Managing Employees

When Workplace 'Slackers' Derail the Cohesion of a Team

Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

There's nothing more frustrating for managers than having a lazy team member. All it takes is one toxic person to hack and short-circuit the overall effectiveness of a team. Slackers spread a host of negative emotions throughout a team, leaving a sense of unease. If not handled effectively and efficiently, this can turn into a disease.

Slackers can fuel tension, lead to distractions that impede team success and even even damage the reputation of a business. Managers often don't want to admit that they have a person messing up their team. But over time if there are no improvements in the behavior of this person, managers may be forced to let him or her go. 

Related: 3 Strategies for Dealing With Toxic People

1. Creating distractions. 

Slackers might have a passive-aggressive personality and a tendency to easily distract those around them by being disruptive and bothersome. Slackers talk too much, do too little, drag their feet on projects and have a million excuses about why they cannot complete their work.

It's difficult to manage these toxic people and equally tough to work with them as part of a team. They are inherently self-centered and gain psychological power over the team through an ability to distract others from the goal and keep them off-balance.

2. Disrupting work flow.

Because slackers are slow to finish their tasks or do incomplete work, sustained progress toward a goal is disrupted. Other team members subsequently carry the load intended for the slacker, causing increased stress, anger and resentment. Yet slackers thrive on laziness and conflict.

And slackers enjoy rewards in two ways: Other team members do their work and the resentment building in other players gives the slacker control and power.

Slackers need negative attention almost as much as they need oxygen. They are masters at argument and excuse making, creating no-win situations after a confrontation. They never admit to being wrong, take no ownership and end up rewarded while harder-working team members are punished.

Related: How to Say No to the Employee Who Interrupts

3. Provoking frustration.

Slackers gain power by underachieving, which provokes frustration in other team members. Slackers make managers and team members angry because they get away with missing deadlines, delaying the timeliness of group projects. They are recognized as part of the team while essentially doing no hard work.

4. Thriving on confusion.

Because they're often likable, slackers can be difficult for managers and team members to deal with. Such a personality type gives slackers a potent hacking ability because others might look past the frustrating behaviors.

Since slackers can be charismatic and fun, this instills guilt and confusion in those who manage or work with them. It's difficult to discipline slackers because it's counterintuitive to punish someone so liked by team members and managers.

The guilt and lack of discipline create covert tensions in co-workers and managerest and undercut the effectiveness of the team. This hidden tension is the disease that eventually poisons the team.

5. Damaging the company's reputation.

One of the most detrimental things slackers do is sully the reputation of the team and the company. Slackers hack the whole dynamic of the team by impeding its progress. They don't interact well with people who demand anything and that includes customers.

Once a customer is frustrated, a poor reputation for the company can spread through word-of-mouth. Managers end up dealing with the backlash from frustrated customers, team members find themselves punished more often by the manager, and tensions escalate among staffers forced to work with someone who refuses to perform.

Managers need to get ahold of this situation quickly. All it takes is one person to completely short-circuit a team. Slackers need to be terminated quickly and efficiently. Managers need to handle interactions with these toxic people firmly, respectfully and be 100 percent resolute in a termination. 

Great managers are not fearful of threats, arguments or backlash when it comes to cutting loose slackers who bring down the team. Supervisors need to understand the patterns, identify them early, create situations to be able to document them, not give extra chances or make excuses for the slacker and remove them from the team, elevating it back to functionality and success.  

Related: 5 Secrets of a Jerk-Free Workplace