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Tough to build a work ethic when there’s not enough work

by on
in Your Office Coach

Q: "One of my co-workers has absolutely no work ethic. 'Carly' comes in late every day and leaves right at quitting time. During work hours, she calls her family, texts her friends, shops online, surfs the Web, reads the paper and listens to ballgames on her computer. She also spends time chatting with people at her desk. 

"Carly and I are both legal secretaries, but we work for different lawyers in the firm. While my workload is quite heavy and hectic, Carly’s attorneys don’t seem to have much for her to do. She complains about being bored, but I’ve heard her say that she loves being able to do whatever she pleases.

"All the secretaries in our firm are supervised by an office manager. I have frequently talked to her about Carly’s activities, but nothing seems to change. I should mention that Carly and I get along well and even socialize together outside of work. However, her office behavior is extremely irritating. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with this?" Frustrated

A: Your real problem is not with Carly, but with the distribution of work in your firm. The attorneys to whom you are assigned apparently have very different expectations than the ones who work with Carly. This may be due to their individual work styles or to the type of law they practice, but either way, your co-worker has simply drawn a lighter load.

Instead of continuing to complain about Carly, talk with your supervisor about options for correcting the workload imbalance. You need to understand, however, that attorneys in a law firm typically outrank office managers. If all the lawyers involved are happy with the status quo, her power to make adjustments may be limited.

If you do manage to get the work reallocated, then Carly will be busy and your problem will be solved. But if this proves to be impossible, try to remember that Carly’s relaxed working conditions have been created by her attorneys. As long as they are pleased with her performance, she is doing nothing wrong. Continuing to dwell on this inequity will only make you increasingly unhappy.

Sometimes we make a problem worse by the way we think about it. Here are some suggestions for shifting your perspective: Improving Your Self Talk.

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