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How Would You Deal With This Office Slacker’s Inefficiency?

They take more time to do less—and then complain about their workload!!




THE TEAM AT Dr. Mark’s Family Eyecare was wrapping up their monthly meeting when Dr. Mark posed the last question, “How is everyone doing — not enough to do, can’t catch up…? Anyone need any help with anything?”


Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.


Carissa Dunphy has been working in private practice optometry since 2008 and is the founder of Optician Now ( Follow Carissa on Instagram and Facebook at @opticiannow.

As each staff member took their turn, nearly all agreed that things were going well and there had been no workload stressors. The last two employees, both opticians, were up next to voice their concerns.

“I have no complaints — I pace myself throughout the day, complete all of my tasks daily and leave early or come in late when staffing permits.” Optician Marla added, “I’m happy to cut a few hours to enjoy some downtime before my household gets loud for the evening.”

After Marla concluded, the staff looked to the other optician, Sylvia. “I could definitely use some help with my workload.” Sylvia sighed, “I am never able to come in late or leave early. I have trays with new orders or jobs to check in everywhere, and I would like to not have to work 45 hours a week just to complete the basic tasks.”


“Thank you for keeping us updated, everyone.” Dr. Mark added, “Sylvia, Dr. Mason and I will chat and see what we can do to help you out.”

The two doctors sat down the next day to discuss the workload differences between the two opticians. Dr. Mason began, “Didn’t we have this same workload issue come up a while back, and we made some changes then, to help Sylvia?”

“Yes, we did — almost a year ago.” Dr. Mark continued, “We shifted several tasks to make sure that between the two opticians they were helping the same amount of patients, checking in the same amount of jobs, balanced out the rep visits and a few other things.”

Dr. Mason responded, “If all of their tasks are equitable, then why on earth is Sylvia working nearly 10 hours a week more than Marla?”

“I think it’s simply a matter of efficiency.” Dr. Mark added, “Even when we take things off her workload, she somehow readjusts to the lighter load and becomes even less efficient, doing less than before.”

“Do we need to give her more work so she will be more efficient?” Dr. Mason suggested.

Dr. Mark laughed, “I don’t know how effective that would be. Nor would the opposite — taking away more work — be fair to Marla, or any of the other staff, for that matter.”

“Another point I may mention… Why are we paying her to work more hours, and overtime, when she gets less work done than everyone else?” Dr. Mason retorted.

“This is a touchy one. We definitely shouldn’t be paying her for extra hours, when she completes less work, comparably to the others.” Dr. Mark continued, “We also cannot continue to lessen her workload and shift tasks to others. It’s certainly not fair to them.”

“Do you think the inefficiency is on purpose?” Dr. Mason asked. “A classic case of ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’?”

The Big Questions

  • How would you address determining if this was possibly purposeful ‘slacking’ behavior with Sylvia?
  • How do you keep the efficient employees motivated while improving the efficiency of the lagging employee without demoralizing them?
  • Does your office have a measurable way to assess and balance staff efficiency?
Cindy H.,
Chattanooga, TN

No one gets overtime without permission. People respect what you inspect. Evaluate throughout the day to determine where the delay or slacking is occurring. People with ADHD often look like they’re slacking. Their job title and their task skills may be the result of a square peg in a round hole rather than inability or laziness. Could tasks be redistributed based on skills rather than title? One of our opticians is a master at dealing with customers and optical problems and questions. The other is very organized and terrific at paperwork and logistics. They’re a good team.

Sophia P.,
Huntley, IL

As an office manager it is my job to pay attention to how effectively our staff is working. I recently ran into a similar situation with one of my opticians and had to address it after it had been going on for a little too long. I took them aside and let them know what their strengths are and what we wanted to focus on for 2024. During this conversation I was able to give them tips on how to better use their time; that while we do want to ensure all our jobs are checked in properly, taking all day to check in X number of jobs just wasn’t OK and was leaving the other staff with more work due to them never being available to help. Ultimately, they knew they were “hiding” in the lab and understood that they couldn’t do that any longer. We try and work as a team, and they would be more useful at the front to assist patients.

Rick R.,
Girard, PA

To determine if it’s purposeful slacking, just pay closer attention and see for yourself. It’s not like the work differs from one optician to the next. Do a work evaluation on the slacking employee and set goals to achieve. If these goals are not achieved then perhaps a change is needed. It’s never a secret who the least efficient employee is. End-of-the-year reviews are worthless if no one follows through. That makes morale even lower.

Lorie F.,
Bakersfield, CA

I would ask the efficient employee to create a workflow chart on how they are able to prioritize and complete all their work in a timely fashion, then train the other employees on it. I would ask the inefficient employee to follow the workflow for a period of time to see how it plays out. I would also ask the efficient employee to shadow the struggling employee to see where the employees are getting bogged down. I’d maybe add a few short trainings on time management at upcoming staff meetings. I’d keep it positive and themed “better work/life balance” training. I think it’s important to reward the efficient employee with more time off if that’s her desire. It’s unfair to put more work on her because she doesn’t waste time. One thing I would do, if the practice pays commission, is to let the more efficient optician take more patients during regular business hours when the others need to catch up! NO OVERTIME!

Anonymous, WA

It sounds like Sylvia is experiencing burnout. Sometimes this can be because she is not feeling valued in her position. Sylvia could also be having trouble focusing because of a stressful environment. If Sylvia’s workload is the same as the other optician, it’s possible she could be fixing errors made earlier on in the process. Doing something correctly takes more time than doing it quickly. Some will mistake speed with efficiency and cut corners. Perhaps there are things Sylvia is doing that are habits built up over years of experience that are no longer necessary. It doesn’t sound like Sylvia is lazy or slacking off. It also doesn’t sound like she’s trying to take advantage of overtime either. Unless her pay is abysmal, then who can blame her?

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