Are WE making our employees lazy?

I wrote in a previous post that I recently had the opportunity to go to Fiji. One of the concepts, besides BULA, that we all became very familiar with, was the concept of Fiji time.

Fiji Time_edited-1To say things run at a slower pace in Fiji is an understatement. Because of this, if you allow yourself to be taken over by Fiji time, you can have a truly relaxing vacation. It took a few days to unwind, but once Fiji time set in, it was tough to argue against its merits.

As we toured around the island, we noticed some construction projects taking place… An addition to a hotel restaurant, replacing some directional signs in the resort area, and houses being built. From our observations, each of the workers were applying the Fiji time standard, which would drive most people in America crazy.

In fact, if these workers were working at this pace in America, some might say they were sandbagging, or working slowly to avoid extra work.

We joked that if some people put as much effort into looking busy as they do actually being busy, they would actually be productive.

I then thought, “what if this is our fault?”

What if we are actually encouraging someone to spend the energy to look busy rather than completing a task and proactively seeking out another?

“No way!”, you say? Way.

Think about it. How many times have you been assigned a task or project but were given limited or incomplete information, then made to feel as if you were bothering your boss if you asked questions? What did that make you do?

Think about your employees… Are they young, maybe with limited work experience? Are they self conscious, trying to fit in, and navigating their way through a new environment? How do you think they respond to something like this?

“Go do X. See John over at the shop and get Y. Meet up with Bob and he’ll help you. Let me know if you have any questions and come see me when you’re done.”

There are a truckload of variables and questions that could arise, and many chances for an “inexperienced” worker to stall, avoid embarrassing situations and drag their feet. When we call John at the shop about something else and find out that our employee never went there, we may think they are lazy, be no work ethic, or don’t understand simple instructions.

The reality? Maybe they didn’t know where in the shop John would be, or even who he was to look for him. So, they decided to try to figure things out on their own, rather than put them in a potentially embarrassing position. In fact, they probably wanted to do the right thing (just like when you were in that situation) but for whatever reason they were afraid, they didn’t know what to do or just felt unsupported and on there own.

I called them an “inexperienced” worker not because of their ability to do the job, but because of their lack of experience in terms of managing workplace relationships. This can have a huge impact on productivity, sometimes more than actual skill.

So, the next time you complain about lazy employees, consider your role in that scenario. Have you contributed to an environment where a perfectly capable employee is choosing to sandbag out of self preservation?

Thanks for reading!


Believe it or not, I’m walking on air, I never thought I could feel so free-ee-ee!

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