain of command, make sure you phrase it properly. Don’t just jump to the problem of the lazy coworker. Instead, explain that you’re having trouble finishing team projects because one individual isn’t pulling their weight. If they ask for a review, be honest but don’t start out picking apart your coworker’s work ethic out of the gate.

  1. Lay Off the Water Cooler

Gossip is a big part of the workplace, no matter how hard you try to keep it from spreading. People love to talk, and they love to talk about each other. If you want to encourage your coworkers to stop being lazy, one of the first things you should do is to lay off the water cooler gossip. Don’t talk about them behind their back.

  1. Step Up

Sometimes, all you need to encourage a lazy coworker is a good leader. If you don’t have a team leader or someone to take charge, it might be up to you to do just that. Even if you don’t have the title you need to be an official leader, you can still step up. You need to think outside the box a little and ask instead of giving orders. People will naturally start to follow a good leader, but you need to work inside the hierarchy to get things done.

  1. Protect Yourself

A lazy coworker isn’t just annoying. If they’re slacking and your work is suffering as a result, it could put your job in jeopardy too. Don’t let them affect your progress or distract you from getting your work done, and if it harms team projects, it’s important to keep the blame from falling on you. You don’t need to take the fall for someone else’s poor work ethic.

No one likes to deal with lazy coworkers, but you will run across them in nearly every industry. Gentle motivation and positive reinforcement can be great tools to help you keep them moving, but if it isn’t enough, you may have to break out the big guns. That means taking it up the chain of command. It’s not the perfect solution, but it can help keep things moving and is one of the ways you can motivate a lazy coworker.

For more ideas to help you deal with lazy coworkers — or if you’ve got some ideas you’d like to add — comment below or click here to subscribe.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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