Editor's Note: This article is part of a series of articles by Lynne Eisaguirre that focus on challenging situations that may be facing your workforce. Previous articles include: Dealing with Problem Employees within Employment Law, Addressing Alcohol and Drug Use at Work and After, How to Deal with Rumors in the Workplace Before it Becomes Defamation, Basic Employment Law Principles When Dealing with Workplace Violence and How to Talk to Your Crew about Dress Code, Hygiene and Hairdo's.
What's the first step to managing slackers? Unfortunately, you have to get to know them in order to discover why they're slacking out. To do that, seek out evidence of what your slacker employees value. Do they wake up for certain activities but sleep through others? Do you notice them talking animatedly in the lunchroom on some topics? Study their habits and gather clues as to what useful rewards might be.
Another technique is, of course, the obvious one: you could just ask. Some questions to help you discover values might be as follows:
- I've been noticing that you don't seem as interested in your job as you used to be. What company reward might be a good motivator for you?
- I'm curious about your other jobs. Were there any where you felt consistently motivated? What kinds of rewards or incentives were offered?
- What's your dream job? What do you think would motivate you to do your best in that field?
Once you know what someone values, you'll find it easier to motivate them.
Talking With Slackers
If you loath managing slackers you're in good company. In a recent study by Leadership IQ, a training and research organization based in Washington, D.C., 87 percent of employees reported that working besides low-performing colleagues had made them want to change jobs. Further, 93 percent also claimed that working with low performers decreased their productivity.
"Low performers can feel like emotional vampires, sucking the energy out of everyone around them" said Leadership IQ chief executive Mark Murphy, whose company surveyed 70,305 employees, managers, and executives from 116 companies and organizations. Those surveyed were asked to list characteristics of a low performer. The top five characteristics were:
- A negative attitude
- A tendency to stir up trouble
- Often blames others
- Lacks initiative
- Is incompetent
Low performers excel in the art of work avoidance. They spend more time arguing their way out of tasks than it would take to simply complete them. They are good at identifying problems but not so good at finding solutions. They have well-crafted excuses for not getting anything done. And their sloth is often at the expense of more conscientious coworkers, who must pick up their slack.
Ironically enough, many slackers do not see themselves as slackers, preferring instead to blame others. Of the 87 percent of employee who want to get away from low performers, half are probably low performers themselves, if other surveys can be believed. For instance, more than half of American workers are not engaged in their jobs, according to a recent survey by Gallup. Most are "sleepwalking though their workdays," Gallup says. But 19 percent are what Gallup calls the "actively disengaged." The 23 million "actively disengaged" U.S. workers cost the national economy more than 300 billion a year in lost productivity.
Shaking up the Slackers
In short, if companies hope to keep their best employees, they should dump their worst. Otherwise, low performers will start dictating the company's cultures: productivity, quality, and service will all decline precipitously, and high performers will avoid your organization like the proverbial plague.