How To Defeat A Culture of “I Don’t Care”?

Just Listen

Do you remember that great scene in The Fugitive where Tommy Lee Jones confronts Harrison Ford, where Ford’s character is pleading with Jones that he “didn’t kill his wife”? Jones shakes his head and says “I Don’t Care”. How many of your people are like Jones?

I’ve worked in many major corporates where I’ve seen people working but not really working, basically doing the barest minimum to appear that they are getting their jobs done, but basically no longer share the passion or vision for the company that they are working for. They are the first to roll their eyes openly or surreptitiously when a new program comes into play – a new product or service that they are supposed to be excited about, a new manager or CEO who is supposed to make things awesome again, or a new employee engagement program designed to rekindle the excitement in the company.

Unfortunately, many of those efforts fall flat because a) it is exceedingly hard to change people, b) typically many people are very resistant to change and c) it’s been tried before and nothing has changed. Or there have been changes in some areas, but not all. Improvements have not been company-wide, some areas may have done better than others, but you still have that typically sizable cadre of jaded employees, doing the bare minimum to get by, passionless about their jobs, and not really interested in being passionate about them either. They may put up a good front, but when it comes right down to it, it’s just a paycheck.

Some of you may be OK with that – that there is a big percentage of your workers who just do their jobs and go home, and don’t really care about your company. But others of you hate the thought of anyone not being completely engaged to help your company thrive into the future. If you ask me, don’t we all prefer engaged employees to those who simply phone it in? Are we OK with a percentage of our people being figurative 9-5ers, or would we rather that most of our people truly care about the company that they work for, the people that they work with, and its overall success?

How do you get past the “I don’t care” phase?

I have one word for you: Listen.

Really listen to your people. Give all of them, and not just the ones in your home office, the tools to be able to generate ideas to help your company move forward. Give them the safe space to reveal their ideas, without judgement. Listen to what they must say. Acknowledge what they have to say, then do something about what they said. One of the most powerful things that you can do as a leader is to ask for guidance from your people. If you have many workers out there in the field, in remote offices, in various locations, people whose voices are very rarely ever heard in the C-Suite, set up systems to get those voices heard. Who was it that said we had two ears but one mouth, indicating that we should listen more often than we speak?

If you are looking for engaged employees, who are truly passionate about your business, at every level of the organization, you need to listen.