The Psychology of Slacking

The Psychology of Slacking

As employees reach communication fatigue in critical mass, the psychology and act of slacking at companies across the world also reaches a disturbing level.  Forty-four percent of employees are not committed to perform even though they know what to do.

While I’m not sure that are directly correlated, I do believe the two are inter-connected.  Over the last three years, companies have drastically downsized and restructured leaving employee commitment levels dangerously low.  And so we slack not necessarily because we are a disengaged workforce disinterested in our work but because we have to.  Slacking to demonstrate our necessity within the organization.  Filling our days with meeting requests, coffee breaks, and conference calls about conference calls. Because professional slacks have a knack for looking and acting productive even when it’s actually the opposite.

I once had a supervisor named Bill.  He made slacking look like an Olympic sport.  Bill successfully scheduled massive amounts of meetings and re-scheduled them on a daily basis.  Since our calendars were open to most anyone to view, I periodically took a peek as I was curious about the involvement in all his activities.  Bill had successfully mastered the fine art of slacking.  He was a friend to all and made the regular rounds chatting it up while he patiently waited for the 21 months until his retirement.

Over dinner not long before I left the

organization,   Bill told me exactly that.  He was a slacker yet not in so many words.  Hanging on by his fingernails through four HR  reorganizations one of which resulted in a position demotion.  Bill didn’t owe anything to the company, and I believe he felt the same way about me.  He regularly encouraged me as a business owner and entrepreneur.  Perhaps, the man was really on to something.

Or you could make the argument that slacking is one’s natural environment.  It was Bill’s nature to be a slacker.  On average your employees spend about two hours a day at work not counting lunch wasting away.  Facebook or no Facebook.  Smoking or no smoking.  The slackers remain slacking.  Corporate slackers and unproductivity cost companies $759 billion a year across the nation.  And that’s not including March Madness.

The Psychology of Slacking

The psychology of slacking has found a direct correlation to your work environment.  A scientific study by the University of Exter revealed that employees who are empowered to create and design their own workplace environments are more productive having a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

So it’s safe to say that people who are involved in the design and control of their own work environments, make the company more money and are less likely to slack.  Or maybe they just  have a better system than good old Bill.

So maybe Bill was just ahead of his time, a true visionary making the case for performance based pay and resulted oriented workforces.  I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that Bill’s on a beach drinking a pina collada as you are reading this now. So maybe there is an upside to the Psychology of Slacking?  I mean it worked for Bill.  Shouldn’t it work for you?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

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