According to a survey by Dropbox, one in five Brits report they never work to their potential on the job. If you live somewhere else, before you think this is a problem in just one country, it’s likely not. And if you think this article is meant to give you joy for pointing the finger at others, because I am talking about “all those” lazy people, you would be wrong again.
As reported by the BBC, the same survey reported that among the 2,000 interviewed, nearly three-quarters said that they don’t work to the best of their ability even once a week.
This data says that the bar on employee effort in the broad workforce might be pretty low. It doesn’t mean this has to be the case or that we must accept this as a fact of life or be a reason for leaders like us to commiserate over a cold beverage. It means only what it says, and what you already knew; not everyone gives 100% at work every day.
It also means there is lots of room for improvement and that tremendous productivity gains are available to you and your organization without spending money on technology, process improvements or anything else.
The biggest opportunities for productivity gains are all around you every day.
Let’s flip the question around; what are the factors that lead you to give 100% and work to your potential? Chances are it includes the belief that you are working on something important and the knowledge that you are contributing to those outcomes. When those things are true, people choose to focus more, work harder and accomplish more. The absence of those things will result in less focus, effort and results.
While you can find an exception, the principle is that when people have the right inputs and situation, they will choose to give more and do more, and in effect, be less lazy.
What am I saying?
The challenge isn’t the person, the challenge is helping them make a different choice; the choice to work closer to their potential more of the time.
Note: I’ve written about How to Get Lazy People to Work before, but here I am taking a slightly different angle. I’d encourage you to read that article too.
I have five steps you can take as a leader to help reduce what I labelled as “workplace laziness.”
- Take responsibility. If you want to blame others and say to yourself that “they” “should” want to work harder, you won’t make any progress here. Others make the choices on how and how hard to work; and we can choose to influence those choices. This belief and ownership must be the first step.
- Provide clarity. People need to know what their job is, what you expect of them, and what the goals are. Are you able to do your best when these things aren’t clear for you? Your team can’t either. If you aren’t clear yourself, you can be sure they aren’t; alternatively, just because you do have great clarity as a leader, doesn’t ensure that they do.
- Create meaning. Help people see the value of their work. When people see their work as making a difference, they will generally choose to do more of it! Help people see how their efforts contribute to the bigger goals and outcomes of the organization and you will help them make different choices with their level of effort.
- Be a coach. Good coaches are doing the last two suggestions, and good coaches help us get better. Are you more motivated by things you do well, or things you feel less confident about? As we coach our team members, we help them build their skills and confidence, and they will be far more likely to engage more completely.
- Be a (good) example. How often do you give 100% effort? Before we point fingers at others, let’s make sure our example is worth following. They are watching. Are they seeing what you want emulated?
I believe one of the reasons people enjoy watching sports is to have the opportunity to see fully committed people give that 100% effort I’ve been talking about; and this may well be the mental image you had as you read this article. While I believe that 100% effort can be our goal, I am also realistic in three ways:
- 100% all of the time likely is a myth. Even the athletes have timeouts and moments to rest. Asking or expecting 100% eight hours every day, 40 hours every week might not be the bar we need.
- If we raise the bar from where we are even by 25 or 50%, we will have productivity gains that go far beyond your wildest dreams.
- Remember that we are after results, not just activity. 100% doesn’t mean frantic busyness, it means more and better results.
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about how a Closed-Door Policy can lead to greater productivity. The Closed-door policy is really about putting some discipline and intentionality into your workday for creating better control of your time. Learn more here and get even more tips on how this can help you be more successful.