How to Get Rid of Slackers

In the novel “The Three Musketeers,” the trio of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis lived by a simple yet noble motto: “One for all, and all for one.” Through thick and thin, the musketeers remained loyal and faithful to each other. Whether it's love or war, or if it's work or play, everyone must do their part to reach goals and to get the job done.

For most teams, everything goes smoothly because they know what to do, and they do their best with what is expected of them. Some teams, though, do not work quite as well as others. Instead of working smoothly and getting the job done, they lag behind and don't accomplish the tasks and outputs expected of them. The team could have done better, if not for that one slacker who does not do his or her job, and does not exert the effort needed to keep the team going. It only takes one person who doesn't take his or her role seriously to derail a project or compromise your team goals. Here are some ways on how you can get rid of the slacker who's weighing down your team.

Give the Slacker a Push

Positive motivation often helps to get the slacker working with the team's rhythm. A person may slack off because he or she does not feel too coordinated or “in” with the team. Team gatherings help, but no motivation helps better than a few words of encouragement. Telling a teammate that he or she is important and valuable to the team is a good motivator. He or she will then do everything possible to live up to his or her role in the team, and perhaps even exceed expectations.

Put an Extra Bit of Effort

Many business projects are time-critical, especially if they involve company finances, deadlines, or company reports. Sometimes there's really no time to talk among yourselves to see how the team can be improved, especially if you're all working on all cylinders all through overtime. While a slacker does weigh down your team and keeps you from accomplishing your objectives, getting the job done should take top priority.

If you and your other teammates feel that you can all get by even without the slacker's help, then you don't need to confront your offending teammate. While some would definitely feel bad that they're taking up the slack caused by a lazy workmate, you're going to get the reward for hard work sooner or later. As long as your team can still reasonably keep pace and stay on track with the workload, then you don't have to deal with the slacker anytime soon.

Delegate, Then Get To Work

You don't have to wait until deadlines or busy weeks before you realize that your team has a chronic slacker aboard. Before you even get to the task at hand, everyone in the team should be clear on what they're supposed to do, and what's expected of them. Delegating tasks is the first thing everyone on the team should agree on. Here are some important things to remember when you come together to delegate tasks:

  • Delegate according to each teammate's skills. Fairness is very important when you delegate tasks. Team members should be assigned tasks depending on their qualifications, capabilities, and skills. Each part of the business process requires dedication, which means that everyone should give 100% of their efforts to getting the job done.
  • Reach a consensus. Instead of pinpointing assignments to unwilling teammates, it's better for everyone to agree upon their share of the workload, and everyone else's as well. Once you get everybody's opinion and reach an agreement about everything, everyone is expected to honor their word and give their best for the sake of the team.
  • Make it quick, but clear. Some leaders, managers, and even top-level executives delegate tasks to the point of absurdity. An important thing to remember is that delegating tasks is about getting the job done; nobody should be assigned to small and trivial details like coffee breaks and desktop wallpaper. It's usually enough to cover and assign the essentials of the task fairly to each member of the team.

Bull Session, But Take No Bull

Troubleshooting is an important part of teamwork. There has to be a reason why someone slacks off, while everyone else is doing their best to meet deadlines and quotas:

  • Moonlighting. With the sorry state of the economy, some people need to hold a sideline or a second job to make ends meet. Moonlighting may help some people pay the bills, but it certainly does not help you and your team accomplish time-critical goals. Many companies frown upon people who do unrelated work while they're on their regular work hours, and is enough cause to get an employee terminated.
  • Confusion about work details. Sometimes the details of a task or an assignment are not clear to a teammate, the explanation is a bit on the vague side, or the job may be a bit too complicated. It's important to straighten these details out before they pose a really big problem.
  • Incompetence. Some people sincerely want to believe that nobody's born lazy, but there are those who don't do their share of the workload. They either sleep for hours on end, exploit the fast Internet connection, or slack off completely.

While it's tempting at this point to kick your teammate out, you can set aside an hour to get to the root of the problem, and reprimand your teammate that he or she is not doing what is expected of him or her. Chances are, your other teammates will agree with you. The key is not to berate your teammate and stop short to cry for his or her blood, but to remind him or her that work needs to get done. Be diplomatic, courteous, and frank when dealing with your slacking teammate.

At the same time, you and the rest of your teammates shouldn't take a half-baked excuse for an answer. You've all been working hard, and you should expect a reasonable justification from your teammate. Don't take anything other than a sob story, a sorry excuse, or a promise to work harder. If the excuse is not acceptable, then you may need to impose a sanction on your team's slacker. Think of it as a way to correct the error, and not as a punishment for the mistake.

Set a Deadline and Commit to It

One of the best ways to get rid of slackers is to set a fixed, non-negotiable deadline to complete a business project or task. You and your team should be able to finish a set amount of work in a given week, and then make room for incentives for extra work done. You should also set aside sanctions for teammates who don't meet their share of the output at the deadline.

A deadline is especially useful for time-critical jobs that involve reports, records, statements, and other work that need to get delivered to the customer or the client on time. Everyone in the team should agree to this deadline, and exert all their efforts to meeting the deadline with quality outputs. Once you all have a commitment to the deadline as a team, everything will be smooth sailing.

Give the Slacker a Shove

Sometimes you have no choice but to give the slacker the kick to the curb. Many teams and companies cannot afford having a weak link, or a person who does not live up to performance expectations. The efforts of even the most well-coordinated team can be hampered by one slacker.

If you feel that your best efforts at work are being crippled by a lazy workmate, then you have no choice but to call it a day for him or her. It's nothing personal, but it's simply business. You may find yourselves one person down for the team, but everyone remaining in the team only need to exert more effort to compensate and do a better job.

When you do kick out your slacker teammate, here are some things to remember:

  • Be tactful and honest. There's no use beating around the bush. When you reorganize your team to get rid of a slacker, be direct to the point and tell him or her that he or she is not beneficial to the team because of a lazy, laid-back attitude to work. Expect the worst, but at the same time, expect the best for your team.
  • He or she should take it as a lesson. Nothing in the world of business should be taken personally. Business decisions are not personal decisions. Getting docked or fired for being a slacker should be a lesson learned for everyone to work harder and give the job everything they've got.
  • Improve the team. Now that you're one person down, you need to improve the team. All of you have to take up the backlog and the responsibilities that were supposed to be fulfilled by the slacker.

Whether it's the Three Musketeers or a team at the office, “One for all, and all for one” is what teamwork is all about. There is no “I” in the word “team,” and there is certainly no “slacker” in that word too. Loyalty, faith, dependability and responsibility can go a long way, whether it's love, war, work, or play.

Click here for more information about how to get rid of slackers