5 secret tips that will help you turn a lazy employee into a top performer

3 min read

What are we going to do about your lazy employee?

Certainly not fire them. That never solves the problem. We’ll prove it to you.


One thing is true about every lazy employee: an entrepreneur hired them. If an employee that showed so much promise during the interviews suddenly turned over to become lazy, it’s probably not because laziness was hardwired into their DNA. Could it be some elements in your workplace have simply brought on that laziness?

If that was ever the case, then firing the employee won’t work. The replacement would keel over into laziness in the face of those same elements. How then can you (a) solve your “lazy employee” problem, (b) turn lazy employees into high performers and (c) make your company better for it, without having to fire anybody?

Here goes:

1. Talk it out with them

Before you decide to have a talk with a lazy employee, have a documented proof of their shortcomings. For example, if your company has an attendance register, use that to show the employee how they have been scrimping on work. If you have a key performance tracker, use that as well.

Once you’ve proved to them that they have been performing below par, sit back and ask; “what’s going on?”

An employee could be going through a difficult time at home. It is only when you identify what’s behind the unproductiveness that you both will be able to work towards a solution that benefits everyone.

Oftentimes, that’s all an employee needs to get back to their productive ways.

2. Supervise their work

Some employees require a higher level of supervision than others. If you have a lazy employee, then it could be the result of you not dedicating enough time to supervise the staff. Be more approachable and create room to discuss the projects they are working on and their deadlines.

By keeping a closer watch, you can help the underperforming employee to be more productive while making him feel like he is getting the same attention as the rest of the staff.

3. Create accountability through metrics and KPIs

Without a defined system of accountability, employees who are left to complete a task at their own pace may have a tougher time getting things done.  It’s tempting for employees to spend part of the workday lounging when there’s no one keeping tabs on what they’re doing. You can set daily KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to check and track their productivity.

4. Set new challenges

One of the advantages of taking the time to discuss with a lazy employee is that you might get to know when such employee is bored of doing the same thing over and over again. When you ask staff members to perform the same tasks every day, some team members may start to resent the repetition and to lose interest.

If you discover that a lazy employee has the ability to become productive, then give him a new project to spur his interest.

5. Offer incentives

Sometimes, employees need a more tangible reward as a push to reach their full potential. A clear-cut incentive system gives under-performing staff something concrete to work toward.

Incentives should be tied to tangible goals, such as hitting a sales quota or aiming for a certain amount of monthly revenue.

Incentives can take many forms, from a free lunch to a paid day off. If you’ve got the budget for it, you may consider offering a cash bonus. Whatever kind of incentive system you put in place, make sure it makes employees feel it’s worth the effort.

Have you worked at improving the productivity of a lazy employee in the past? Tell us how you managed the situation in the comments. 


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Olumide Olayeye

Olumide Olayeye is an ardent sport lover, occasional writer and an aspiring entrepreneur.

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