The C Word that Demands Your Attention


A lot is being written about the global employee disengagement epidemic.

This lends itself to additional narrative about how to retain talent and avoid the high financial cost of turnover due to employee disengagement.

More worrying is the lack of employee movement due to disengagement. Employees are becoming complacent. 

Checked out

Employees are sticking around but they are not engaged, motivated or productive. They clock in and clock out – that is it.

Complacency copy.jpg

Ignored, this is extremely dangerous for business. A workforce that is checked out will cripple an organization. When innovation, creativity, experimentation, new ways of working and new ways of thinking are paramount traits of successful organizations in a midst of digital disruption, complacency signals a slow and painful death.

A complacent employee is:

·      doing just enough not to get fired;

·      not being curious and asking questions;

·      disconnected from others;

·      risk adverse;

·      dispassionate;

·      apathetic; and

·      pessimistic.

Achievers conducted a survey in 2018 across employees in North America, UK and Australia.

Only 35% of employees are seeking new jobs. This is down from 74% in the previous year. That sounds good eh? You have retention nailed!

But wait........

Only 21% of employees said they were very engaged at work. So we have low engagement and low intent to change jobs. This is complacency.


You only have to Google ‘the cost of employee disengagement’ to find massive dollar figures. An often-quoted statistic from Gallup is that disengagement causes US companies between  $450 – $550 billion in lost productivity per year.

Beyond the dollar cost to the organization, is the cost to the individual. 

Speaking at the 2018 Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association (ARPA) national conference in Sydney, Dr. Marc White, a workplace wellbeing expert said:

“In Australia and around the world, our inability to create psychologically safe workplaces means we are effectively stuck in the Dark Ages of employee engagement.”

White suggested this lack of engagement was having a profound impact on Australians’ mental health.

“It should come as no surprise that unhappy, emotionally distressed workers are more likely to get sick and less likely to recover from injury” said White.

According to the Department of Health, about 4 million Australians deal with some form of chronic or episodic mental health condition and one in five Australians affected by mental illness do not seek help because of the perceived stigma.

Disengagement and complacency can have devastating and sometimes irreversible impacts.


A recognized cause of disengagement and resulting complacency is stress and anxiety resulting from an increased rate of change, and the perceived disorder and lack of stability it brings.

Employees are distracted, unsettled, fatigued, overwhelmed and possibly burnt out. 

Constant change is the new norm. If we don't prepare our people for the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) that it brings, we will have complacency.

We need employees who can accept change and welcome it as a challenge and opportunity to grow.

These are employees who see setbacks as a source of learning and development.

They accept ambiguity and embrace uncertainty. They are resilient.


There needs to be a fundamental shift away from trying to manage resistance to change and towards building resilience in the face of change.

Resilience can be learnt. It is not a trait you have or do not have.

To me resilience is not just about being able to bounce back from a setback but to bounce forward to a better place than the one you were in before the setback.

Resilience moving forward copy.jpg

If we equip and support everyone in the to organization (absolutely everyone) with the tools and techniques enabling the following we will have a resilient workforce.

·      Stress tolerance and impulse control

·      Emotional intelligence

·      Empathy

·      Collaboration

·      Exploration

·      Problem-solving

·      Self-observation

·      Questioning

·      Self-efficacy

·      Realistic optimism

·      Authenticity

·      Reframing

·      Humor

·      Gratitude

·      Adaptability

If we also equip leaders with the tools and techniques to create a culture and environment for resilience through effective communication, provision of psychological safety and clarity of purpose; supporting employee autonomy and self-management; creating accountability and trust; then we have attained, maintained and sustained a resilient workforce.

Leaders model resilience in the workplace, they reveal their own vulnerability, communicate and engage around the subject of mental health and work tirelessly to remove the associated stigma. 


If you have complacent employees, you have a serious problem. People are turning up for a paycheck not a purpose. You are going nowhere fast.

You have an obligation to create a workplace in which everyone can be engaged, motivated, enthusiastic, fulfilled, and resilient in the face of constant change.

This is an obligation to both the individual and the organization as a whole. 

Resilience can be learnt. Just do it! 

Call to action

My program and online platform called The Resiliator can build and maintain resilience across your organization. Get in touch to find out more.

Karen FerrisComment