Complacency in the Office

by Debbie Gilster

in People Management

Complacency in the Office

Several clients have recently asked me this question and someone stated in our online productivity survey that this was an issue for them personally. It has been phrased several ways – as a lack of motivation, diminished drive, or even laziness.

Complacency can happen if a task or job becomes too repetitive and it can happen without you even realizing it. You produce the same reports over and over again. Or, you call on the same type of clients. If we begin to take shortcuts on the way we perform a task, and there are no negative consequences, that can also lead to complacency. If you stop reconciling the checkbook because no one ever notices and then someday you realize your balance is off, it will take more time in the long run to fix the account. Of course, that is when you need the information quickly!

Seven Techniques to Cure Complacency

  1. Be a proper model to your employees. Just like a child looks to a parent for direction, staff looks to their leader or manager. Are you setting the tone for complacency?
  2. Provide proper training. If you need your staff to help grow the business by bringing in more clients, teach them how to network and market themselves. This is not something everyone just knows how to do or is comfortable with.
  3. Change where you work. Sometimes being cooped up in the same office breeds familiarity or distractions. Take your laptop or stack of papers to another room, the local library or a coffee shop. Observe if your focus level or motivation changes.
  4. Offer incentives. People get motivated different ways. Trips, cash, recognition with an award and even the potential for a promotion or time off. Ask your team what will work for them. They need to have a stake in the outcome.
  5. Spruce up the office. Take a serious look your environment. Is it dull and boring? Or outdated? Better artwork or livelier paint on the walls can get people more excited. Maybe a good cleanup session to make the space look less messy is really needed.
  6. Switch jobs with someone. It’s always good to have staff cross-trained in case something happens or the workload gets too much. Create a program to foster and reward learning and assisting others. Trying on someone else’s shoes can also make you appreciate your own job more!
  7. Ask! Tell your group you sense there is some complacency in the office and you want to see if they agree. Engage them in conversation and then listen for suggestions on what to change.

Share your thoughts.  Is complacency an issue in your company? (Even if it’s just you in the company!) Let me know if any of these ideas, or others you have, work for you.

(This was originally posted in 2005.)

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Sarah
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