The Comprehensive Guide to Managing Complacency At The Workplace!

The Comprehensive Guide to Managing Complacency At The Workplace!

With success comes complacency if you let it happen. It is human nature; there is that urge to think about how well you have done.

– Chris Coleman

Complacency is a state of mind wherein an individual gets too comfortable with his/her present state, to even venture into unknown territory such as taking up a new project or new responsibilities. Such employees live in their own bubble and refrain from stepping out of it, sticking to their defined roles, and refusing to improve or add value to the organisation.

Any workplace that lacks innovation, excitement and fun, recently recognised as the most important statistics in the workplace for measuring employee engagement, is bound to eventually take a hit on productivity! 

To ensure that complacent employees don’t end up handicapping an organisation’s growth and potential, it is important to look out for the tell-tale signs that present themselves subtly, and nip the problem in the bud!

Comprehensive Guide to Managing Complacency at the Workplace! 

Here are some of the signs of complacency you need to pay heed too

Signs of Workplace Complacency: 

1. Disengaged:

It’s easy to tell when an employee has signed out of work not just physically, but also mentally. As a leader, you need to look for signs that indicate that their head and heart is not in it anymore. For example, they seem disinterested and lost, or work fewer hours and do just enough to get the work done, etc. 

Try to gauge their level of excitement by assigning new responsibilities to them or by observing how collaboratively they want to work with the rest of their colleagues. An answer to all these questions will give you a close insight into whether the employee feels disengaged, which is slowly going to turn into workplace complacency.

2. Stop Thinking:

An employee has nothing to bring to the table, is not challenging himself with work or has simply stopped asking questions – that’s when they stop adding value to the organisation. 

They just decide to glide along, do not think much, and are just interested in doing what they are told to do. When employees start playing too safe at work or don’t want to come across looking like a non-team player, they will stop putting their minds to work and start phasing out.

3. Lack of Initiative:

Quite obvious after the above two, the lack of initiative follows suit. Employees stop taking the lead in any aspect; in fact, they lose their desire to lead and inspire others, letting unproductivity creep in. A lack of initiative leads to them feeling all the more distant and distracted at work.

4. Don’t Invest in Themselves:

You can tell the difference between an employee who is invested in working on themselves and those who are not. Those who are, are generally quite active in developing their skill-sets or building great relationships at work. Those who are not, simply lose their desire to perform

You may find them lurking around at company-wide networking functions, unwilling to hold a conversation with anyone. Such people have just stopped investing in themselves and come across as totally complacent towards work too. 

5. Opt for Shortcuts:

When someone starts to use their positive reputation in an organisation to turn lazy towards work, it is a sure sign of workplace complacency. Their work is not based on deep-enough research, and is not detailed like it used to be at one point of time. In short, all they want to do is take quick shortcuts

Such work might end up being flawed, and could snowball into more serious issues.

6. Play Too Safe:

If an employee wants to be looked upon as someone who is an integral part of the team and not someone who just wants to stay by the sidelines, playing a safe game and doing what he/she is told to do, he has to learn to take risks. 

Taking calculated risks is a sign of a good team player – someone who is not afraid to try out new things and wants to compete in today’s highly driven work world. Employees who are wary of taking risks and just want to play by the rules show signs of complacency. 

7. Lose Their Passion:

Someone rightly said once, “Passion is the difference between having a job or having a career.” When an employee is coming to work with ‘just a job’ attitude, you can be sure to get very limited quality of work out of him/her. 

On the other hand, an employee working with an attitude to excel in his/her career, who displays passion in the quality of work that he/she does, is sure to reach great heights and take the organisation forward too. 

When employees begin to lose sight of their passion and are no longer excited about their work, they may have already turned complacent towards work. 

Signs Of Complacency

Impacts of Complacency on Productivity:

Complacency is a malady that can prove to be a productivity killer in an organisation. What differentiates complacent employees from the driven ones is the lack of initiative that exists on their part. For organisations to curb this, it’s important to take employee engagement levels into account.

Following are the ways in which complacency impacts productivity in the workplace:

  • It stops employees from putting in their best efforts, due to which the quality of work inevitably suffers.
  • Employees simply come for a paycheck, develop a lethargic attitude, and drag the whole team’s morale down along with them.
  • There is a huge resistance to change – the employees want to stick to routine work, making the environment around them very laid-back and unconstructive, ultimately impacting productivity.
  • There is no innovation taking place, people hardly take any new initiatives, processes and work are followed down to the T and there is hardly ever any room for improvement.
  • Nobody pays much attention to what the competitors are up to, making an organisation lose sight of important market trends or any new approaches that are adopted by other organisations in the same industry. This really puts a strain on the overall company productivity, notwithstanding the final effects it has on the company’s bottom line.

How Can Companies Manage Workplace Complacency?

Every company wants its employees to feel comfortable in their workplace. But none of the companies wants them to get too comfortable, where they take their foot off the gas pedal completely and end up losing their productivity and efficiency. 

As a company, here are three important questions that you need to address if you really want to completely let go of any form of complacency that may be existing in your office:

  1. How can you get your employees to care about the quality of work they produce?
  2. How can you keep them motivated enough to come to work feeling excited and put in their best each day?
  3. How can you ensure that your employees remain engaged and always keep a clear vision of your company’s mission?

The answer to all three of the above is listed below in the form of some very good advice that will help keep workplace complacency at bay forever! 

1. Results-Only Meetings:

Ford Motors’ CEO from 2006-2014, Mr. Mulally had initiated one of the most impressive turnaround strategies, which may sound too simple, but worked like magic. 

One of the major aspects of this strategy was to hold a weekly meeting called Business Performance Review (BPR). In these BPRs, it was mandatory for each executive to step forward and give a comprehensive update about the progress their department was making against the bigger picture. No verbose explanations, just plain, simple facts!

BPRs strictly focused on discussions around objective data – whether the company’s goals were being met or not. Every week, employees who were required to attend these sessions waited in anticipation to share how they added value, leading to incentives, which motivated them to work hard and never show empty-handed. After reporting an annual loss of $12.7bn, Ford reported a profit of $6.6bn four years later.

Clearly, Mulally did not give the employees a chance to get complacent. This clearly shows that for every company to get rid of complacency, it is important to ensure that there exists a proper system of workplace accountability. This will go a long way in communicating to the employees that there is a zero percent chance of getting complacent, that there are no loose cracks and there is nowhere to hide.

2. Workplace Transparency:

Workplace transparency as a term gets thrown around quite casually than it actually should be allowed to. Its importance can be traced to the fact that the lack of it, can quickly lead to disconnected, disengaged, and worst of all, complacent employees. It is a general human tendency for any employee to place their trust and value in companies that exhibit a more transparent work culture. Clearly, management that lacks transparency will have fewer aids working for them.

The most practical way to tackle this issue is to solicit genuine and honest feedback from the employees. Get to know your employees. Are they happy with their roles? Do they have a chance to communicate openly with their immediate seniors about problems they might be facing? 

It is a good idea to seek their opinions and also act on good suggestions, which goes a long way in communicating the level of the importance their thoughts have on the company as a whole. 

Employees should be free to communicate openly. Employees who feel that they are being heard and considered, are more likely to stay away from the trance of complacency.

3. Purposeful Work:

More often than not, complacency can also set in when employees feel their work has no meaning or there exists a lack of purpose as far as their work is concerned. They simply cannot see how their work adds value to the organisation and help contribute to the overall company goals. 

Purposeful Work To Beat Complacency

The trick is to change this mindset of inferiority that can hurt an employee’s willingness to work with a purpose. Ensure that the employees understand how vital their work is to the organisation’s strategic goals. 

It is important that they get to see the bigger picture which will help them see themselves where they stand in the organisational setup. This will help them become more active contributors to the organisation.

4. Interdepartmental Connectedness:

In the disruptive work world that exists around us today, it is impossible for companies to work in silos, without any kind of dependency or synergy. This rule also applies to different departments within a company. The work is so interconnected that departments can no longer work independently. 

As a company, this is one of the best ways to tackle the complacent attitudes of employees. Promote interdepartmental connectedness and exchange of ideas. The goal is to allow every employee to experience the working of or at least understand how each department works, irrespective of the division that they belong to. 

One of the reasons for growing complacent is to fall into the trap of ‘routines’ and go on ‘auto-pilot’ mode towards work. Understanding how all departments collaborate to finally produce meaningful work will not only excite employees to experience something new but also shun them from growing complacent in their work.

As an organisation, always be on the lookout for any signs of complacency amongst employees. For companies who want to nourish great talent, build a good team and design profitable business models, complacency is an evil they need to banish completely!


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