Lazy coworkers are a relatively unavoidable concept. We all have them, have had them, etc. They come in all shapes and sizes, but among the most common would be “I am so busy even though no one really has any idea what I do.” That would be “Temple of Busy” employees, which are fairly common for a set of basic reasons:
- For generations, we all worked in agriculture or industrial pursuits
- That’s how we came to learn how to manage others
- Industry/agriculture are very objective working conditions, though
- You either produce the corn or make the widget or you don’t
- Now we all supposedly work in The Knowledge Economy
- Everything is far more subjective because more of the projects are creative in nature
- But people still want to be seen as relevant
- In order to do that, the easiest strategy is to …
- … talk to everyone constantly about the quantity of work you have, as opposed to quality of your output
This whole arc is pervasive in so many white-collar jobs. You work with dozens of people who do nothing all day — inherently lazy coworkers — but every time you pass them, they tell you how “slammed” they are. This is normative in many jobs now. It’s largely because of the bouncing ball bullet points above.
Now, two quick things: many companies are terrible at hiring for job role, so some super-qualified people come in with no purpose and their talent is squandered. That’s 1. No. 2 would be that claiming to be busy is akin to being high. Who wouldn’t want that, right?
Let’s hit this target about lazy coworkers quickly and move on.
Great quote on lazy coworkers
Here’s a good article from Google’s re:Work blog about companies mapping employee interactions. Does that mean “Big Brother” stuff? Somewhat. It means like seeing who chats/collaborates during the day and then mapping that to information issues. The power of data, am I right? This quote is amazing:
In another branch, Waber discovered a clear bifurcation where there were two separate social networks. The cause, it turned out, was architectural — one group worked on the first floor and the other was on the second. “It takes you 10 seconds to walk from the first floor to the second floor,” Waber said. “But nobody does it.” So the bank started doing away with multilevel branches where they could and rotated desks more frequently elsewhere.
That “10 seconds … but nobody does it” quote pretty much sums up work in a lot of ways.
“… but nobody does it…”
Most of us have some semblance of a life outside of work. We may have siblings, parents, friends, dogs, significant others, etc. In a general sense — and yes, some people are social morons — we have an idea how to communicate to these people. But communication at work is often a train wreck. If you went through 10,000 employee surveys across different industries, I bet “poor communication” is always top-2/3 complaint.
So … we know how to communicate at a broad level, but we’re terrible about it at work. Why?
The easy answer here is “lazy coworkers.”
It’s a bit more complex than that.
Work barriers to entry
Until the robots and automation come for all of us, work is a very emotional and psychological place. You have to manage up and down, you have friends and foes, you’re worried about making enough money, priorities are always shifting, etc. Even though we have all this technology to help us with tasks, we feel super stressed. There’s more to take care of and monitor! Everything has a sense of urgency.
Because the psychology of the whole deal is complicated, the barriers rise. This is why people won’t walk 10 seconds to talk to someone else. It’s not necessarily that they are lazy coworkers. (They may be.) It’s more than they got slammed with some task, some deliverable, some KPI, some need, etc … and they have to work on that as opposed to clarifying a situation. Most managers are never given a bonus on “provided context to employees,” and that’s a huge failure of the workplace. Without context, all problems and solutions occur in an essential vacuum. No one wins.
So it’s less about lazy coworkers and more about left hands and right hands not knowing what’s going on — but feeling busy and super-stressed regardless.
How do we overcome those barriers?
You push through it. Earn your salary. Work at it. Think on:
- How can align self with work and determine priorities?
- What communication skills would be valuable?
- If you manage others, what do you need to provide to them?
- What self-reflection have you done, and what does it lead to?
- Can you use time better?
- What about full days? Could you use full days better?
This organization is paying you to either (a) generate revenue or (b) save revenue. It’s that simple. We all have millions of excuses for why we can’t walk the 10 seconds and work together better — including “I don’t like to collaborate” — but here’s the real deal. Externally (what we foist onto others), we often think of this as “Oh, I have all these lazy coworkers.” Truth be told, you probably do the exact same thing and just don’t have the self-awareness to see it internally.
We all can be more productive and work better. It’s less about those lazy coworkers and more about what we’re willing to push forward on.