Working with people is almost never a simple matter, but it can become even more complicated when the project manager has to deal with a lazy team member. In many cases, dismissing the person from the team is not a possible or acceptable solution. As the project manager, you have to find other ways to deal with this problem, and quickly.
Who Labeled the Team Member as “Lazy”?
Determine the basis on which the team member was labeled as “lazy”. If he or she was classified as such by the other team members, they might not be objective. This is why it is important to analyze the performance evaluation reports, which should have clear metrics for monitoring all team members’ evolution.
Lazy or Performing at a Different Pace than Others?
Sometimes, a team member is not lazy at all, but only performs slower than others, while still bringing value to your team. In this case, you need to understand why the team member takes longer than others to perform a task. You may be dealing with a perfectionist, or a person who does not like his or her role in the team.
If, based on documentation, you conclude that the team member does not only perform tasks at a slower pace than others, but constantly underperforms, fails to meet deadlines, demonstrates a continuous lack of commitment to work, it means the person is genuinely lazy and a danger to the project. You need to find a solution fast.
Find the Cause for Laziness
Understand who assigned the lazy team member to the team and on which basis he or she was selected. The person might have been assigned to the project from another department, or might have been selected based on skills and experience. This can sometimes be an easy way to find why the team member underperforms and deal with the cause.
You also need to determine whether the team member underperforms over a longer period of time or just temporary. Maybe the team member worked too many overtime hours during a period and is just exhausted. You can easily check that if you are using RationalPlan, by analyzing the Level Resources spreadsheet in the Planning section. You can track the hours assigned to that particular team member and also see if he or she is working on other projects within your organization. By talking to this person in private about the reason of the underperformance, you may get to the cause of the problem and take measures to eliminate it. The reasons for underperformance or laziness can be so many, so until you find the exact cause, you cannot take measures to correct it and bring the team member’s performance in line with your expectations.
Develop a Strategy to Eliminate the Cause
Once you identify the cause for underperformance, use your leadership skills to motivate that person. Develop a strategy to make the lazy team member understand the value of his or her contribution to the team and, ultimately, to the success of the project. You may need to assign the individual to another project or to another role in your team. Your decision should be based on how fast you can find a replacement, in the first case, and on how much value the team member would bring to your team, in the second case.
Regardless of the particulars of a case, having to deal with a lazy team member is likely not going to be a single occurrence in your career as a project manager. It is, thus, important to always document the team members’ progress, define clear metrics for performance evaluation, and keep track of the hours each team member works in your organization, so that you can identify the cause for the laziness of a team member and eliminate it.
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