HR and Recruiting

Are you creating an apathetic work environment?

Written by Eric Titner

As an HR professional, you’re undoubtedly aware of the importance of maintaining a talent-rich pipeline of active and passive candidates for open and future positions at your company, and to keeping your organization’s departments stocked with employees best suited to support and advance its mission and goals. After all, your key performance metrics are likely directly tied to these key success indicators.

That said, there are a host of other factors that you should be keeping track of regularly if you want to help ensure your company’s long-term success—including the health of your work environment.

Why is this important? An apathetic work environment—one in which employees generally feel unmotivated, unappreciated, and disinterested—can be disastrous to your company’s bottom line.

According to a recent Psychology Today article, “Today, the impact of an unhealthy workplace environment on the employee is estimated to cost American companies $300 billion a year in poor performance, absenteeism and health costs…Unhealthy leadership and the culture it spawns typically disseminates downward. It drains away high-performing, energized, engaged employees, including the innovative teamwork companies, need to stay nimble and competitive—especially today. Moreover, an unhealthy management culture fuels emotional conflicts among employees who weren’t overtly troubled prior to working in that environment. Or, it exacerbates prior emotional conflicts that were previously dormant or well-managed.”

So how do you go about diagnosing your own workplace in an effort to ensure that you and your company are doing everything possible to keep its employees engaged and motivated? Consider getting started by reviewing your company’s performance in the following areas.


It’s certainly not a difficult stretch to connect the notion of employee compensation with engagement and enthusiasm—it’s basic human psychology that we’re creatures motivated by positive reinforcement, and the workplace is no different. Within reason, the bigger the carrot, the larger the source of motivation—and the reverse is also true. Perhaps the quickest way to create an apathetic work environment is to keep employees operating under the notion that their compensation fails to meet industry standards, with no light at the end of the tunnel. These days, anyone can go online and research average salaries in nearly every industry and position, so there’s no place to hide for stingy companies.


So, where does your company stack up in terms of compensating employees? Are the packages you’re offering (salary, benefits, perks, etc.) in line with expected industry standards? Bottom line: if you’re failing to compensate your employees appropriately, you’re likely going to wind up paying for it in other ways—with noticeable decreases in motivation, enthusiasm, and attendance—so consider this a wise investment.


Have you ever heard the phrase “It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch”? Well, the same goes for managers—they often have an outsized effect (both good and bad) on their workplaces, and the negative effects of bad management can trickle down and ripple through an entire workplace. Managers typically set both the pace and the tone for their organizations and are key contributors to (or annihilators of) a company’s culture and environment.

There are many ways that a manager can contribute to an unhealthy work environment, including poor communication, unsupportive or tyrannical behavior, incompetence, and everything in-between. The net effect is often the same—employees who are burnt out, unhappy, unmotivated, and often looking to jump ship for greener pastures. Are you aware of any managers in your organization who have pervasive negative reputations? If so, then take active measures to make improvements.

Opportunities for growth

No one appreciates a dead end, especially when it involves their career path. Does your company provide its employees with clear and achievable paths for growth? This includes both personal growth (think new skills, responsibilities, and challenges) and opportunities for professional advancement. This is a huge contributing factor toward creating a healthy and positively charged work environment. If you’re eager to avoid falling prey to an apathetic workplace and to boost employee engagement and retention, make sure your employees feel their hard work and extra efforts will be rewarded at some point down the line.

So what’s the verdict? Are you cultivating a positive and supportive work environment? Whatever your current state of affairs, if you’re eager to effect positive change in your company, use the strategies and advice provided to help you move things in the right direction.

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About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.

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