8 Signs of Employee Apathy

How to tell if your employees have checked out…

Employee apathy may seem innocuous enough, but the costs to time and resources can be a slow, devastating drain on a corporation. Many corporations and organizations have at least one employee who exhibits all the major signs of checking out in their daily capacity. Even if your corporation has bulletproofed human resource operations, employee burnout can still occur. That’s why it’s imperative for leadership and management to know and identify the signs of apathy on the part of an employee.  

Signs of Employee Apathy

  • A repeated pattern of tardiness
  • Poor appearance and hygiene
  • Complaints about lack of money and/or repeated attempts to borrow money
  • Exclusive precedence on their personal life
  • An excess of breaks
  • Appearance of being busy with nothing to show for it
  • Lack of accountability, making excuses
  • Irrelevant preoccupation with cell phones, smart devices

It stands to reason that if an employee is underperforming at their job, leadership will cut the dead weight for the good of a corporation. There are actually three umbrella categories that are often used to justify retaining apathetic employees: Costs, Litigation, and Personal.

Costs

The first thing leadership will think of when they notice an apathetic employee is dollar signs. Not only is the apathetic employee hemorrhaging their money by wasting time and resources, but the cost to replace that apathetic employee can also be an issue. Costs are incurred to the human resources department to find, hire, and train a replacement. Employers might hesitate to fire an apathetic employee because of unemployment insurance rates. Another relevant factor specifically effects small businesses, in which the workforce is not large enough to support turnover operations.

Personal

When it’s not a matter of money, it can often be a matter of personal feelings or relationships concerning leadership and the apathetic employee. A manager or owner might have a personal relationship with the employee, and their bias prevents them from pulling the trigger on termination procedures. Personal knowledge of that employee’s personal life and their identity as a person (rather than an employee) can color their perceptions and increase their latitude with the employee. Avoidance behavior can also play a role. When this happens, leadership usually resigns itself to one of two end results: Either the employee will improve on their own without intervention from leadership, or they will leave on their own without termination proceedings.

Litigation

The independent judgement of leadership may not be the sticking point in terminating an apathetic employee. There are often legal factors that a corporation or organization must consider. For instance, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (AEDA) protects employees from being terminated based on their age. If an apathetic employee is of a certain age, leadership may fear legal retaliation, citing age discrimination as the reason for their termination. In higher education, an employee may have tenure as defined by the institution, which would prevent leadership from terminating them.

Risks in Retention

Retaining apathetic employees for any of the reasons listed above can have serious consequences for a company who is avoiding the issue or trying to save money. Apathetic/underperforming employees cannot provide a customer base with quality service, leading to dissatisfaction and consumer complaints. This can negatively impact the corporation’s brand or campaign, with a high risk of human error, loss of valued customers, and lost reputation. Disgruntled employees could potentially say negative things about the corporation on their social media accounts. Perhaps most concerning, apathetic employees can easily spread their attitude throughout a work force, and harm long-term goals for the corporation.

Corporate Culture Audits

One apathetic employee is enough of a drain on company time and resources, but if that attitude is contagious, you could have a larger problem on your hands. Unfortunately, when it comes to employee morale and performance, you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why so many corporations and organizations are investing in quarterly or even biannual corporate culture audits. With a corporate culture audit, an independent, third party firm, like a private investigator or security company, conducts a full overview of company operations, structure, and environment in order to identify problems at their source for the health of the corporation. With a corporate culture audit, leadership will be able to identify factors that might be contributing to employee apathy.