DEFINITION of 'Coaster'

A coaster is a slang term for an employee with low ambition and, consequently, low productivity. A coaster is an worker that simply "coasts" through his duties by doing the minimum amount of work to keep his position.

Typically, a coaster shows up late to work, has poor performance and misses deadlines. Coasting almost always limits someone's potential for advancement and promotions.


A coaster displays other characteristics that may indicate that he just does enough to get by at the office. This person rarely changes his work routine, takes the maximum amount of break time and leaves promptly at the end of the shift at 5 p.m. Managers note this behavior, but they may not be able to terminate a coaster based on this person's lack of enthusiasm for the job. Coasters may exist in any type of employment situation, from office work and factories to service industries and higher education.


In academic circles, researcher Richard F. O'Donnell labeled senior, tenured faculty members at the University of Texas coasters because these professors taught smaller classes without doing much new research in the field. Coasters cost the University of Texas more than $3,000 to teach one student, yet these types of professors only taught an average of 112 students per academic year in 2011.

By comparison, the best-performing professors taught 503 students per year while bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the university in the form of research grants. These star professors cost the university just $406 to teach one student. Coasters comprised 1,280 faculty members on campus versus just 30 of the stars. O'Donnell cited the employment practices of the university as the major contributing factor for coasters on campus.

Solutions for Coasters

Companies, institutions and agencies should look towards efficiency and cost savings to solve the problem of coasters. Human resources departments can identify better candidates by gauging someone's attitude during a job search. The candidate doesn't have to be a workaholic, but firms may consider someone's work ethic versus qualifications to make the final decision on a hire.

Managers and supervisors can employ many tactics to deal with coasters already on the payroll. The simplest way to tackle the problem is to ask questions. Bosses should try to find out what may have happened in a person's life that caused them to start coasting. Has someone's life circumstances changed? Is someone going through a stressful time?

Perhaps a coaster is just bored and needs a challenge. Supervisors can give an employee a new project, assign the person a mentor or have the person shadow a colleague to learn different skills on the job. Maybe a coaster simply doesn't know what the goals and expectations of the position. Managers might try to invigorate the employee by reviewing what the team member should do while on the clock.