What happens when people don’t care - 21st April 2016

Whilst buying milk at Marks & Spencer’s, I spotted a man with a plastic bag that he was filling with food and drinks from the shelves. I immediately wondered why he was not using the perfectly accessible and useful shopping baskets available on entry. I smelt a rat (I know, I’m sharp).

Being a true Londoner, I didn’t challenge the man myself but resolved to express my concern to a member of staff.

“I suspect,” my introduction to the checkout guy began, “that someone over by the fridge is stealing from you right now.” How bold I felt playing such a pivotal part in the apprehension of this criminal mastermind. “He has an empty bag and he’s filling it with food and drinks.”

Our eyes met (the checkout guy and me, not the criminal mastermind). He was obviously thinking of a plan and at the same time marvelling at my courage and the manner in which I’d shared this information without alerting the thief. He said nothing. Perhaps his mind wasn’t as quick as I’d expected.

“Sorry, sir, did you say something?” Oh dear, not quite going to plan. I repeated myself. He asked where the man was, I said I didn’t know as I wasn’t actually tracking him. He said nothing so I said that the guy would probably not hang around for long. He gave me my change and receipt with a sense of urgency I understood to mean he was off the catch the felon then he said… “Next please”. He served the next customer!

I left the store (yes, looking out for the thief) and thought, “Wow! The check-out guy really doesn’t care that his store is being robbed.”

My mind raced on. What else happens here that goes undetected? Or detected and ignored? And what damage does that do? What about all the other companies with staff that don’t care – how does that affect their performance? And how does that feel to go to work each day and feel so little affinity to your job and your company that, no matter what goes on around you, you don’t care enough to do anything about it? Pretty miserable, I reckon.

A recent survey assessed Employee Engagement in the UK. The results fell broadly into three categories: 1. Actively engaged in their work; 2. Neither engaged nor disengaged; 3. Actively disengaged. Before you read on, have a guess at the percentages that fell into each….

….18% of employees were actively engaged. That’s depressing! 61% were neither engaged nor disengaged and 21% were actively disengaged. 82% of British employees are not actively engaged in their work – they don’t really care. They go to work. They perform the work they have to do but little more. The effects of that on a business are frightening (never mind the human cost). I saw one effect as I bought my milk and, if you have staff that don’t care, I guarantee there will be similar effects in your company. Mistakes overlooked. Customers ignored. Transactions lost.

Now of course there are two sides to this disengagement and it is not just the fault of the employee. Many employers care too little for their staff and this level of disengagement is the result.

So, what’s my point?  Bearing in mind the unquantifiable financial and human cost of disengaged staff that don’t care what happens at work, I urge you to do everything in your power as a business leader to hire people that do care and then treat them in a way that fosters that care rather than kills it.