Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

Crucial Applications: How to Hold Slacking Coworkers Accountable

According to our recent poll, slacking coworkers cause a quarter of their hard-working colleagues to put in four to six more hours of work each week.

Goodwill isn’t the only victim in this situation—productivity, satisfaction, and quality also suffer. In fact, four out of five say the quality of their work declines when they have to pick up their coworkers’ slack—a huge potential blow to the bottom line when you consider that 93 percent have a coworker who doesn’t do his or her fair share.

With such a great toll on resources, what do the majority of employees do when faced with slacking coworkers? Unfortunately, not much. The study shows that only 10 percent speak up and hold their underperforming colleagues accountable to their bad behavior.

The top five reasons employees list for biting their tongues:

1. They don’t believe what they say will make a difference
2. They don’t want to undermine the working relationship
3. It’s not their place
4. They fear retaliation
5. They don’t know how to approach the conversation

Here are five tips for candidly and respectfully holding coworkers accountable for bad behavior:

1. Suspend judgments and get curious. Perhaps your coworker is unaware of the effects of his or her actions. Enter the conversation as a curious friend rather than an angry coworker.
2. Make it safe. Don’t start by diving into the issue. Establish safety by letting your coworker know you respect him or her and reminding him or her of the mutual goals you share.
3. Share facts and describe the gap. Start with the facts of the issue and strip out accusatory, judgmental, and inflammatory language. Then describe the gap between what was expected and what was delivered.
4. Tentatively share concerns. Having laid out the facts, tell your coworker why you’re concerned. Help your coworker see the natural consequences of his or her actions.
5. Invite dialogue. Next, ask if he or she sees the problem differently. If you are open to hearing others’ points of view, they’ll be more open to yours.

To view an entertaining video about slacking coworkers and access an online game to test your accountability skills, visit

You can learn more insights and skills like this in Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

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