Five signs your staff are becoming complacent


Motivating a workforce to operate at maximum capacity is no easy task. The ability to produce and maintain thriving human capital is one of the primary factors that differentiates a prospering business from those that struggle. On the flip side, what are signs of complacent staff?

1. Engagement

In any workplace, it’s natural for staff engagement levels to fluctuate, with some better engaged than others. Generally, it can be said that high-performing staff are most likely to remain engaged over the long-term because it is this very aspect that tends to differentiate them from others.

When identifying the level of engagement of each individual, consider if staff are making forward traction towards their professional goals and targets in the workplace. Do they contribute in public forums such as team meetings or group work? Do they take initiative? Are they eager to put their hand up for new projects, clients or to collaborate with others across the organisation? Maybe not. If this is the case, unfortunately engagement alarm bells should be ringing.

In the era of increasing workforce mobility and record-low unemployment, employers need to employ innovative and creative strategies to engage staff, which means providing them with “challenges, diversity, relationships, and advancement opportunities.” [1]

2. Initiative

Keep a eye out for staff whose enthusiasm for work, including new projects and obligations, seems to be wavering and who appear to be ‘dropping the ball’. These are clear indicators of reduced initiative. When initiative is in decline, staff may become complacent about taking on any new work, aside from that already contained within their position description.

3. Personal and professional investment

When an employee becomes complacent, they’re likely to gradually stop investing in their own forward career trajectory. Warning signs may include failing to participate in internal and external professional development opportunities or failing to complete further studies. Employing staff who fail to up-skill or remain at the forefront of industry developments can become detrimental to the bottom line of a business. It can undoubtedly carry financial impact, but may also carry broader regulatory compliance issues along with it.

4. Cutting Corners

Complacent staff may cut corners whenever the opportunity is presented. They may complete work by the due date as required but may not necessarily complete it to the best of their ability or to the standard from which the company would best benefit. Sometimes this may cause a safety hazard for the employee or for other staff. On other occasions, it may provide a regulatory risk for the organisation. Research has linked it to “a range of negative outcomes such as low job performance, safety violations and serious injuries.” [2]

5. Teamwork

Failure to participate in teamwork is a cause for concern. Alarmingly, one report found 49% of Australian workers “fail to see the benefit of teamwork”. [3]

For the majority however, many enjoy opportunities to collaborate with others, either within their immediate team or with colleagues across different departments. Complacent employees avoid team work and may fail to instigate collaborative opportunities. They are not likely to seek the opinion of others and may also refrain from offering feedback that may have formerly brought them pleasure in doing so.

It takes a unique leader to truly motivate and inspire staff [4] and creating and maintaining an engaged workforce isn’t easy. Maintaining a keen eye for complacency in your workforce means you’ll be in the best position to implement mitigation strategies as soon as it rears its potentially problematic head.


About the author

Joe Flanagan is the Senior Career Advisor at outplacement and recruitment service VelvetJobs. With expertise in job search and curation, resume building, interview skills and overall career transition. When he’s not trying to reduce the unemployment rate you can find him hitting the gym and independently travelling around the globe.

[1] https://www.aim.com.au/sites/default/files/downloads/AIM-Research-Engaged-Employees.pdf

[2] http://safetyconcepts.com.au/complacency-in-the-workplace 

[3] http://www.afr.com/news/policy/industrial-relations/australians-give-teamwork-the-cold-shoulder-20141028-11davs

[4] https://leadonpurposeblog.com/2016/08/15/increasing-employee-morale-the-smart-way/


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