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When a team member is slacking off

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by on
in Leaders & Managers,People Management

When Don went on vacation two weeks ago, Regina reduced his assignment load and reset his deadlines so that he could enjoy his time off. But since he got back, Don has been drifting, and his production is low. This morning, when Regina stopped to ask about a project, Don was doing the newspaper crossword puzzle. And Regina wonders why he has the new Harry Potter book open on his desk. What should Regina do?

Get the worker's attention. Describe the behavior you see and the changes you want to see. Do not play psychologist and analyze the employee's motives.

Review objectives and deadlines. The problem may be that the worker doesn't have enough meaningful work to do, or lacks clear-cut time frames for doing it. Even if the objectives are clear, workers can lose sight of them when their attention is focused elsewhere— especially away from the workplace.

Let the worker know your expectations. Acknowledge good work done in the past and express confidence that current projects will be completed effectively and timely.

Here's how Regina put these ideas to work:

Regina: Don, you've been back for over a week now, and you don't seem to be working with your usual enthusiasm. I know it can be hard to get back in the groove, but I really need your best contributions. (Get his attention.) Is anything wrong I should know about?

Don: No, it's just like you say— post-vacation letdown, I guess. Maybe I haven't been concentrating as much as usual.

Regina: I'm glad to hear that, but I must ask that you save the books and newspapers for lunch and after work. It makes it look like work's not a top priority around here, and that sends a bad message to the rest of the team—especially now, when we've got these major projects in the pipeline.

Don: Ugh. You're right. I had kind of forgotten about the schedule coming up when I was on vacation. I guess that's why I went on vacation.

Regina: Believe me, I understand, and I didn't want you to worry about it then. But now, we need your full effort to get these projects done right and on time. The Helmstead job's due early next month, and we have several milestones we have to meet starting this week. (Review objectives and deadlines.)

Don: OK, I get the message. We do need to get serious about the Helmstead job. That timeline is going to be a challenge, and they're a pretty demanding customer. I know the other guys on the team aren't as familiar with what's going to be expected of them. So I'm going to have to review their work to make sure it's up to snuff.

Regina: But you have a reputation for coming through in a pinch, and I'm confident you'll help bring this project in on schedule. (Let the worker know your expectations.) In fact, I'm counting on you.

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