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Overcoming Complacency in the Workplace

inspiration[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I[/su_dropcap] RECENTLY WROTE and published an article on LinkedIn Pulse titled, “A Deadly Sin in the Workplace? Favoritism.” Obviously the deadly sin reference is to the historical, and often religious, list of bad things you shouldn’t do. Although not mortally deadly, the workplace sins I refer to can be organizationally lethal if not remedied.   Complacency is one of those workplace ‘sins’ that can have disastrous long term effects on a company if ignored.

Complacency is typically a by-product of experiencing success, or perceived success. It can happen to any company regardless of size, industry, or “culture.” Why? Complacency occurs when we become content, self-satisfied, over-confident, and even smug. Ironically enough, it is the successful that are most susceptible to complacency. Understanding that it’s inevitable that we will discover complacency in our workplace at some point, as leaders what do we do next?

Diagnose It. Complacency can start from a quiet confidence, which most would see as a positive, and slowly become a problem when the behavior isn’t noticed. What do you see different in people’s (or your) habits and approach? Are you taking the little things for granted? Do you see shortcuts occurring?

Create Healthy Competition.  Most of us love competition (especially us “A” types). You can combat complacency with creative competition. Create ways to help people compete against themselves, or against the goals they surpassed last year. Allow teams to compete (though not in a destructive or disabling way) with each other in seeking common goals. Define an outside competitor as the source of your energy and effort.

Modify and Update Goals.  If you assign the same goals year after year without change, you have a problem; especially if those goals continue to be met. Take the time to engage others in setting new goals. Create them with the same excitement and anticipation you did in setting the past goals your teams have met. Make sure the new goals are challenging enough to inspire the energy to combat complacency.

Keep the Vision, Purpose, and Mission Clear.  Goals are great, but it is the underlying purpose or “why” that will truly drive discipline and performance and be a natural deterrent for complacency. Remind people of your purpose. Connect them to the mentality and emotions of success when realizing that purpose. An organizational vision is powerful. Remind them (and yourself) who we want to be as a company.

Finally, in this context, paranoia can be your friend. Regardless of the industry, platform, or geography; competition has never been so fierce. Someone is always coming for you. Someone is always figuring out a better way to do what you do. So practice reasonable paranoia. Engaging in reasonable paranoia will keep your business crisp and your team on their toes. Initiate a regular reminder to your organization to take nothing for granted. There’s always someone out there to take your place.

 

Dave Kipe
DAVE is currently the Senior Vice-President of Global Operations at Scholastic, Inc based in New York, NY. A dynamic and transformative senior leader, Dave has over 20 years experience leading global supply chain, distribution, finance, E-Comm, and IT operations across various industries, platforms, and sizes. From private equity backed start-ups to Fortune 500 organizations, Dave has built and led teams to unprecedented and sustained success in operations, technology, and financial execution. Dave employs a hands-on approach building a culture of employee engagement while delivering exceptional bottom line results.

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