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Slackers and Stars

Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.

 – Henry Kissinger

Many of our employees today are coasters, slackers, and cyberloafers.

A recent survey of 11,000 U.S. workers found 39% were engaged at work, and a January 2022 study by Gallup revealed that half of the employees reported they were neither engaged nor disengaged at work.

Not working

Surprised at how many employees are not engaged at work?

We shouldn’t be.

This trend has been increasing for some time.  Unfortunately, most of our attention has been directed at people quitting their jobs (the Great Resignation).  However, there is possibly a larger group of workers who are being ignored.

This largely overlooked cohort is the people who are not inclined to leave their jobs right now, don’t hate what they do for a living, and are not motivated or energized.

These folks don’t want to be fired; however, they aren’t engaged and don’t see long-term potential for growth, so there isn’t a burning need to put in a lot of effort.  It’s a delicate balancing act of just working enough not to get busted.  Some also choose to balance family activities, hobbies, food shopping, and other nonwork-related matters during the workday.

Of course, no one ever believed that remote work was productive.

Doing More Than Our Share

The issue is that the remaining employees have to pick up the slack.

In a world where something is always “not fair,” this situation is not fair.  And it is the business leader and entrepreneur who are responsible for fixing it.

And fixing it requires two parallel lines of action.


The first is to get the slacker either to work more or off the payroll.

  1. Check-in. – Tell them you’ve noticed they seem disengaged at work lately, and ask if they’re enjoying their job, what they like or don’t like about the role, and how they foresee their career path. Then you can gauge what steps to take next.
  2. Set expectations. – A study found that the average worker is only productive for around three hours a day. Therefore, you should clearly set expectations on what’s acceptable according to your company’s standards—with active management, you can get significantly more than three hours of work per day.
  3. Delegate with meaning. – It’s simple: the more they have to do, the less they have time to do other unproductive things.
  4. Keep them accountable. – There’s a big difference between management and micromanagement. It’s perfectly acceptable to check-in periodically and ask about the status of a project.


The second parallel track is to focus on your workers who want more responsibility and to grow this your company.  Recognizing and promoting these stars will undoubtedly impact the rest of your staff.

  1. Provide challenging work – Stars thrive when they’re challenged. So, even if an employee doesn’t have the skills to match the challenge, chances are they’ll rise to the occasion.
  2. Don’t micromanage – Nothing breaks the spirit of a high-potential employee quite like micromanagement.
  3. Invest in training, courses, and conferences – Training your top performers is truly an investment in the company — and a stronger future for everyone.

The Bible

2 Thessalonians 3:13-16 says,

Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.

If anyone refuses to obey our clear command written in this letter, don’t let him get by with it.  Point out such a person and refuse to subsidize his freeloading.  Maybe then he’ll think twice.  But don’t treat him as an enemy.  Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares.

May the Master of Peace himself give you the gift of getting along with each other at all times, in all ways.  May the Master be truly among you!

Wow, is that verse spot on?

Business leaders and entrepreneurs need to read and follow Paul’s teaching on managing slackers and rising stars alike.

We are to address them directly, challenge them, and not let them off the hook.  The slackers are our responsibility, to them and the business, to get them productive.  The rising stars are ours to cultivate, educate, and motivate.

We have a current productivity problem that has a 2000-year-old solution.  Business leaders must take the Bible’s advice and allow their companies to prosper.