Recently I’ve been reading through a pile of owner’s manuals putting together a maintenance schedule for the various smaller pieces of equipment we use on a regular basis. Whilst thumbing through one such novella on a generator I’d purchased a few years back, I started chastising my carelessness for not thoroughly reading through the manual when I first picked it up. Since I’m a weirdo who argues with myself, I then went on to defend my initial negligence with the thought “Eh, nobody reads those things,” and in doing so I started to consider just how detrimental dismissive thought like that is to quality work.

Mediocrity is a lame excuse, but it is also a super comfy one. You can just nestle right into “good enough.”  Minimal effort for passing results. Potentially the most dangerous part is when performed often and by enough people, it slowly starts to usurp the set standard.

When the goal drifts from exceeding expectations to “meh, that’ll do,” a dangerous precedent is set. It sets a tone for those around you, it metastasizes and drifts into other parts of work, not only degrading work quality, but the general atmosphere of the workplace as well. Enough people putting in just barely enough effort to skim by can leave an oppressive miasma of apathy floating about, dragging down the energy of a workplace.

“Oh no! The Indifference is everywhere! It’s in the walls! What do I do!?” I hear you yelling at your screen. Well calm down. One surefire inoculation to mediocrity is purpose. Give someone purpose in their work, help them understand why the labor they’re tasked to complete is important and the impact it has, and the drive you can create in an individual can quash the most stubborn cases of listlessness.

People are social creatures that want to work towards the betterment of each other. Hire an individual to push a button, tell them nothing about why they’re doing it or what it does, and they’ll fall asleep standing up. Explain to them that each time they push the button a kid gets clean water, and they’ll push the ever-loving fire out of that button.

Secondly, lead by example and set the bar high. Be better and encourage others who follow suit. Any of the guys I work with in the field are prime examples of this. Every one of them provides quality work and consistent follow through. They put in the effort to do things right, and in doing so establish a standard for others to strive for.

Apathy leads to lackadaisical performance, which in turn can lead to lackluster standards. Through purpose and leadership, a fire can be kindled in an individual to burn out indifference and preserve the quality of work as well as the workplace.

 

Chris Cooper
Environmental Specialist
Oklahoma Environmental Services​​​