Not really a 'slacker', since if I understand right, that's somebody who doesn't really do anything.
More like a person who works 9 to 5 (or more like 9-4 if he can get away with it) but not a minute longer. Is totally bland when fulfilling his tasks etc.
Also he's not really a 'tool' I guess, since he's 'using' his employer more the other way around.(?)

It's driving me crazy that I can't find a right word ;)

  • 3
    Riva, it is more natural to ask questions like this with the wording "What would you call". Saying "How would you call" is unnatural and not really used by native speakers.
    – Tristan
    Sep 15, 2013 at 20:06
  • Thanks for reminding me. This is an artifact from my 1st language that still occasionally slips in ;)
    – Riva
    Sep 18, 2013 at 23:32
  • @All - Thank you all for so many great tips! I didn't think I'll actually find so many new things to learn. Also sorry for not choosing an answer yet. I didn't have a time to study all your posts yet and honestly they all seem good and right to me, so who to choose ? (I have up-voted most of answers, but I don't think I can flag more then one answer ?)
    – Riva
    Sep 18, 2013 at 23:43

10 Answers 10


There are a couple of difference idiomatic choices depending on what subtext you wish to convey. Here's a selection you can choose from:

If you want to describe someone with implied criticism in a single word:

John is work-shy.

John is indolent. (not particularly common)

John is a do-nothing. (not particularly common).

John is very apathetic towards work.

Or using an idiom:

John is somewhat of a nine-to-fiver.

John does enough to get by at work.

John does the bare minimum in his job.

John isn't living up to his own potential at work.

John is just scraping by at work.

John is not pulling his weight in his job.

The following may also apply:

John is very unmotivated in his work.

John has no passion for his work.

John is fairly indifferent towards his work.

John is very lazy.

On the other hand, you might want to give John's lifestyle a positive spin:

John has a good work life-balance.

  • 3
    Isn't it work-life balance? (notice the hyphen position)
    – pabo
    Aug 9, 2014 at 7:11

For what it's worth, I think slacker is, in fact, the right word for this. You're describing someone who doesn't totally fail to show up, but puts in the minimum effort. Putting in the minimum effort is slacking.

If you wanted to describe this in a more "politically correct" way, you might say the person is not very industrious.

  • Wow, I actually didn't know "slacker" does have that meaning. I always heard and used it for a person who never wants to do or does anything. So it actually isn't that harsh a word ?
    – Riva
    Sep 18, 2013 at 23:36
  • I would say a 'slacker' is someone who shows up but puts in the minimum effort. A 'deadbeat' or a 'loser' is someone who doesn't show up at all.
    – Andrew
    Sep 19, 2013 at 2:24

A goldbrick: a person who shirks responsibility or performs duties without proper effort or care.


The term has come a long way from its roots in the nineteenth century; along the way it got progressively further and further away from gold, or indeed bricks [...] Incompetent officers appointed from civilian life at the start of the First World War with only minimal training were likewise called gold bricks by enlisted men (in the case of second lieutenants, this was probably provoked by their rank insignia, a gold rectangle) At some point during that War, the term was extended to refer to anybody not pulling his weight, a malingerer or loafer


He's a clock-watcher. Only interested in when it's time to go home.


Some other words that would work:

John has a [casual, lackadaisical, negligent, disinterested, uncaring] approach to his work.

Some words that would also imply that the quality of work suffers from his approach would be slipshod, slapdash, unmeticulous, careless, and haphazard.

You can find more by consulting a thesaurus.


I like

"John's work is slapdash"

Since this describes his work, rather than John himself, it is more subtle than some of the other examples.


What about

John is a sloven or slob.

This means Schlamper in German, which is a person who fulfills his job but the outcome is of such a poor quality.

  • 2
    A slob is someone who is untidy; and has a filthy appearance; a person very lazy in everything he does; and lacking in good manners. Slovenly, the adjective form is more common, has a similar meaning to slob, but you could describe someone's work as being slovenly.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 17, 2013 at 13:13

A cobbler. And perhaps these might sound rude:

  • schlockmeister
  • skiver

Oh yes slapdash mentioned above is OK.

  • A cobbler is someone who mends shoes, not someone who chooses not to work.
    – Matt
    Sep 18, 2013 at 1:38

Here are a couple more:

John is a malingerer.

John is a clockwatcher.

From Google:

malingerer : one who feigns illness in order to escape duty or work
clockwatcher : an employee who is overly strict or zealous about not working more than the required hours

  • Or worse yet, a clockwatching malingerer!
    – user230
    Sep 15, 2013 at 20:59
  • @snailboat: Why not?
    – Tom Au
    Sep 15, 2013 at 22:09
  • I'm surprised this has garnered three unexplained downvotes. When I look up malingerer or clockwatcher, those words seem to fit the O.P.'s question rather nicely. I suppose this answer might have been improved with a link or a supplied definition, but that's no reason for a downvote.
    – J.R.
    Aug 9, 2014 at 7:07
  • Unfortunately I see a pattern. "Malingerer" is a "funny" word (even if valid), as is "schlockmeister" and "skiver" in an answer below. But thanks for your help.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 10, 2014 at 14:12

A: Confident. There's something for everybody, and everything we put out into the world is for somebody. No matter how many haters of your work there are, there may be only a single fan out there who really loves your work. That one fan, whatever pleasure you inspired, is worth all the haters in the world.

  • This is. . . an interesting perspective, but the question isn't about art. It's about exactly reaching the line of requirement and nothing else, and confident doesn't really make sense in that context. Nov 12, 2013 at 15:43

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