How to Address a Coworker Who Isn’t Pulling Their Weight

Published: Apr 24, 2024

 Workplace Issues       

During your career, you will likely be placed in a situation where you have to collaborate with your team members to complete a project. It's important to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities of the project, but you still can run into an instance where a colleague isn't pulling their weight. Watch this Vault video for tips on how to handle this situation. 




Knowing how to collaborate in the face of workplace conflicts is an important skill employers look for.

One workplace conflict you’ll likely come across at some point in your career is having to deal with a coworker who isn’t pulling their weight on a team project.

Learning how to address this situation in a productive way will be essential to helping your team cross the finish line successfully – and together.

1. Ask “Why?” Before Making Accusations 

If a team member starts to fall behind on their responsibilities, it’s important to approach the situation with care instead of accusations and assumptions. It’s easy to assume they simply don’t care about the project, but their performance could be due to any number of outside factors. 

Instead of starting with something like this: 

“Why haven’t you finished your work? Don’t you care about this project?”

Approach your colleague like this 

“Hey, I noticed that your part of the project hasn’t been completed yet. And we can’t move on to the next phase until it is completed. Do you mind sharing some insight about why it hasn’t been finished yet?”

Don’t come into the conversation with your mind already made up; actively listen to your colleague and create a safe environment for them to explain. 

2. Offer Your Support      

Your colleague's response to the last question will help guide the rest of the conversation. If they mention feeling burnt out or overwhelmed by prioritizing the several other projects they’re also working on, you could offer some support. Note that offering your support doesn’t necessarily mean doing their portion of the project for them. Instead, offering your support could sound like this: 

“I completely understand feeling overwhelmed, I’ve been in your shoes before, with a ton on my plate. That’s not easy. Could you ask your manager if there are any tasks that could be pushed back until this project is finished? I’m happy to join the conversation as well to help emphasize the importance of this project, if you’d like.”  

Whatever issue’s holding your coworker back, once you open the lines of communication, you’ll likely see that a solution can be found.

Learning how to support your team members and collaborate effectively will not only help ensure that your team puts out quality deliverables, but will also likely help you in your next interview … Hiring managers love to ask about this very important skill. For more career advice, check out!