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posted: 5/11/2014 6:15 AM

Work Advice: Pressing a pair of slackers

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I'm not a fan of keeping close tabs on co-workers' comings and goings. But when their work habits harm your performance or the employer's bottom line, sometimes you have to pipe up.

Q: I'm a part-time broadcast designer for a local TV station, helping create evening news graphics. My full-time co-worker's shift starts a half-hour after mine, but he's usually late -- up to half an hour -- and he frequently spends up to 45 minutes browsing Facebook or chatting before he starts working.

This is a high-pressure job with tight deadlines. My co-worker's poor work habits mean I have to work twice as hard so we can keep up. I've brought this up with my boss, and he has supposedly given my co-worker warnings, but the behavior continues.

This job is my only source of income. I am punctual and work hard, so seeing this guy goofing off while I pick up the slack is infuriating. What should I do?

A: I realize you have more to prove and less time to do it in, but your heroic efforts seem to be enabling his goofing off. What if you eased off a bit? Presumably he has to pick up the pace when you've left for the day, but that doesn't mean you should carry it all till then.

You've said all you should to the boss for now. How about talking to your co-worker? When he saunters in: "Morning, Tripp. I've already started on the triple homicide titles and water-skiing squirrel graphics -- can you handle the local budget debate and zoning meeting?" Seeing a go-getter snagging the high-profile assignments might encourage him to be a little faster off the starting block. If not, keep running your own race. If you end up getting hired full time, you may find you need to pace yourself for the daily marathon.

Q: One of my co-workers likes to gossip with customers. One customer has begun calling her to see how things are going. Whenever she gets on the phone, I leave the counter area to try to force her to wait on customers -- but she pays no attention to the line forming in front of her. Should I go to the supervisor?

A: First, stop treating your customers as if they're chips in some passive-aggressive poker game. While the absentee associate tries to outbluff the gabby gossip, neglected patrons will just take their business elsewhere.

If your employer has a policy restricting personal calls, suggest -- without naming names -- that your supervisor reiterate it at the next staff meeting. You could also call for backup on the public intercom whenever you see a line forming; if that doesn't get your co-worker's attention, it might get management's. Or just take the direct approach: "Gabby, could you please help that lady while I handle this gentleman's return?"

• Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office. You can find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWork.

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