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How to Deal With a Messy and Lazy Co-worker

by Kristine Tucker

A lazy co-worker with a messy work station can be a hindrance to productivity. Disorganized work areas and a careless attitude toward work responsibilities is frustrating for team members who strive for success. When you have to deal with a messy and lazy co-worker, a firm and consistent approach is best. You don't want poor work habits to negatively affect your work responsibilities.

Offer Organization Tips

If your messy co-worker is open to suggestions, offer some simple tips for organizing his work space. Use paper and digital file folders to decrease clutter, open mail over the trash can, and put everything in desk drawers at the end of the day, suggests Katherine Trezise, president of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization in a Bloomberg Businessweek article. Your disorganized co-worker might not know how to efficiently organize his space, so helpful tips might help him get on the right track.

Don't Take the Blame

Refuse to take the blame for your co-worker's laziness and messy habits. Your co-worker is an adult, and her disorganization isn't your responsibility. You can remind her of project deadlines and work tasks, but don't let her inefficient work practices take up too much of your time, advises "Forbes" magazine. If your manager complains that the work isn't getting done, show him your work on the project and don't apologize for your co-worker's shortcomings. She'll have to account for her own work-related duties.

Establish Measurable Goals

If you're a team leader or a supervisor, set measurable goals and hold your irresponsible co-worker accountable for his tasks. Disorganized and lazy co-workers make it difficult to complete assignments because others are forced to wait for the lazy worker's contributions. If you want your team to achieve goals, expect each team member to do his part, advises business expert Jeff Hayden in "Inc." magazine. If he still doesn't complete his assignments in a timely manner, issue an official reprimand and let him know his job depends on the ability to get things done.

Reward Responsible Workers

If you hold a leadership role, reward responsible employees by letting them leave early if their work is done, offer a financial incentive, and praise them for a job well done. Make it clear that lazy workers with disorganized and unproductive habits aren't eligible to receive the perks -- you're not being mean, you're being fair. Positive reinforcements may motivate irresponsible workers to establish a better work ethic and improve their workplace behavior. After a few weeks of being the last person to leave the office, the employee may find ways to self-correct her lazy and messy workplace habits.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

Photo Credits

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