How to get apathetic employees engaged in their jobs


Apathetic employees can hurt productivity and customer service because they
don’t care about doing their best – they do just enough to stay under the boss’s

How can you tell if your employees are apathetic about their jobs?

woman looking bored with her job

Look at their faces. Apathetic employees have flat affect and blank stares
when there is work to be done. You frequently find them engaged in nonwork
activities, such as social media, personal phone calls and smoke breaks.

Motivated employees, on the other hand, look like they care. They are fully
engaged in doing their work.

Apathy could be caused by:

  • Lack of clearly set goals
  • Unfulfilling tasks that don’t use employees’ talents
  • Inadequate equipment or resources for the job
  • Employees not feeling recognized for good work
  • Poor environmental conditions, such as too hot or cold, not enough light,
    too cramped work spaces
  • Inadequate supervision that allows some to slack off and undermines the
    morale of the rest

Here are some ways to reduce apathy and get your employees more interested in
their jobs.

Figure out the sources of their apathy. Clearly, with so
many different potential causes, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for
apathy. Your first step has to be an assessment of the terrain. Get input from
employees about what it would take to get them more engaged in their jobs.

Walk around and chat with individual employees, and sit in on team and unit
meetings. Ask how they are doing, and if you get perfunctory “I’m fine” answers,
push back that you really want to know how they are doing. Avoid threatening
questions that imply that they are apathetic.

Ask questions like, “What would make your job more rewarding and help you
enjoy coming to work?” Besides the information you get, employees will see that
you are concerned about them. It can start to break their negative mindset that
nobody cares.

Based on your assessment of what is causing the apathy, choose and implement
some of the remaining ideas.

Get employees out of the office or plant. Have them visit
customers, and let customers show and explain how your products or services are
used. Employees should ask customers for ideas about how they could improve, as
well as what they are doing well.

Take photos and videos or tell stories about the good things your employees
are doing. Highlight how their work is benefiting customers. Post these in the
workplace. This is another way to help employees see how their work fits into
the bigger picture.

Invest in an upgrade of the physical environment. Paint the
walls in bright, cheerful tones. Put up some artwork. Pipe in soft music. Adjust
the lighting and temperature. Get ergonomically correct equipment and furniture.
Provide break facilities with food storage and cooking facilities.

Improve the social milieu. Provide cross-training to
alleviate boredom and promote career advancement. Give a lot of formal and
informal recognition for good work. Set clear performance goals. Include
employees in decision making when feasible. Plan some fun activities, such as a
catered luncheon or an impromptu coffee and dessert “just to say thank you for
the good work you are doing.”

These are just a few ideas for overcoming employee apathy. You need to match
the solution with the causes. The results could pay great dividends for company