Slacker Management

What to do if you recognize you’re a slacker.

By Ben Leichtling Dec 1, 2010
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Managers who aren’t fully committed to their jobs and the organization set a tone that permeates their teams. A slacker manager cheats the organization out of his true potential and gives employees an excuse to slack off, too. You may not realize that you are a slacker manager—or you may not want to realize you are—because you have become comfortable in your slacker ways.

Here are a few hints. Do you:

  • Come in last and leave first?
  • Procrastinate and find "good reasons" to push paper around your desk?
  • Avoid difficult or potentially embarrassing tasks?
  • Typically avoid confrontation, especially in honestly evaluating your staff or holding them accountable?
  • Think your career will prosper because of who likes you instead of what you produce in terms of goods and services?
  • Keep blaming your team for its failures?
  • Avoid asking your peers and team for an anonymous 360-degree review?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be a slacker. If you value your job, keep reading.

Who Are You Fooling?

You aren’t fooling anyone—not for long, anyway.

You may think that because your boss hasn’t fired you yet, you’re successfully getting away with slacking. It may be that your manager is conflict-avoidant or a slacker himself. But just because no one is confronting the behavior doesn’t mean people don’t know.

Slackers think they can wait to improve until someone criticizes them. They forget their reputations precede and follow them. Either the team’s performance has suffered or everyone knows who on the team is really the leader.

Everyone knows about your slacker ways and talks behind your back. You’re held up as the embodiment of a culture that should be changed. Almost always, that reputation comes home to roost when new leaders come in and look for someone to make an example of.

Personal and Work Effects

Confirmed slackers are experts at compartmentalizing. They think lack of character and integrity at work doesn’t affect their personal lives. But they have voids within themselves that let them know they took the easy road. They have the same little voices we all have that see past excuses and that are relentlessly honest and critical.

Unfortunately for slackers, the personal effects usually become apparent through ill health, as secret shame and guilt work vengeance on their bodies.

At work, your employees may adopt your slacker behavior, preventing them from meeting their own potential.

But if you’re a confirmed slacker, you know and don’t care. You’ll only try to change your ways when you’re threatened with termination.

Instead of realizing how addictive slacking really is, you think you can easily stop when you want to. But, like alcoholics who have to bottom out before they change, slackers don’t stop until their careers are ruined.

If you can be honest with yourself and listen to the little voice telling you that you have much more to give, you can overcome your slacker ways.

Changing Your Ways

Recognize your problem and be determined to change. Once you’re truly motivated, these methods can help:

  • ‌Tell someone safe about your slacking past and your specific plan to improve. Often, knowing that someone is watching helps us live up to our promises. Promises don’t count; only action counts.
  • ‌Quit drifting. Get to work early and leave late. Cut out the long breaks and lunches. Organize things so you start working as soon as you arrive.
  • ‌‌Take on difficult challenges and get them done fast.
  • ‌Grade yourself honestly each day through the eyes of an omniscient, objective critic with high standards. Give yourself points for each improvement.
  • ‌With your manager, set up a performance improvement plan. Grade yourself even if your manager won’t. Update the plan often. Keep raising the bar.
  • Look around for model managers who work hard and make contributions. Imitate their actions and figure out who they are: What character and values do they have? What keeps them from being slackers? How do they think of themselves, their work and their responsibilities to themselves, their teams and the company?
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