What to Do When an Employee Isn't Pulling Her Weight

female employee

Where do co-workers turn if they find themselves dealing with an employee not pulling her weight? Does your company have policy in place to deal with this demoralizing behavior?

Reason Employee Not Pulling Her Weight

The number one business-related frustration listed by workers is seeing others not pulling their weight. But when an employee's performance is lacking, should they be fired? Not always.

A lot goes into training an employee, so before you decide to throw that away, it's best to determine the reason for the poor performance. If an employee's skills are inadequate, most likely they wouldn't have been hired in the first place. So identifying the reason for the problem is the first step in addressing it.


At times, what some perceive to be an employee not pulling her weight might really be a case of miscommunication. Communication needs to be clear not only between management and employees, but among the employees themselves. If you have an employee that doesn't seem to be carrying their share of the workload, the first step is to make sure to communicate what is expected from the employee. This can be addressed at a staff meeting, through an inter-office memo or in a face-to-face situation like an employee assessment.

When you sit down with the employee in a one-on-one situation, be prepared to address the problem in a non-threatening but direct manner. Ask the employee if they are aware that not all the work is getting done. Then, involve them in finding the solution. Each situation will be unique and have to be handled accordingly. Making the employee part of the solution will send them back to their desk motivated rather than disgruntled.

If a worker doesn't really understand what is expected of them, their performance will come across as poor. When something needs to be done, and the employee isn't sure if it is their responsibility or if it is okay for them to perform the task, the work won't get done. Make sure to provide a written copy of job responsibilities to avoid such confusion. This not only makes it clear for the employee, but it also provides documentation for the employer as to what has been communicated.

Inadequate Training

One reason for an employee not pulling her weight within the workplace can be the need for training. It can be as simple as teaching the employee time management skills to help them multi-task in today's work environment.

Even if the employee has worked for the company for years, a diminishing performance can flag the need for additional training. Changing technology sometimes leaves employees who have a history of good work performance wondering how to do things the new way. Along with upgrades, employees need help and a place to turn with questions without being made to feel stupid or inadequate.

If adequate training is made available and the worker doesn't seem to grasp the new procedures, it's best to move them to a job better suited to their skill-level.

Problem Attitude

If the employee is skilled but doesn't perform at an acceptable level, the employer will have to determine whether or not the problem lies with the employee's attitude. It's one thing when a person's skills are inadequate or might even be a slow worker, but a bad attitude can cause problems throughout the workforce.

An 'I don't care' attitude' will be reflected in tardiness, long lunches and low output. Books like Why Employees Don't Do What They're Supposed To Do and What To Do About It offer guidance to help identify the problem and offers practical solutions.

Policy Manual

A policy manual and regular staff meetings keep expectations clear and offer a venue to ask questions and express goals. These meetings should be structured so as not to become ineffective.

Suggestion Box

Another way to open communication between employees and management is to place a suggestion box in a central location. However, if suggestions are made they need to be addressed. If not, employees will look at the gesture as nothing more than a token effort on management's side, rather than a real way to deal with problems or to make improvements.

Don't Ignore Poor Performance

Remember, seeing another employee not pulling their weight is the top frustration listed by employees. If an employee is not carrying their share, it reflects on management. Don't assume your workforce is content. Take steps to know what's happening in your business, and if you find a problem don't ignore it. If an employee gets paid for doing less work than others, soon the problem may spread or even cause your more efficient workers to look for a new job.

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What to Do When an Employee Isn't Pulling Her Weight