I wonder whether as for an employee who neglects their working duties we can say:

1- He doesn't pull his weight --> I doubt if it works in this case, while according to the dictionaries "pull one's weight" is used when someone doesn't do his share in a teamwork or when everyone has their own certain task.

2- He doesn't perform his duties. --> too me "duty" is too formal-sounding or something associated with military jargon.

I don't know what is the most common idiom / expression/ verb in this sense. I wonder if you could help me with it.

  • A workforce is a team. If one employee shirks, the rest have more to do. Jul 3, 2019 at 16:36
  • Thank you @Weather Vane. I think "to shirk" is the precise verb which meets my need. But I didn't follow you on "a workforce is a team." Maybe I have misunderstood it, but as for this case, let's say in a company there is only one secretary who's duty is answering the phone calls. So this is only her task and has nothing to do with others in the manner that her undone tasks becomes others extra workload.
    – A-friend
    Jul 3, 2019 at 17:03
  • Others will probably answer the phone. When I worked in an office, if the receptionist was, say, in the rest room, the telephone would not go unanswered. Jul 3, 2019 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


"Pull one's weight", or in some cases, "do one's share" is a relatively informal and common expression. It's perfectly natural in a casual conversation about the relative efforts of various members of a team, who work together on a common task.

It can be used as a "buzzword" (or "buzzphrase", I suppose) when talking about an employee's individual effort. An office working environment requires some measure of teamwork, so even if an employee works primarily on isolated tasks, their effort contributes to everyone's overall success.

I don't know if it is a cultural thing to have managers in a company who don't like to criticize employees directly. It's common in the United States where a disgruntled employee can sue for wrongful termination (or, sometimes, do worse things). In such cases, for example, a manager might say something like

He's not a team player

when the manager really means

No one on the team liked him very much.

In the formal context of something like a performance review a manager might tell an employee that they aren't "pulling their weight" as a way to suggest that their unsatisfactory performance pulls down the entire team, as a way to motivate them to work harder.

In a formal context, it's fine to say something like

The employee had consistently unsatisfactory job performance


The employee consistently did not meet performance expectations


The employee consistently underperformed in their duties

as well as many, many other variations, all of which are various nice ways to say they weren't very good at their job.

  • Thank you very much @Aadrew. But what about "shirk" or just "shirk one's duties / responsibilities"? Does it work in this sense properly? Isn't it too formal/informal?
    – A-friend
    Jul 4, 2019 at 6:28
  • 1
    @A-friend shirk is not too formal, but it implies deliberately not doing the tasks you are supposed to be doing. A manager sensitive to nuance would not use this phrase, but instead use something less negative, such as, "It seems you've been avoiding your duties recently. I have to ask you to put in more of an effort."
    – Andrew
    Jul 4, 2019 at 15:52

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