Diving Deep on Complacency

scuba diveComplacency: a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better; a complacent feeling or condition (Merriam-Webster) 

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This week has turned into my week for writing about words/concepts that frequently make their way into the conversations held between HR folks and organizational managers.

One of the go-to-things we often say, particularly when an employee or group of employees, seem to lack zing-spirit-zip is “s/he just got really complacent.”

Yup. I’ve said it too.

And then, more likely than not, we go down one of two paths:

Path 1: We fall into the ‘Engagement’ rabbit hole (Let’s do a survey! Let’s put a ping pong table in the break room! Let’s survey again to see if employees are engaged now that they have a ping pong table!)

Path 2: We label the employee with a moniker which will, sadly, stick to her during the duration of her employment (She’s not a go-getter. He’s content to just do the minimum. They’ve all just retired-in-place.)

Heading down either path is not right. Or fair for that matter.

The step we often fail to take is diving down real deep to ascertain why, exactly, we have an employee or group of employees who have gotten into the mode of clock-in/clock-out and “just let me do my job.”

HR professionals and leaders who sit on high in a tower or segregate themselves behind walled-in offices need to do some pretty serious self reflection about the institutionalized dynamics that have become embedded over time. Employees may have moved into the complacent mode for any number of organizational reasons:

  • Lack of feedback from their supervisor or manager
  • Lack of communication across the entirety of the enterprise
  • Lack of clarity around the meaning and purpose of their actual work/job
  • Lack of recognition and appreciation
  • Lack of mechanisms to raise issues, solve problems, and have input on decisions that affect their job and/or scope of responsibility

I’ve seen all of these. I’m sure you have too.

Next time you’re quick to characterize an employee as non-motivated, lazy, or not-on-the-bus-with-the-rest-of-us…take some time to look beyond the surface.

Dive deep.

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