Systems Laziness

Systems Laziness

We all know a co-worker who always leaves the copier without paper or manages to be unavailable when the assistant needs a few minutes of help with the phone. Then there is the long-term employee who never seems to see or care about needed operational change like updating policies or changing the letterhead to include the new mailing address.  These people are annoying but don’t create chaos.

There is another type of worker, however, who is personally and professionally lazy, and that laziness spills over and decreases the effectiveness of the entire unit or team. They often are in charge of a project or event that never goes smoothly. Everyone else has to pick up the pieces time after time.  Worse yet, the fix is fairly clear. Any of the team could do it, but the coworker won’t listen to suggestions or even admit to a problem.

It all seems to come down to laziness. They simply don’t care that they create chaos and inconvenience for you and others. They just don’t want to be bothered.

This can be a hard problem to solve because they often control important information that stops others from making needed changes. They profess time and again that they have streamlined the process. They give lip service to the suggestions of team members during heated discussions, but nothing changes.

There are only a few possible solutions. Sometimes peer pressure works, but this requires others to speak up and be honest. It also requires continual monitoring. This approach can lead to increased conflict and divisiveness, even project sabotage.

A more useful approach is for the boss or manager to mandate change, to insist that the process be revised and permanently changed. Even then, there can be backsliding and a desire to return to the old process. Again, ongoing monitoring may be necessary.

Sometimes a reorganization or a formal realignment of duties is necessary to remove the person who is resisting and undermining needed change. If this can be done when other duties and projects are being reassigned, it may appear less punitive.

Unfortunately, the employee who exhibits systems laziness may work in a system that is resistant to change, a system that doesn’t like to rock the boat, who likes the status quo. That makes change and efficiency doubly difficult.

Too often, needed change only takes place when there is a crisis of some sort or when a project or initiative fails. At that point  it might be difficult for the supervisor or manager to explain why preventive change didn’t happen.

If you are in charge, you owe it to your team and your organization to move forward. Laziness should never be an acceptable excuse.

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