How to Deal with Lazy Employees? 10 Effective Methods

Author: Madalina Roman

Dealing with lazy employees or coworkers can be a big challenge. Unfortunately, in every office or work team in the world, someone lacks the motivation to do what they were hired to do. 

If not tended to, this “issue” can evolve into a sensitive situation, so explore with us how to deal with lazy employees

Get to the root of employee disengagement

Track employee hours and uncover the root causes of disengagement to enhance team motivation

It’s important to handle the situation with great tact and care. You’ll want to motivate someone to have a better job performance without compromising the position and work of the rest of the team. Let’s find out how.

How to deal with lazy employees: A comprehensive 6-step plan

Your way of handling the situation should be addressed depending on an important note: are you a colleague or a manager of this person?

As a manager, make sure to assess the situation quite well before approaching the person in question.

How to deal with lazy employees

  1. Approach the worker in a professional manner
  2. Help them set clear goals
  3. Review the worker’s responsibilities
  4. Provide them with the tools to achieve their goals
  5. Discuss incentives and opportunities for career growth
  6. Schedule regular feedback sessions

1. Approach the worker in a professional manner

As in many aspects of corporate life, not jumping to judgments and conclusions is the best way to approach the issue.

Schedule a meeting and follow business etiquette by having an honest conversation with the worker in question. Practice empathy, try to understand what’s happening, and what may be the reason for this laziness. 

Address the problem clearly and explain that it may impact the team’s productivity. It’s important to set the case straightforwardly so the worker can understand the consequences of his/her actions. 

Avoid judging the worker by their work performance or their character; simply state how their work, left incomplete, directly affects you and the team.

Sometimes, this first conversation can be the wake-up call they need to sort themselves out. If they’re dealing with personal issues, help them by redirecting them to the right people.

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how to handle lazy employees

2. Help them set clear goals

Setting goals is part of many strategies and plans in the workplace. When dealing with lazy employees, it’s no exception.

Setting clear and achievable goals is important and can be used as a motivational tool. Completing goals drives the positivity that the lazy worker needs to push ahead.

Achievable goals and objectives are what support good job performance. This will contribute to keeping the levels of productivity and motivation high. These goals should be challenging but not unrealistic.

We can explore the work of Charles Duhigg, which divided work into a combination of big goals and S.M.A.R.T. goals.

The big ones keep the focus on the finish line, and the S.M.A.R.T. method works like a ladder, as a group of steps one has to climb. This acronym means:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Timeline

Show them that they should be enthusiastic about achieving all goals, big or small. 

Read also: How to increase the productivity of employees

3. Review the worker’s responsibilities

One of the reasons that can lead to an employee being lazy or bored is the inadequacy of the job role or the tasks at hand. They tend to work on a bare minimum basis.

Reviewing their responsibilities and giving them more duties can help boost their motivation and productivity.

A feeling of dedication may arise, and they’ll be able to feel more responsible and capable. This might be the answer to the issue, so it’s worth a shot.

As a manager, you always look for their progression and adjust the responsibilities accordingly.

Get to the root of employee disengagement

Track employee hours and uncover the root causes of disengagement to enhance team motivation

TIP: Read our guide and learn how to develop a team full of high performers.

4. Provide them with the tools to achieve their goals

Maybe the incentive that they need is more knowledge, more training, or better equipment. This is the case if the worker’s laziness is based on not being motivated by a lack of resources.

Language courses, more training (ex: on the company’s product or time management training or workload planning guidance), better machines to work or software like time trackers can help them fight procrastination and identify time wasters.

lazy workers

5. Discuss incentives and opportunities for career growth

Now that the reasons for the behavior are clearer and goals are set, it’s a good idea to balance things out. The worker has made a commitment, and now it’s time to offer them the incentives.

Monetary incentives and other types of benefits might be reason alone to push them a bit further. You should also consider that, at times, the cause of laziness might be the work itself.

They may not be interested or motivated enough by everyday tasks. One of the offered incentives can be good career growth opportunities. These opportunities will motivate them and help them in their career.

6. Schedule regular feedback sessions

Providing your employees with feedback is essential for the success of this endeavor, especially if they’re well aware of the fact they’re being called out due to lazy behavior.

Weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings are highly recommended. Be sure to show interest in their issues, and evaluate their commitment level and improvement. This is one of the best ways to motivate your employees to be more productive.

Remember that feedback is a two-way street. Proactively ask for feedback from your employees. That will help you understand what you can do better to motivate and inspire your team.

You can be a good manager to all employees and still encourage everyone, including the lazy ones, to do their work.

7. Really try to understand the reason behind the behavior

It bears repeating that it’s incredibly important to show empathy for the worker in question. Make an effort and try to understand the cause of their below-average performance.

As we’ve seen through this article, sometimes the lack of motivation can be temporary, rooted in personal problems, etc. Knowing the reason will help you, as a manager, approach the matter objectively.

lazy people at work

8. Encourage them to make time tracking into a habit

Apps and tools like Timeular are useful in two ways.

First, as a leader, having an employee log the time he or she takes to handle a certain task will help you get to the root of “laziness”.

Secondly, a time tracker will help the employee figure out how long they take at something, how they can be more productive, etc. That pressure of having their time under control might be a motivation booster.

Find how to get employees to track time and the different ways to track employees’ hours.

9. Strive to maintain healthy attitudes in the team

Procrastination can be fought with healthy habits.

Promote pauses and exercise moments, and ask the company to provide snacks, water, and whatever else the employees may need to help them feel comfortable. Good chairs and a well-lighted space can work wonders.

dealing with lazy employees

10. Use training as an incentive

Provide the workers with the opportunity for advancement and growth within the company. This can be in the form of training and workshops.

Maybe the reason behind the laziness is a lack of motivation. Maybe the employee feels lost in his work and doesn’t know where to start. Give them this opportunity.

11. Make them face the possible consequences

You should make clear to the lazy employee that there are consequences to their actions. If the achievable target is positive reinforcement, the consequences need to be negative reinforcement. While this negative reinforcement shouldn’t be used frequently, it is effective in some cases.


These are some steps and tips on how to manage lazy employees.

One of the main messages we intend to push through with these steps and tips is to handle this type of situation with zero judgment.

As a manager, it’s fundamental to be careful when dealing with lazy employees. There can exist multiple reasons to support their laziness.

The final goal is that their outlook can improve and they can be a productive and active member of the team!

FAQs on managing lazy workers

What are the signs of a lazy coworker?

There are a few signs to look out for to identify a lazy teammate. Usually, a lazy employee presents excuses for everything, for every failed deadline and every missed meeting.

Usually, they’re rarely seen at their desks or remotely available for meetings in order to seem busy and occupied. There is always an aura of stress around them, with a refusal to seek help when approached by others.

How to deal with a lazy coworker? 

Dealing with a lazy coworker is not easy. Start by assessing the situation. If their attitude towards work doesn’t affect you, ignore them. Sooner or later, your superiors will handle the situation.

If it does, act calmly, talk to them honestly and put yourself in their shoes to understand their situation. If needed, give them some time after this conversation. From there, speaking to other colleagues or your manager may be the best next step.

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