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When Your Coworker Is Cutting Corners

Updated on March 7, 2013

Photo of the day:

Word of the day:

Chicanery - trickery or deception by quibbling or sophistry (sophistry generally refers to trickery based on something that is superficially plausible)

Spanish word of the day:

Engañar - to cheat

Fact of the day:

A survey of 215 workers showed that workers who were cynical about their jobs, or who's jobs had constantly changing goals, were more likely to cut corners.

Quote of the day:

“Never work just for money or for power. They won't save your soul or help you sleep at night."
― Marian Wright Edelman

Rant of the day:

I'm going to attempt to make today's personal example as vague as possible, because if anyone from my office ever comes across this blog, someone is going to get in trouble (probably me.)

Regardless, today's rant is about coworkers who succeed not because they're working hard or are gifted, but because they work the system. I have a coworker who does this daily. He gets very high numbers, but he cuts corners to get there. If he's writing something (90% of the job) he copies and pastes something he's already written, and adds a comma. Literally. He'll add a comma which, because my boss hasn't caught him yet, means that he's written something completely original. If this coworker has to read an article, he'll skim the title, and that's all. If he's rewarded for the high numbers that this behavior gets him, he takes an extra two hours to do nothing at all which, ironically, also helps his numbers for the week. I know that didn't quite make sense, but that's how it works, and if I could tell you about the metrics at my job you'd see why it works.

So this coworker is being recognized, and rising above others, by not working as hard and producing low quality work that's being mistaken for high quality work. For those of us who know what he's doing, it's irritating. Am I going to tell on him? No. Why? Because I'm partially guilty of some of the same things, and with the way my company works it probably wouldn't get me anywhere. Also, I'm just one of those people who doesn't speak up when I should.

If you're not like me, though, and you have a coworker who's always cutting corners, here are a few pieces of advice on how to deal with it. Good advice that I'll probably never take, but you should.

1. Talk to your boss. This one is obvious, but it's the most likely to actually help. Your boss is paying you and your coworkers to do a job, and to do it right. If someone isn't doing that, they can look into it and make changes.

2. Talk to your coworker. This might breed resentment, but if you know and like your coworker you could try telling him or her that the way they cut corners makes you uncomfortable because (depending on your job) it's irresponsible, or results in more work for yourself and others. Make sure your coworker understands the detrimental effects their actions are causing, and hopefully they'll adjust accordingly.

3. Do nothing. This is what I'm doing, and it's not going to help you feel better or fix the problem. I wasn't even going to include it, but a manager I spoke to brought it up. This what you should do if your coworker's behavior isn't affecting your job, your workload, your company's overall performance, etc. If your coworker's behavior isn't affecting any of these things, then your grievance may be petty, and not worth mentioning. Hopefully this isn't the stance your management would take, but it is a possibility.

I wish you all a much more pleasant work environment than mine, and I hope you're more successful at dealing with your coworkers than I am.


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