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Slacker culture holding you back?

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  “I am a young, ambitious employee in a large agency where many people spend their time doing anything but work. They play computer games, surf the web, take smoke breaks, read the paper, discuss TV shows, gossip about celebrities, manage their finances, and plan vacations. When these lazy co-workers try to give me their assigned tasks, I always reply courteously by saying, “Just OK it with the manager, then I’ll be glad to help you.”  So far, our boss hasn’t given me any of their work. Because my goal is to get into management, I can’t decide whether to officially report this widespread abuse of time. Doing so could either demonstrate my initiative and dedication or mark me as a whistle-blower and kill my chances for advancement.” — Hard Worker

Marie’s Answer: Your response to inappropriate requests is politically brilliant, but confronting chronic idleness is a much greater challenge. Here are my thoughts on the situation:

•    Your slothful colleagues obviously have a sorry work ethic, but management must share the blame for this unproductive environment. Your boss is either apathetic or incredibly timid, and the higher-ups have done nothing to address the problem.  

•    If you can identify an influential manager who seems receptive, then you could consider raising the issue. However, it may be time to stop worrying about the agency and start worrying about yourself, because this poorly run organization is a complete mismatch for your personality.  

•    Since you will never single-handedly change this slacker culture, consider finding a workplace where your drive and motivation will be fully appreciated. Otherwise, you may gradually evolve from a frustrated young employee into a frustrated aging manager.  

For suggestions on dealing with problem colleagues, see The Best Way to Complain About Coworkers.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Celina Macaisa May 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm

If I knew then, what I know now, I would have given a higher priority to doing some checking first and applying only to companies with a quality company culture (or companies that make you better).

Quality company culture can exist in small to large-sized firms. Dianne Crampton’s book, “TIGERS Among Us: Winning Business Team Cultures And Why They Thrive,” features four of them: Zappos, Tribe Inc., 4Refuel, and Dos Gringos.

You can also check out an article from, “Lessons from a Blue-Collar Millionaire” on how a surprisingly humble businesses can teach you great lessons about company culture; and how a management style that is aligned with its corporate values can bring out the best from its employees.


Mohan M Prasad April 23, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I think so far you are just doing the right thing.

As regards, the way your colleagues are going about their working hours, well as of now there are seniors and their reporting managers who have to take cognizance, take charge and control.

May be you are apprehensive about how in your aspiration to move into the management, you are going to manage this type of situation which does not seem conducive at all.

Cross the bridge when it comes.

Taking a moral ground to blow the whistle, makes sense, but only when you are aware of certain facts and which is not obvious to the larger audience in Office.

Think about it.

Mohan M Prasad


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