There has been a lot written about what creates complacency with some in the workplace and much of it relates a personal lack of clarity as to career direction or one’s not having an affinity with the direction they chose. Others are simply burned out and zapped of strength and desire to forge ahead because the nature of the company has changed … perhaps through growth that has taken away the excitement associated with the startup they originally joined.
Yet, I come face to face with another interesting and different phenomenon. It is related to the level of unemployment. It appears that when unemployment is at a high point in the working world, those in jobs realize the importance of keeping
the job they have. They tend to put out more effort to do things that will provide some degree of insurance that they will not be at risk of joining the ranks of the unemployed and looking. This takes various forms that might include asking to learn new tasks … demonstrating a willingness to put in more overtime … operating with a greater sense of flexibility that moves away from a rigid ‘job description’ to one of ‘whatever needs to be done’. The result for these individuals is that they actually learn new skills and in the overall, enhance their value to the organization.
Conversely, when unemployment is at a lower point much like it is today, some interpret this a job security perhaps believing that they would be hard to replace and with that ‘comfort’ tend to become complacent … in their job and the
specific work they do. Thus, they become more aware of and less willing to put in extra time even when needed. They do the work they were hired and expected to do however don’t tend to reach beyond to learn or take on greater responsibilities. Generally speaking with their job more of a guarantee, they tend to coast along and in so doing just might be jeopardizing their career and ultimate goals.
Often, when I make this point to a coaching client I can see the lightbulb go on for it’s a perspective that some haven’t considered and thus, not acted upon. The exciting part happens when one does change their view of the situation and gets onto the bandwagon of determining how they can and should be operating … as if it’s a time of high unemployment. Converting complacency to opportunity carries with it some serious and real energy and that carries significant benefits.
Realistically speaking and regardless of the rate of unemployment, pushing oneself into an unknown arena also pushes
ourselves into a zone of discomfort. We’re over the edge of what we know and do well. Our willingness to take that leap happens because we believe that it will reap benefits … to the organization and perhaps most importantly, to ourselves. It is often our hesitance to willingly do this that carries with the state of being complacent.
Here are some signs that perhaps … just perhaps … you are operating in the zone of complacency and recognizing this will help one move in the direction that takes advantage of the opportunities that are always present to some extent.
- Showing up, doing your job as you know it and remaining in your comfort zone
- Finding yourself wanting to continue using past approaches rather than pushing to improve methods and systems that could bring greater efficiencies
- Resisting being an active participant with other work associates in a desire to streamline and explore improvement
- No longer striving to do your best and rather focus on ‘good enough’
I’m sure there are more signs and yet, what is so valuable is our ability to recognize that, regardless of the level of unemployment, our viewing either situation as an opportunity to gain knowledge and recognition for how one has chosen to operate will have the impact of advancing our career and overall success. I grant you that times of lower unemployment as we are experiencing today are not necessarily a main cause of complacency. However, it appears that they can certainly bring it to the forefront without our realizing that this has taken place. As Bonnie Marcus stated in an article written for Forbes Women … “If you assume that the status quo will remain in place (like your job), you are setting yourself up to be blindsided. If you stay in the safety of your complacency without a notion as to what’s happening in the company or in your industry, your safety zone can become a danger zone overnight. Changes are occurring all around you that can make your skills and competencies obsolete. Potential mergers and downsizing can be potential landmines unless you are tapped into the politics of the company and listening carefully to the warning signs that change is about to happen.”
Dictionary.com’s definition of complacency is “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.” It seems to me that focusing on the opportunities that we can create in our work overrides any circumstance related to the level of employment. Or let’s say … it should! Right?