How to talk to support staff without sounding like a condescending jerk?
September 9, 2014 2:55 PM   Subscribe

I need to start to shift the work culture among a couple members of our support staff. Snowflakes and unicorns inside.

I work with two support staff members who are deeply entrenched in the way-they've-always-done-things and who have also been at their jobs for many, many years. I'm a relatively recent hire, and younger than both by probably about 15 years. Although I'm not exactly a "superior" to them in rank, they do support the work that I do, so I frequently give them direction.

These two basically do the minimum required of them unless they're given specific tasks by me or my colleagues. Often, they won't do something that's clearly needed unless they're specifically asked to do it. There are also other circumstances that make them grumpy about their current work situation.

We're pretty frustrated and need to convey to them that they need to take greater initiative in determining what needs to be done, and then doing it, on their own.

Even typing this, though, I fear sounding like a nagging parent, which I absolutely want to avoid. I want to be able to convey this in a positive, mature, diplomatic way that makes it sound as neutral as possible. I tend to be very direct, however, so this kind of communication is not my strong suit.

Any suggestions about how I might approach conveying this message?
posted by Ms. Toad to Work & Money (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This definitely needs to heavily involve their direct supervisor. Probably mostly their direct supervisor. If they support the work of multiple people, including you, then you are 100% the wrong person to deliver this message. If their supervisor won't have the conversation with them, then that's another issue that you'll have to deal with, but this is a management issue and needs to be conveyed by their manager, with very clear objectives, and clear consequences.
posted by brainmouse at 2:58 PM on September 9, 2014 [23 favorites]

It is their line manager's job to manage them in this way. If you are to redirect them on general stuff like this, you need to get the line manager's approval and buy-in for your approach.
posted by grouse at 3:00 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can't give them that speech. Their supervisor can, you can't.

That said, give them a list of things you need done. Make it a process and document it, with screen shots. Flow charts, with if-then statements.

If they need it all laid out for them, lay it out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:01 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To be clear - and still trying to remain anonymous - this is more of an academic type world, so traditional management approaches don't quite apply, even if they should. Although they have a supervisor, it's a very loosely defined relationship, and I'm of the same "rank" as that person. I'm essentially just a hair away from being their supervisor.
posted by Ms. Toad at 3:05 PM on September 9, 2014

Who can fire them? THAT'S the person who can tell them how to do this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

Do you have the power to fire them? If they request PTO, who approves that request? That person needs to be the one delivering the message. Relative rank/level is irrelevant, and again it sounds like there are multiple people who interact with them at the same level you do, which makes you even more the wrong person. I understand that for professors/etc the management thing doesn't really apply, but I worked in academic administration for years and there was definitely an understanding of reporting order there.
posted by brainmouse at 3:08 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

The reason this is important is because of consequences. If you have this conversation with them, what happens after you "convey to them that they need to take greater initiative in determining what needs to be done, and then doing it, on their own." They need to do that or what? What is the consequence if they don't do that? They know they've been there for 15 years, they know you can't fire them, they will know that you were unwilling to bring their chain of command into that discussion regardless of the reason, and they won't change, because why on Earth would they? If this is important to your business, someone above them with power needs to address that. If nobody above them with power is willing to address that, then you have terrible management and it will never get better so you'll need to figure out another plan. But a stern talking to from the people they don't report to will have exactly 0 effect on anything ever.
posted by brainmouse at 3:16 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Trying not to threadsit, but I feel the need to still clarify to get closer to the answers I seek: let's say I am their supervisor. How could I convey this message to them with a mature, diplomatic tone?
posted by Ms. Toad at 3:21 PM on September 9, 2014

Is there any kind of formal review process? Like an annual review? That might be a good place to initiate the conversation (though probably not as quickly as you'd like). This is super-hard. I've never seen anyone do it successfully (but I've worked in some pretty dysfunctional academic settings, so don't take that as a complete sign of doom!).

I feel like the best approach would be from the angle of "What tools/skills/help do you need so that you can do the work we need you to do?" Do *not* approach it from the angle that "we need you to put in more effort" even if that's what clearly seems like the solution. One way or another they are comfortable with the amount of effort they are putting in now.

I think all the stuff about getting their supervisors involved is a red herring, because we all know these people aren't getting fired or anything.
posted by mskyle at 3:28 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

People generally want to take initiative and solve problems, and to be helpful to other people. They may feel that there's something preventing this; maybe they're afraid to take any risks by doing things that aren't specifically spelled out, or maybe they're so angry about something that they really don't want to help someone specifically. If you take the time to talk to them about what's getting in their way (anger, fear of messing up, not feeling that they know enough about what's going on), you could not only learn useful information, but also somewhat befriend them.

I think that academic "support staff" sometimes feel that Ph.D.'s and graduate students feel look down on them because of the way academic culture seems to work, so you might have to go to some trouble to get past that -- especially if they're right (not necessarily about you, but maybe about the attitudes of some of the other academics).
posted by amtho at 3:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

Punishment doesn't inspire people to take ownership of their work, which is what you want, right? Feeling invested does that. They've been so bureaucratized this is close to impossible.

Having worked in settings like this, with individuals like this, the only thing I've seen work as an effective motivator is a move to another department, new job specs and more flattering titles, and most importantly, a bump in pay. (And, not sure how long this works, to be honest. They've lived through a dozen different managers, initiatives, systems, etc. I'm pretty sure they're mostly interested in keeping their heads down until they can take their pensions, and don't blame them for it, either.)

I think you'll more or less have to get used to being explicit in your requests, and being grateful for and gracious about whatever you get back. (Because that does seem to grease the wheels a bit better; people will work harder to please someone they like who respects them). Ask for their opinions -- they have institutional knowledge that could be valuable to you.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:39 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

To clarify: I'm not at all suggesting that you listen for a while, then tell them "Well, whatever, you need to do better".

Rather, listen for a while, with sincere humility, then tell them "I had no idea, thanks! I'll do X from now on," or "I'm not sure I can really help, but I can at least try to do Y so you'll be able to feel freer to do your job," or "I'll be glad to talk to Dr. Z if that will help you".

I don't work in academia, but I have friends who do, one of whom falls into the "angry and fettered support staff" category.
posted by amtho at 3:40 PM on September 9, 2014

I once had a coworker like this. She'd worked at the company for years and years, and she only did the bare minimum required of her and seemed to actively resist learning anything new. And it was because she knew she could get away with it. What's the point of working hard if you've gotten away with slacking for ages?

I worked with her for years, and everyone who worked with her during that time complained about her. Every single person. I know our supervisor had several serious talks with her about her lackluster performance, though I don't know what was said in those meetings. Eventually, she was let go - to my surprise, because I (and maybe she) assumed she'd just be puttering around until her retirement day. I don't know what the last straw was.

Some slackers turn into stars in the right work environment - generally one in which they're given more initiative and in which their opinions are solicited and treated as valuable. Others won't shape up unless there's a real chance that they'll be terminated otherwise, and possibly not even then. I'd guess your coworkers fall in the latter category, considering how long they've been there, but either way the well's been poisoned for a long time now. Can you transition them to another department? Can you fire them?
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Is it actually clear to them when things are needed, and that they are the people who should be helping out with tasks not explicitly assigned to them? As a support staffer I have sometimes been reluctant to take initiative since sometimes managers have told me I am overstepping the bounds of my job. I know you can't lay out their responsibilities 100%, but maybe provide some more general guidelines about the types of situations they should be dealing with?
posted by ferret branca at 3:56 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Give them the task of making a list of tasks to be done. Make that a recurring task, say weekly. You and your supported colleagues can adjust priorities as appropriate, and you'll let them know when something comes up that needs to jump the queue and get immediate attention. If you find there are things that should be on the list, but they're not showing up, give them feedback.
posted by in278s at 4:03 PM on September 9, 2014

If you are, in fact, their supervisor and can, in fact, get them fired, you will need to make it explicit that they need to do x, y, z or they could lose their jobs. And if you can't play that card, then there may be nothing you can really do about this other than, as others are saying, getting better at communicating what you want in specific from them.

There are likely situational factors and "personality" factors at play here. If they think they can just do the minimum and not get fired, they may well do that, no matter how much you talk -- especially if they have reason to believe that doing more is a bigger problem for them than doing less. I have worked for a big bureaucracy* and we were routinely told that we should "look out for the customer first, not for ourselves" but they made it super hard to do that. When I did look out for the customer first, it sometimes went on my quality assessment as me failing to do my job properly. yay.

* Funny Freudian-slip style typo: I initially wrote bureaucrazy.
posted by Michele in California at 4:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Schedule a separate, private meeting with each one of them.

Start each conversation with a brief headline about the topic and form of the conversation: It would be really helpful to me if you would anticipate more tasks that need to get done. I want to take this time to explain what I mean and to hear your thoughts about it. Then I'm hoping we can come up with some solutions together.

Describe 2-4 concrete things that happenes: For example, we ran out of pens the other day.

Explain the impact those scenarios had on you: When I couldn't find a pen, I had to borrow yours, and that seemed like a hassle for both of us.

Describe what you would like him/her to do differently: I don't go into the supply closet very often. It seems like you're there daily, and when you notice that the pens are running low, it would be really helpful if you would order more.

Ask for her/his thoughts: Would that work for you? What else could we do to anticipate similar situations like this?

If appropriate, empathize with frustration and offer help: I know you're frustrated with the boring/repetitive/etc. parts of your job. What can I do to help?

Come up with a very explicit plan: Ok, so you'll check the supplies every week from now on and order anything that seems to be running low. I'll make sure that you have the account information so you can authorize the purchase without having to check in with me. Let's check back in in 3 months to see how that's going.

It may be an uncomfortable conversation. S/he may need to take some time to think about it and revisit the issues later. But if you avoid generalizations about him/her, explain the situation from your perspective (as opposed to "The Truth"), solicit responses, and develop a plan are tackling it in a mature way.
posted by equipoise at 4:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

Hierarchy and direction are not a good way to go here. They will (in solidarity with each other) agree on a negative view of you and find ways to evade.

I'd suggest you try a different approach -- be friendly, and be fun. If they like you and you need help on something to do your job, then they will view doing that as something they are providing willingly, not because it is required. So to me, I'd do this in steps:

1. Make friends, in a genuine way. Ask how they are, about their family and interests, and try to do some enjoyable things with them like chat or have coffee together or share fruit.

2. Ask what their suggestions are for things you need to support your job. E.g., if you need the copier regularly refilled, tell them about your project that requires reams of printing and ask for help solving the problem of getting enough paper on hand to get that done smoothly.

3. Be appreciative, even if it is their job to do x or y. People respond to positive reinforcement, and sincere thanks is one great way to deliver that. Consider (small) gifts for big contributions, like candy or veggies from your garden.
posted by bearwife at 4:27 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

People generally want to take initiative and solve problems, and to be helpful to other people. They may feel that there's something preventing this;

That's definitely possible. Do they have the authority to do things on their own initiative, or do they have to go through you to get your approval, which you may well not give because whatever they decided to take initiative on you don't actually need and won't approve? That is by far the biggest impediment to a more autonomous work force.

That said, in an academic setting, support staff is support staff and they will likely be support staff forever. So there will never be an incentive in place for them to prove that they can "take the lead." They have a job to do they've always done and you're effectively changing their job description to something they didn't sign up for and something they weren't planning to do. That's ok, just remember what you're asking.

Specify the tasks they "should" be doing and checkpoint once a week or so to make sure they're being done. Make it a new expected part of their job that you've explicitly tasked them with.
posted by deanc at 4:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've seen this. And what you want to do is harder than you think.

These ladies (I assume they're ladies; they usually are) may have been around since the days when there were only two kinds of people at universities: Professors and Secretaries. People with power, and people with no power. People who get to tell people what to do, and people who wait to be told what to do. There was no incentive to do more, because it didn't get you a promotion or a raise, and on the rare occasion you did something outside the box, you might be told that you are overstepping your position.

They may also be of a generation for whom being a secretary was actually a decent career option for a woman. They might even be ok with being called a secretary, as opposed to an Administrative Coordinator or Support Liaison or whatever BS title someone in HR came up with to make the new people coming in feel better about themselves.

And now, suddenly, there's another layer of people that outrank them: the professional staff. There are managers and directors! They have degrees and ideas and ambition! They might even get to work flexible hours or work from home! And now people want them to come up with Personal Development Plans and think about where they see themselves in five years.

Does that sound about right?

You're fighting academic culture (and, depending on your school, possibly state bureaucracy culture) that has led these folks to believe they are second-class citizens. Because they were told, or treated like, they were. Of course they're grumpy about their situations.

So how do you cut through the walls they've built around themselves? Listen to them. Ask for their input, their advice - especially on subjects like who to talk to about X or how to fill out form Y. Build a team culture of "we" - them and you - and mean it. Thank them when they're helpful. Be patient when they're not. Bring in a box of donuts. Be kind.

(apologies for the soapbox. I am thinking about the ladies who occasionally drove me nuts but whose help made me look good in my last job)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [17 favorites]

Have a little meeting.

"What do you guys think could be done better around here?"

They'll dish out their shit, then you can dish out some of their own, but make it about processes and not people.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:41 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Often, they won't do something that's clearly needed unless they're specifically asked to do it.

Ask yourself:

1) What are the negative consequences they face if they act without instructions and there is a failure?
2) What are the negative consequences they face if they don't act and there is a failure?
3) What are the rewards if they act without instructions and succeed?

If No. 1 is "severe bad consequences," then they're afraid.
If No. 2 is "no consequences," then they have no reason to care.
If No. 3 is "no rewards," then they have no reason to think it would ever be a good idea to think differently than they do right now.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:57 PM on September 9, 2014 [19 favorites]

On review: the script I suggested sounds a bit condescending. The main idea I wanted to share -- and seem to have left out -- is that it's important to ask THEM how they see the situation. All of our speculation about the source of the dynamic is...just speculation.

You still have to start with your own headline. Otherwise, you may get an answer like, "Things are great! I'm awesome at my job!" But keep the focus on listening to their perspective.
posted by equipoise at 4:58 PM on September 9, 2014

There really isn't a condescending way to say what you're looking to say ... because it's a pretty condescending thing to say. You are relatively new to this institution; they have been there for more than a decade, and work they way they do for a reason. Any changes you force upon them right now, even if you try to say things politely, will be taken poorly because they actually do know more than you about the place, and you're being really disrespectful of that fact.

What you need to remember is that everything in academia moves sloooooowly. Like, at a glacier's pace. So if you want to change the way these two support staff work, you need to first demonstrate to them that you respect their knowledge and abilities. You also need to demonstrate that you see them as people, not just as paperwork-pushers. When you come to see them, ask about their day, and then actually listen. Inquire as to their evenings / weekends, and offer a little information about your own. ("Did you go to [local event] this weekend? I had a great time!")

When it comes to work stuff, ask instead of telling, and reward reward reward. Make it clear that you appreciate the normal, day-to-day work they do for you, because without support staff, nobody else in higher ed could do their jobs. It's Relationship Building 101, and it's going to take time. You should be doing this because it's just the right way to treat people, but even if you don't believe that, do it because it'll get you what you want.
posted by zebra at 5:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

You're younger than them, don't rank higher than them and are new. Why would they listen to you bossing them around?

You are going to need a supervisor involved if you want to accomplish anything. But I don't think you can be like "Jim and Carol are lazy and only do the bare minimum unless asked." You can, however, propose a system that will make things run more smoothly and prevent things from slipping through the cracks. Like maybe each project has identifiable components of things that need to be done and maybe you can use a project management system to track who is doing what and ensuring each piece of completed. Maybe something like Trello or Basecamp could be used.
posted by AppleTurnover at 5:27 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since you don't have the power to fire them, don't give them their reviews and have no actual authority over them, the only thing you can do is be EXPLICIT about what you want.

I said it up-thread, and I'll say it again, you can't just tell people something vague like, "I need you to be more proactive," or "You need to take the initiative more." You have to tell them:

1. Get Form 12-B from the file cabinet.

2. Fill out sections A, B, C and Q.

3. Tear off the pink copy and put it in my mailbox.

4. Put the remaining copies in the inter-office envelope that goes to the Dean's office.

5. Send me an email telling me that the job is complete.

I'm not kidding.

If you try anything else, or do anything else, you will be hitting your head against the wall, frustrating yourself, frustrating them and arousing the old Dean who will then dispatch the most heinous person in your department to tell you to knock it off.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:47 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

My thoughts as one of these people:

"That said, in an academic setting, support staff is support staff and they will likely be support staff forever. So there will never be an incentive in place for them to prove that they can "take the lead." They have a job to do they've always done and you're effectively changing their job description to something they didn't sign up for and something they weren't planning to do. That's ok, just remember what you're asking.
Specify the tasks they "should" be doing and checkpoint once a week or so to make sure they're being done. Make it a new expected part of their job that you've explicitly tasked them with."

I recommend going with this. Look, career lifers are just waiting for retirement or until they win the lottery. They have been dealing with their workload increasing fivefold every year, budget cuts, NO hope of raises or hiring extra help or anything getting better. They're being forced to do things at work they would never have applied to do if they were applying for a job now, and they probably can't get a better/different job anyway. And here you are, the young noob whippersnapper bitching about initiative? What do they care? Are they gonna get a raise if they do more work than they absolutely have to? Are they gonna get a promotion? Oh, wait, no, they're not. Everything is going to continue to get slightly worse all the time, or more than slightly worse, with no end until retirement.

Now, you have my sympathies because I've seen both sides of it and to some degree I'm feeling frustration about some folks I know because I end up having to do all of their work for them because they're just not getting through much of it. But only the person who can fire them (if it's you) can really crack the whip. And much as you'd like to be nice about have NO carrot to offer them, nothing to reward them with for doing this, nothing you can do to make them happier. All you have is the stick. Or more specifically, you have to get their direct "can fire them" supervisor to use the stick.

Make a list of the new tasks. Make them required (not something they need to think of on their own like "hey, the copier's out of paper, perhaps I should fill it because I need to print"). Make them have to keep track of how many widgets they process a week and turn it in to you on Fridays to prove that they are doing them. Tell them that you sympathize with their unhappiness and you wish you could do something about what's bothering them, but you can't, and all you can do is well, force them to comply.

About the only thing you MIGHT be able to do to make it better would be this:
"What do you guys think could be done better around here?"
They'll dish out their shit, then you can dish out some of their own, but make it about processes and not people."

But only do this if you actually have the power to put their suggestions into action. It makes it worse if you've suggested things (when asked) and then it's blown off by management. Which as a clerical in academia, they are very used to.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:54 PM on September 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

I agree with the processes approach. Have a meeting and say something like, "It's really hard to get xxxxxx done on time every week. Can we brainstorm ideas to make the process better? What do you think the barriers are?" You may or may not be surprised at their answers. Their answers will give you clues as to what type of people they are. Entrenched lifers, who aren't going to change vs. Willing but unempowered. There are good suggestions for dealing with each type mentioned already.
posted by MadMadam at 7:16 PM on September 9, 2014 have NO carrot to offer them, nothing to reward them with for doing this, nothing you can do to make them happier.

I really don't believe this is necessarily true, depending on the depth of the bureaucracy in which you work, of course. People have a real desire for things other than money and time off. Read a little behavioral economics to learn about this, specifically about meaningfulness, recognition, and maybe even the Ikea effect.
posted by amtho at 7:57 PM on September 9, 2014

Have a little meeting. "What do you guys think could be done better around here?"

is almost there.

the only thing you can do is be EXPLICIT about what you want.

Usually the byline of Ruthless Bunny is a signal that I'm about to agree with something 180%, but in this case my experience is that's the exact opposite of what will work.

Every time I see this, it's because people feel like the have no authority and are micromanaged with detailed task lists instead of broad objectives. I mean, yeah, they could order pens. Or could they? Would they have to come grovel to a superviser and beg for permission to order pens, and be contradicted half the time? They'll give up, I guarantee it. There's a HUGE difference between "inventory the stock room every week and report to me" and "keep the stockroom stocked and I don't want to hear about it unless you have a problem you need help with."

Watch this video (I'm serious, it's not terrible.)
David Marquet

THAT. Exactly. That's how you get people to give a shit. In another video, he says something that's stuck with me. "People don't want easy, they want agency." While a one-time "help me help you" Jerry Maguire speech seems like it's doing that, they can see right through it. It won't really change anything. They know it will be back to normal in a week or month.

Or maybe they're just lazy. I doubt it, though. That's a lot more rare than having the enthusiasm beat out of them.
posted by ctmf at 9:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Speaking as an academic support person --- you don't. No, really, you don't have this conversation with them.

This is possibly far less about things needing to get done and far more about their institutional memory --- there are things they intuitively know about the school and the department that are likely just as necessary to the department running as well as it does. I do my job, and I do my job well. I also do it fast. I exceed the vast majority of my job responsibilities, and I don't do more. It's not because I'm only doing the minimum. It's because I've been doing way more than I'm required to do, I got really efficient at doing it, and I'm not compensated for already doing more than my job requires. So what looks like the minimum is really years of efficiency. That's how it is in academia for support staff. You trade promotions and pay for stability and more flexibility. "Taking initiative" = doing more for the same amount of money." So unless you intend on raising their pay when they start taking on these initiatives, I suggest you and your colleagues adjust expecting them to just do things to asking them to do things.
posted by zizzle at 4:31 AM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

Difficult to say without knowing further detail on the work requirements but generally speaking i think the only way around this is to introduce new systems for the work process they cover, which encapsulate the minimum requirements that are currently not being met by their work endeavours. It's a bit hard to be personable and expect results to staff who have been at it for that long otherwise.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:44 AM on September 10, 2014

Don't expect people who have been in low level support roles for ages to "take initiative." You as a supervisor need to use effective communication to explicitly state what tasks need to be done, how and when. The "initiative" needs to come from whoever gives them directives to give them clear directives.

Also, raised expectations usually are met more readily with raised perks of some sort.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:07 AM on September 10, 2014

I'm support staff in medical academics and your expectations and the way you stated them seem completely reasonable. I also totally understand about how far removed their actual supervisor might be from what goes on in your office day to day. I think you should just tell it to them straight and as soon as possible. Also, listen to any explanations they have as to why they're not taking initiative. Maybe they don't have the tools to do so or maybe they've been "smacked down" or otherwise discouraged from doing so in the past and you can remedy these situations or remove the obstacles that are keeping them from doing their jobs. It's also possible they're happy scraping by doing the bare minimum in which case you should then go to their supervisor.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:13 AM on September 10, 2014

Oh yeah, and be as specific as you can re: what you mean by "taking initiative". Make a list even! The less mind reading you expect your admin to do the more they will like you.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:19 AM on September 10, 2014

They may be paid appallingly little, probably have been in a culture of answer the phone, order supplies type this and copy that. Most of that no longer needs to be done. Their real jobs have changed. Look at the job descriptions and if they're out of date, update them, which is one way of making changed expectations concrete, as well as enforceable. If they're really underpaid, keep your expectations in line with their pay. (The University I worked at treated hourly-paid admin staff wretchedly.) Find out what work they do that no longer needs to be done; many offices have old systems in place that are useless, but no one has set up new systems. Work with them closely enough to observe their strengths, note those strengths, and assign work accordingly.

Use the Shamu technique. What gets rewarded gets repeated. Listen to them as much as possible. Have clear, well-articulated expectations. Be polite, friendly and don't care if they like you. They will like you in direct proportion to your status and perceived status.
posted by theora55 at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My friend works in a job similar to the one you describe. Most of her coworkers are lazy and just do the minimum to get by. They are never going to change. If you talk to them, they will be even less likely to help you in the future and it may devolve into them being open hostile to you. I'm not sure how it is where you work, but where my friend works, no one ever gets fired. The most someone in your position can hope for is that you are given the budget to hire a new person or are able to transfer one of them to a different department.

The reason they don't care is that they won't be fired for poor work and they won't be given raises for good work. My friend just receive the same raise as her lazy coworkers. My friend has no hope in getting a significant raise or a promotion no matter how hard she works. She still works hard because it's her personality to do so, but she only stays at her job because she gets to leave at a time that's convenient for her, she can bring her dog, and she gets lots of vacation time.

This is all to say that you are going to have to deal with these employees as they are and just expect that you will end up doing tasks that they should be doing. Try to be friendly towards them so they won't make your life worse. (One of my friend's coworkers purposely does a bad just so no one will ask her to do anything and she can just goof off on the internet all day.)
posted by parakeetdog at 12:50 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

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