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  • Writer's pictureHassan Younes

Dealing With a Complacent Employee - The 6 Tips for Building Them Back Up

Oprah Winfrey set a host of rules for her employees to prevent complacency. Why wouldn’t you want to do the same in your organisation?


Right off the bat, Oprah has no tolerance for those who waste time. And she makes sure her team members are the best at what they do.


From the lighting crew to the production managers, Oprah hires only top talent. Yes, this is one reason her show is so great, but there’s a more critical point.


By ruling out everyone but the top talent, Oprah raises standards within the industry. So, when someone gets hired, they’re really grateful and honoured to be on the team.


Consequently, Oprah’s team members go above and beyond to excel, which minimises the risk of complacency.


Also, she keeps encouraging her employees to push hard to rise above the average no matter what. Again, this rule leaves no room for her people to grow complacent.


Now, these are only some of the rules that helped Oprah create one of the best production teams in the world.


They’re a great inspiration to start raising the bar in your organisation. Ready to discover more tips?


The Tips

#1 - Ensure Your Employees Are Properly Managed

As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” - Robin Sharma


Lack of direction and mismanagement are among the leading causes of complacency. This is especially true when you’re trying to initiate change and fail to realise that your employees aren’t on the same page.


It could feel as if you’re trying to push them off a cliff without teaching them how to use a parachute. And Oprah knows this all too well, so she does everything in her power to prevent her employees from saying: “I’m too good for this…”


To remain one step ahead, it pays to inform employees they’ll be venturing out for a greater good. But the information alone isn’t enough.


You need to provide the proper organisational framework to ease the initial employee friction and help them do what’s necessary. They will have something to lean on when in doubt, empowering them to keep working free of complacency.

#2 - Give Them Meaningful Tasks

Generally, employees tend to get complacent when they think they’re more than ready for a task. But then, there are those who feel the same because they don’t know how important their tasks are.


This is the inferiority mindset that you need to change. But how?


According to Oprah, the trick is in explaining how critical a task is to reach certain business goals. If necessary, spell it out for your employees whenever they start a new task.


Doing that reaffirms employee roles on the team and fuels their motivation to achieve success. But it’s not only about motivation.


When employees see the bigger picture and know how much they’re contributing, you’re helping them become active participants. They’ll begin to love their role because it’s meaningful and gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

#3 - Remove Any Obstacles

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for employees to perform repetitive work every day. However, this type of work is sometimes necessary to get the job done.


Okay, automation may remove some of the repetition. But it might not help you remove complacency. So, what can you do to make it easier for your employees and eliminate the risk of complacency?


Do your best to eliminate obstacles that may make repetitive work even more tedious. Also, it’d be helpful to introduce an open-door policy and take the time to find out how your employees feel about the work.


That is how you’ll catch complacency before it becomes endemic in your organisation.

#4 - Keeping the Mindset and Spirits High

It’s dangerous to think that you’re successful because then you become complacent.” - Tommy Hilfiger


As you may know, success is relative to you and your employees’ shared vision and goals. And Oprah makes it a rule to ensure everybody’s on the same page before the team embarks on a project.


So, your job is to ensure that each employee understands the right path to achieve the goals and make the vision a reality. If necessary, keep reminding them time and time again.


If not, your employees may lose the motivation to give their best, and that could lead to complacency.


But when they’re motivated and believe in your vision, it gives employees a special feeling of ownership. They’ll understand that it’s their task to bring everybody closer to the final goal.


They’ll start raising standards to become more productive, eliminating complacency along the way. That’s the mindset you’ll want to encourage and promote, so don’t forget to praise your employees when they do a good job.

#5 - Pinpoint the Cause

There are different causes of complacency based primarily on your organisational capacity and leadership style. Still, some of them are exceedingly common in many companies:


● Workplace boredom

● Misalignment with the business vision

● Lack of opportunities to grow


Knowing the cause of complacency informs you what necessary actions you need to take to set your team straight. But doing the right thing to deal with a complacent employee may require more effort on your side.


For example, if someone is bored at work, that doesn’t necessarily mean the person isn’t the right fit for your organisation. You need to consider the possibility that the employee’s talents could shine brighter elsewhere.


So when you find the cause of complacency and the offender, you shouldn’t just eliminate that person and be done with it. Instead, take the time to help your employee grow out of the mindset that could be slowing down your entire team.


The benefit of this approach is that it helps you build trust and respect. In other words, it enables you to become a better leader.

#6 - Communicate and Be Clear on Your Expectations

History and experience tell us that moral progress comes not in comfortable and complacent times, but out of trial and confusion.” - Gerald R. Ford


Ford was undoubtedly right, and you should be putting your employees on trial. But it needs to be a meaningful trial aimed at boosting productivity and efficiency.


However, there’s no room for confusion.


It’s critical to have an honest discussion with your employees, mainly when there’s a problem. Oprah is always honest with her team members, even when they don’t like what she has to say.

Otherwise, team members might go on thinking they’re doing everything right. Even worse, they could be blaming others for the work they’re accountable for.


To prevent that, you need to set clear expectations right from the start. And when you encounter complacency or confusion within your team, don’t hesitate to speak out.


In doing so, you’ll be taking the first step to bringing your employees back on track and remind them of your expectations.

Complacency-Free Workplace

How complacent are your employees? What is the trigger that made them complacent?


These are just some of the questions you should answer to eradicate this unproductive quality from your workplace. But it’s not only about your employees.


Looking for ways to fix complacency may point to certain organisational issues that need your attention. And if you manage to overcome these issues, you’ll become a leader whose approach is much closer to Oprah’s leadership style.


But you don’t need to do all the fixing and analysis yourself. Reach out to me and check out my speaking services to see if I can help you fight complacency.

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