What’s worse, an untalented employee who’s trying their best or a talented employee who isn’t really trying at all?

Obviously we’d all prefer to avoid both scenarios, but there are few things more frustrating than seeing a capable person twiddling their thumbs instead of making the contribution they ought to make.

At a time when surveys warn us of a slump in employee engagement, apathy issues are business-critical. How do we spot them, and how do we turn apathy into commitment?

Passing the Buck?

If an employee fails to deliver to an acceptable standard and within an acceptable timescale, there might be a reasonable explanation. If it becomes a pattern, though, you have to ask why. Where people are genuinely over-burdened, we can act to give them support and relief. Where they are simply not prepared to make the effort to get things done, though, we need to take a different view. One of the biggest giveaways is eagerness to point the finger at others. We all know how it feels to be up against a stiff and immovable deadline. If our colleagues face the same challenges and meet them, that gives us nowhere to hide. Simple pride in performance should spur us to fulfil our part of the bargain. In a team of equally capable, equally busy professionals, the one who passes the buck is the one whose commitment is flagging.

It’s Good to Talk

Let’s start with the assumption that we all see the value of knowledge-sharing and general communication in the workplace. Teams that win together tend to win far more often, and it’s always good to see people from one department taking pleasure in the success of their colleagues in another. Encouraging people to see where they fit in and how they contribute to the “big picture” is a crucial element of team-building, and it becomes far more difficult when a member of the team shows no interest in talking to others about what they are doing, what their goals are and how they see themselves adding value. Perhaps they doubt that they can add value? Perhaps they feel that their talents are being wasted or perhaps they’re not sure where they fit in?

Whatever the reason, the quiet, isolated person sticking out like a sore thumb in a happy, buzzing team needs to be brought into the fold.


When people stop caring about the quality of their work, the opinions of their colleagues and management or the prosperity of the company, it needs to be addressed. If a personal matter is causing a temporary problem, they need support getting through it. If a loss of interest in the job, the team or the company is causing a deeper-rooted apathy then the attitude needs to change, and quickly. Misery loves company, and unhappy people in the workplace will share their unhappiness. Legitimate concerns should be addressed and if the person can be redeployed in a way that makes sense for them and for the organisation, there might be a happy ending. Employers are entitled to expect a level of pride and commitment from their people, though. When someone pays your wages, you should care about what you give them in return.

No one can offer employers a magic wand guaranteeing that their people will give them everything that was promised and expected on the day they started work. The right HR software partner can offer valuable checks and balances, though, and Jane Systems is proud to contribute to employee motivation with software that gives people responsibility for their own training and career development. The Jane Self Service Portal is designed to increase training take-up and give your teams a greater sense of ownership. It also gives line managers a thorough overview of activity in their teams, enabling them to monitor performance and keep a close eye on the enthusiasm and commitment their people show towards building their future. When managers sit down and talk to team members whose performance and drive may be slipping, they’ll have key indicators to base their approach on.


We believe apathy in the workplace is just as damaging as negativity, and our purpose is to help you nip it in the bud or prevent it altogether. Jane Systems can help you stop people just going through the motions.

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