Some people say that monotony is a slow killer. This has never been truer in a world of ever increasing worker specialization. While specialization pays dividends in efficiency, it can cause major problems when it comes to keeping your workers’ ambitions high. When an employee feels like they have punched the same clock for too long, or done the same job over and over, they often become complacent. They lack the will to change their habits, because they’ve begun to operate on autopilot. This can also manifest in workers who ignore new rules, safety protocols, or procedures. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years” is a phrase that managers often hear when presenting new ideas or strategies. Obviously this can be a frustratingly counterproductive sentiment for a manager to encounter, but luckily there are some effective tactics that have helped me overcome worker complacency with my teams: facilitating flexibility, collaborative decision-making, embracing creativity, and holding people accountable.
Offering more flexibility in a worker’s schedule can make them feel empowered and more in the driver seat. This change can inspire new energy in some of your most complacent and low-motivation workers. Giving workers a chance to be more in control of how they work can generate surprising improvements in productivity, engagement, and worker happiness.
Make Decisions Collaboratively
Instead of imposing new procedures on your team by way of decree, develop a more collaborative process. Say you’d like to create a new Friday afternoon check-in to go over status updates before the weekend. First ask your team for their input on the idea. Make your case, and explain to them why you think this meeting will help everyone. Genuinely evaluate their feedback. This slight shift can fundamentally change the dynamic of your relationship with team members, reduce worker apathy, and boost overall morale.
Stifling creative thoughts and behaviors is a reliable way to breed worker complacency. Grant your employees the freedom to express themselves, experiment with new ideas, or even make some productive mistakes where necessary. Managers are too often concerned that risk-taking will inhibit efficiency, but this is usually counterintuitive. Business leaders are starting to realize that when employees are encouraged to experiment creatively, they become more emotionally invested in their work and generally enjoy their jobs more. What’s more, revolutionary ideas are rarely produced by rule-followers.
Hold People Accountable
No matter what you do, people will sometimes fail. Don’t freak out! Make sure you establish a fair and consistent process that holds employees accountable when they’ve dropped the ball without extinguishing their confidence. Set reasonable deadlines, get regular updates, and be approachable. Oversight is a powerful tool to keep your organization moving forward, but tighten the strings too much, and you’ll find it’s difficult to make much progress at all.
Complacency doesn’t need to be a product of working hard. None of us like working in rigid structures where we feel our voice doesn’t matter. If complacency has crept its way into your team dynamic, I highly recommend trying out these strategies.