Complacency is one of the silent killers in the IT industry. It takes formerly intelligent, ambitious techies and turns them into the zombies of the workplace. They haunt the halls of tech companies across the world and their numbers are growing. One small achievement or simply remaining in a position, putting in minimal effort and not getting fired are drivers of complacency, but so is disengagement. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. Worried you’re becoming complacent or disengaged, at your job? Turn the cycle around now before you get converted to the dark side.
– Don’t let your guard down. Only the shortsighted let their guard down in the information technology industry, where change is rapid and disruptive behaviors are common. The best way to be comfortable with your burgeoning IT career is to constantly immerse yourself in new technologies. If you stop learning simply because you’ve completed your degree or have a few years of experience under your belt, the complacency effect will creep up on you and, when you’re ready to look for a new opportunity–because you think it’s time to move on or you were let go–many doors will be closed because you refused to expand your tech knowledge when you had the chance. This will leave you stuck in the same role with no hope for escape, the perfect recipe for complacency.
– Define your personal brand, rather than following the horde. When you are unaware of your personal strengths, passions and values, it’s impossible to predict what kind of workplace you’ll thrive in. Coming up with your personal brand–an amalgamation of your vision, values and self-assessment–will offer you the clarity you need to avoid opportunities that will lead to complacency. If you’re following your vision, the inherent drive and passion will help keep you engaged even during slower seasons at work. Need help identifying your personal brand? Write down a description of where you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years and so on. Then, create a list of your strengths in the workplace. Finally, identify your workplace values. The combination of these lists should provide a consistent brand that will guide you to opportunities that inspire a steady, productive pace at work that is less vulnerable to disengagement.
– Don’t underestimate the power of your fellow techies. While it’s not always possible to meet everyone you work with, make it a priority to bond with a few of your coworkers in every position. These relationships could launch potential successful collaborations, recommendations or simply give you the sense of camaraderie you need to remain engaged and focused on your techie passions.
– Don’t let success get to your head. Some people will work diligently to impress their peers, their boss or their clients. Once you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty you’re sure to be the object of praise and admiration around the office. It’s easy to let this success go to your head and, when it does, complacency often rears its ugly head. To avoid this pitfall, you’ll need to divorce praise for a job well done from your driving motivation to do the job. Instead, focus on pushing your own limits. If you’re competing with your best self, your work will be driven to new heights and unexpected places each and every time. This will not only end the cycle of complacency but also elevate your IT career.
– When you’ve achieved one goal, set another. Goal setting is a key indicator in future success, but it’s easy to get complacent after you’ve completed a long awaited goal. The best strategy to avoid this is to diversify your work goals. Having a list of the three most important things you need to accomplish that day has been proven to promote productivity. Implement monthly and yearly goals to include plans for elevating your technical experience, diversifying your skillset and producing higher quality work. The blend of long-term and short-term goals will deliver a periodic sense of success and give you something to reach for in the future. While this approach may seem like it leaves no time for celebration, that isn’t necessarily true. The endorphins you get from small achievements are often enough, but if you finish a yearlong project by the preset deadline, go out with your team and celebrate! As long as you move on to bigger and better things soon, the celebratory moments don’t need to be eliminated. Congratulations! You did it! Now, what’s next?
– Communicate upwards. If you need help setting goals, ask your manager for a few minutes of their time to discuss the big picture. Once you know where the company is heading, you’ll be more equipped to set goals that will create value and directly contribute to your successful career. Sometimes all it takes is a little insider knowledge and a clear vision of the company’s direction to motivate you.
– Don’t let a challenge steer you away. If you limit yourself to performing the same tasks over and over again, you’re bound to become complacent. Although taking on new responsibility at work can be intimidating, it’s an essential aspect of a flourishing IT career. If an unfamiliar task is offered up, don’t shy away! Treat each challenge like an ant treats an obstacle, navigate your way through it or around it however you can manage. If one approach doesn’t work, try another. Ask more experienced peers for advice on how to handle the situation. Do some research and see if there are any recommendations online. Sit and meditate or go for a walk to allow your brain to clear itself of distractions, this may be the clarity you need to get the job done!
– Do all you can do. In the American tradition of all-you-can-eat buffets, it’s hard to be complacent when you focus on doing all you can do. The best way to jump-start your motivation is to kick your work drive in to high gear! Make lists of areas you can improve on and what you want to accomplish, and then execute. Shedding your complacent attitude may be as simple as becoming more involved in a project you care about, or becoming more involved in the company as a whole, contributing all you can to whatever is important right now. Spreading your engagement to areas you never thought to contribute to may help you discover hidden passions or open future gateways that will greatly improve your IT career.
If you take the chance to try a little bit of everything, you’ll be surprised how much of it you love! But, as with buffets, it’s important not to gorge. If you take on too much at once you may become overwhelmed and shut your engagement off entirely. Instead, add a few tasks on at a time until your plate is comfortably full.
– Pursue your interests inside and outside of tech. Pursuing your passions at work will prevent burnout, but so will pursuing your passions outside of the office. If you’re looking to avoid complacency in the workplace, try to find tasks that align with your interests. You’ll often have to contribute to some projects you’re less than excited about or have duties you’d rather ignore, but if you have enough interesting projects to balance out these negatives, you should remain engaged at work. When one position doesn’t offer you to pursue the area of IT that you’re passionate about, keep your eyes open for job opportunities that will. Similarly, in your free time, you can pursue your unfulfilled interests–both technical and creative–by starting your own side project. This thorough stimulation will make you a more engaged, creative and innovative person in all areas of your life and will scare away any complacent behaviors.
– Keep hope alive. Maybe your career has taken an unexpected turn and you’re wondering how you got where you are. Maybe you’re in the tech field of your dreams but something doesn’t feel right and you can’t see a way out. It’s easy to lose sight of hope for a brighter future when your current position seems so wrong. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and looking for distractions at every turn, start looking for ways to change your current situation. Remember, your career will only remain stagnant and unfulfilling if you aren’t willing to put in the effort to find the kind of job you’d really be happy with.
Instead of joining the disengaged masses, start looking for a viable exit. When you’re ready to ditch those zombies and move on to bigger and better things, make sure you don’t let your negative experiences drag down future interviews. You’ll find a more engaging workplace that fits with your personal brand as long as you focus on the positives. Good luck avoiding the hordes of complacent and disengaged workers! In the end, you’ll be glad you did.