Let me start out by saying this: being a “hard worker” shouldn’t define an employee, and definitely shouldn’t be a determining factor when choosing to promote one employee over another. And now that I have your attention, let me explain…

There’s an old adage about giving a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, where as if you teach him to fish, he can eat for a lifetime. But what about the lazy people? The people that don’t want to fish, but still need to eat. The employees that are there to earn a paycheck and never surprise you by going the extra mile. Can you teach them how to fish?

Or do we need to look at this from a different angle and try to understand their point of view of not wanting to learn?

Let’s do that.

I truly believe that people are inherently lazy. There are exceptions to every rule, but the vast majority of people in this world would rather lounge on the couch than go to work. That’s why we enjoy vacations so much. That’s why “working for the weekend” is something celebrated every 7 days. Working is a method of survival, a necessity.

So accepting the fact that most of us are lazy, the question that should arise is, “how do we turn this [laziness] into a strength?”

Because, one, it’s going to be difficult to hire only the “hard workers,” and, two, even the worst attributes of a person can have their advantages in some situations. Not to mention, the difference between a good manager and a great one is his or her ability to not only get the best out of the people he/she manages, but also having the ability to adapt.

Bill Gates is often given credit for this next quote, although there’s no concrete evidence of who actually said it first in history. Nonetheless, it describes this situation perfectly:

I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.

It seems a little crazy, doesn’t it? When a complex and difficult job arises, a leader’s natural instinct is to put your team’s best foot forward and trot out the “A” players to get the job done. Handing it off to the lazy person in the group is probably the worst thing you can do.

But at the same time, this quote makes so much sense when you really step back and look at it from a larger scale.

Take this example: you have a “hard worker” who has been with your company for 30 years, and his main job is data entry and creating reports. He spends 40 hours per week doing this, and is thought of as one of the hardest workers in the whole building.

He retires and a recent college graduate is picked to replace him. She comes in and most of her time is spent doing anything other than the data entry, and she’s immediately pegged as the “lazy millennial.”

Except for one thing: the expected amount of work is getting completed–and it’s actually more accurate than what the older worker did.

That’s because the “lazy millennial” took the first couple of days of work automating the process, and now those 40 hours of work have become 5 minutes and a click of a button.

Every single one of us analyzes and acts on situations differently. Some of us see things from one perspective, while others see it from many perspectives. The most successful managers in this world are able to do the latter.

Choose the “lazy” person and give him or her a chance. Keep your ears and, more importantly, your mind open. You just might learn a thing or two.


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