Over your leadership career, you will manage 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 rewards. What is the point of doing a great job, when there is nothing to work for? You might as well do just enough to get the job done and no more.
When there is no reason to do great work, some people will stop working hard.
There are those with a strong work ethic, who are driven by internal motivators that keep them going even when they aren’t being 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 other places.
You need to give people reasons to want to stay at your company, in your team.
You can read more about introducing rewards in this post: Do your people care about your team rewards?
2. When People Don’t Care About Work, Encourage Teamwork
Freya is a top performer, and wants to do a really great job. She keeps striving. Then Freya finds that even when she puts in a lot of effort, things go wrong in her team that stop 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.
Instead, Freya starts focusing on just her own small part of the work and worrying less about the rest of the team. Sometimes, this is called “putting the blinders on” because you stop looking anywhere but straight ahead.
When this happens, Freya passes her work on to the next person in the team and plays no further part. Now, the team is just a group of people working separately, rather than a team working together.
Read more here about great behaviours you want in your team: 4 Great Team Behaviours That Lead to Fantastic Teams
3. Improve Process and Accountability So There Are Consequences
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. Having well understood processes helps to stop things from unexpectedly going wrong and reduces variation in the work that your team produces.
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. If everyone in your team is doing “just enough”, you aren’t likely to have a very good outcome.
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.
Ever had a problem leading people who don’t care about work? What did you do? Tell your stories in the comments below!
Alternatively, if you'd like to know more or need some help on this topic, simply send me a private message through my contact page: