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Career Success

How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace

Written by Mat Apodaca
On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness
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We’ve certainly entered a new work normal in the post-pandemic world we live in these days. Many of us are used to getting up from bed, getting ready for work, and driving or commuting to the office.

Depending on the size of the company, some of us may be working with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other people in a single building. Some may still be working in the office daily, while some enjoy the hybrid situation where they only have to report once, twice, or even monthly.

There is a distinct difference in how people view going to an office and being around coworkers now as compared to a few years ago.

In many ways, the new hybrid or fully remote world we find ourselves working in can be very beneficial. We are able to blend our work and personal lives in such a way that’s engaging and rewarding for our careers, but also in our family and personal lives at the same time.

Many people demand this in their positions with the companies they work for. One of the downsides of this type of remote or hybrid work arrangement is the increased capability of becoming complacent in the workplace.

In this article, we will discover the signs of complacency and some tips to help us overcome complacency in the workplace.


What is Complacency in the Workplace?

Complacency in the workplace is a psychological state where employees tune out, cease to think, and just follow a routine for doing things. The employee goes into “autopilot” mode and completes their tasks automatically without being mindful and attentive.

We all are certainly guilty of this on a semi-regular basis in our workplaces. The problem becomes much more severe when it becomes a regular way of doing things.

Signs of Complacency in the Workplace

When you’re showing the following behavior, you might be suffering from this problem. Learn how to determine how complacency shows, and you might be able to remedy this. The following behavior and mindset are some examples of complacency in the workplace.

1. Taking Shortcuts

This is especially true in workplaces where safety is of high concern such as manufacturing or construction. Taking shortcuts in work locations such as these can be incredibly detrimental as you might imagine. At worst, it can even lead to accidents.[1]

Besides the safety concerns, taking shortcuts lead to sloppy and lower-quality work. It can take a toll on a company’s reputation, and if it bumps up against anything with legal ramifications, it takes things to a whole new level.

2. Disengagement

When you’re feeling complacent at work, you tend to disengage more daily. You don’t send as many messages or emails as you once did.  You might find yourself wondering when was the last time you had a coffee with a coworker or talked to a colleague on the phone.

This is because you’re not interacting nearly as much as you did before, and you’re becoming less involved with the people around you.


3. Losing Passion

Most of us engage in our work with a real zest. We are passionate about our jobs and truly care about delivering a high-quality work product.

Once you become complacent at work, that passion tends to fizzle out. New projects and tasks that once excite you like a dog would chew on a new bone, seems to give you no interest anymore.

Instead of a colorful zest in your work, your daily grind is now painted in shades of gray. This is a telltale indicator that you are becoming complacent in your workplace.

4. Increase in Mistakes

As you might imagine, when you start to get checked out at work your frequency of making mistakes increases. This is hardly a surprise and common for most people.

It’s easy to think of the time when you had a lot on your mind and didn’t pay much attention as you should do your job. During these times your mistakes tend to go up because you fail to focus on what you are doing. It’s only natural to make these mistakes.


Now imagine if this was how you felt all the time; complacent, bored, and in a state of semi-awareness. This is not only damaging to you but also to the business that you’re in.[2]

5. Carelessness

In general, when you feel complacent, the level of your care about work goes way down. It’s not that you don’t care at all, it’s that you don’t have the same level of concern you used to.

The work that once gave you pride is now just a “phone it in” where you do the least amount of possible effort. Meetings you once jotted down notes are just a waste of time on your mind. The level of care in the quality of your work becomes less important, and everything becomes affected.

6. Less Initiation

Many people have a sense of what they are working toward by having the next step in their career. This can be something along the lines of career progression such as taking on manager responsibilities or an expanded role in another area.

Sometimes this means learning a new skill or certification to add to the toolbox. Or simply trying new things that can either help you or not in the workplace. The more you know, the more it gives you satisfaction.

When you’re complacent at work you generally see little to no initiation in these types of areas anymore. You become stagnant and stay at your level without trying to learn new things or taking on more responsibility.


How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace

Signs such as these are not what you want to see in those you work with and certainly now what you’d want others to be seen in you. Surely this is not what you intended and not what you want to continue doing.

If you want to elevate yourself from complacency, read on to discover some tips on how to overcome complacency in the workplace.

1. Stay Self-Aware

Being in touch with how you feel about the components in your life is a great skill to have. Self-awareness can apply to your job, relationships, habits, etc. If you find yourself checking off several signs of complacency, it’s probably time to do something about it.

The key of course, is to remain aware of how you feel over the weeks or months. You may want to keep a journal as this is one of the most effective tools against complacency. You don’t have to write in it every day. Just once a week or so is extremely insightful.

If you choose to do this, take a look back over the last several months. It could be that your problem is with the commute. Or that nagging coworker that bothers you. This could be anything, and to begin your journey you have to determine what it is.

When you find yourself writing over and over about how boring work is, it might be time for a change of sorts.


2. Seek Interaction With Others

During this post-COVID work era, many of us find ourselves working from home. Sure we get to attend meetings and interact with others via video, but it doesn’t always scratch the itch for interaction.

One of the best ways to fight complacency in the workplace is to ensure you have ongoing interaction with other people. If you’re dealing with people in sales or company recruitment, you may think that that’s enough interaction.

However, a simple act of grabbing a meal or a drink with your co-workers every now and then helps. It even could be as simple as having a coffee break.

3. Get Involved

Similar to seeking interaction with others it’s very helpful to get involved. This can be getting involved with your:

  • Co-workers
  • Fellow hobbyists
  • Community
  • Friends

Simply feeling “plugged in” to the other people in our various networks can make us feel more engaged in every facet of our lives. You could try that local community sport or attend community meetings.

Step out and get involved in something you are interested in or passionate about.

Here’s an article on how to find your community to help loneliness.

4. Learn a New Skill or Certification

Something sure to help you overcome complacency in the workplace is learning a new skill or certification.[3]

We all tend to find ourselves on a Groundhog Day of sorts. It’s easy to get into the same routine and do the same thing day after day because it’s easy. When you challenge yourself to learn a new skill or certification, it engages your brain and makes you work to learn something new. Always a good way to avoid complacency.


5. Change Departments

Some companies encourage this more than others. If you happen to work for a company that is great at helping you grow and learn, you might want to check into changing departments.

It doesn’t have to be anything as drastic as moving from accounting to sales. Learning another side of the department you are in is extremely rewarding. It helps you understand the company better as well as grow your own set of skills.

6. Change Your Routines

One of the simplest and quickest ways of averting complacency in the workplace is to change your routine. This can be as easy as

  • Taking a new route to and from work
  • Eating something different for lunch
  • Reorganizing your schedule

If you work remotely, instead of checking the email first thing in the morning, don’t check it until noon. Knock a couple of projects out first thing in the morning instead of getting sucked into email and someone else’s agenda.

  • Start working earlier or later
  • Have a few hours of break instead of just one hour
  • Go for a long walk in the morning before you open up your laptop

Simple changes can make a big difference.

7. Ask for Feedback

Some people don’t like to ask for feedback on their job. This can hit someone’s ego but if you can take criticisms, even the not-so-constructive ones, try hearing what others think.

You may be already good at your job, but there’s always room to get better. It helps you become more efficient and it could yield better results.

How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace

How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace

7 Actions
How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace
Stay Self-Aware: Start with understanding what causes you to feel this way. Write a journal, be more mindful and look for reasons why you feel this way.
How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace
Seek Interaction with Others: Look for companionship. You don’t have to be very engaging or always at parties. Sometimes, a cup of coffee is enough.
How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace
Get Involved: Go out there and try out new things. There is so much to learn and know in the world so why cage yourself?
How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace
Learn a New Skill or Certification: Learning new things helps you get involved. Go to a gym, bicycle meet, or take a new class. It makes life more interesting and just might cure your complacency.
How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace
Change Departments: Since you’re already in the workplace, why not try a new department and learn something new.
How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace
Change Your Routines: Changing routines brings color to your everyday life, so try to spice it up.
How to Overcome Complacency in the Workplace
Ask for Feedback: We can always grow from learning from others and our own mistakes. By asking for feedback, we don’t only grow, but we also acknowledge our limitations and accept that we can improve ourselves for the better.


Employee complacency in the workplace is extremely common and can be caused by many factors. It can lead to many problems not just for the company but for everyone’s morale.

Fortunately, as we’ve discovered there are a variety of ways to overcome complacency in the workplace. Keep your eyes open for the signs and correct them as needed. Before you know it, you’re more engaged than ever and excited again about work!

Featured photo credit: Steven Lasry via unsplash.com


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