Momentum How To Avoid Procrastination

AUDIO: Is There a Cure-all for the Lazy Employee?

by Greg Yates | Breakthrough Leadership

“I thought you said she wasn’t going to make it”, I questioned. I was surprised to see a low performing employee staring at her cell phone when I entered the store. “I didn’t think she would”, came the reply. I assumed that meant her performance had improved and I was glad to hear it. But that wasn’t to be the case. “She just keeps showing up.” As if somehow that really were a shocking skill.

I used to say, just hire them if they seem capable. We won’t really know for 90 days anyway. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a costly excuse for failing to engage in the most powerful time saving, energy sapping process in the entire organization: training and re-training our people.

The fact often is that a lazy employee is the result of a lazy hiring process.


Retention is a double-edged sword and here’s why: we struggle to retain the people we really want because we’ve retained the people who aren’t in our tribe.

They don’t care about our mission or apply themselves to a shared purpose.

And why is that? Because they haven’t done anything BAD enough to terminate them. They keep showing up, even if showing up just means their body made the trip.

This triggers one of the greatest barriers to team development there is. The average leadership level is averaging DOWN, instead of up. It’s a vicious cycle. If you want the respect of your best employees, they have to know you’re defending the team from imposters.

THERE IS A CURE-ALL, and here it is:

1. Start with a Clear Definition of Success for the Team and the Individual 

Put it in writing but don’t leave it there.

Ask them to echo back what you have said.

This is the first place to listen for their core beliefs which will manifest very soon after they’re hired. This begins in the interview process. Far too often employees don’t see themselves as lazy because they don’t have a clear and persistently reinforced vision of what success looks like.

2. No Moving Targets

There’s a difference between intentional laziness and someone who is unclear on a ‘situational’ Definition of Success. Lazy isn’t about just being busy, it’s about getting traction toward a specific purpose. I’ve seen a lot of lazy employees who figured out how to LOOK busy.

3. Regular feedback

You can’t make assumptions as a leader.

Quality, honest and regular feedback is key to weeding out the lazy team member. Simply being irritated at them doesn’t help.

Structured feedback begins in the interview process.

Here’s what will be expected and here’s how we’re going to measure it and give feedback: knowing clearly what will be acceptable will help your people to know where they stand and often they will take care of the problem themselves one way or the other.

You Don’t Have to Settle

Learning how to begin with the end in mind is a powerful skill in the Breakthrough Leadership Movement. Upgrading your interviewing skills is a powerful step toward turning your team into a functional tribe.

Don’t settle for less.

Add your comments to the conversation: 

Think back on the lazy employees you’ve encountered over the years.

Was there a lack of leadership? Or a failure in the hiring process?

Post your reply below.

About Greg

Greg Yates has been a Chicago area businessman for over 30 years. He’s the author of the book, "Broken - How Being Broken Unlocked The Greatest Success of My Life". He has simultaneously owned 14 different businesses in a variety of industries; including real estate, manufacturing, payroll, and technology. Greg has also been an investor and a board member. He attended Olivet Nazarene University. He has a passion for flying. He’s had a pilot’s license for over 30 years and owned a variety of airplanes. Greg and his wife Vicki have been married over 37 years. They have a son, a daughter and seven grandchildren.

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