Productivity in an office setting is often dependent on how efficient its employees are. How much work are they getting done? Are there things distracting them from doing their best work possible?
One of the greatest barriers to productivity in business is unproductive employees. They are more common than you think, but there are specific characteristics that can send up flares letting you know who’s responsible for the work that gets done, and who might be responsible for dragging things behind.
Are you an unproductive employee, or do you know of a few scattered around your office? Learn seven of the most common habits of unproductive employees, and how to detect them.
1. They operate on an ask first, do second workflow
Productive employees think for themselves. They are confident enough to make their own decisions, and know when it’s necessary to seek out extra help from the boss. Unproductive employees might be described as “clingy.”
How to spot it: They will run every little thing by you, the boss or their supervisor before making any decisions or, in some cases, doing any work at all. They feel the need to ask permission or demand guidance before moving forward with even the smallest tasks. They want you to look over a draft of an email or favor the phrase, “Do you think this is the right thing to do?” They are dependent on you, and that’s a bad sign.
2. They keep to themselves
Productive employees understand that good work can’t always be done alone. They participate in what the team is doing and are willing to share their insights with the group. Unproductive employees stand on the sidelines.
How to spot it: They don’t speak up in meetings or ever come to you with questions or concerns They don’t make an effort to get to know their co-workers or other higher-ups in the company. They don’t seem interested in or enthusiastic about working as part of a team. They are slow to engage in company culture, which sets them apart, and not in a good way.
3. They procrastinate
Procrastination is a sometimes good, most of the time unproductive habit. Overall, it leads to work getting done last-minute, being turned in late and/or being submitted at lower quality than if it had been started and completed in a more timely manner.
How to spot it: They will swear by the excuse that waiting until the last minute to start things motivates them to do more work in less time. While procrastination isn’t all bad, it’s still a major red flag. If someone has to use an excuse to explain a habit, it’s not a good habit. In many cases, laziness is the culprit here, and in the long-term, it isn’t going to help your business get more quality work done in less time.
4. They complain
Everyone complains every once in awhile: it’s part of being human. Productive employees, though, limit their complaints. If something doesn’t go their way, they accept it and move forward. Unproductive employees refuse to move on.
How to spot it: They will not let it go. If they feel they have been wronged or inconvenienced in any way, they will not hesitate to let those around them know about it. Did that meeting run long? They complain, even if it was a productive discussion. Did someone else get credit for the hard work they put into a project? They don’t go to the boss to discuss it privately: they complain publicly, which doesn’t solve anything.
5. They constantly ask for feedback
There’s nothing wrong with asking for feedback on work. However, productive employees understand that feedback isn’t a constant turnaround. Unproductive employees constantly need to hear they’re “doing it right.”
How to spot it: They will constantly ask, “So how am I doing?” or some variation of the same general question. Giving appropriate feedback in the workplace is important, but it shouldn’t take precedence over day to day workflow. All the time the employee could be spending doing their work, they spend worrying about whether or not it’s “good enough.”
6. They have an excuse for everything
Figuring out how to handle a constant stream of excuses from an employee is not easy. That’s why productive employees don’t make them. They admit their mistakes and treat them as learning experiences. Unproductive employees do the opposite.
How to spot it: They rarely, if ever, take responsibility for their actions. They are quick to transfer the blame for a mistake to someone, or something, else. They don’t have their report done on time because they were working on a different assignment. They were late because they had to take a phone call. Before any apology, if there even is one, there is always an excuse.
7. They think like an employee
Productive employees aren’t afraid to think like a manager. They are aware that just because they aren’t in a position of higher power doesn’t mean their thoughts and skills are any less significant. Unproductive employees stay inside the box.
How to spot it: They don’t ever try to take charge of a situation or problem-solve. If you ask them to do something that isn’t in their job description, they might appear caught off guard or nervous, implying they aren’t willing to think like a leader. Moving beyond their current position is neither an interest nor very likely to happen.
Everyone has habits, and unproductive employees have some pretty destructive ones. You may have always thought that these were simply character flaws, but they have a much greater impact on your business and whether or not your team as a whole is accomplishing everything it is capable of.
Keep an eye out for neediness. Watch those chronic procrastinators and excuse-makers. Keep tabs on the loners and the complainers and even the ones who seem unwilling to work outside their comfort zones. The most productive employees will play nice with others, help lead the team and own their mistakes. Those are the ones you know you can count on.