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Lazy people irritate their employers like smoke in the eyes

Lazy people irritate their employers like smoke in the eyes

Mar 2021

I recently shared the following ancient proverb with a senior project manager.

Lazy people irritate their employers, like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes.

His response; “Yeah, that’s gold. What’s the solution?”

Like smoke in your eyes, lazy people in your organisation are hard to deal with effectively. Lazy people seem to specialise in the fine art of saying all the right things but ducking and weaving for cover, avoiding work at all costs.

They create subtle difficulties. They slow down, complicate, and even stop important tasks and projects. The ducking and weaving continues, negatively impacting morale, filling the organisation with smoke.

Dr Seuss in his unique and colourful way describes our normal remedy to this problem.

Out west near Hawtch-Hawtch
there’s a Hawtch-Hawtcher Bee-Watcher.
His job is to watch…
is to keep both his eyes on the lazy town bee.
A bee that is watched will work harder, you see.
Well… he watched and he watched.
But, in spite of his watch,
that bee didn’t work any harder. Not mawtch.

Dr Seuss goes on to describe how the good folk of Hawtch-Hawtch continued to employ watchers, whose job it was to watch the last employed watcher.

“Yeah, that’s gold. What’s the solution?”

Solutions differ and vary depending upon what leadership camp you sit within; Reactionary or Intentional. If you are an Intentional Leader experiencing smoky irritations, I recommend that you follow these 3 steps to clear the smoke haze.

Step 1 – Clarify guiding statements and culture

Guiding statements should provide a simple and clear picture of where our teams and organisations are heading. An organisation's values and behaviour are demonstrated in culture. When the smoke of laziness appears, ask;

• Do our people understand our guiding statements?
• Do we have problems with our culture that we need to address?

As Intentional Leaders we must be dedicated to our guiding statements and culture. We must constantly share our guiding statements and vigilantly fight against the development of shadow values. Taking time to clarify the guiding statements and culture may help re-energise your lazy person.

Step 2 – Embrace delegation and development

A key part of the ducking and weaving a lazy person does is the skilful unpicking of any delegation you thought you may have provided. “Ohh…” they say, “I thought you were doing that”. “Ohh…” they say, “I didn’t realise you wanted it by then”. The list goes on and on. Use these situations to further refine your ability to delegate.

One aspect of delegation I like to focus on is ensuring that decisions are made as close to the action as possible. The aim is to empower the people who are doing the work to be able to take action and ownership of as many decisions as possible.

Coupled with delegation is development. Development focuses on expanding the skills and experience of your people.  Intentional Leaders create regular opportunities for their people to grow and develop.

I have found when personal strengths are identified and developed, people find new motivation and energy.

Consistent follow-up on delegation and development progress communicates a strong desire to clear the smoke haze of laziness.

Step 3 – Trust the process

Methodical and diligent application of Steps 1 & 2 will clear the smoke haze. You must trust the process. It takes time for momentum to build. However, it will build and build, eventually squeezing out lazy people. They may embrace the clarified approach and change, or they may realise their strengths are better aligned elsewhere. Either way the smoke will clear.

At times you may be alarmed at the new scent of smoke wafting through the organisation when new people join. Trust the process. Continue the methodical and diligent application of Steps 1 & 2. The smoke will clear.

At Joseph Consulting we are passionate about empowering Intentional Leaders to succeed. Please call if you would like to further explore ideas from this blog or discover how Joseph Consulting can support you and your organisation.


Jason Gallagher
Director, Joseph Consulting

If you would like to read another blog related to this topic, we suggest the following;
Focus Culture ModelTM (Case Study)
Rip up the Soil so Empowerment can Grow
Sand Paper and Shadow Values
The Sweet Spot - People v Process
Weak Links in the Chain
You Carry the Name
Clearing the Jargon Haze

Dr Suess excerpt from Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?, 1973.

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