How To Handle Lazy Employees

Posted On: December 15

Businessman sleeping at deskLast week I posted a blog that got a lot of comments, it was called: On The Intolerance Of Mediocrity. One of the folks that shared some feedback indicated that he was struggling with employees that were, shall we say, less than extremely motivated. I was beginning to write out a reply to him and realized it was probably best to post it as a blog so that everyone could see my ideas and comment as well. Here are my suggestions for dealing with lackadaisical employees.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do they have clear, specific and measurable performance expectations?
  2. Have those expectations been exceedingly well communicated to them?
  3. Have they agreed to deliver those expectations?
  4. Do they have all the training, tools and support necessary to achieve those expectations?
  5. Are they held rigorously accountable for achieving those expectations?
  6. Do they get positive reinforcement for positive behavior and negative reinforcement for negative behavior?
  7. Do they understand the impact their behavior is having on the overall business?
  8. Do they understand the impact their behavior is having on the rest of the employees?
  9. Do they realize what is at stake if they do not meet expectations?
  10. Do they understand all of the positive ramifications if they exceed expectations?

These are just 10 questions to get you thinking, but if you’ve got employees who are not delivering the required results, I would look over this list and see if there is any place where you have not given them what they need to succeed. It’s one of the things I learned a long time ago as a young manager, if one of my people is not performing the way I want them to, it is my fault. Either I hired the wrong person, did not train them well enough, did not explain what I really wanted, didn’t give them the tools or support they needed… it was always something that I did wrong and I simply had to take accountability and ownership for fixing the situation. If you do the same, I’m confident you will get a positive resolution, one way or the other.

I hope you found this helpful in a very much look forward to your comments – John

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  1. Hard questions to ask yourself especially if you may have failed on a couple of them. This should be a checklist for an initial talk with my team members.

    1. Call me old fashioned…but…..what happened to people who have as a basic work ethic ‘we work hard’…..’we , as matter of course, go the second and third mile’ ….’hire us and we’ll treat your business as if we own it’.
      I suspect we’ve become politically correct. I get the feeling that some people think we owe them a job. How about these questions:
      1) did you have to do chores to earn pocket money?
      2) what will you bring to the job
      3) why should I hire you above the 20 other candidates that have similar qualifications?
      4) you ok with a three month trial period where I promise to look hard at your performance and if you don’t give 110% you’ll be gone
      5) If you don’t have a seriously hard work ethic I will find you out!…and you will be gone.

      We gotta stop being so nice…..its not about them! ..its all about the job.

      1. I lean to agree with you, Gary. However, there is a line we approach where we become too much of a hard ass and are feared more than respected. Somehow we have to find stay clear of that line. No?

  2. Although I would agree that its essential for managers / leaders to do everything they can to empower their people (hence the checklist), I would agree more with Gary. In my experience the most important factor in building a successful business is having the right people on the bus. It is not always our fault; it is often the fault of the employee who doesnt bring a killer attitude to life with him. Lets not blame ourselves for those who dont try. Lazy people dont belong and as a business person we should learn to make decisions on gut and on data. If they are not performing and never have, why would that change? I have tried many different approaches to managing people up, and giving them training, more time and related, however, in the end the 80/20 rule always seems to apply. The good ones bring much and need little, many others need much and bring little.

    Although it may be more stressful to let people go, I believe you are able to build faster by having a standard and sticking to it. Let someone else who is interested in building a mediocre business, take these people on as employees. You deserve better.


  3. I struggle with this and we do clearly define goals, outcomes, behaviour reviews etc, etc. Sometimes it is not the goals and achievement of performance but a sense of not being fully present, not really getting into the headspace of doing great things.

    It can be easy for a high performer to hide within her skills and get away with it, where with some extra effort a stellar outcome could be achieved. I think we all can be prone to this and it should be part of the discussion points.

    Do they understand when they permit themselves to be mediocre because they can and is it discussed.

  4. Thank you for sharing this article. It is fascinating to note when you interiew candidates they are full of promises and sacrifices they can make to achieve company goals and objectives. Once hired everything changes.

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