One of the most common questions we get from managers is how to deal
with employees who seemingly have no initiative. When they run out of things to do, they simply wait to be told what to do next. When they hit a roadblock, they stop. They do the bare minimum to meet the standards required, and rarely seek opportunities to bring extra value to their work. As a manager, they increase your workload considerably because they require constant attention and guidance. Here are the three most common reasons employees perform like this, and the best ways to deal with them:
1. It’s their personality
Not everyone is a high achiever. There are many people who see a job as just that – a job. They have no significant career interests – at least not with the business you’re in. If this describes your employee, you’re best to make sure that he (she) is in a position that is simple, straight-forward and repetitive. That will make everyone happy.
2. They’re risk averse
They’ve learned from experience that proactiveness equals risk, and that risk equals pain. Perhaps they previously had a boss who were hard on them when they made mistakes. Perhaps it’s even you (yes, you) who is unintentionally discouraging proactiveness by not dealing with their errors in a positive fashion. If your employee is risk averse, you have to demonstrate how much you value initiative – even when it results in failure. You are best to do this by rewarding it – not just talking about it. There’s no point in saying “I’d like you to take more initiative” when your actions are sending the unspoken message, “but if you mess up, you’re going to pay.”
3. They don’t see the bigger picture
Perspective plays a big role in our willingness and ability to take action. The bigger the picture your employee comprehends, the easier it is for them to put their actions into context and make good decisions. Keep people informed about things beyond just the scope of their jobs. Unless there are genuine security risks involved, let them see a little of your world and the types of decisions you have to make. It helps to get people involved.