April 21, 2021

Coworkers That Don’t Do Their Job

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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We are talking about something that impacts most people at one point or another – and that is how to handle when coworkers don’t do their job.

I hear about it in my personal life, I experienced it in my career, and it’s a grievance I hear from 80% of my clients.

Whether it is your boss, a peer, or someone new, there is someone at work who isn’t as competent as you’d like.

It could be they aren’t meeting your expectations, that they miss deadlines, that they aren’t as competent as you would expect. All of those things apply here.

In this episode, I’m sharing how this shows up for my clients and my 3 step process for handling this situation, so you can stop being frustrated and get the outcome you want.

What You’ll Learn

My 3 step process for what to do when you work with someone who isn’t doing their job

How to stop feeling stressed and frustrated at work and at home

How to get what you need at work, regardless of your coworkers who aren’t doing their job

Featured in This Episode

Learn more about coaching with Melissa. 

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Hello everyone!


I’m so glad to have you here for this week’s episode of the podcast.

Today we are going to talk about something that impacts most people at one point or another.

I hear about it in my personal life, I experienced it in my career, and it’s a grievance I hear from 80% of my clients and that is, when you work with someone you don’t think is doing their job.

Or it could be they aren’t meeting your expectations, that they miss deadlines, that they aren’t as competent as you would expect.  All of those things apply here.

I find this is especially irritating for people who have done the job before.  I was talking to a client who was extremely frustrated that they used to do the same role, then they were promoted to lead the team, backfilled their role, only to find the person could barely keep up.  Work was not getting done as quickly or efficiently as it could.

Another one of my clients struggled with her boss not fitting the bill. She wasn’t doing the job as well as my client expected her to and she felt like she was babysitting all the time.  This one is a bit more complicated so if this is you, I would suggest going back and listening to the episode “When you know more than your boss”

I have a couple clients who struggle with a global team, a team that is supposed to provide a certain level of support but doesn’t seem to ever have any answers and in fact, just creates more work for them.

Another has to get used to onboarding new members to the team that don’t have the experience that they should have for the industry and that creates a lot of confusion and extra work.

Another struggles with a management that seems to consistently choose people that don’t have the technical skills to do their job properly. A belief here is that the manager doesn’t have the technical skills to really choose someone who would be a good fit, so those that are down doing the work are the ones that have to suffer and the manager doesn’t know the difference.

So you see, there are a lot of ways that this shows up for you at work.  The common theme is that you find yourself in a situation where you have a coworker, whether a peer or in your management, that isn’t meeting your expectations.

Did you catch that? You may be thinking, hold up, it isn’t that they aren’t meeting my expectations, they are just not doing their job, it’s a fact, maybe even people agree with you.

I get it. I’ve been there too. I have clients that deal with this as well.

So we are going to dive right into my first piece of advice on how to handle this.  That is, to be aware of your expectations.

You are probably a high performer who does their job extremely well. I mean, most mediocre or poor performers aren’t looking around thinking others aren’t doing their job.

Your expectations for how you do your job and how others do their job, are just your opinion.  Some of you are probably feeling really triggered right now and may be ready to turn this episode off but stick around – you need to hear this.

Because you’re frustrated, you’re stressed, you may be angry about your coworker or multiple coworkers who aren’t doing their job, and I am going to help you feel better about this and manage your mind better so that this isn’t a problem for you.

The first step is to be aware of your own judgement.

So, let’s put that frustration to the side for a minute and explore this.

What are your expectations of this person?

Where do those expectations come from?

Also ask yourself, is it your job to be responsible for this person doing theirs?

I’m guessing not.

Because of this was your direct report, you’d be managing this in a whole different way.

So you’ve asked yourself some tough questions. You can pause this and write them out if you like. If not, go back and really process these questions.

What are your expectations?

Where do they come from?

Is it your responsibility?

Now that you have those answered let’s take it further.

The person who isn’t doing their job has a manager whose job is to make sure they are doing their job.  You may be thinking yes, but they don’t know, they don’t care, maybe they are best friends with their boss and it is all just a toxic situation.

That may be very true.

But how is it helping you to be stressed and frustrated about this?

How is it helping you do your job?

How is it helping your future?

When you focus on other people and their deficiencies, it creates a deficiency in you.

Hear that again:

When you focus on other people and their deficiencies, it creates a deficiency in you.

Spending time thinking about this person and what they are or are not doing, how unfair it is, how they are preventing you from doing your job is causing you to not only feel bad but you’re also probably:

Talking or complaining to others about it

Stressed at home thinking about it

Unintentionally creating a disruption at work with the negativity

Avoiding them and not getting what you need as a result

I’m sure there are some more you can add to this list.

And listen, it sucks, I know. But I want you to move out of this place of frustration to a place of productivity and in service to you.  I want you to have what you need and to feel better about this and to stop letting it frustrate you.

So the first step is to create some awareness about the expectations.

The second step is to manage your thinking.

When you think something like: Jack doesn’t know how to do his job that creates these feelings for you and that creates the actions or inactions that you have of gossiping, avoiding, work arounds etc.

You start behaving differently and feeling the negative consequences of that because of this other person.  That is a whole lot of power you are outsourcing to this coworker who isnt’ do their job.

You may also be thinking, well no, I actually don’t do any of those things, I don’t’ let this affect me and my job performance at all.

If you’re thinking that, I have some homework for you.  Grab a sheet of paper and write down all of the things you think about this coworker.

Then write down all the impact it has on you, could be feelings, could be actions, could be avoidance. Include everything at work and at home, even if it is just time you spend thinking about this person.

Now look at the two lists and ask yourself how they correlate? How are they connected?

If you’re not seeing a connection, ask yourself, if all of the ways it’s impacting you would be your reality if you thought your coworker WAS doing their job.

Spoiler alert, you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t be stressed, you wouldn’t be doing or not doing the same things in relation to this coworker if you thought they were amazing.  Because the whole list of things is because you think they are not.

At this point some of you get this, you understand what I’m saying.

For some of you, you may still be resisting this concept.  I can hear you saying “well I wouldn’t think they are doing their job when they aren’t” or “how can I think they are doing their job when they so clearly are not?”

I hear you.

How do you know they aren’t doing their job?

What tells you they aren’t?

It’s again going back to your expectations.

So you adjust your thinking but adjusting your expectations.

Then you go into the final step which is to decide how you want to manage this coworker who isn’t doing their job.

Instead of staying in frustration, we are going to move into action.

So, how is them not doing their job impacting you?

If it isn’t, if it is just they are getting paid the same or more than you, are in leadership, maybe they are on your team but you don’t directly work together much, well than I would argue you just need to manage your mind on this and let it go.

I teach you how to do that exactly in coaching.

If this is something that impacts you, let’s say they have information you need or a service they provide and you can’t move forward without that information or service.

Then ask yourself, what can you do to get the information?

How can you move forward without it?

You start to move your brain out of feeling frustrated and that it isn’t fair or right to taking the power back and going into problem solving mode.

Because this is causing you stress.

I’m sure the other person isn’t at home stressed that you’re stressed.  They likely don’t even know you’re frustrated.

So your life is being impacted and to change it you need to change something.

Let me tell you about how this impacted one of my clients.  One of my clients spent a lot of time (but she didn’t notice it) complaining about one of her peers.  She didn’t feel they did their job and she felt a responsibility to make up for it. Deadlines were missed, their direct reports didn’t get what they need and were going to her for help, they weren’t engaged in meetings, etc. She was frustrated and also felt it was unfair because she was a high performer, saw how they were dropping the ball, and she had more work because of it.

So she managed this by going to meetings she didn’t need to, to make sure she got information for them when the person wasn’t always going, offering to be back-up for them because she assumed they wouldn’t offer themselves, offering to help their team with any questions, watching them in meetings and frustrated every time they scrolled social media during a meeting, analyzed them every time they talked to their boss or did anything, looking for validation that they were indeed not doing their job.

She talked about them at home, she talked about them in coaching.

This all seemed reasonable. We all have had coworkers that don’t do their job well and she was doing her best to get what she needed to do her job albeit frustrated in the process.

When we broke apart her thoughts about him and how it was driving all of this action and inaction, she could see she was creating more work for herself, that no one asked her to step in, that she decided she needed to manage him rather than let their manager do it.  She thought she was helping them out so everyone got what they needed, but what she did was enabled them to not attend their required meetings, to not support their staff, because she was doing it for them.

Once she was able to see this she started letting go of taking responsibility. She stopped going to their meetings, she stopped raising her hand to step in, she started minding her own business and not letting what he was or was not doing be of concern to her.

We worked on her thoughts and how to tweak them little by little, we worked on the action she could take that would allow her to feel better, we worked on what she wanted her work day to be like and we adjusted her plans accordingly.

She saw how she not only let them influence her thinking and behavior but she contributed to her own stress by training to take control and manage the outcome based on her belief they wouldn’t do their job or do it right.

But she learned how to look at them and herself differently. She learned how to look at her expectations, manage her mind and take the appropriate action to get the result she wanted.

So the first thing you do is look at your expectations and where they come from.

You then manage your mind and become aware of how you thinking this way about your coworker is impacting you at work and at home.

Then you take action – in either managing your mind if they don’t impact your work or going into problem solving mode to get what you need.

You may be thinking this sounds easier than done.

I have worked with many clients on this very thing and this process works.  It is possible to feel better and get what you need, without changing the circumstance, which is that you have a coworker who isn’t meeting your expectations.

We all work with people at some point that don’t do their job as well as we want them too. We can feel like it’s unfair and question ourselves or our company. Why are you giving so much when they are giving so little?

You can think that way but I’m guessing you’re listening to this because you want a solution, because you want to feel better.  The truth is, we can’t fire your coworker. Sure you can escalate things and that is sometimes the best thing to do.  But you can also learn to manage your mind and take responsibility for this.  If you take responsibility, you can move into problem solving and action.  At the end of the day being frustrated or complaining is only hurting you, and others at work may notice, and you don’t need to let this person have that power over you. You can decide not to let them and that starts with looking inward, managing your mind and moving into action with what you can do.

If you want to dig deeper on this, learn to manage your mind in any situation and thrive at work, I encourage you to apply for coaching with me. The first step is to fill out a brief questionnaire that tells me a bit about you, then we will schedule some time for a complementary consultation to confirm we are a good fit.  You will then be well on your way to being happier and more fulfilled at work and at home.

Just go to www.melissamlawrence.com to learn more.  I will put a link in the show notes.

Have an amazing week.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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