Personal Growth

No Such Thing as a Lazy Employee

I’ve come to believe there’s no such thing as a lazy employee, or at least that they’re rare creatures. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred when I’ve thought a barista was lazy the real culprit has been a shortcoming in my management skills. (I work as a shift supervisor at a Starbucks.)

Sometimes there is a practical problem. They’re standing around because they don’t know what to do. I give them a list. Boom. Work is done.

But mostly, when people aren’t working, there’s an emotional disconnect somewhere. Here are a few of the problems I’ve had to work through. (This is going to make me sound like a terrible manager. I promise I’ve learned and gotten better!)


1. I go in with the assumption that they don’t know how to work hard.

There’s this weird thing that happens when you expect someone to be lazy or stupid: they actually get more lazy/stupid. Because now not only do they have to deal with the normal workload, but they have to deal with all the negative feelings you’re sending their way. Those do take up brainspace. It is emotional work to deal with them, even if you can’t see it.

People tend to fulfill your expectations. Positive expectations create positive results, if only because they don’t create extra emotional work.

2. I go in with the assumption that their best might not be good enough.

I can’t make everyone a superstar employee. (There are some managers who can do that, and they rightfully make a lot more than I do.) But it is my job to bring out the best work in my team.

First, I have to know what their best looks like. Second, I have to be satisfied with whatever that is. Because having to come into work every day not knowing if your manager is going to be satisfied with your efforts creates anxiety – more emotional work.

3. I fail to celebrate their successes.

A surefire way to get mediocre work is to criticize mistakes and stay quiet about a job well done. What benefit is there for someone to do great work if they get the same recognition for ok work?

4. I fail to control my emotions or thoughts.

I used to think my mood affected my team. Now I know that my mood is how everyone else is going to feel. If I can’t reign in negative emotions or thoughts (and it really does go right down to thoughts – baristas are incredibly perceptive), everyone else will start taking on that negativity. Which, again, is emotional work, meaning we get less done on the whole.

5. I fail to make them feel a part of the team.

I’ve seen baristas who won’t lift a finger more than they have to become backbones of the store when they start to feel a part of the team. If they feel like those are their people, they want to take care of them.

(Something we call Margarita Monday has been a great facilitator for team building. God bless Los Toros and their liberally poured tequila.)

6. I fail to understand and deliver what they need.

On paper, my job is to manage store resources when I’m there – labor, inventory, cash. But my job is actually to take care of the baristas, so they can take care of the customers, so the customers will give us more money. Money isn’t everything, but it’s a pretty good barometer of how well I’m taking care of my people that day.

When they have their breaks, appropriately distributed labor, and the supplies they need, my team can haul ass. When they have to take time away from the customers to do my job, that’s when we start losing sales.

I am by no means an expert at any of this. I’m always learning. (And damnit I still forget breaks sometimes – sorry guys!) Luckily, the baristas are always patient with my shortcomings and assume I had positive intent when things go wrong. I try to return the favor.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s