my coworker is a slacker who’s never at work

by Ask a Manager on July 3, 2012

A reader writes:

I work in a large call center, but I’m on a very small team of only three people. I’m an English CSR (customer service representative) and there are two French CSRs. The newer French CSR is chronically absent, at least a day every week. She is a hairdresser on the side and fakes sickness and family problems in order to leave early or miss a day in order to work as a hairdresser. I know this because I’ve overheard the personal calls she takes at her desk, and because I found her online ad, requested an appointment, and lo-and-behold she left early the next day. When she is gone it effectively doubles the work of the other French CSR, as well as stresses out customers as she is unable to complete call backs and she is absent on days she asks them to contact her.

When she is at work, she spends more time away from her desk than doing any of her work. Last week, I kept track of all the time she spent away from her desk, and excluding her break time it was an hour and 39 minutes. When she is finally doing her work, she doesn’t bother to fully complete each customer’s file and again creates more work for the other agent and myself.

The Operations Manager and Team Supervisor are aware of these issues but nothing is being done. This isn’t a new issue or an occasional disturbance. This coworker is chronically absent and consistently does as little as possible…and gets away with it. I’m not sure which avenue to take, as I really can’t continue working like this. The other French CSR and myself have been here for 4 years now and feel like we are being treated unfairly and our needs, especially as a small team, are being ignored.

Yes, this is frustrating. But you’ve gotten way out of control with your focus on it.

Stop tracking her time. Stop thinking about her entirely, in fact. The sole question that’s relevant to you here is: How does this impact your work?

It sounds like it doesn’t affect your work at all, since you have an entirely different slate of customers than she does. It’s just annoying you, and you can decide whether to let it or not. I recommend not letting it, since that is a recipe for being unhappy at work … and it’s the kind of thing where, if you let it annoy you enough and for long enough, you will soon find yourself boiling over with rage (see your statement, “I really can’t continue working like this”). Over something that doesn’t actually affect you.

Now, is it unfair? Maybe. But you don’t actually know whether anything is being done about it or not. It’s entirely possible that her manager is doing something about it, and that’s something you wouldn’t be aware of if so — managers don’t generally broadcast their disciplinary actions to others.

Or maybe her manager isn’t doing anything about it. That’s possible too. But again, you don’t really know and it doesn’t affect you.

The other French CSR, though, is in a different situation. She is affected by this, and she should speak with her boss about it, keeping the focus on the impact it has on her ability to do her work. That’s her call though; again, it’s not really your business. It’s hers to handle if she decides to.

Your only real option here is to give your boss a one-time, discreet heads-up about what’s going on, if your boss has demonstrated that she’s someone who would appreciate that kind of information. But it truly needs to be one-time and then you need to let it drop. (And don’t mention your detective work in finding her hairdressing ad online and requesting an an appointment. This risks making you look way too involved in something you shouldn’t be so involved in.)

Now, ultimately, you might decide that you want to leave this job because you don’t want to work somewhere so poorly managed that people can get away with this kind of thing (if indeed it becomes clear that they’re not addressing the problem behind the scenes). And that is absolutely 100% a legitimate decision to make — especially since management that won’t address something like this is pretty much guaranteed to be screwing up other things too. (Look around. Do you see other places where they won’t make tough decisions and have hard conversations?)

But you want to make that decision from a place of calm and objectivity, after you’ve tried focusing on the fact that her absences don’t affect you — not from a place where you’re so worked up that you’re tracking her time and monitoring her calls.

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{ 135 comments… read them below or add one }

gary July 3, 2012 at 9:26 am

There are two kinds of problems in the world. “Yours” and “Not Yours.” This is clearly not the writer’s problem. Ask the Manager’s advice is right on.

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sparky629 July 3, 2012 at 9:47 am

+1

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Wilton Businessman July 3, 2012 at 9:49 am

+2

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Josh S July 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

Cover it in a “Someone else’s Problem” field and forget about it. Even if this impacts your own work loads, it’s outside your purview to address the problem. There is nothing–nothing–you can do to make this better from your position as co-worker.

So either learn to let it slide and go about your business of working hard and standing out, or find another job.

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Adam V July 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm

+1 for the SEP reference!

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Josh S July 3, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Thank you! I was hoping the comment would trigger some other nerd’s love of HHGTTG!

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JLH July 3, 2012 at 10:51 am

+3

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Anonymous July 4, 2012 at 8:47 am

+3

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Anna July 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm

+4

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Liz July 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm

No kidding! My jaw kept dropping lower and lower while reading this one – who does this?

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Cruella DaBoss July 5, 2012 at 10:44 am

You would be surprised! I have more than one on my team, who must spend all their free time spying on their co-workers in order to make report on their behavior. It’s maddening!

I understand that it is frustrating to feel that one is working double to take up for the slack that other co-workers have dropped. But it compounds the problem when another employee is playing detective on company time.

What do you think your coworkers are doing while you are counting personal calls or tallying up how long some one was away from their desk? That’s right: taking up YOUR slack.

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anonymous August 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm

my jaw also drops when i hear about someone who never shows up, runs their side business AT their other job, spends all day watching videos, doesnt do anything, etc. the detective/spy is annoying, but the person-who-gets-payed-to-do-nothing is ten times more annoying when you are on a team where there is some kind of production standard or work queue that everyone is supposed to be working together to finish. the spy person is being a jerk, but the lazybones is flat out stealing, not stealing company time, but literally stealing from other people… if they work twice as hard, that is wear and tear on their hands, arms, body, neck, eyes, bladder, butt, etc, they have to take less breaks so lazy can take more breaks, they have to do overtime b/c lazy doesnt do any work, they have to get yelled at by customers because lazy wont do their job, etc etc etc. lazy is not just ‘doing her own thing’, she is actively hurting other people. now, ‘spy’ also hurts other people, but spy is just using a rather immature form of self defense against the horrific physical and emotional damage that lazy is doing to the entire rest of the team.

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anonymous August 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm

i’d also like to add that if you’ve never worked in some kind of ‘shared queue’ environment (its sort of like an assembly line in cube-ville) then you will never, ever understand the damage that lazy does to everyone else. its not an abstract thing, its like in your face, tangible, like getting slapped in the face. managers who allow this are not just incompetent, they are literally abusing one group of employees to ‘favor’ another.

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EthicalEmployee May 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm

The problem is the one who slacks and gets away with it, and yet, it amazes me that some people would think that the problem lies on those who get bothered by it. People turn things around, and the problem has become the ‘spying’, and they ignore the source of the problem. The one who was annoyed by unethical behavior simply took down notes as documentation … to say that it was spying is shifting the problem to the one who is NOT the problem. There would be nothing to ‘spy’ on if no one is stealing from the company.

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Rana July 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm

This. ^

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Anonymous July 4, 2012 at 1:38 am

How much company time did it take you to document your co-worker’s day?

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Alisha July 4, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Two words: Dwight Schrute.

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Charles July 3, 2012 at 9:29 am

Spot on advice (as always!).

Especially the part about the OP really doesn’t know that nothing is being done about it. Good managers (and I’m not saying that the OP’s managers are good or bad) will keep such disciplinary actions private, as they should.

On the other hand, if coworkers are this bad, can’t it make you look that much better? If layoffs are coming down the pike, who do you think they might let go first?

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Long Time Admin July 5, 2012 at 8:44 am

Actually, slackers who get away with it are usually “protected people” (as in “somebody up there likes them”). I’ve seen literally dozens of slackers keep their jobs while the hard-working employees lose theirs. It’s often not what you know, but who you know. And if who you know is a powerful person in the organization, you can get away with this kind of behavior for a long, long time.

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EthicalEmployee May 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I cannot agree with you more. Some people are naive. If bosses aren’t doing anything about it, maybe something else is going on that is really private.

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anonymous August 8, 2012 at 11:03 pm

who will managers let go first?

A. the person who spends an hour a day sitting in the cubicles of various managers, gossiping, joking, sharing personal stories, going on breaks with managers, sharing cigarettes with managers, etc?

Or the person B, who the manager can barely remember who sits in their cube working, stopping things from having to escalate to those managers?

If you answered A, you must not work the types of places i have worked… (fortune 500)

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The IT Manager July 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

This! What Alison said is hard to do, but I once worked in an office where my co-workers and I spent a lot of time commiserating with each other about our horrible, micro-managing boss. Once I left I was able to see how we all fed on each other to create a spiralling black hole of plunging morale. Even from a distance he was still probably my worst boss, but I can now see how thinking about it all day long made it worse. That’s what you’re doing; you’re spending all day focusing on how unfair the situation is. It is unfair, but you’re only making yourself feel worse. Your slacking co-worker isn’t affected at all, but you’re making yourself miserable.

If what you say is true and your boss knows already about it then you only make yourself look worse by tattling on her. If they don’t know, you can inform them once in a calm rational manner but then you need to move on. You’re French co-worker is in a bit of a different boat, but she needs to focus her complaints on how her work is negatively impacted and increased by the slacker.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 10:12 am

Yes, the spiralling black hole of plunging morale! You can dramatically change your quality of life at work (for the worse) by trash-talking your boss/office/coworkers with a friend at work. It’s amazing — I’ve seen that take people from perfectly happy with their jobs to utterly miserable.

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Long Time Admin July 5, 2012 at 8:49 am

This!

It’s too bad that good moods aren’t as contagious as bad moods.

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Anonymous July 3, 2012 at 11:10 am

“I spent a lot of time commiserating with each other about our horrible, micro-managing boss. Once I left I was able to see how we all fed on each other to create a spiralling black hole of plunging morale. ”

Did we ever work together?! This is what happened in one of my previous jobs with a couple of co-workers. I tried to stay out of their conversations as much as I could, but the morale black hole was all-encompassing. Because I was constantly around the negativity all the time, I then saw my bosses actions through the same negative filter, and I think regardless of what he had tried to do, I wouldn’t have seen it as positive. AAM is totally correct – whereas I was once perfectly settled and happy in my job and the company, after listening to these co-workers practically revel in negativity, the office became unbearable to work in and I ultimately left.

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Natalie July 3, 2012 at 11:27 am

I had the same experience, although with a different ending – the co-worker responsible for the black hole of negativity left, and it changed everything. Almost literally overnight, in fact.

I’ve even found myself a lot less annoyed at another co-worker who I thought was equally negative. It turns out he was just very susceptible to the influence of the now ex-co-worker.

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Ariancita July 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Yes, exactly! I learned that fairly early, luckily. I was 18 and working in retail and another girl and I started on the same day. I was happily working along until she started in with the constant negative commentary on the very first week. It made me hate my job! Now, whenever I run into a negative Nancy or Debbie downer, I run the other way.

Sure sometimes it’s unfair (I’m living with that now), but I always say (very cheesy, be warned): every thorn has its rose. I look for the roses at work.

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anonymous August 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm

this is absolutely correct, but I defy you to ‘ignore someone’ when they stand with their arm draped over your cube gossipping 3 hours a day with your neighbor.

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Anonymous July 3, 2012 at 9:34 am

I agree with AAM, the only thing you are in control of here is your own reaction to the situation. It might be time for a +/- analysis to decide if you want to keep working there, if you feel you can’t just ignore it and focus on your work. There’s always something, in every workplace. Only you can decide if that something is something you can handle. Good luck.

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Josh S July 3, 2012 at 10:26 am

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”
–Brian Tracy

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KellyK July 3, 2012 at 9:36 am

I totally agree with Alison that this is not your problem. Probably the best thing you can do in this situation is to put it out of your mind as much as possible and pass Alison’s advice to the French CSR if she’s interested.

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AD July 3, 2012 at 9:50 am

But even then, the French CSR needs to approach it along the lines of “When Suzie is out, I’m not able to complete all of her work and mine. How would you like me to prioritize?” because a decent manager will read between the lines, and a crappy manager, well, isn’t going to do anything anyway.

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KellyK July 3, 2012 at 10:51 am

Right, definitely. And it really isn’t the French CSR’s concern whether the manager addresses the problem by reining in (or replacing) slacker coworker or by setting priorities that make the French CSR’s workload manageable.

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Nichole July 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm

“How would you like me to prioritize this?” is a magic phrase. I even shared it with my boss so she can use it, too (even though now she know exactly how to read between the lines when I use it on her). It forces the other person to take into consideration exactly what they’re asking of you and clearly state their expectations. When issued in a positive, productive tone, I have always had positive results with that phrase.

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EthicalEmployee May 25, 2013 at 3:10 pm

This only works if the slacker is not skilled at pretending that she/he is busy too. At my work, the slacker sends email late at night or submits work at night pretending she/he is working. I say ‘pretend’ because I know her moral character.

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Victoria July 3, 2012 at 9:36 am

Totally agree with Alison’s advice, but I’m also a little hung up on this:

“Last week, I kept track of all the time she spent away from her desk, and excluding her break time it was an hour and 39 minutes.”

Assuming she has a five-day schedule (and is missing around a day a week, according to the OP), it sounds like she’s away from her desk for around 25 minutes a day. That sounds totally normal to me (although I’ve never worked in customer service, so I readily admit that I don’t know what that world is like). Couple of bathroom breaks, a quick walk to clear her head, and a 5 minute chat with a coworker in another department?

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

I read that to mean she tracked her for one day last week, not the entire week.

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Jamie July 3, 2012 at 11:16 am

That’s how I read it, too. Like that was a sample day.

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Ornery PR July 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

That’s a great point! I originally read this as, “one day she was away for an hour and 39 minutes (plus 15 min or so for break time) all at once.” Which does seem excessive. But spread out over a week? 25 minutes seems like a reasonable amount of time to be moving about during the day.

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EthicalEmployee May 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm

If it was not excessive, the person who complained won’t get bothered to the point of looking for advice here. Why focus on the documentation … it is impossible to write everything accurately with perfect and limited amount of words.

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Alisha July 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm

For a salaried office job though, even a day here or there where you’re out for two hours is NBD. I could easily eat up two hours at past jobs taking a team member out for a birthday lunch, for example. Of course I’m not excusing it – and at most call centers, being gone for over 1 1/2 hours is excessive.

Adding to the voices advising the OP is this story: Once, about four, five years ago, when I was managing my team on a super-jumbo initiative that kept us busy for half the year, I needed to hire a few temps. There was room for one of them to go perm. The person who was the most talented wound up not being it, all because he shot himself in the foot. One person on my team, an older guy, had a temporary arrangement where he worked from home, mostly in the mornings, but occasionally in the afternoons instead, so he could help his widowed dad recover from a major surgery and illness.

This was none of my temp’s business, but he’d start 4 days out of 5 coming into my office and demanding to know “How come Greg’s [pseudonym] not here, and how come he doesn’t have to come in ’till noon?” He also “snitched” on a woman who wasn’t even on my team, and whose work did not affect us in any way, shape, or form. So yep, he was gone as soon as his temp assignment ended, and the second-best temp went perm. Had he kept his nose out of Greg’s business (and others’, too), he’d have landed himself a full-time job with benefits and PTO. Lesson learned – I hope?

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Annie July 3, 2012 at 9:40 am

Keep in mind that people who consistently take advantage like this person will eventually run out of luck.

I worked with a woman that was chronically out of the office for months at a time. She would come in for a few days and then off again. We couldn’t understand how she got away with this for about two years, until she was terminated. It took a long time because the company was very generous with short term leave and she did not play a crucial role in the team. She had made herself obsolete with her consistent absenteeism.

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Long Time Admin July 5, 2012 at 8:55 am

It sounds like they found out they could do without her.

Give an idiot a shovel, and he’ll dig his own grave (or “she’ll” “her”).

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Dawn July 3, 2012 at 9:43 am

I feel the letter writer on this one. There’s an individual on my team at work that is not only chronically not doing her work, but she’s also spending lots of time making sure that everyone knows how stressed she is and how much work she has to do and how, whenever she tries to do her work the database is broken or whatever.

There’s a part of me that wants to start pointing fingers and whining, but I realized that the absolute best thing that I can possibly do is be the total opposite of this person! All smiles, never complaining, talking about any problems that come up maturely and in private with my boss, completing my work faster than is expected of me, etc. I look at this poor gal and use her as a perfect example of what NOT to do. And it’s really helped me not get sucked into the vortex of whining and finger pointing.

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Anon July 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I think I just went on an interview with your coworker. :/ But your game plan is exactly how I’m going to approach this person if I get the job!

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Anonymous July 3, 2012 at 9:48 am

I know you say that something might be being done behind the scenes, but let’s say for the sake of argument that they know and can’t/won’t do anything, because God knows this happens all the time.

I have a coworker with similar issues, except it directly affects all of us because it’s retail and everyone else has to pick up her slack. She consistently leaves hours early–she’ll be scheduled for 6 but leave at 2. And it’s always something she could have arranged for in advance, like a monthly lunch with coworkers from her old job, or picking up a repair at the jewelry store. Also, we have blackout weeks every couple of months where no one is supposed to have any time off unless it’s a dire emergency, yet this woman always manages to request and get several days off during the blackouts.

Even when she is there, she does the minimum work required. Anyone else would get screamed at if they weren’t doing something productive even during dead times, but when there are no customers she leans on her register and reads magazines. Even when she’s scheduled for the returns desk, she refuses to do it and will go stake out a regular register until someone else takes the desk because it’s sitting there empty.

My question is, how do some people get away with this and others don’t? I’d like to be a little less uptight about my work and be able to get away with taking a break now and then. But I live in fear that if I duck behind my register to take a sip of soda I’ll be fired. Is there something about these people that makes them immune to being in trouble, or is it really that all of us could act like that and not get fired and we’re just too scared to take the risk?

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Wilton Businessman July 3, 2012 at 9:51 am

“Also, we have blackout weeks every couple of months where no one is supposed to have any time off unless it’s a dire emergency, yet this woman always manages to request and get several days off during the blackouts.”

If it’s approved by management, this problem is “Not Yours”.

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Long Time Admin July 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

Well, actually, it is her problem, because Anonymous at 9:48 is one of the people who have to pick up the slack. She *is* affected by the slacker’s behavior.

But she still can’t do anything about it.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

“Is there something about these people that makes them immune to being in trouble, or is it really that all of us could act like that and not get fired and we’re just too scared to take the risk?”

Probably the latter — but don’t do it, because you want to have a good reputation and have these coworkers and managers in your network and willing to go to bat for you in the future.

The thing is, even if this coworker isn’t paying the price right now, she will in the future. When you have a good reputation, you have options — you have people who want to hire you and refer you to others and give you strong recommendations. You can’t under-estimate the importance of this stuff; it’s what gives you options and lets you make the choices that you want to make in life (like leaving a bad job or striking out on your own and so forth). This woman isn’t going to have that.

As for why she’s not getting fired, I’d guess bad management. This might help:
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2011/09/19/reasons-why-your-awful-coworker-still-has-a-job

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K. July 3, 2012 at 10:43 am

I’m reminded of the commenter a few posts ago who took over the “office martyr’s” job when the martyr went on vacation. The commenter got all the work done in two days and the manager didn’t miss an opportunity to let the martyr know. I can’t remember if the martyr stayed on the job or what, but I’m guessing the commenter’s standing improved as a result.

Wow, you read the word “martyr” enough and it completely stops making sense.

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Anonymous July 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm

THIS! The office slacker at my soon-to-be-former job left for a whole year (he’s the CEO’s relative and got to take a yearlong leave to go around the world) and I got stuck doing his job. Turns out, I did it twice as fast in addition to my own work, and when office slacker came back, it was pointed out to him. Now he actually does his work and doesn’t slack off as much.

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Jen July 3, 2012 at 11:28 am

To add to this: we have an office slacker, we hate him and he hates us, the manager is trying to fix it but it’s not happening etc. But what AAM is saying already bit him in the ass once: he applied to a company where one former coworker is now employed. HR asked former coworker if she knew the guy and she told them “never ever hire him, ever”. Bad reputation might travel further than you think…

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Jen July 3, 2012 at 11:34 am

(That being said, we’re close to writing him fake recommendation letters to make sure he finds another job! It’s frustrating as hell to get the same salary as someone who doesn’t give a shit – his words, not mine.

FWIW, I’m in an European and it’s not that easy to fire someone here.)

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Janet July 3, 2012 at 11:38 am

This is so true. I worked with a guy who would simply just not show up for days in a row. It seemed that nothing was being done but it turned out later (once he was fired) that they had to really pull together a strong case. He was fired and it is now 3 years later and he has not been able to find new full-time employment because the job he was at was one of the many where he was a complete flake.

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KellyK July 3, 2012 at 11:46 am

I’d like to be a little less uptight about my work and be able to get away with taking a break now and then. But I live in fear that if I duck behind my register to take a sip of soda I’ll be fired.

That’s probably an unrealistic fear, unless you have a boss who very heavily plays favorites. If there are times when you need a break to go to the bathroom or get a drink, and it isn’t going to put anyone else in a bind covering for you, I would ask for it.

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Alisha July 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm

K, I had a scenario like that in the martyr thread. I would also agree with Alison’s perspective generally. However, just to add my own perspective, I will also comment that being a top performer hasn’t seemed to help me all that much on my job search these past 7-8 months. Networking has generally been an exercise in futility for me, and I have a couple job-hoppers in my network who lack both great personalities and top-shelf track records, and who are never wanting for work, regardless. The particular sub-sector of my field, in my particular town (which is small) can get quite political at times, and I regret to say that I’m not very skilled at finessing my network in the way some of my colleagues are.

To be clear, I’m not berating them or looking down on them either – I’m trying to figure out what I can do better. My husband believes, and keeps repeating when I get down on myself, that my problem is, very simply, a shortage of jobs at my experience and salary level. And it’s true that the people in my network who are never wanting for work are senior line workers at the very highest – in some cases, mid-level line workers or serial consultants. Even so, I can’t always shrug it off and say it doesn’t bother me, because it does.

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Alisha July 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Oof, sorry if I sounded cocky…I’m not trying to say I’m Queen Awesome-Sauce and the other people have crap personalities. The ones I am talking about are very forward about everything – extreme extroverts who tend to humblebrag or talk about themselves a lot. Most of them are pretty cool folks otherwise, except for the one, who is a serial sexual harasser (frankly, I don’t know how he does it, but he’s never wanting for work, even though he gets fired about once a year). One area where I definitely don’t measure up is on the self-promotion front. It took me a couple tries to even write my own resume in a way that would point out all my accomplishments, and I’ve also slacked off on socializing these past few years because my work situation left me so drained that all I wanted to do was work out for a while to get rid of tension and then pass out.

I know this has set me back, and I’m open to ideas as to how I might recover from it. Should I start a blog? Try to get a couple papers published in trade journals? Both? I know I can get caught in a pessimistic circle and be my own worst enemy on this particular issue, so I’m grateful for any tips.

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KellyK July 5, 2012 at 8:47 am

The blog and papers might definitely help. Anything that you can list as an accomplishment *and* that helps renew your enthusiasm for your field is a good thing. The blog might also be a low-stress way to strengthen your network, if it gives you a place to talk about work-related issues.

Also, one thing that helps for me is to just keep telling myself “Today is not every day.” If you need to work out and be anti-social to recharge, then that’s what you need to do that day. That day doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose touch with people or never socialize again.

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EthicalEmployee May 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Slackers are skilled at fooling others that is why nothing happens to them, even when someone complains. But, I believe if people got together and all went to the boss, then something can happen and things will change.

The managers are NOT always smart enough to learn that one slacker affects the morale of 10 people. Slackers who are skilled at lying, cheating, paired with incompetent managers and employees who are not brave to say something are all explanations why slackers get away with murder.

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sparky629 July 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

OP,
The question I have to ask is…if you are focusing so much time and energy on what your co-worker is doing/not doing then who’s doing your work? You might just find yourself being walked out of the door as well.

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Tamara July 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

Agree! If an employee brought me an analysis of how often their coworker is away from their desk, etc, my first question would be “and how much time did you spent on this report?”

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Sabrina March 20, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Oh, whatever! Having a slacker co-worker on your team really affects morale! I love it how everyone says “It’s none of your business.” They must be slackers themselves.
If you’ve ever worked with a lazy, unethical co-worker who hoovers up work time to do anything but work, you’ll know that it’s not so easy to just simply ignore it. Especially if that slacker is getting away with it time and again.
You know why it sucks to be the co-worker of that person?Because you CAN’T ignore it. You SEE it happening, whether you want to or not. And if you’re the person working hard, while this lazy, manipulative person does nothing, it totally affects the morale of the other (ethical) co-workers! THAT’S why management should do something.
What’s to prevent all the co-workers from taking a page out of the lazy co-worker’s book and slacking, too? Pretty soon, management will have nothing but slackers on their hands and it will ALL be their fault for not dealing with the slacking co-worker when it first reared its ugly head. That’s why!

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Lynda July 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

Let it go, for your own state of mind.

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Andy Lester July 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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Job Seeker July 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Thanks for the reminder. Prayer helps.

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Anonymous July 3, 2012 at 10:43 am

AAM – The OP did mention how it affects her as well as the other French CSR:

When she is finally doing her work, she doesn’t bother to fully complete each customer’s file and again creates more work for the other agent and myself.

But I don’t know the field and I can only guess that she still can work through the English vs. French language barrier to help the other two catch up and vice versa. Maybe the OP is overreaching in this department, but when I read the write-in and then your response, I thought I missed something. I apologize if I did.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 10:48 am

Fair point. It was mentioned as such an aside that I skipped right over it — maybe the OP can weigh in and tell us more about that aspect. If it truly does create more work for the OP, then I echo AD’s advice above to say to the manager: “When Suzie is out, I’m not able to complete all of her work and mine. How would you like me to prioritize?”

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Anonymous July 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I wouldn’t set it up as “Suzie” being out as in this case its more not following the correct procedures.

I’d use the royal “we” in this case and mention that time is being wasted due to a failure to set files up completely and ask for guidance for the ‘team’ on how to avoid this in the future and eradicate the cause of the failure.

Hopefully tighter procedures would be suggested resulting in Suzie realising that she won’t be able to get away with it any more.

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Ellen M. July 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm

^this – that’s the first thing I noticed – she says it does affect her work

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Alisha July 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

If someone on my team was struggling and working unnecessary overtime because his/her teammate was slacking, I would be endlessly grateful to be advised of the issue as early as possible, if it was phrased in the way Alison recommends. I previously supervised a sweet-natured young person who was covering up for a slacker out of fear of jeopardizing a forthcoming raise. While the slacker did do some damage, most of it was separate from the cover-up, so in the end, my teammate only hurt hirself by suffering unnecessary overtime.

That said, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve worked with bosses who played favorites, and bosses who didn’t care how the workload was distributed, as long as deadlines were met, and it always sucks, but many of us will experience it eventually in one form or another.

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EthicalEmployee May 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Your bosses were exactly like my boss! ‘As long as deadlines were met.’ I heard it before. Yes, the slacker I know tells him it will take 2 days to do the work, so the deadline was set in 2 days. Imagine how much more can be done if the manager was knowledgable enough to know that one day is more than enough for the work.

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JT July 3, 2012 at 10:51 am

I think to some small extent it is the OP’s business, particularly in a nonprofit or public institution where that person is being paid money from the public. Or in a publicly-held corporation where there is some ethical responsibility to shareholders. Not to the extent of focusing on the slacker, but for sure bringing it up with management. And I think it needn’t just be once. It could be once a year. For sure not again and again, but perhaps once a year, or when there is long-term planning.

I don’t think it’s appropriate to accept gross waste inside an organization.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

If it’s a nonprofit and she’s sure it’s not being addressed, personally I’d leave over it — that’s a morally repugnant waste of donors’ contributions that should be going to advance their mission, and I want nothing to do with nonprofits that waste donors’ money. (Why yes, I do have strong feelings about that! :) )

But bringing it up repeatedly to a boss who’s decided not to act on it will probably harm her more than help her. If the boss is the type of person who doesn’t want to make hard decisions, it it likely to harm the relationship if she continues to push the issue.

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

I have mixed feelings about this one. I know the standard advice – “not your problem” but I don’t think managers realize how much this dampens morale. People do not like to see someone get away with breaking all of the rules and it makes them feel like management doesn’t care.

I actually dealt with this situation – I’m an executive assistant and my boss hired one of our temps to be another admin even though I warned her that she was going to be trouble. My boss was non-confrontational to an extreme. This admin was a nightmare and was anywhere from 45 minutes to and hour and a half late every single day. My boss knew I was aggravated but did nothing. The crazy admin threw something at a VP and the boss did nothing. I felt I had no power but I started logging her arrival times.

People finally noticed and her direct supervisor spoke to her. Still no change. I finally called a meeting with my boss and her supervisor, showed them the arrival log, and said that I was no longer willing to work with this woman and to transfer me to another dept. or I would leave (again, I did this nicely). Well, it worked. They were shocked by her arrival times; they are always in meetings so didn’t realize how bad it was. They also didn’t want to lose me and they fired her lazy butt. I’m still here 5 years later and thankfully, I have all new bosses and a dept. full of hard workers. Heaven!

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 10:58 am

That problem is so much more about the boss than about the coworker (as these things usually are). Your situation worked out, but in most cases presenting a log of someone else’s arrival times wouldn’t go over so well!

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Andy Lester July 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

To steal from Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Who wastes more time? The time-waster, or the time-waster who tracks her time?”

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 11:20 am

That’s an interesting assuption. It took me an entire 2 seconds to write down what time she came in every morning; she sat next to me. I come in 45 minutes early every single day. I eat lunch at my desk. I leave when my work is done, not when the clock says it’s time to go home. My work ethic is not in question, nor has it ever been.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

I don’t doubt your work ethic at all. My point is just that presenting your manager with a tracking of someone else’s time often doesn’t go over as well as it did with you — in part because the manager is likely to wonder why you’re monitoring someone else’s work so closely (even if it doesn’t take long to do so).

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Anonymous July 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

It is also possible that your manager might perceive this report as criticism, and it is never a smart idea to criticize your manager! Let it go.

(I myself am working on letting go of: all the expired license tabs I see on the way to work every morning. Don’t mind so much on the beater cars, but when I see it on a Corvette or BMW or Mercedes? Seriously? Deep breath…) ;)

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I was responding to Andy, who called me a time waster…

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I was disagreeing with Andy :)

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I have trouble following the reply threads here for some reason! Thanks for clarifying.

Andy Lester July 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

The time wasting isn’t just the two seconds it takes to write “Monday in 9:17″ on a Post-It on the side of one’s monitor.

If I were the manager in this case, I might wonder what else the time-tracking employee was spending his or her attention on as well. The two seconds with the Post-It could well be just the tip of the iceberg. I’d wonder how much attention the time-tracker was spending on other employees instead of his or her own work.

Aside from productivity issues, my philosophy on these things is 1) that each of us has a place in the organization and 2) that we need to stay in that place lest we go crazy trying to fix things that aren’t ours to fix, and 3) that it is not our jobs to put others in their place, except in those cases where it explicitly is our jobs to do so, such as a manager.

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Sigh. This is frustrating. All I am going to say is that I knew what I was doing, I wouldn’t have done it unless I was really willing to leave over it (I was) and I knew how much my boss relied on me. Basically, I knew I was going to win. My boss knew exactly what I did all day – I was her assistant for 5 years and had nothing but fantastic reviews. My productivity was never in doubt, which you seem to be willfully ignoring from my previous comment. Sometimes following one’s gut is smarter than following the advice that’s given to everyone; it’s not always black and white. If a manager would seriously wonder about a stellar employee’s productivity about something like this, then in my opinion they are a poor manager.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Absolutely sometimes it makes sense to follow your gut. You will always know the details and nuances of your own situation better than a random advice columnist or commenters on the Internet, and I would never want someone to follow my advice over their own gut in a high-stakes situation.

I think the point that I was making here, and maybe Andy too, is that what worked for you in your particular situation isn’t generally what works for people in most situations. It’s great that it worked for you though.

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Steve G July 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm

You go lillybell. I don’t understand the negative comments about your tracking her time. I’ve done similar tracking of 2 other coworkers. #1 about the # of site visits a coworkers at the same level (in a different position) did, as opposed to what he should have done, and #2, how many days off my coworker in a similar position was taking. Obviously, I hope, I did this because they were serious issues no one was watching.

And guess what? On 2 separate occassions my boss raised these issues with me, in discussions about other issues, and he was suprised at the extent of the problem. For the frequently off one (that puts pressure on the rest of us), he underestimated the # of times/reasons that person had been off – and didn’t know that the person wasn’t warning the team she’d be out. So we’d keep wondering if she was in the field or working from home, maybe getting a call or 2 she should have handled and apologized we couldn’t help. So my tracking the info was helpful.

As per the coworker who didn’t like going into the field, again, my boss recognized vaguely that a problem occurred, but had no idea that whole weeks had gone by where this person hadn’t done the customer visits (which was 1/2 of their job)!

You may ask if he is a bad manager, I say no. He manages 20 people who do a huge variety of complicated tasks he doesn’t all understand. He gets pulled in 50 different directions to make decisions that affect millions and so doesn’t have hours to say “let me audit my employees to make sure they are doing their basic jobs,” because you wouldn’t expect them not to be.

So again, having someone who sees things other don’t tracking the info is not weird or intrusive unless you are tracking something personal or intrusive.

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 11:22 am

That was the point I was trying to make. Conventional wisdom is not always correct. Another example – I know we are always told never to compare a coworker’s salary if you find out he/she makes more than you. In every place I’ve ever worked, when someone went to management with this very complaint, they got a raise. Yet we all still think it’s taboo, even though antecdotally, it seems to work.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

Anecdotal evidence isn’t especially reliable though — especially since the people who failed at getting a raise are far less likely to tell others about it.

Of course conventional wisdom isn’t always right (and I try to point that out on this site all the time). But the OP’s situation happens to be a situation where it usually is.

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Great point about unsuccessful raise-seekers not sharing it with coworkers. I didn’t think of that.

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NicoleW July 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm

It didn’t work for me! (Just to add to the other side of anecdotal evidence)

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Lexy July 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm

It sounds like there were a lot of factors playing in your favor here, including a convivial relationship with your boss and having to work very closely with the offender (making it obvious that you would know what time she came in each day) and also being, perhaps, a rung above her? You were an Exec Asst and she was an Admin? In my experience the EAs are usually treated as sort of a “senior” admin type even if they had no official authority on the other admins.

Your situation can work (obviously it did for you) but I would still advise caution for people in similar situations unless you are certain that your boss would be amenable to the log it is very risky in making the note-taker look like a tattle tale or trouble maker.

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Thank you, this is really what I’m trying to say. I knew what I was doing, I knew my boss respected me, and I was not bluffing about leaving. I am always professional and very hard-working and my boss knew I would never take it to this point unless I was at the end of my rope. Every situation is different and sometimes you need to trust your own judgment instead of following rote advice.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I totally respect your stance, but I do take exception to calling my advice “rote.” I’m not telling the OP to mind her own business because that’s the conventional wisdom; I’m telling her that because based on her letter, that’s what I believe is best for her to do. She’s become far too fixated on the situation to be able to make calm decisions. I make a point of providing nuanced advice here that’s tailored to the letter-writer’s situation; you might disagree with it, but it’s not rote.

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Lilybell July 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Sorry, that was a poor choice of words; by “rote” I just meant conventional, but I was trying not to use the same word over and over again (I didn’t realize the word has a negative connotation). I’m pretty new here, so I apologize if I am commenting incorrectly – I was not even responding about today’s letter, more about the subject in general.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

No worries! I see the “rote/conventional wisdom” problem all too often in career advice and it’s kind of a point of pride that I avoid it here, so it jumped out at me :)

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Alisha July 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm

My person who reported a slacker was also above the slacker. The slacker was pretty new to our company, the person reporting hir was mid-level going into senior-level line worker. I couldn’t tell you if that made a difference in my perception of it, but I’m guessing it did. Another factor was that my teammate wasn’t logging arrival times – ze instead showed me a few of the slacker’s code samples that were clearly useless spaghetti, and said, “This is what I’m dealing with, what should I do next?”

Anyway Lilybell, I agree it takes a bit of time to get used to how things work at AAM, both because Alison’s advice is customized and because the commenters are 99.9% calm, helpful, and outrageously respectful. Both of these are rare qualities on the internet nowadays, and I know when I encounter them, I am sometimes, well, confused at first! I hope you’ll stick around and continue to comment with us because I’m confident you’ll find a lot of useful tips on here.

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Max July 3, 2012 at 11:05 am

Technically, wouldn’t it only be “unfair” if others weren’t able to take days off or leave early? Some places are just laid-back about attendance. There’s a possibility that it could be a workplace culture problem.

In any case, you’ve made clear that both her supervisor and her supervisor’s manager are aware of her conduct, so there’s really nothing you can do. As AAM has said in many columns, there isn’t really anything you can do if your managers fail to or refuse to manage properly. If you REALLY can’t tolerate working with her anymore, then your only real options are to wait things out and hope management gets fed up, or to start hunting for a different job.

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Julie July 3, 2012 at 11:14 am

Though it might not be relevant in this particular case, it’s also worth noting that time away from your desk (or out of the office) does not necessarily mean work isn’t getting done. Particularly when it comes to white-collar knowledge workers, work can often be done anytime, anywhere.

It doesn’t sound like it in this case, but it’s possible that the manager knows about the side-business and has given dispensation for the co-worker to take time off, so long as the work gets done. And if it’s not the case here, it certainly *could* be the case at another company with a flexible time-management policy.

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Ellen M. July 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm

The OP says that the work is NOT getting done – she says when the slacker is away from her desk this “creates more work for the other agent and myself”.

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Julie July 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

As I said, my comments might not apply to this particular case. (In fact, I don’t think they do.) But there have been a lot of people in the comments talking about absenteeism in general, and I’m just saying that there *are* times when absenteeism does not necessarily mean the work isn’t getting done.

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Oy July 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

I really feel your frustration. My coworker (well, one of them- she is the only one I work with regularly) waltzes into work whenever she feels like it (it’s been as late as noon or 1 PM) and constantly “works from home,” causing her to be unreachable by email for hours at a time. I used to get so worked up about it because I think she literally works 20-25 hours a week and gets paid the same as me, and I’m here full time.

The thing is… it’s not going unnoticed by other people. And thankfully it’s not causing problems for you aside from this frustration. Stop tracking her every move, it’s just causing more frustration. I had to force myself to stop looking at the clock when she came in and stop looking at the document time stamps to see that she literally left 5-10 minutes after I did. There have been multiple times that our boss has emailed both of us and I’ve responded because she is who-knows-where. Not my problem. It cannot be unnoticed and karma will come back to bite her at some point.

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Anonymouse July 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

AAM is spot-on here. As tough as it can be, accepting that it’s not really your problem is the only way to go. You have to put it out of your mind, and focus on your workload. Make yourself indispensible whilst the co-worker slacks off and ultimately, you’ll be the one who is rewarded. If the slacking co-worker is routinely and heavily affecting your work, I would keep an objective record of when and how, but other than that, ignore it as best you can.

Having said that, it can be a major morale-suck when it’s obvious someone is obviously flaunting the rules and management either aren’t aware or simply don’t care. No matter how many people tell you it’s not your problem, it’s not easy to ignore. But you need to rise above it (and certainly stop keeping records of how much time she wastes – that’s bordering on creepy imo) and concentrate on you and your career.

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Ornery PR July 3, 2012 at 11:58 am

I have a friend who’s fond of saying, “whatever you focus on grows.”

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Anonymous July 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Love it. Stealing it.

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DanaD July 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I also have a slacker coworker, and for many months I found solace in AAM’s previous advice on the issue. “Don’t focus on it unless it affects your job,” “maybe your manager is disciplining the employee but just not broadcasting it,” and “maybe your hard work is being reflected in a raise, just like her lack of work negatively affects her salary.”

Then I saw that the manager had nominated slacker coworker for a company-wide award, over me and another coworker. That was hard to swallow.

After seeing that, I started pretending she is part-time, so it’s OK if she spends literally half the day watching YouTube videos.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Your problem is not your slacker coworker; it’s your boss. In your case, my advice would be what’s here:

http://www.askamanager.org/2008/08/when-your-manager-wont-manage.html

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Julie July 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm

“Then I saw that the manager had nominated slacker coworker for a company-wide award, over me and another coworker. That was hard to swallow.”

Out of curiosity, was this a case of favoritism, or was the slacker employee getting more results done in a half-day than other people do in a full day? Some people simply work faster or have a more efficient way of managing their time. A former boss of mine was continually amazed that I could do more in a day (because I’m very tech-savvy) than the previous person in my position could do in a week (because she was tech-phobic).

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Andy Lester July 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Then I saw that the manager had nominated slacker coworker for a company-wide award, over me and another coworker.

So what can you learn from that? What does that tell you that the boss values? The slacker must be doing something right, right? Maybe your focus is on the wrong things.

Or, maybe it’s a matter of your boss playing favorites and politics, and it’s an indicator that you probably don’t want to work for him/her.

In either case, there’s something to be learned.

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DanaD July 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Julie and Andy – I had considered the possibility that my coworker is a fast worker, but I don’t think that’s the case. She’s often late on things that affect my work, and I do bring those up to our manager in a “How should I handle it when Sally is late on this thing that is necessary for my project” way. I don’t ever get any constructive help when this happens, so I simply bring them to her attention now without any hope of improving the situation (just a CMA kind of thing).

Then I considered the fact that it’s politics, but this employee and the manager aren’t buddy-buddy or anything. My manager also frequently tells me that I am a top performer and do my job well.

I think this is just a huge blind spot for my manager. The slacker coworker has some medical problems that cause her to be tired a lot. I’m not exactly sure what they are (nor do I feel the need to know). Here’s an example of how it affects her work and how it’s dealt with: She fell asleep in a meeting I was leading, and my boss pulled me aside later to say that was unacceptable of her and that she would speak to her.

It’s almost like my manager’s attitude is that slacker coworker is doing such a good job, despite her medical problems. I just don’t get it. Fear of reprisal from an ADA claim? Who knows…

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EthicalEmployee May 26, 2013 at 1:30 am

My boss does not do anything with the slacker at my work. It is because he is intimidated by the slacker. The slacker is skilled with how to manipulate people. I saw her once gave a gift to one of the bosses. There are probably other actions I don’t see.

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Cassie July 5, 2012 at 12:32 am

This. They recently announced a cash bonus award for exceptional employees – it was open to all eligible employees (if you got a certain evaluation rating or higher). I was nominated/selected to receive the bonus, but so were several of my coworkers – none of whom I would describe as being “exceptional” workers. Do they do their jobs? Yes. Do they do them well? Eh. Do they do anything that would be considered above and beyond? No.

It’s kind of frustrating but at the same time, I know that my opinion isn’t going to change anything so I try my best to ignore it. (That doesn’t mean I don’t inwardly groan and say “ugh, sigh”, though!).

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sparky629 July 3, 2012 at 12:56 pm

This is a tough one for me. In some respects, I get that it’s frustrating to see a CW not performing their job and having to pick up the slack. It’s also incredibly frustrating to see said CW to not be visibly disciplined for their actions (or inactions in this case).

It is but here’s the thing…

1)If you are picking up the CW’s slack you are learning a whole new set of skills that you wouldn’t have been exposed too if they were doing their job. The current position I have is because the prior person who had the job would come in at ungodly hours and sit at his desk all day playing games (when he was at his desk). When he self imploded (because they always do) I stepped right in and snatched the position. I stepped into a higher level position and gained some really awesome technical skills that I wouldn’t have been able to gain in my admin position.

2) If you are planning to manage people in the future, you have a great idea of what NOT to do.

3) If you are so concerned about what advantages the CW’s is receiving that you are not then you will surely miss the opportunities for you.

4) It’s CW’s karma and she will have to deal with it when it comes back to her-not you. It may manifest in the form of firing, no/low raises or disciplinary actions.

5) You don’t have any idea what’s going on in her life that the job is not her primary focus. Sorry but everyone doesn’t view work as the end all be all. For some people, it’s a means to make ends meet and that’s OK.

6) It’s like the first day of Kindergarten where the teacher tells you to ‘worry about you’ and not the disruptive student because she has it under control so please don’t tattle. :-)

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Alisha July 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I love your comment. So true!

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EthicalEmployee May 26, 2013 at 1:15 am

Regarding … ‘you do not know what is going on in her life’, the writer knows his co-worker has side business. Regarding the kindergarten teacher … worrying only about yourself is wrong. They work for a company. It’s success depends on everyone. People have to stand up and say something when they see that someone is stealing from the company.

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Lils July 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Of course I agree with AAM and everyone else that this isn’t really your business. But my question is: what does good management look like from the outside? If the coworker is in trouble, and management is handling it (at least in my place of work, it takes a LONG time for the documentation to build up), wouldn’t that look like silence on the management’s part? Or maybe at the most “Your concerns have been noted and we’re handling it?” The same goes if the coworker is having legitimate health concerns. What kind of notice should the team expect from management when someone else is in trouble?

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Nothing more than “I appreciate your input and I’m handling it.” Managers shouldn’t share anyone’s performance problems or disciplinary actions with their coworkers. And ideally, managers who have proven themselves to be reasonable, action-oriented people who don’t avoid problems should be believed that they are indeed on it.

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Lils July 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Glad to have you confirm my thinking. I have an employee who seems to expect some kind of spectacular public tell-off of his colleagues once he informs me (the manager) of all their mis-deeds. imho, the best manager handles reprimands privately. So, from the outside, it might look like silence.

On the other hand, it is good to be reminded of the terrible morale that can result from one person not following the rules or pulling their weight. It can have a massive ripple effect, even if no one else’s job is tangibly impacted.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm

You might tell him how this works, in general terms, and point out that if he was being counseled for a performance problem, he wouldn’t appreciate others being told about it.

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EthicalEmployee May 26, 2013 at 1:21 am

I cannot agree more. I know a supervisor who dismissed the issue because she said only one person is doing it. She failed to think that one person’s unethical behavior affects the morale of many.

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Student July 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Maybe AAM can tell me if I’m off-base, but I think there should be one exception to this rule. That’s when your co-worker’s bad behavior has a very serious, direct impact on you as a person.

I had a co-worker assault me once. My boss sure seemed to sit up and take notice when I made it clear that getting attacked at work was unacceptable. But then I just got silence from him. I don’t expect to sit in on a disciplinary talk with the offending co-worker. I did expect my boss to give me some sort of follow-up to confirm that he’d dealt with it. He didn’t do any of the follow-up that he promised, and he didn’t give me any reassurance that he’d actually done anything at all. I also was hoping (but not strictly expecting) some sort of forced acknowledgement from the co-worker, so I had some reassurance that he understood this wasn’t acceptable. Really, one or the other would’ve been enough for me to stick around. But the silence and uncertainty made me feel like the issue probably wasn’t really dealt with, and frankly made me scared that it would happen again. So I left the job for someplace where I wasn’t constantly worried about another outburst.

In that case, I think it’s simple human decency to reassure your employee that the matter’s been handled. I’d say it extends to stuff like sexual harassment, theft, and retaliation – not to things where work productivity is the main concern, but to cases where human dignity is violated.

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Ask a Manager July 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Totally agree.

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Andy Lester July 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm

That co-worker should have been terminated immediately. Any response other than that is unacceptable. That a company doesn’t see that is reason enough to walk.

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Lils July 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I would say that communicating this to you would be a big part of regaining your trust that the management is capable of creating a safe workplace. Perception is key here, and not just for victims of violence–also for the perp. And I agree with Andy–wth were they thinking?!?

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Elizabeth West July 3, 2012 at 5:55 pm

0_0

Wow. If a coworker assaulted me physically, I’d call the police. Screw the manager.

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JohnQPublic July 4, 2012 at 2:16 am

Amen.

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Alisha July 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Agreed that assault, sexual violence, et. al. are exceptions. For what it’s worth, when I’m alerted to an issue, my catch-phrase is, “Thanks for letting me know. I’m going to take care of this right away,” and if applicable, a statement reassuring the employee that they can go back to whatever their normal is, i.e. “Sam/Diane, you don’t need to work overtime anymore – please resume your normal schedule tomorrow.” (Cheers reference, ’cause that show is da bomb!)

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Emily July 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I agree with AAM’s advice and it’d be the advice I would give, but I also want to validate the OP’s frustration. It is unfair and it is hard to look the other way, but once you do it, you’ll feel so relieved.

Several years ago, there was a period when I started noting a superior coworker’s long absences in the middle of every day, early departures, and all the time he spent on personal calls or watching sports online (which were audible to the point of being distracting to the rest of us). I started my “log” because he complained that I was 30-45 minutes late to work once a week for two months because I was seeing a physical therapist after a back injury, and our mutual manager expressed displeasure, even though I’d cleared the appointment time with him in advance and was keeping him posted on my recovery. Looking back, I think he was just going through the motions of following up on the complaint to appease my colleague, but I had another month of prescribed treatment left, and I worried that if the complaints continued or escalated, I really would be in trouble. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t ever compare a coworker’s behavior or treatment to my own, let alone risk the “but why are you spending your time keeping track of someone else?” question, but since he complained about my time, I started this log as a last, last resort back-up.

It became a habit—I got sucked into the vortex!—and I kept it even after I finished my PT appointments, and that’s when it really started to get me down. I was already frustrated with his behavior and that he got away with it, and keeping a record only emphasized how outrageous and unfair it was. Finally, I got to the bottom of the back of the piece of paper I’d been using and I had to consciously choose not to start a new page. From then on, I started making conscious decisions to ignore the behavior and ignore the lack of response from our manager. It never got easy, but it did get easier.

Eventually, I was moved to a different office where I don’t hear his phone calls or his sports and I don’t see him come and go as he pleases, and that has made an enormous difference. If there is any possible way the OP could move to a desk where this CSR is out of her earshot and/or view, take it! If you request a move, cite a reason that has nothing to do with your coworker. If relocating isn’t possible, start shifting your attention right away. Resist the temptation to look up anything about her online. Practice tuning it out when she’s on the phone or steps away from her desk—as though her voice is just white noise to you and you see right through her. Reframe your mental habits for your own benefit, and let your coworker’s eventual fate befall her!

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Spiny July 4, 2012 at 6:42 am

“When she is gone it effectively doubles the work of the other French CSR, as well as stresses out customers as she is unable to complete call backs and she is absent on days she asks them to contact her.”

I work in customer service, and this, at least for the coworker if not for the OP, is unacceptable. It’s not tattling or nagging or submitting an internal report late- if the job is customer service and customers are being treated poorly, you get yelled at. If the French Hairdresser is not keeping her word to the customers, those who answer the phone or email have to deal with the vitriol.

At least where I work, the CS is structured to ensure the customers are happy and fix problems-so not internally advocating for the customer ignores a central tenet of the job.

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Cruella DaBoss July 5, 2012 at 10:47 am

Drop it and do your job
Brilliant as always!

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Another Emily July 6, 2012 at 2:47 am

What would happen if you and the French CSR just didn’t pick up her slack? Can you keep track of which customers are “yours” and which are “hers”?

My thinking is, take care of your own work and don’t worry about hers. If you didn’t feel like you had to pick up her slack then maybe you wouldn’t care about her poor work habits anymore. It seems like your job doesn’t really work like this though?

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Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 3:29 am

Haha! The person who answered this is just as oblivious as your manager! If you have never had calls pushed through to YOUR phone line as your co-worker galavants through the office…. Then you wouldn’t understand. One lazy person on a call center team can Increase the work load tremendously. Obviously if it is a 3 man/women team, you need 3 men/women to do the job! As a manager- I would make sure that there are metrics in place first. Everyone should be adhering to them. If not, you may want to speak with higher ups or HR.

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NEPOTISM January 26, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I sit by a co-worker that is married to a VP in another depart. For 2 yrs I have sat by her while she comes in an hr + after me. Has 2 hr lunches, disappears during the day, and never stays till 5. While she is at her desk, its personal phone calls & online whatever. She makes more than $20k more than me, but asks me for help on the more complex reports. SO FRUSTRATING!!!! I actually have others fr other depts make comments to me.

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NEPOTISM January 26, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I have all the heavy-hitting projects and have worked all night, weekends, early, late…whatever. The last straw was when she came in complaining that she had to drive around for 3 hrs w/her dog because her house was being shown by her realator. Was I supposed to feel sorry for her???? Of course, she also said she told her boss & he said, not to worry about it…SHE’S A THEIF!
She takes money to work, but doesn’t work. IT’S FRAUD!

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EthicalEmployee May 26, 2013 at 2:02 am

The story is so similar to what i see at work. One difference, however, is that the co-worker has a facial side business. It is a non-issue to our boss. Well, it is not him being robbed … it is the company. To call a co-worker a slacker is being nice. The co-worker is a fraud, to say the least. She should be prosecuted. One advice I have is to stay as far as possible from this kind of co-worker. They are dangerous people who have no morals. But, watch for opportunity when a higher up management asks you how you feel about working there. I respect you for saying something. Many people ignore what they see, and then the company loses money and they all lose their job, hardworking or not.

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Bustmyhump September 25, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Oh boy! This is almost exactly what is going on at my place of business. It makes me nuts to read the response that it is not the writer’s problem. When the slackers personal problems become the other coworkers problem then there is a massive problem. It is up to the writer to decide how she handles it? You’re kidding me right? I mean in my case, the coworker has been acting like this since the moment she walked in the door and that is nearly 3 years now . Different people have mentioned it and the bull continues. She literally comes to work to schedule her days off which she should not have anymore to begin with. At what point is she not asked to take a leave (unpaid) to handle her issues and return when it’s taken care of??? It is a team environment and the team is falling apart. How is this our fault?? This mentality is contagious and if you aren’t going to admonish her, then don’t talk to me about being a bit late. I come in and bust my hump all day every day while she does nothing !! I don’t give a rat’s behind what is going on in her personal life because it is her personal life. I don’t live with her, I work with her. Well, I work and she watches. Shame on anyone that would respond to this situation by turning it around on the hard worker. You should not be in management. Period!!!

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