As a busy line manager, just getting the day job done can be a challenge without the added distraction of deal with those not pulling their weight. Wouldn’t it be great if your team took the initiative and sought to resolve some of these issues themselves?

Top Tips

We have created some top tips for you to pass on to your team, which will prove useful in tackling these troublesome team members…

A colleague constantly checking Facebook, missing deadlines, always late back from lunch, or taking a full lunch break only to bring their sandwich back to their desk and munch it whilst “working”… and leaving you to pick up the slack and extra work. Sound familiar? Being in a team with someone who constantly fails to perform can be frustrating, however when it starts to materially affect your own ability to meet your deadlines and even worse, have a negative impact on your reputation and career, it’s time to take action.


There is no doubt it is a challenge to pluck up the courage to speak to your colleague. It is natural to want to avoid confrontation and what you may consider an unpleasant conversation, but by not dealing with an under-performing colleague you are risking something far greater than a challenging conversation:

  • By not doing anything you are giving permission for the behaviour and that means it will continue. The stress and pressure that puts you under may be untenable.
  • At some point you risk “explosion” and instead of dealing with it in a controlled and managed manner, it could become unprofessional. Worst case scenario could result in you ending up in a grievance scenario.

There is no doubt you must address the situation, but how?

Firstly, it is important to have a conversation, not a confrontation.

  • Arrange to meet your colleague in private, in a formal situation and speak up.
  • By trying to deal with it directly initially you are showing that you are a team player, but that you understand when to ask for help. By doing it in partnership with the colleague who you consider is slacking off, there is no risk of being seen as “telling tales”.
  • Stay focused on the future, and what you want the outcome to be.
  • Stick to the facts – explain what has happened and the impact it had on you.
  • Use positive language and avoid accusations but be clear and direct.
  • Don’t assume the cause of the behaviour or the response you will receive – stay open-minded and put yourself in their shoes.
  • Use specific examples and be clear on the impact of their performance – the how, why, when, who.

Be Understanding of Reasons Why

  • Training or ability issue – it may be that your colleague would benefit from some up-skilling or assistance with certain elements of their role such as time management, project management or IT skills.
  • Personal situations – there may be a temporary situation at home which is distracting your colleague.

Whilst being understanding, do not take on their issue as your own. You can show compassion and understanding yet still put yourself first. You may need to encourage the involvement of others in the team to help resolve the reason why. The answer is not for you to continue to pick up their slack.

Stay Open-Minded

  • You may think you know how to resolve the situation but listen to your colleague’s view and suggestions.
  • Give them a second chance – if you have the conversation, you have to assume the situation will improve and be prepared to “move on”.

Next step would be to involve your Manager if needed:

  • Once you have tried a 1-2-1, if you feel that more support is needed, arrange to see your manager. This makes it clear that you have attempted to resolve the situation and are seeking their help. Discuss how the team can work better together and what is needed to support that.

People underperforming will affect the performance of the team but it is important that the whole team takes responsibility for making this happen and not just the leader.

If you are a business owner, leader or manager and the above sounds familiar to you, we can provide the HR advice and support you need. We can help to make a difference in your organisation and would love to hear from you on 01473 360160 or meet with us.

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