Is Employee Apathy a Danger to My Business?
By: K'Lee Banks
You have probably seen and heard them: employees in just about any store or business you go to who seem bothered by you, the customer, as you wait for service. They don’t seem to care that it’s supposed to be their job to provide good customer service—heck, ANY customer service, for that matter.
Then there are those employees who seem to constantly be negative about everything and everyone, and their negativity eventually brings down the morale of many other employees. They don’t seem happy about having a job, but they don’t leave, either.
So what is the problem?
What has happened to genuinely taking pride in one’s company or business, and caring about how one performs his or her job, as well as treating customers or clients well, who—after all—are rather essential to keeping a company running?
Apathy appears to be the culprit, and if any employees in YOUR company are apathetic, it could spell trouble and impending danger for the success of your business.
Warning Signs of Apathy
However you define apathy—boredom, lethargy, or simply indifference—if the workers in your company have it, you should take immediate action to address and correct it, as it is known to be contagious.
Even good, dedicated workers can sometimes become affected by apathy, once they realize they appear to be doing the majority of the work while their co-workers avoid it as often as possible. Some of the warning signs of apathy among your workers might include the following:
- Standing or sitting around talking to one another, while ignoring assigned tasks, or worse, ignoring waiting customers.
- Showing up late, frequently calling in “sick” or simply not showing up at all.
- Taking extended breaks or more frequent “smoke” breaks.
- Performing mandatory tasks in an obvious disinterested manner, sometimes accompanied by sighing, complaining, or expletives.
- Doing the bare minimum to get the job done.
- Remaining detached from forming working relationships with co-workers.
- Engaging in non-work activities, such as surfing the Web, checking emails or engaging in social media activities, texting, making or taking personal phone calls, or simply daydreaming instead of being productive.
Strategies to Address and Correct Apathy
So once you’ve diagnosed the problem, what’s your next move?
Aside from firing all those workers who seem to have a perpetual case of apathy, you might try some of these strategies to address and correct apathy in your workers, as well as in the conditions contributing to apathy:
- Demonstrate genuine interest in your workers by asking for feedback about the job, the tasks it involves, and whether or not your workers feel confident in their abilities to perform their jobs well.
- Implement feedback by making changes whenever feasible.
- Keep employees interested and engaged in their work; make changes as necessary, whenever possible, so the right employee fills a role that makes the best use of his or her skills.
- Provide periodic workplace events or activities that offer co-workers a chance to mingle with one another on a casual basis.
- Monitor workplace conditions for optimal comfort and productivity.
- Reward workers in meaningful ways for work done well.
- Provide training opportunities for employees to develop or expand their skill sets, with opportunities for advancement.
Build Team Spirit
Build team spirit among your workers. Make them feel they play a valuable role in the success of the business. Be approachable and listen to any reasonable suggestions your workers may have about how to make the business better, or even how to be a better boss.
Above all, make sure YOU don’t exhibit any apathy toward the business or your workers, but rather be a model for commitment, responsibility, and enthusiasm.
About the Author: As a prolific freelance writer since 2008, K'Lee Banks has written about numerous business topics, including small business ownership using a wireless credit card machine, and employee engagement.