This Is the Way to Tell Your Boss About a Tardy, Incompetent Co-Worker

Dear Office Mom,

My workplace is open until 1 a.m. most nights. Because of this, my supervisor, Lisa and one of my coworkers, Jane, never cross paths, because Lisa works days. Jane has a day job and usually makes it to work on time. About a year ago she asked to come in later and use half of her hour-long lunch break up front to eat at home and care for a new dog. Meanwhile, she still brings dinner to work and eats as soon as she arrives. I was personally not okay with this arrangement and talked to Lisa about how our staff handbook states that another job cannot interfere with this job, and that breaks cannot be saved to shorten a shift. Lisa didn’t believe these rules applied in this situation. However, I could deal with all that if Jane showed up on time every day. Jane texts me that she’s running late, but I don’t think she tells Lisa who is long gone by that time. On top of all this, despite being hired three years ago, Jane is incredibly incompetent in all aspects of her job. So there’s already a negative working relationship. I won’t get anywhere if I approach Jane. Do I broach this topic again with Lisa? And if so, what’s the best way to go about it, so it doesn’t sound like I’m tattling or being combative?
— Snitch
Image Source:  Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

Dear Snitch,

Thank you for contacting Your Office Mom for work advice. I understand why you think your situation is unfair based on principle, and it sounds like Jane has a great arrangement and takes advantage of it. When you speak to your manager your approach must be non-combative, and no one likes a tattletale. I suggest you approach Lisa from the perspective of how this situation impacts the overall customer experience and team performance, rather than merely focusing on Jane's tardiness and incompetence. Since you prefer not to approach Jane directly, here is my advice:

  • Review recent events and try to document Jane's tardiness and the consequences. If she is late and it requires more work on your part, or if it's busy and impacts customer interactions, that's not tattling, that is reporting a problem that needs to be fixed. Lisa has a vested interest in her department, running efficiently, effectively and meeting performance goals.

    It's irritating to do the thinking for co-workers who should know how to do shit. Make a list of the scope of Jane's lack of knowledge. If possible, don't clean up Jane's mistakes. Instead, leave the errors for her to fix. You may want to send an email or leave a note asking Jane to handle it for whatever reason. The goal is to push back and make your co-worker take ownership.

  • When Jane asks stupid questions or doesn't remember how to do routine tasks, don't take the time to explain it to her or volunteer to do it for her. Merely point her in the right direction so she can find the answer herself by reviewing documented instructions.

  • You don't want to lead in with the personal consequences of Jane's behavior, but it's certainly appropriate to mention it during your conversation with Lisa. If Jane's tardiness or her work time dinners made you stay late, work extra hours, or if you missed an appointment note that as well. If you don't have any personal after work appointments or activities, start scheduling some and tell Jane you can't stay and need to leave. Even if you eat a microwave meal at home, that counts as a dinner appointment in my book, when someone thinks their life is more important than yours.

  • When you meet with Lisa, tell her you (and others) are wasting time that interferes with your ability to focus on goals and improving the shift or department. If you didn't have to answer Jane's repetitive questions or fix her mistakes, you could be more productive and have time to improve overall performance.

So, here’s the bottom line. To have a better outcome, focus primarily on the impact to the shift, department, company, customer, and only mention your personal angst and inconvenience as an offshoot of that.

I hope this helps. Good luck to you.