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The Coworker with Friends


Giselle from Chicago, writes:

“I work in a large retail store. Normally everything is great until the ‘friends’ are working together. They spend so much time talking with one another that they never do anything! They ignore customers, they don’t do their merchandising or any cleaning. They have the manager wound around their little fingers, so he doesn’t see it. It’s frustrating to know they get paid the same as I do…”

Frustrating, indeed. And a lot of the options open to us in these circumstances can have quite counterproductive consequences. You could talk to the manager, but you run the risk of coming across as a whiner. You could talk with one or both of the friends, but chances are you’ll just alienate yourself. You could just do all the work yourself, but you’re not likely to get any recognition or appreciation for your efforts. It’s a tough one.

The best solution involves two parts:

1. Rather than approach the friends and ask them to work harder, or scold them for their behaviour, ask them questions that help them re-focus on the jobs at hand. Questions like, “Do you know – are we supposed to have the whole section cleaned up by the end of our shift?” or, “Are we allowed opening up another cash register when it gets busy?” Ask the questions genuinely – leave any sarcasm out. Often all it takes to refocus a co-worker to the job at hand is a little spark.

2. If part one fails, part two is to reconcile yourself to the fact that, if you can’t control it, you might as well not worry about it. Do your own job to the best of your ability, and let the chips fall where they may. What goes around really does come back around. While the friends may not be facing the consequences at the moment, it will happen eventually. If you allow yourself to get bitter and twisted about it, though, it will affect your own performance, so don’t worry about ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’ at the moment. Do your best, and fair will come. Honest.

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