The Surprising Benefit of Being Stuck With Lazy Co-workers
Dating back to elementary school, my experience working in groups is sub-par at best. I’m a get ’er done kind of person. So while I appreciate the concept of hearing others’ ideas, brainstorming, and collaborating with my team, I’ve always struggled with the fact that a few unproductive team members got credit for my hard work. (Could that be what led me to choose a career focus that often allows me to put my head down and get my work done independently of others?)
If you consider yourself an efficient, hard-working individual, you may know exactly what I’m talking about. In an office full of smart and ambitious people, there are always, inevitably, a couple of lazy people, who, presumably, are more than happy to take a backseat while you bust your butt to get the job done.
My personal history combined with the fact that I tend to view idle co-workers with a skeptical eye means that findings of a study reported by NYMag are potentially life-changing for me.
Eisuke Hasegawa, a professor in Japan, studied ant colonies to see how the lazy ants impacted the overall dynamic of their colony. What she found is both surprising and encouraging: “Hasegawa revealed that when a colony had lazy ants, it actually helped contribute to the colony’s long-term sustainability because they have a ‘reserve workforce’ to replace the tired, actually hardworking ants when necessary.”
Since no one is 100% motivated all the time (seriously, it’s just not a thing), wouldn’t it be highly advantageous to have the often indolent guys step up to the plate when the typically driven crew needs a break? If you believe that Hasegawa is onto something—that the work-shy people in your office will get things done when absolutely necessary—then you might be able to start rethinking how you operate, leading to a more satisfying workday.
Maybe next time, instead of pulling an all-nighter—or pulling your hair out in deep frustration over your Instagram-obsessed co-worker’s abysmal work habits—you let go a little. See what happens when you turn it down a few notches. If the ants’ behavior is any indication, your lazy colleagues may be compelled to carry the suddenly heavy workload.
I know if you’re used to counting on yourself to tackle tasks and meet deadlines, it won’t be an easy transition to trust that your colleagues will do their part, but it’s worth a shot if there’s a chance it’ll lead to a more balanced work distribution on your team.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author