Spot the Work Shirker !

This blogpost is inspired by a real life work shirker that we have had to deal with in the past couple of years. Actually its wrong to use “we” as it is Krishnan who deals with him mostly. The word Shirker is not used widely – it basically means a slacker. Someone who just acts as though he is doing work, but in reality does nothing.

Work Shirker

Work Shirker – List of Traits

  1. Motherhood statements – Every time there is a call, this person would spout off lofty statements. “I am meeting the team tomorrow”. “Everything will be fixed by me”. “I am aware of all these irritating gaps in the process”. “I will train all the team members”. blah blah blah. Yawn. The same statements are repeated with some change in vocabulary in the next meeting.
  2. Changing the goal post – The first update meeting will throw up a set of deliverables and the work shirker would have agreed on some deadline. When the next update meeting happens, he/she starts talking excitedly about a new data point. Some clients get distracted and forget the earlier deliverables. New deadlines are drawn up and the pattern gets repeated.
  3. Timely Personal Challenges – When the work shirker feels pinned down, out comes a personal challenge… father’s health, mother’s sickness, wife’s big toe hitting the TV stand, daughter’s challenges at school, son’s little finger nail infection etc etc. Something that generates a few minutes of sympathy from the client (I can see Shalini laughing and saying, “not you, Bindu”). Shalini is right, it doesn’t generate any sympathy in me but many others do get swayed. The shirker buys time.
  4. Zero Time Off – A work shirker works really hard at making sure everyone thinks he/she is so committed to the organisation and his/her work that they don’t take time off. Even if they have some family commitment they will be available over phone. Most work shirkers return early from their vacation 🙄. Its all a good act to remain a slacker and not be outed.
  5. Boss pleasers – Every single work shirker will sweet talk the boss. “Oh, you are so great !!! I could never have come up with this brilliant idea”. Most bosses melt under the continuous “praise” assault. I have an expression on my face right now that many of my ex-direct reports know very well…… To every boss out there – anyone who bombards you with praise all the time is probably a work shirker. Watch that person’s outcomes closely.
  6. Hiding/Delaying/Incorrect Data – I can say this confidently, that a work shirker will shy away from presenting data on any of their projects. They will delay as far as possible, or hide certain numbers and outcomes. Unless the client or their immediate manager insists on data being given and follows up like a hound after a bone, the shirker will never give the complete data.
  7. Blaming Others who are more competent – This is a common trait in many other people so not a dead giveaway. Do see this trait in combination with some or all of the above. The easiest way to get out of trouble is to point towards another person and say “they” didn’t do their bit and hence things got delayed. Most work shirkers hate competent people. They surround themselves with “yes” folk who are both incompetent and useless but come with a silver tongue (forked yes, but its late when you realise it).
  8. Forever Busy – A work shirker is so busy that he/she has no time for anything. When their team member wants to clarify something, they will be in a meeting with leaders 🙄. If the client calls, they will appear rushed as though they are coming from or going to another client meeting. Their phone will be forever unreachable. For every important meeting with the client, they will show up frazzled as though they are overworked and underpaid.

Phew !! All those eight points just jumped right out, I have written this post without pause 😁.

Work Shirker

If your team has a work shirker or if your peer is one, please do pull them up or put them out. If these folks are allowed to remain on the teams, they will ensure the competent hard worker quits and more incompetent folks get on board. That’s their survival technique.

Some work shirkers will be very competent people, which makes it harder to pin them down. Take help of data and stick to facts. Also be rigorous about meeting deadlines with documentation about delays every single time.

I have had the pleasure of letting go of a couple of work shirkers during my corporate stint. It wasn’t pleasant but what a change it was to team morale ! I spotted this work shirker who inspired this blog post in the very first call with us. Despite informing the CEO of the organisation about the pitfalls of continuing with this character, nothing has changed.

Krishnan has more compassion than me, so he deals with this team…. the price is being paid by the client and the project. 🙁

Beware of these energy drainers !!

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