We’ve all witnessed this scenario: A team member who used to be excited to come to work every morning starts sliding. It’s not immediately obvious – they’re still showing up, and they’re still fulfilling the bullets in their job description. But the enthusiasm, the sparkle, and that extra little bit of discretionary effort they used to make is just…missing. Complacency has set in.
It can happen to anyone, but it can be especially prevalent in front-line roles. Once the initial challenge of a new job wears off, the tasks can start to seem routine and monotonous. And a bored employee can easily become a complacent employee. They’re putting in the hours, but the excitement isn’t there. If the work itself is necessary but isn’t exactly enthralling, it can be a real struggle to keep those employees from becoming complacent.
The side effects of complacency and its close cousin, disengagement? Poor service, general undertones of negativity, lackluster outcomes, and eventually, inevitably, increased turnover.
Combatting complacency and keeping your team engaged and interested is a continuous challenge, and we all know that employee engagement doesn’t just happen by accident. But it’s not all bad news, either. There are effective ways to intentionally foster a workplace where employees care about their jobs, even when the tasks themselves aren’t overly stimulating.
Prevent and address complacency in your organization with these 5 strategies:
1. Remove obstacles. The quickest route to complacency? Combine a repetitive and boring task list with frustrating obstacles to getting the tasks done. Provide employees with the tools and supports they need to get the job done, use your open-door policy, and solicit feedback from employees regularly, so you can anticipate obstacles before they breed disengaged and complacent behaviour.
2. Create meaning. Fight complacency, encourage investment, and make the work meaningful by showing all employees how they fit into the big picture. Tune front-line employees into the strategic goals of the organization, share the impact of what you do, and celebrate accomplishments with all employees. Illustrate the larger purpose of the work and the “why” behind what they’re doing to create significance and engagement.
3. Empower and challenge. An empowered employee is rarely a complacent employee. You work with a team of grown ups, so treat them that way. Articulate the expected results, and then step away. Grant team members the autonomy to do their jobs in a way that works for them, and allow employees to take ownership of their areas of accountability. Provided the desired results are there, do you really need to micromanage the how? Empowering your team means employees will feel challenged, trusted, and supported in developing new skills.
4. Show them a path. When an employee doesn’t see a future with you, complacency can be the natural consequence. If you want top performers to stick around, don’t make them guess at their future with the organization. Spell it out, and highlight what their career path with your organization could look like to keep them invested in the day-to-day.
5. Celebrate. Give them something to look forward to. Having things on the horizon to get excited about can make a big difference to how engaged employees feel. Break up monotony and encourage team bonding by holding regular mini-celebrations. Team accomplishments, birthdays, holidays, or Tuesdays all count… so pick a time and make it happen. Celebration doesn’t have to be big or expensive, but it gives everyone a bright spot to focus on and talk about.
Your Engaged HR Assignment: Noticing slightly lackluster performance from previously enthusiastic team members? Maybe it’s time to shake things up to fight complacency. Commit to identifying one area from the list above to focus on in the next week, and let us know how it goes!