Some managers are fortunate enough to have hard-working, dedicated employees who go above and beyond. But what happens if a member of your team just isn't pulling his weight? Dealing with a slacker isn't easy, but here's how to handle it.

1. Document the problem

It's one thing for an otherwise solid employee to botch a major project or miss one or two deadlines. But if you have someone on your team who's constantly late to the office or whose work consistently shows poor quality, it's time to sit that person down for a serious talk.

Man in suit looking stern, sitting across the desk from a woman.


First, be firm and list the various ways that employee is falling down on the job. Next, put that person on a performance improvement plan where you map out a series of changes that must be made for that employee to keep his or her job. Review that plan periodically and be sure to document all incidents where it's not being followed.

Putting goals in writing and tracking them accordingly is a good way to get an otherwise poor performer to turn things around, but just as importantly, it's something you need to do for legal reasons. That's because if you do wind up having to let that employee go, you'll have evidence that you're not being discriminatory or unfair. Rather, you'll be able to prove that that person failed to adhere to the plan you both agreed on.

2. Find out what makes that employee tick

Sometimes, workers slack off because they're bored with their assignments or feel like they're not learning anything new. If you have an employee who started out great but has faltered over time, it's in your best interest to figure out how to motivate that individual to do better. This could mean giving him or her more responsibilities (even though that might seem counterintuitive), or sitting down and talking about the things the employee would rather be working on. You might even allow him or her to take a break from current duties, if you have the resources to cover the person's usual tasks, so that he or she can dabble in other areas of the business. Then, if you find that that employee starts to show up on time and get work done ahead of schedule as a result, you can take steps to align the person's workload with the things that engage him or her the most.

3. When all else fails, let that worker go

Sometimes, despite your best efforts as a manager, you run into a situation where an employee just can't get his or her act together. If that's the case, then you may have no choice but to fire that worker and put an end to a bad situation that isn't improving.

Remember, as a manager, your employees' performance generally affects your own, so if you have someone on your team who isn't doing his or her job and refuses to make an effort to improve, it's critical that you take action. Tough as it may be to have to fire someone, and time-consuming as it may be to go through the interview process and find a replacement, you're better off going that route than dealing with someone on your team whose performance just won't cut it.

In an ideal world, all of your workers would put forth a solid effort all of the time. But if that's not your reality, and you have a major slacker on your hands, then you'll need to take action. Ignoring the problem will only make you look weak as a manager and quite possibly cause dissatisfaction among your team members who are hard-working -- so don't hesitate to intervene when a direct report is clearly underperforming.