Complacency – The Silent Killer

Complacency – The Silent Killer

Employers want workers to feel comfortable on the job site. When employees are happy and comfortable, retention is boosted, good team spirit abounds, production increases and employees enjoy good physical and mental health. Is it possible to feel too comfortable? Feeling overly relaxed at work can breed a false sense of security. It allows workers to lose awareness of the hazards and risks that surround them, to take their environment for granted and overlook signs of a potential threat. Too much ease leads to work done on “auto-pilot,” a condition in which a worker stops paying attention to what he’s doing, leading to shortcuts and risk-taking behaviour. Combine this with fatigue and the situation can become deadly. Complacency is a dangerous mindset that occurs most often when working on routine, repetitive tasks or driving familiar routes. 

What is complacency in the workplace? 

Complacency is self-satisfaction and a sense of security in one’s own abilities accompanied by unawareness of dangers and/or deficiencies. Employees tune out, cease to think, and merely follow a routine. They enter “autopilot mode” and complete tasks automatically instead of mindfully. Complacency is deadly in the workplace, causing underestimation of risk, failure to notice changes in the environment and lack of acknowledgment of hazards. It contributes to incidents/accidents. It’s important that companies and employees work to avoid complacency. 

How does workplace complacency affect a company?

It’s in a company’s best interests to pay attention to workplace complacency as it leads to:

  • More accidents/incidents
  • Lower worker wellbeing
  • Reduced productivity
  • Less innovation/creativity
  • Low morale
  • Employee disengagement
  • Competitive disadvantage
  • Reduced profits
  • Less growth/success

Signs that your workers may be complacent:

There are telltale signs that may indicate a worker is being complacent or is in “autopilot mode.”

  • Disengagement from tasks 
  • Neglecting tasks 
  • Frequent mistakes
  • Taking shortcuts/missing steps in the process
  • Lack of motivation
  • Increased boredom
  • Dissatisfaction with work
  • Near misses and/or accidents
  • Changes in attitude 
  • Lack of investment in self and/or others
  • Loss of passion for the work
  • Disinterest in opportunities and/or promotions
  • Less thinking before action
  • Little or no initiative 
  • Carelessness
  • Failure to point out hazards
  • Blaming others

How to combat workplace complacency?

Though complacency on the job site is a common problem, there are ways to avoid and/or reduce the frequency. 

  • Constructive criticism for the purpose of reflection and positive change
  • Regular feedback to encourage growth
  • Nurturing a culture of accountability regarding rules and performance
  • Providing learning opportunities following mistakes
  • Shaking up the routine
  • Team-building events
  • Teaching self-awareness of behaviours, traits and abilities 
  • Reinforcing company values (interactive training sessions with a focus on the company’s values, an acknowledgment program for employees who demonstrate company values) 
  • Job shadowing (being around a peer who pays close attention to detail and performs their job well)
  • Coaching program
  • Regular risk assessments to keep staff aware of dangers
  • Incentives for employees who show strong attention to detail, passion in their work and a willingness to receive constructive feedback (paid time off, bonuses, public recognition).
  • Workplace transparency to keep employees engaged
  • Regularly reviewing employees’ goals to create a sense of worth and value
  • Focusing on continuous improvement 
  • Examining the data (Lost Time Injury, Experience Modification Rate, factors impacting these metrics). 

Complacency is a silent killer, a problematic mindset that contributes to injuries and incidents on the job. It can affect a company’s overall performance and company culture. There are proven and practical ways to combat complacency for teams and individuals. It takes time and effort but it’s possible to avoid and/or reduce complacency, leading to a safer workplace.