OSEA Safety Blog

How to Deal with Employee Complacency

Tuesday, October 30, 2018 Todd Schara

A complacent employee is one who is satisfied and comfortable with the way things are progressing and does not want to take initiative to make them better. Such an employee exists within a false sense of security and misplaced comfort and can be detrimental to the overall functioning of the team.

While low employee engagement is obviously a multidimensional problem with many root causes, we believe workplace complacency — when an employee’s disinterest or self-satisfaction exceeds their desire to work hard and innovate — plays a huge part. The following are some tips from experts on how a leader can nudge a complacent team member to work harder.

Identify the Cause

There can be a variety of reasons for a employee to turn complacent. Experts say boredom in job, lack of proper alignment to organizational vision, or even an absence of potential career growth can lead to complacency. If you are able to pinpoint the source, you can take an appropriate action.

Employee Survey

Develop an employee opinion survey that solicits feedback on job satisfaction. This survey should contain questions about job assignments, and whether employees believe their skills are being fully utilized in their current jobs. It should also give employees a chance to list the skills they would like to acquire through training, development or job-shadowing experiences. You can also schedule employee focus group discussions. Focus groups give workers an opportunity to talk to HR about the types of challenges that would improve their attitudes about work. By giving employees a forum to address their needs and concerns, you motivate them to think more about their goals with the organization.

Set Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations and goals is essential as it helps employees and the organization to get on the same page with regard to expected results. Experts say that providing employee with a better understanding of what he or she needs to deliver, can help deal with complacency.

Work Assignments

Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate aptitude for high-level responsibilities. Giving employees assignments such as these encourages them to work harder to prove they are worthy of tasks that challenge their skills and expertise.

Have a Conversation

Communication is key to solve almost any problem on the earth. A frank discussion will not only build trust but also helps the employee to accept the leader’s view as forward-looking. Experts say sharing experiences of how the leader has also possibly gone through similar career life-cycle phases helps build empathy.

Empower Your Employee

Complacency often stems from a lack of motivation. Organizations should build a sense of direction for employees. Experts say inculcating a sense of ownership among employees and empowering them with tools to make decisions can keep complacency at bay.

Provide Direction

A complacent employee may have a lack of direction. Experts say leaders should assist the employees with setting up short-term goals apart from coaching and challenge the employees and push enough to bring out the best in them.

Team Building

Assign a committee to plan company events that can inspire camaraderie among employees. When co-workers participate in activities outside of work, they often gain a different perspective about their co-workers and form relationships that extend beyond just work. Social outings with co-workers can improve the level of enthusiasm employees have for coming to work and doing a good job.

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.

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