Apathy in business is contagious, what are you tolerating?

Apathy in business is contagious, what are you tolerating?
January 3, 2017

As many businesses attempt to do more with less, leaders must pick and chose their battles to keep employees productive. When we allow “busy” to take over, reverence for accountability often gets lost in a culture of tolerance.

Eventually, all the “little things” contribute to a BIG thing no one wants to handle.  The problem stems from everyone being “too busy” to make time to understand what’s going on. We as leaders put up with inappropriate attitudes every day from someone and if left unaddressed, this tolerance turns into irritation.

What do you tolerate?

From placing blame on others to not taking the initiative because it’s not in their “job description,” tolerance for carelessness, breeds apathy.

What you tolerate, you feed.

Apathy is contagious. Stand around the corner of any break room! Eventually, the little things turn into big things. Before long a cultural shift has occurred and there’s a bigger problem at hand.

Tolerance drains the energy of a team; it allows unhealthy attitudes to disrupt the enthusiasm of those who give their all. Every time you tolerate something, you probably wonder how long “this” will be allowed to continue or secretly ponder what you can sneak under the radar.  Tolerance impacts creativity. The energy used to ignore a situation could just as easily be used to turn it around.  Tolerance contributes to mixed messaging.

“What’s with the lateness?”

“Why is she always so mean-spirited?”

“When will he stop talking so I can contribute?”

If you as a leader believe you can walk away and forget about inappropriate behavior, consider this – your frustration will silently fester until the next time it happens. Ignoring a situation may go on for months before the lid gets blown. At the root of all tolerance lies a trigger within each of us.  An experience from a previous employer, perhaps an injustice growing up. The connection is personal.

So why do so few take action?

The answer usually lies in the team’s culture. If the environment isn’t safe to bring forth creative ideas, it certainly won’t be healthy enough to sustain an empowering solution. Here’s an important fact most leaders don’t consider; every bad communication experience an employee had in the past will contribute to a variety of limiting beliefs that immobilize her or him.

For example: “Don’t rock the boat—play it safe.” “Don’t complain or be too demanding.” “It’s not that important.” “I have no control.”

Limiting beliefs keep people playing small.

If you’re committed to creating a work environment that fosters cooperation and productivity, start having conversations. The byproduct of a contributing employee or team member is a happy person who is less stressed and healthier. Contentment at work is likely to carry over to the home.

Open and candid conversations can fix almost anything. Start small.  Practice separating the person from the act. There’s always something else going on behind the scene.

Here are some starter ideas:

Appraise. Make an honest appraisal of the situation. Write down what is being tolerated.  Be definitive and don’t make it personal.

Choose. If there is more than one behavior that needs attention, pick one or make a plan. You want to encourage success.

Verify.  Determine if the underlying factor stems from a personal situation. Don’t make assumptions. If something is going on at home, there may be other resources to support the employee.

Evaluate. How big is the problem? Can you identify a source? If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask other trusted team members.  Be prepared to present a vision of the outcome you predict.

Appreciate. What are the skills or talents no one recognizes in the individual? Regardless of what they’ve done, they probably have admirable qualities.  Be prepared to acknowledge what you appreciate about the person and why.

Request. Ask for the person’s commitment to the plan. Let them know they are not alone. If they need help, let them know you expect them to ask. Complaints are usually unspoken requests.

As you eliminate inappropriate attitudes or behavior, you will shift out of a culture of apathy and into a culture of contribution and cooperation. Team members will feel empowered; managers will feel valued, and productivity will increase.

It begins with one person; you, a visionary that sees a workplace as a community for all to thrive.  The time you invest will be well worth it. In the process, you’ll see your leadership skills reach new heights and enjoy your business more.

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Posted in Mindset, Personal Performance by Mari Pizarro