Motivate a Lazy Coworker by Asking for Their Input


Kristin Wong

March 17, 2015

At some point, you’ve probably dealt with a coworker who doesn’t pull his or her weight. Their incompetence can affect you, and it’s tempting to complain, criticize, or reprimand them. But for a more productive outcome, ask for their ideas instead.

Let’s say you’re leading a project, and one of the team members has consistently missed deadlines and doesn’t appear to be putting in much effort. Asking for their ideas or feedback about the project can motivate them to get more involved. The Muse’s Aja Frost explains:

I quickly found that getting angry—although satisfying—didn’t motivate my staff. Instead, they would get defensive and resentful. I had to change my tactics. That’s when I discovered the magical question: What ideas do you have for… (finishing this on time, placating the customer, responding to the client, doing things better in the future, whatever else you think is required to fix the thing you messed up)?

The results: one employee outrightly admitted to not putting in enough effort, then she went on to describe what exactly needed to be done. I’ve also used this tactic with favorable results. I once felt I was the only person doing any work on a massive group project in my office. Instead of complaining to a manager or getting nasty about the whole thing, I asked my coworker what she thought about certain details of the project. She’d answer and then agree to take on those tasks.

I think this works because it doesn’t make the other person feel like they have to be defensive. Also, maybe they’re not incompetent—maybe they’re just having a hard time keeping up with the work. Opening the dialogue this way gives them a chance to explain what might not be working for them.

It’s a gentle reminder that their efforts are important, and maybe they could do more. Of course, this isn’t going to work in every situation, but it’s a good start.

Co-Worker Slacking Off? Don’t Get Mad—Ask This Question | The Muse

Photo by math puente.


This article was written by Kristin Wong from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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