3 ways to lead people who don’t care about work

don't care about work

Over your leadership career, you will have team members who don’t care about work. They might even have a lot of potential, but sometimes they just aren’t interested. You need to be able to lead them, too.

Let’s see how we can cater for those people who don’t care about work.

 

1. When people don’t care about work, give them something to aim for

Consider a work environment without any good consequences (rewards). What is the point of doing a great job, when there is no reward? You might as well do just enough to get the job done without busting your guts doing so.

When there is no “carrot” for doing great work, people will stop striving to produce it. There are those that will hang on longest. Usually they are driven by internal motivators that keep them going even when they aren’t going to be rewarded. But these people are uncommon and they won’t continue this way forever.

If your talented people don’t care about work, consider whether they have any reason to care. Just getting paid isn’t really enough any more, because you could “just get paid” at a lot of places. Many of them are probably less stressful than in your current team.

You need to give people reasons to want to stay at your company, in your team. This happens by offering people something of value.

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2. When people don’t care about work, create a good team environment

Consider a situation where Freya decides that she wants to do a really great job. She keeps trying and trying. Then finds that even when she puts in a lot of effort, things go wrong in her team and this stops her from achieving her goals.

Freya quickly realises that in this team, if she continues to work so hard, she is likely to be disappointed with the outcome. This hurts, because Freya likes doing good work. So Freya starts focusing on her own small part of the work and worrying less about the rest of the team.

When this happens, Freya passes her work on to the next person in the team and distances herself from the outcome after this point. Now, the team is just a group of people working separately, rather than a team working together.

Make sure your team is working well and you are creating an effective team environment.

3. Improve process and accountability to stop the individual mindset

You can address these problems by introducing process and accountability. People need to know that as a team, there are consequences for poor outcomes. And as a team, there are positive consequences for great outcomes, too.

People need to feel invested in the work of the team and to hold each other accountable. Process helps to stop things from unexpectedly going wrong and reduce variation in the end product.

Otherwise you will find yourself with individuals who do “just enough”. They’ll do the bare minimum work before handing it off to others in the team. Put together a few “just enough” efforts and you’ll be sure to have a fairly mediocre end product.

When talented people don’t care about work, there is a problem. They have learned that when they try hard in their current environment, they don’t achieve any more than if they put in minimal effort.

When they don’t care about work, they are less invested in the outcome. This protects them from feeling bad about the result. They will never feel really happy, either, but feeling average often feels better than feeling bad.

Do people in your team seem like they don’t care about work? What could you do to help them feel more invested in the team and the outcome?

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