Every marriage consists of two people who must continually be in communication irrespective of whatever happens. Once there’s the willingness to keep communicating, there’s hope and with that, no challenge is insurmountable.
It’s the same in the relationship the organization has with its employees. There must be continuous interest in maintaining effective communication. The management of every organization has to do all that is positively possible to keep it so.
This is because the first step towards employee engagement is effective communication which comes through:
- Organizational philosophy
- Company policies
- Supervision system
- The feedback system
Because these are the major avenues or platforms for employee engagement, not managing them well results in organizational apathy.
So what’s organizational apathy?
Organizational apathy simply refers to a situation where an organization’s stakeholders become indifferent and unconcerned with their work, events or any activities that have to do with it due to loss of motivation and interest.
In this case, it’s a situation where employees are no longer interested in whatever happens in the organization because they’ve lost interest and hope in the organization.
It’s a sad scenario and an unfortunate situation for any organization to be in. But before we look at ways to avoid apathy in an organization, let’s quickly see some of the problems caused by the menace.
Problems Caused By Apathy in Organizations
When employees’ interest and spirit is withdrawn from the organization they work for, their performance is often one of the first to be hit. This is because they no longer care about the achievement of set goals and objectives.
Firstly, the individuals withdraw their commitment and energy which affects their performance.
The next is the team and the departments, depending on the organization’s structure.
Before long, everyone has excuses for non/poor performance and that’s how meeting set goals and targets become a problem.
2. Reduced Profitability
Organizations make consistent profit when performance is at its best especially from the key members of the workforce.
Customers continue to give you their money when they are satisfied with your products and services.
As productivity reduces from the employees as a result of employee apathy, meeting customers’ demands gradually becomes a challenge and over time, they begin to feel the heat which eventually affects profitability.
3. Loss of Customers
I remember walking into a foreign owned fast food restaurant inside GRA in Lagos some years ago. It was a very busy day and I needed to eat something very fast so I could return to the business that brought me that way on that particular day.
I hardly concentrate well when very hungry. I really was.
Walking briskly straight to the counter hoping to be quickly attended to since there was no one else there, I thought I would leave there in a jiffy.
I greeted the two sales reps there and placed my order right away.
They reluctantly replied to my greetings with a funny smile and returned almost immediately to their gist. I was there as if unnoticed for the next 5minutes helplessly watching them talk carelessly about the party they attended the previous day.
‘Excuse me please, can I have my food?’ I finally found my energy to speak in total amazement. ‘Oga sit down, we will inform you when your order is ready’, was the response I got.
One of them eventually got up and served me the food 3 minutes later and to my surprise, the food had been right there on the counter before it was given to me!
Rather than get angry, I approached one of the ladies later to find out why they acted that way. The response was bold and shocking ‘that’s how the company treats us, so we have to treat their customers like that too’.
Employee apathy leads to loss of customers in droves!
4. Increased Cost of Production
Organizations with a high level of employee apathy always have a high cost of production as a result of wastages, accidents and loss of man hour.
Because people don’t really care about the business’s life and health, company property is left uncared for, wastages are high, pilfering, stealing, sabotage and use of company time for personal purposes is the order of the day.
All these increase the overall cost of maintaining the business which is hardly sustainable.
5. High Employee Turnover
Where there’s organizational apathy, labour turnover is usually high. High flying staff and those in pursuit of career goals hardly stay around for long. Why should they, anyway?
Innovation cannot thrive where people can’t ask questions and try new things!
No matter the organization or nature of the team you lead, you must be careful enough to keep the people motivated and inspired. They must continually feel engaged. That’s when they can give their best.
5 STRATEGIC WAYS TO AVOID APATHY IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
Having looked at the effects of apathy in organizations, let’s see how it can be avoided or reduced.
- Have A People Friendly Organizational Philosophy
Right from the start; let the foundational principles of the organization be people friendly.
It should be such that every stakeholder can easily and comfortably fit in and encourage others to do the same.
It doesn’t stop there. Someone once said that whatever gets monitored gets done.
That invariably means whatever is not monitored may not get done. There must be a way to keep everyone working the philosophy and deviations automatically noticed and corrected.
- Strong Organizational Culture
Cultures produce the kind of people it talks about although it’s believed in some quarters that people produce culture. People adjust themselves to fit into cultures built on strong foundations.
To avoid a case of apathy, it’s important that organizations build and maintain cultures that are rich in ethics, equality and performance. It must be such that is based on shared values, mutual trust and benefits for both the organization and its employees, boss and subordinate and so on.
The culture must be such that employees can ask questions and get answers without fear of victimization. It should be such that encourages transparency from top management to the least unit or individual in the organization.
When such is the practice, employees are guaranteed that their opinions matter hence sharing it won’t hold unseen fears.
Accountability is a very big word when it comes to leadership. Leaders are powerful and influential and must remain accountable if they are to truly serve the people as supposed.
If an organization must avoid employee apathy, it must ensure everyone is and stays accountable irrespective of their rank and position. The promises of the management must have integrity and what’s good for the goose must also be good for the gander.
There must be a check and balance of power across board such that no boss can illegally intimidate a subordinate and vice versa.
Once everyone is accountable and there are no sacred cows, the chances of effective communication and willful participation will be high.
- Effective Employee Engagement System
Management must consciously create a system that’s effective in gainful employee engagement.
It’s known in the industrial relations system that jointly made rules are by far easier to comply with and treaties mutually agreed to have more chances of long term commitments from all parties involved.
It’s important to have a system where employees can contribute their opinions and have a say in the things that concern them like compensation, annual leave, pension, dispute resolution process, promotion process, etc. and they should be heard.
With an assurance that their voices will be heard and opinions considered, apathy will have no space. And not just that; employees perform better and enjoy more job satisfaction where they feel well engaged.
- An Effective Feedback System
How do we know we are doing what we said to do? How do we know how our employees and other stakeholders feel about us?
Do we have their agreement and commitment on our projects? Is the organization operating its set principles or have there been a diversion?
How well are we treating our employees? What is the company’s labor turnover and job satisfaction rates?
These and many more questions are usually answered when there’s an effective feedback system in place.
From my experience relating with different organizations over the past ten years, I have seen the absence of a good feedback system operate like a cancer.
Once the virus is birthed, it begins to grow without anyone noticing it. It later shows up at a mature stage and rears its ugly head ready for battle.
Killing it at this time usually costs so much.
My Concluding Words . . .
Every human wants to be heard, we like to belong, we love to be involved and recognized. Have these in mind when you lead people and you won’t have an issue with apathy.
Most importantly, business leaders must avoid organizational apathy because it costs too much to shut your team members out.
Since you brought them in to contribute their quota, you should also open the door for them to participate to the degree of their status and have them fully engaged for the good of all.
What do you think? Kindly share your opinions in the comments column below.
Thank you for reading.
See you at the top!
About the author
Richard Uwamari – Richardizm is a certified management consultant and leads the team at hrm2day.com. He is also the consulting partner at Richystar Consulting limited, a management consulting firm based in Lagos Nigeria.
Having been in the HR industry for over a decade now, he’s contributed his expertise in servicing several local and international organizations. Asides his great knowledge in other areas of the management consulting field, Richard remains one of the best names to mention when it comes to employee engagement.