• Yvonne Root

Avoid the 5 Construction Donkeys




One of our clients recently mentioned that she had a couple of subs who turned out to be Slacker Donkeys. Truth is, she used a stronger word than “donkey.” But, because I rather appreciate the cadence and the rhythm of the two syllables, donk and ee, I chose the more genteel word. Still, if you think someone is behaving like an ass . . .


We’re going to look at the five donkeys as construction subcontractors in the following article. You can just as quickly look at ways to deal with any of your employees who also fall into one or more donkey categories.


Slacker Donkey

Perhaps the clearest telltale sign of a Slacker Donkey is that he typically is, as the old saying goes, a day late and a dollar short. Maybe his systems need to be overhauled, or his clocks and calendars need to be updated. Whatever the basis of this donkey’s inability to submit papers on time, show up on time, or deliver his portion of the job on schedule, it can run the gamut from being frustrating to being a job hindrance, to at worst, putting the entire job in jeopardy.


How to deal with Slacker Donkeys:

  • Hold him accountable for deadlines. For example, if he doesn’t submit draw requests by the scheduled deadline, let him know the next upcoming date. Stick with it. Don’t allow him to disturb your well-functioning system with his broken systems.

  • Schedule reminder notifications of upcoming mileposts and completion dates. (If they aren’t already, make these reminders a part of your processes or systems.)

  • Teach him. Either casually or with scheduled classes, teach this donkey to be better at fulfilling the job requirements.


If all the above steps fail, you can supplement his performance or terminate him.


Whiner Donkey

At first glance, you may think this donkey is nothing more than a minor annoyance. But Whiner Donkeys can be insidious. She not only eats away at the productivity of your employees, but she may also infect other subs or other contractors.


How to deal with Whiner Donkeys:

  • Confront her. Perhaps she is unaware of how frequently she whines – or of how trivial her complaints might be.

  • Ask her to tell you what she likes about working with your company. While I don’t think there is any truth to thinking, wish-boarding, or hoping yourself into health and wealth, thinking positively about life situations can be the first step in improving.

  • Suggest that she give you a better solution to the issue over which she’s complaining. It may be that she genuinely does have a great solution, or it could be her whining is curtailed when she comes up against the why of this part of your system.

  • Give her a link to this article about why to stop whining. It is brief yet eye-opening.


Blamer Donkey

It would be nice if faulty or deficient systems were the problem when it comes to Blamer Donkeys. Unfortunately, that isn’t usually the problem. Lack of integrity or poor self-esteem may be what drives a blamer donkey.


There are those occasional times when someone blames someone else and listening to the whole story (both sides) proves him correct.


How to deal with Blamer Donkeys:

  • Listen to what he has to say. If the concern is legit, then deal with it.

  • Determine if he is trying to make himself feel better, if he is untruthful, or trying to stay out of trouble. You won’t always know where the blame lies. Nor will you always know where the blamer lies. 😉 But patterns and frequency are both excellent guides you can put to use.

  • Guide him to look for better solutions and better communication both vertically and horizontally.


Stealer Donkey

If you find a Stealer Donkey on your job site or in your office, it is time to take swift action. If you know for sure that someone is stealing from you, use the legal channels available to you. Period.


Just in case you want more information, I found this online, and I agree. “If you suspect that an employee [or subcontractor] is stealing and you want to confront and discipline the employee [or subcontractor,] we suggest that you first contact your legal counsel so that your rights — and the employee’s [or subcontractor’s] rights — are protected.”


Duller Donkey

Suppose your subcontractor cannot make good on-the-spot decisions, swivel when necessary, or aid in developing time-saving and budget-friendly tactics while still bringing the quality. In that case, she might be a Duller Donkey.


How to deal with Duller Donkeys:

  • Look for those few who can step away from the crowd and take on more leadership responsibility.

  • Take time to mentor or teach her business skills.

  • Invite her to join the association to which you belong or another more suited to her trade.

  • Remember, the goal is to aid her in being an excellent addition to your team when you work together.

  • Take time to change Duller Donkeys into excellent trade partners.



Like in other areas of your construction business, you can choose to improve or delete what is holding you back. The same is true of the five construction donkeys. Help them get better or allow them to work elsewhere.



Construction Contractors look to The Profit Constructors to provide advocacy in dealing with:


  • Clients and customers

  • Employees and subcontractors

  • Vendors and service providers

  • Governmental entities


Working with The Profit Constructors gives Construction Contractors the means to organize their operations in ways that help them:


  • Remain informed

  • Avoid hassles

  • Reduce risks

  • Be future-ready


Ready for action? Or want to know more? Get in touch today to schedule a complimentary discovery call. 866-629-7735


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