A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Dear Sue: I work two days a week with a woman who is a few
years older than I am. She is not very reliable and when she does come
to work, she does as little as possible. I have to constantly tell her
what to do or she leaves more work behind for me and then she ignores me
when I ask her about it.
I like to get along with everyone and it makes for a bad day when I
have to work with this lazy individual who purposely is behaving this
way because she feels she should be in my position. I was hired before
her so she really wants my job and I feel they all want me to quit.
She and my boss have been co-workers for years and my boss is definitely
favoring this woman and has told me that I should not talk with this
co-worker anymoreóthat she will relay the message. What do you think I
can do to make this situation better?
- Sick of lazy coworker
Sue Says: You know what doesnít work; now you need to figure out
what will work. Youíve talked to your boss, youíve tried talking with
your coworker and your boss has talked with her too. The only thing you
havenít done is talk with the three of you together.
My suggestion is for you to request a meeting with your boss and
coworker. If your boss discourages it, tell him (or her) you feel it is
necessary because of the tension that has occurred due to the lack of
communication. Let him know you are committed to working things out and
creating a more positive environment. Be the one to initiate the meeting
and lead the conversation, but check with your boss before you do. Donít
ask if it is okay; tell him you feel it is the only way to work through
the problem you are having.
If you can get away from the office and talk with them over coffee or
lunch, do so. The more neutral the location you meet in, the better.
Take responsibility for what has transpired. Let them know that you
regret the dynamics that have taken place as a result of your own
indirect communication. Make it clear that your intention is to
effectively and peacefully work with each of them and to be as
productive as possible.
Apologize if necessaryófor whatever harm you have caused or
accusations you have made. Then proceed to address whatever the core
issue is, giving each person the chance to offer their suggestion for a
The key is for you to speak in terms of what YOU are struggling with
and need rather than blaming your coworker for what SHE isnít doing.
It may help to discuss and get clear about job duties, roles and
expectations to make sure you all are in sync. You might start by
stating your understanding of what she is to be doing on her days at
work and how it affects you when it doesnít get done. Talk in terms of
your experience-- what is working and what isnít (not knowing when she
will show up, having to repeatedly ask for something to be done, etc.)
Be more assertive by being clear and direct in your communication.
Rather than complain about what isnít being done, request what you need.
And listen closely to what your coworker tells you.
I hope this helps. Let me know what happens.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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