02
Nov
09

INDIFFERENCE: When “I don’t care” infects your company

indifference1Every company suffers from indifference. Without question, it is the single most toxic behavior that wreaks havoc on company cultures and performance. It can be as subtle as someone saying, “Why should I do that?” or “That’s not my job – I’m not paid to do that.” In contrast, indifference can be as blatant as people collectively refusing to follow new company procedures or systems and sounds like, “If they’re not doing it, why should I?” No matter how you view it, indifference is a toxic behavior that can spread rapidly throughout an organization.

In business, there are two areas of indifference. The first is leadership indifference that can be observed in many forms. It can be a leader who lacks compassion and respect for his or her employees. Leaders who talk down to people or reprimand in public. When a leader refuses to follow the same rules and procedures that employees are held accountable to. It is indifference when a leader lacks concern for budgets, employee feedback systems and other essential responsibilities. Yes, indifference begins at the leadership level and the trickle down quickly becomes a raging river.

The second area of indifference resides with employees. When “I don’t care” thinking surfaces in one or more employees, your company culture will begin to deteriorate. Productivity will slow and behavior issues, such as lateness and absenteeism, will increase. If allowed to go unchecked, indifference can evolve into a major case of “destroy from within.” Simply put, there is no way to prevent customers from coming into contact with “I don’t care” thinking.

Here’s the rub: employee indifference is a response to compromised thinking and behavior at the leadership level. If trust is compromised through breaking commitments, expect indifference. If the company vision has lost its luster, expect indifference. If employees have a reason to question your leadership values and integrity, expect indifference. If you allow double standards, unchecked egos, conflicting agendas or poor communication, expect indifference.

The indifference of “I don’t care” often means “you don’t care enough.” It means that you are not playing to your full potential as a leader. You’re not communicating enough or clarifying expectations. You must address your own indifference to certain leadership responsibilities first. You must “care without restriction.” You must lead by example at a level you have never played at before. Your clarity and consistency – and determination to be your best – will restore trust and replace “I don’t care” thinking with “I give my best” thinking and behavior throughout your company.

Change begins with you.

Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.

Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO and author of No-Compromise Leadership

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