What to Do When When Employees Stop Caring

Every organisation would like to have employees who are enthusiastic and engaged. But this isn’t always the case. In some instances, employees start out highly engaged only for them to gradually care less and less about their work.

This state of reduced engagement results in declined productivity and can affect everything from client relations to team work. There are several things that can be done to reverse the situation when employees stop caring:

Prioritise employee growth

There should be periodic and continuous efforts to improve the skills of employees. One survey found that 9 out of 10 employees said that Learning and development opportunities were a key factor for job satisfaction. . In the absence of this, employees will start to feel stagnated and to become disengaged at work.

If you realise that employees have stopped caring at work, take deliberate steps to create a growth and development plan. Sit with employees and find out what their career goals are and where they see their place in the company going forward.

If you do not have the capacity to carry out this fact finding exercise, outsource it to a human resource professional or a talent management firm. Once you are aware of employees’ desired career paths, plan development courses they can take in order to help them get to where they want to go.

Some organisations already have development programs for employees to take advantage of. If you see that employees have stopped caring in spite of these, it is a good idea to re-examine them. Get employees feedback to learn how these programs can be made more meaningful. It does no good to have programs in which employees do not find value.

Offer new opportunities

Imagine doing the same job every day for years. It is bound to become monotonous and maybe even boring. Employees who do such work may end up not caring about work at all. They will still do their jobs but with as little investment as possible.

This low job satisfaction can result in absenteeism, increased errors and mistakes and low productivity. Give employees something to be excited about by creating new opportunities.

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Promotions are an example of opportunities you can look into. However, unless yours is a large company, promotions will only serve a limited number of staff. As mentioned above, growth, learning and development are key to employee engagement. Give employees a chance to learn and teach each other in peer learning sessions.

In these sessions, employees will have the opportunity to share knowledge about an area they are good at with their colleagues.

New opportunities do not have to be directly in line with their work. There can be an opportunity to serve on the company’s CSR committee. Shake things up by rotating positions on this committee to give employees a chance to learn a new skill or flex a new muscle.

A new opportunity that is in line with learning and development involves letting employees work across departments. This is normally reserved for new hires as part of the onboarding process but it is a good way to re-spark interest in the company’s work.

It will be exciting to learn what another department does day to day and to see how employees contribute to each other’s work and to the bigger organisational goals. Seeing all this can help employees care about work once more.

Talk to employees

Talking to employees is a key step to arrest the problem when employees stop caring. Have a frank one on one and periodic surveys to find out how your employees feel and perhaps why they feel that way.

A conversation will offer insights on why an employee has stopped caring and it might not be what a manager expects.

It is true that the boundaries between work and home have shrunk further and further. It is thus inevitable that one’s life at home will affect work and vice versa. If the cause of the workplace apathy is coming from a situation unfolding at home, could an employee use some time off?

If it is due to new responsibilities at home, (as is the case with new parents) could a restructuring of work help? Perhaps this employee might benefit from a flexible work schedule. After all, flexible work has been seen to result in more engaged workers.

You will never know the answer to any of these questions if you do not talk to employees.

When it comes to stopping workplace apathy, prevention is better than cure. It is better to prevent situations that may result in employees caring less and less about work. Here are a few things you can try:

Prevent burnout

Burnout is so dangerous to productivity and wellbeing that once it sets in it becomes an uphill task to root it out. It can be described as being physically and emotionally exhausted at work. When employees stop caring, burnout may be to blame.

Managers and business owners can prevent it by;

  •       Encouraging employees to take their scheduled time off
  •       Encouraging an exercise regimen, perhaps by creating a wellness program
  •       Encouraging a work-life balance
  •       Giving employees a challenging but manageable workload.

Improving communication

There should be clear communication channels in order to prevent workplace apathy. It is also important that these are two way channels, that is, that employees can reach out to managers as much as managers can reach out to them.

That’s not all, managers have a big role to play in fostering a healthy relationship with employees. Otherwise, channels might be open but never utilised. Employees should feel comfortable enough to talk to their manager about work challenges, ideas, their workload and to a certain extent, personal issues.

If that is not possible, a lot of organisations these days offer personal days that employees can take without diving into too much detail about why they will not be working that day.

When communication is robust, both managers and employees can prevent apathy and disengagement before it sets in.

In Summary

When employees stop caring about work it is a situation that affects more than just the business. The employees are affected too. For this reason, overcoming and preventing this problem is a task that falls not just on the manager but on the employee as well.

Employees have to be active participants in growth opportunities provided by the organisation, they have to communicate openly with managers and take steps to ward off burnout. Employees should advocate for themselves and managers should not only listen but also act.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.