Corporate complacency means contented to a fault, especially when it’s coupled with an unawareness of danger or trouble that leads to uninspired workers.

Recently in a workshop, a senior vice president was sharing an example of an initiative he was accountable for over the last three years. The company was at risk of going out of business. One of the actions he took was getting feedback from people who worked on the plant floor.

An employee had a great idea that they used and incorporated. But this idea almost didn’t happen: The man had worked for the company for 17 years and wondered when someone was going to ask him for his input.

I suspect that person had tried at some point to tell somebody and didn’t feel like anyone cared enough to listen, so he gave up.

When managers and workers have to wait years to share an idea that could improve business, that’s a complacency issue too.

Complacency harms strategy

In our executive sentiment survey, 42% of global senior executives felt that when it comes to elevating performance of the individuals or groups that they lead, they are frustrated by complacency, cynicism in the workplace, or cultural issues.

What does this mean? The C-suite is functioning at a strategic level where it’s aware of the trouble and risk that’s involved if business results aren’t met. But the people who are reporting to them don’t seem to be appropriately responding.

If you saw a fire or emergency, you would expect certain actions to happen. But if you behave with no sense of urgency, it makes you wonder why people aren’t taking action.

The status-quo attitude may be rooted in a resignation that “that’s just the way the company is” and nothing can be done about it. Either from past work experiences or because of current culture, there’s the general agreement that one little cog can’t change the world.

Why would you spend your time trying to making something different if you didn’t think it would work?

Lack of awareness?

Perhaps they aren’t even aware of the problems. The C-suite is inspired by others’ concerns and accountabilities, levels of experience, and authority. The C-suite connects with different people in the company who can make things happen. Managers have a whole other perspective, and often these two groups suffer from lack of appreciation for each other’s views.

When managers are empowered and have a full picture of what the C-suite sees, then actions change. The best way to empower them is to walk in their shoes, see how things are structured for them and what issues need to be overcome.

What is at stake for enterprises when they don’t listen to their employees? Imagine what’s possible when you access and leverage that corporate talent.

Improving communication from management

The first step is acknowledging that communication needs to improve. Then create a structure that allows for and encourages communication between the various constituencies. Senior management must make it clear to employees that their ideas are valuable and ensure there’s an implementation plan.

Then, encourage healthy risk taking. Employees that only take risks they are given permission to take are trapped in an environment of waiting to be told what to do. That type of complacent environment isn’t self generating — or entrepreneurial.

Your managers might seem complacent, but when you inspire them to drop the business-as-usual thinking, you will be amazed at what you can achieve together.

How do you inspire innovation at all levels of the corporate ladder?

Connect with Bonnie and other executives through the Insigniam Executive Forum on LinkedIn.

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