What to do about Apathy in the workplace
Browsing the pages of Management Issues recently I came across an old but still relevant post from Max McKeown entitled, A is for Apathy. You can access it here. It's worth a read and it prompted the following thoughts:
Someone once defined the opposite of love, not as hate but as apathy or indifference. Apathy is a "state". In my view many working practices create conditions in which apathy can take hold, sometimes contrary to the best intentions of those in charge. Think of those stories we hear more and more of where adults are treated like children, told that they can't do this and that. The stories depict a world of control and creativity curtailed. Come to think of it, why would we want such a world for our children either?
High control workplaces may be appropriate in some sectors but in others may have more to do with a culture of low trust. Low trust environments may mean people learn to leave their creative selves at home and switch off their ingenuity at work. Not what we need in today's world.
So what to do about it?
If you accept that apathy is a state then you can change state. Do what you can to brighten your thinking and your immediate environment.
How? Think about these.
What were the hopes and expectations you had when you first started working here?
In an ideal workplace what would you be thinking, saying and doing?
Could you be the change that you want to see in this workplace?
Maybe? Could you for example do that by seeking to build rapport among co-workers and senior managers?
Noticing your co-workers more; finding plusses to praise; welcoming their contributions; practising attentive listening; encouraging; relating? Simply connecting?
This isn't about avoiding the reality of a negative environment through a naive form of positive thinking but it is about positive, possibility thinking. It's about exerting a positive influence and you have to learn to care enough to make it happen. When you do, people will notice and you create an upward spiral.
Of course, things may have got so bad that some just want an exit strategy, a divorce from their workplace. In this economic climate that may not be a choice they are able to make. In that case, they might need to follow the old adage "Love what you do until you can do what you love!"
Love after all is the opposite of apathy.
What do you think causes apathy in the workplace? What suggestions do you have to overcome it?