What Would Shawn Do? Coping with a Co-worker Who Won’t Pull Her Weight


One of my co-workers seems completely checked out lately. She used to do a good job and we got along well, but the last several months she is constantly either taking smoke or bathroom breaks or on her phone. It isn’t fair for me to have to work twice as hard to keep up with everything that needs to be done in our busy practice. I don’t want to be a nag or a tattletale, but this has to stop. She’s a very sensitive person and gets defensive easily. What should I do?


How frustrating! You definitely need to confront her, even though you expect her to be defensive.

Write a brief script for how you will confront her, and practice it ahead of time. Think back to times she HAS been open to what you’ve had to say. What did you say or do that contributed to her reaction?

When you have the conversation, ask a question and really listen to the answer. “Lately I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently at work. Is everything okay?” or “You don’t seem like yourself lately. Is anything bothering you?” Show concern and offer to help if you can.

Tell her what you are seeing and how it is impacting you. “When you are on your phone or away from our work station when it isn’t your break, it is stressful and hard for me to get my job done.” Wait for her to respond. She may apologize and offer a solution.

If she does not offer a solution, hold her accountable for solving the problem and ask her what she will do to solve it. “I expect this to change. Please commit to being on your phone and going out to smoke only when it is your break.”

If she isn’t receptive, or she promises to change but doesn’t, you will have no choice but to move up the chain of command and tell your boss. At that point, you will know you have done your best and are not being a tattletale.

 Good luck!

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