Leadership Spotlight 

Idle Hands 

“The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him because his hands refuse to work.”

Proverbs 12:24

It may come as no surprise that you simply cannot lead some employees. Despite all of your best attempts and good intentions, certain people lack motivation and resist leadership. In fact, sadly enough, these individuals often consist of those with the most talent and potential, yet they either are knowingly (state of denial) or unknowingly (state of ignorance) lazy. Not a derogatory term, laziness validly describes the reluctance or unwillingness to work, and leaders should call it out for what it is.

A man sitting in a chair in his work cubicle with his head in his hand. © Thinkstock.com.

Of course, laziness counteracts human potential and usually results in substandard performance. Lazy individuals tend to do just enough to get by. Idol gossip and folly usually accompany laziness because they help camouflage these persons’ actual behavior. For example, people commonly will use others’ shortcomings to justify their own laziness; and, in time, even a false belief can become an acceptable truth to the one who embraces it. How often do we hear someone blaming their productivity woes on the greater organization, a supervisor, or another individual in the workplace? In essence, this provides lazy persons the perfect cover for holding back their own performance.

Laziness is a plague because it places an inordinate burden on leadership and team morale, and it must be addressed. No easy fix exists, and rooting out such behavior requires immense patience. And, in some cases, laziness simply may represent a person’s nature. But, if you can get to the cause and apply sound logic, you may identify a viable solution to reenergize the employee. Joint goal setting can serve as a powerful incentive to counter the effects of laziness and revive interest. Remember, all goals should be tied to performance measures. Finally, if all else fails, you may have to encourage the employee to explore other opportunities. More than likely, the individual needs a change and knows it but requires honest encouragement. Be supportive and provide guidance in accordance with the situation. The key is to communicate and interact regularly with such employees—and not ignore them, but refresh them!

Christopher C. Lenhard, a member of the Office of Learning Oversight at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.