Dealing with Irresponsible People

In the workplace, we get to work with a variety of people. We all have different traits and personalities. We have all been there where we have had to work with someone who’s lack of planning and irresponsibility causes frustration, chaos, and extra work for us. These are the people who don’t pull their weight in team projects, are consistently late for meetings. They are unprepared, miss deadlines and thrive on disorganized chaos.

I was told a quote that resonated with me. “Lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.”

Regardless of your personality, if you are organized or disorganized, we all a part of a team and can benefit greatly from the strengths of each team member. It is the responsibility of each person to do their jobs well for the benefit of the company/organization. Irresponsibility shows a lack of respect for your team members and can cause discord among the teams and work culture.

Irresponsibility in the workplace causes:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Loss of revenue
  • Stress for co-workers
  • Damages work morale

I had an employee who was consistently late and unprepared for meetings. The employee even had the gumption at times after the weekly meeting was to start asked if the meeting be postponed because they were not prepared. Deadlines were missed and when confronted the employee didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. Dealing with this kind of behavior is stressful for co-workers as well as demoralizes the team.

What management can do:

  • Act immediately to correct irresponsible behavior
    • Act immediately at every occurrence. Failure to impose consistent discipline allows employees to assume their irresponsible behavior is tolerated.
    • Stay cool
    • Document everything
  • Do not condone employees because you like them as a person.
  • Do not reward irresponsible employees with promotions or good assignments.
  • Lead by example.
    • Behavioral standards must be demonstrated from the top down.
  • Remind employees of policies and procedures
    • Remind them that failing to turn in work by a deadline or arriving late violates the policy and will lead to disciplinary action.
  • Schedule a private meeting to discuss incidents of irresponsibility.
    • Explain how irresponsible behavior causes a loss of revue by losing customers.
  • Ask the employee to suggest ways he/she can improve the behavior.
    • Place the onus on the employee to identify solutions.
  • Follow up regularly.
    • If there is no improvement, progressively issue severe disciplinary actions up to and including the discharge of employment.

 Co-workers can:

  • Do not vent your frustration to your colleagues
  • Try to see their point of view
    • As humans, we can be quick to judge and we may not know all the details as to why they missed their deadline.
  • Try to resolve the issue with your co-worker first
    • If you working on a project together, try to resolve the issue of your co-worker not pulling their weight first before going to your supervisor.
  • Focus on what you can control
    • Offer to assist if you have the time.
  • Do not constantly overcompensate for their lack of effort.
  • Keep documentation of your work and interaction.

As a leader, it is your job to motivate underperformers, collaborate with annoying coworkers and overcome difficult employees. Communication is key. It is important to build relationships with your staff, there is usually a reason why an employee is underperforming, once you know what it is you can work toward solutions. You won’t know until you ask.

We all want to work in an environment that motivates us to be our best selves. Getting and keeping the right team is focusing on the people, their work habits, their talents, and values.

Cheryl Viola, MBA, Executive Director


  • Anisa Purbasari Horton. (2019, June 17). This is how to deal with your incompetent coworkers. Retrieved from
  • Benjamin, T. (n.d.). How to Deal With Irresponsible Employees. Retrieved from
  • Potts, A. M. (2008, February 11). T.H.U.M.P. – 5 Ways to Deal with Irresponsible People. Retrieved from
  • Sindell, T., & Sindell, M. (2016, November 10). 4 Ways Effective Leaders Deal With Incompetent People. Retrieved from