Dealing With an Useless or Demotivated Co-Worker

Not too long ago, a close friend of mine hit me up asking for recommendation on how I would deal with a co-worker that does not do his job. I bet that friend of mine is not the only one on that situation. When working in team whether at work or as part of team’s association or group, one of the main and big challenge is in engaging everyone to commit in giving the best at 100% for the task to be achieved. Yet, not everyone goes the extra-mile and some even under deliver, giving up on the group and therefore penalizing everyone. How to deal and boost an useless co-worker?

Back when I was Organizational Leader at the Southwestern Company for one of the French team, my job was not only in building a team of salespeople, but also to train the team and to coach the team in the field. What a tremendous experience. After 6 years of recruiting, training, and coaching, I did face in many occasions, situations when one member, and sometimes more than one, didn’t want to do his part of the assigned collective task. Most the time and whatever the task, I found out as result of my reading, and in field experiences, how to deal with an useless co-worker and following is what you definitely want to do.

  1. Go express your problem – When you found out that someone do not do his job as he was supposed to, whether you are manager or not, the first thing to do is to go and talk with the person in private. During that personal meeting, your goal is not to start arguing with the person but to tell the person how affected the overall task is because of his low performance.
  2. Level with the person – Again, especially if you are not manager, what you want to avoid here is to make the person feels bad or hurt the person self-esteem, which will make everything even more complicated. What you want to do when leveling with the person is to make sure the person knows what is expected from him or her. Some people just do not really understand what is expected from them or have an misunderstanding. So you first want to double check that assumption. If there was confusion on the person’s mind then just re-explain at the person what his/her assignment and expectations really are. That is one of the challenge in communication, making sure that the message has been understood just like you wanted to.
  3. Understand the issue – In case there was no understanding but a deliberate decision of the person to not work at his/her best, again, calm down and with a friendly attitude, try to understand what the issue is. By finding where the problem of the person is and trying to come up with a solution with an understanding mindset, you will gain the person consideration, which will engage the person to reconsider having a proper work conduct.
  4. Resell the Project – Now that the person expressed himself, you want to resell him/her on the importance of the task to be done and the key role he/she plays in order to get the job done.
  5. The “I need You” close – Recognition and praise are the two most important things people are looking for other than money and sex. As you conclude your personal meeting with the person you want to tell the person that you wont be able to work at your best without his/her best input. Just go ahead and tell the person: I need you, I need your help. Once you say that, you want to make sure the person commit in giving the best of his/her potential. Just ask: Can I count on you? As you ask, make sure you look at the person in the eyes and show the sincerity of your request.

Dealing with people just requires that irrefutable law of relationship: put yourself in the person’s shoes. As you try to deal with a co-worker that does not do his work, remember this great advice from Dale Carnegie: begin in a friendly way, arouse in the person an eager want, show respect to the other person’s ideas and desires, and ask questions instead of giving direct orders.


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  1. #1 by Yacine on June 23, 2010 - 8:05 am

    Well done Max, I’m exactly in that situation those days ! I was asking my self on how to proceed with the guy. My idea was to ask him about what i wants to do and what he wants to achieve professionally. And then let him know that our project is going to help him acheive his goals and that i’m here to help him.
    I think my mistake was to not make your 5th point well.
    I’ll try again 🙂
    Thanks !

  2. #2 by Max-Marc Fossouo on June 23, 2010 - 5:10 pm

    Interesting feedback Yacine. There are definitely more people in that situation and most of them just don’t know where to go and find solutions. As you try the 5th point, consider lighting up others from you network by sharing the post. By doing so, you have positive impact on their life and you allow me to expose my hard-work and trust me I will appreciate that dearly. Again, thanks for your feedbacks

  3. #3 by Rory Vaden on June 24, 2010 - 11:32 am

    I love the step by step practical application here Max. It is a great outline for managers to follow. I especially like the “I need you close”. If anything will get people to rise up to a new level of performance it would be that!

  4. #4 by dustin hillis on June 24, 2010 - 1:01 pm

    It is amazing how being a Organization Leader for Southwestern teaches you how to deal with so many situational management issues in a short period of time. The ideas in this article are a good reminder of how to win friends and influence people. Great job!

  5. #5 by Marlies on August 18, 2010 - 5:57 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I’ll share these steps with my Management Team for the daily practise. It is explained very logical and in clear.

    • #6 by Max-Marc Fossouo on August 18, 2010 - 11:05 pm

      Thanks for checking out and spreading out the words Marlies. Keep on checking the blog out for more useful tips.

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