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The ‘lazy girl’: unpacking apathy in modern workplaces

Phrases like 'bare minimum Monday' signal a deeper workplace sentiment. Rather than dismiss today's workforce as apathetic, managers should decipher the message. Identifying subtle signs of disengagement can lead to transformative engagement strategies. Here's how leaders can pivot and tap into the potential of seemingly disengaged employees.

Marc Cenedella

Marc Cenedella

Founder of Leet Resumes and The Ladders

lazy girls

In today’s workplaces, a ‘lazy girl’ may start her week with a “bare minimum Monday” while she “quiet quits’. It seems every week, workers coin a new trending phrase to express their apathy and defiance.

But – are these workers really lazy, or are their pithy phrases an attempt to communicate something deeper? The latter is more likely. Older generations have always complained about younger generations at work. A University of Calgary professor went viral when he pointed out that people have been saying “nobody wants to work anymore” for more than 100 years.

It’s not so much that people don’t want to work – it’s that they don’t want to work the same way their predecessors did. Given that, managers have two choices: they can whine about the workers or they can help those workers win.

For those who choose to take the coach approach, the first step is to identify the “quiet quitters.” Despite viral “lazy girl” sensations, most disengaged employees won’t announce their apathy online.

How to identify disengaged workers

Most managers will easily identify blatant issues like missing deadlines or incomplete projects. The most successful managers will notice more subtle signs before problems escalate that far.

Here are three subtle signs someone on your team is disengaging.

1. They don’t offer suggestions for improvement

When it comes to employee communication, no news is not good news. Engaged employees communicate with their teams.

When an employee fails to offer constructive feedback or new ideas, you may have one of two problems. The first could be that the staffer simply doesn’t care about the company’s success enough to say anything. If an employee who once shared a lot of ideas suddenly goes silent, that’s a giant red flag.

The second issue could be that your team member doesn’t feel safe speaking up. Team members who feel like managers will snap at them or ignore them are likely to shut down.

2. They keep their webcam off

With cameras off, employees could be browsing the internet, shopping online, scrolling social social media, texting, or any other of a thousand distractions available at home. Remember that viral story about the woman who accidentally kept her camera on in the bathroom?

3. They don’t put the company sticker on their laptop

A lack of team spirit can be a sign a team member is disengaged. Of course, not everyone will want to put a sticker on their device. However, if you notice they don’t carry that swag corporate water bottle at work, wear their company polo, or generally avoid the logo, that could indicate a problem.

If they don’t participate in team building exercises or make snarky comments about company events, you likely have an even bigger issue.

How to inspire self-proclaimed ‘lazy’ team members

Employers who want their employees to level up cannot continue to play pong in a world that’s moved on to playing immersive virtual reality games.

Here are three things managers and HR departments can do to meet employees where they are.

1. Reframe the job

Focus not on what “lazy girls” can do for the company but on what the company can do for them. Employees are disillusioned by businesses that they believe see them as disposable. They simply don’t feel loyalty to companies.

You can help them be their best by reframing their work. Rather than focusing on how they can help the business, help them focus on what they can do to achieve their personal best as if they are playing against themselves.

2. Emphasize impact

The incoming generation of workers is especially concerned with having an impact on the world. Help new employees connect the dots to see specifically how their efforts impact the people who use your company’s services.

3. Bribe them

In the business world, we might more delicately call this an “incentive.” Find ways within your corporate policies and budget to offer incentives, or out-and-out bribes.

Something as small as an afternoon off or a Starbucks gift card can show that you get what they are going through, and are at least trying to help them get through their boring day

These three things combined with more traditional advice like respecting work-life boundaries, setting clear expectations and providing regular feedback can go a long way towards making employees feel seen and heard, which improves performance.

With the right coaching and support “quiet quitters” could eventually become your business’ loudest supporters.

Marc Cenedella, founder of Leet Resumes and The Ladders, is a nationally recognized thought leader on careers, resume writing, job search, career management and recruiting. He is the author of seven Amazon Careers #1 bestsellers, including Ladders Resume Guide and Ladders Interviews Guide.

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