Hi there, hope you’re doing well.
My previous newsletter article discussed leadership styles and adopting one that will empower your team and inspire them to innovate. Did you read it? Tried to put it into practice? if Yes, I am sure you have met at least one of those individuals who talk too much, work too little, put off tasks, and have a million reasons why they can not finish them. They have a lot in common with lazy ants.
Worker ants have different jobs and tasks. There are many types of workers ants as there are several departments in our organizations. One type is for protection, one for gathering food, one for nursing – nursing each other or the queen when needed-or even babies-when larvae hatch from their eggs. There are worker ants for maintaining the nest (like cleaning up poop literally). Although ant colonies appear to be active and productive, entomologist Daniel Charbonneau from the University of Arizona discovered that about 40% of the workforce is actually inactive slackers.
We have among us people who like it if their boss leaves them alone for a few hours during the day to do their own thing or not be bothered by anyone. Sometimes they will take this time to nap or relax-sometimes they will use this time to browse social media, completing tasks of their own interests.
Charbonneau and his team applied tiny dots of paint to ants to identify each individual and track it in video recordings. In a series of experiments active and lazy ants were alternately removed from their colonies, the researchers determined that the lazy ants are actually a reserve labor force that only gets called upon when they’re absolutely needed. When the top 20 percent of the most active ants were removed from the workforce, the inactive ants stepped in to fill their ranks effectively hitting the KPIs of the missing ants.
While slacking is generally not acceptable, serving as a replacement ‘bench’ workforce is a long-held debate. Employees on the bench are underutilized, which has an impact on the organization’s profitability. For an employee, the initial days might seem like fun. They are free to do whatever they choose and what’s more? They get paid. They however will quickly grow tired of it and want to advance because every minute spent on the bench implies their growth in the organization is impeded. Many employees on the bench, therefore, are not slackers.
If you are on ‘Bench’ instead of thinking of it as a negative, think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow. For example, you can take the time to learn new skills that you didn’t know before or offer to join an internal initiative that may be beneficial for your company. You can also use this time to innovate and streamline processes so that your company can operate more efficiently in the future.
In another study, entomologist Daniel Charbonneau discovered that ants chose not to allocate individuals to support their reserves department when the inactive ants were removed from the colony. Researchers came to the conclusion that ant colonies do not attempt to maintain the balance of workers. Ant-worker replacement depends on the immediate necessity of the task.
So, while some of us would want the peaceful, easygoing life of the lazy ant, it is not a way of living without its own compromises. In the eyes of respected, go-getter colleagues, lazy lay-bouts colleagues are just a faceless, disposable unit of labor.
To motivate slackers in your team, 1) Make the assignment more meaningful so that the slackers on your team feel their effort is truly important. 2) Peer pressure is real, so demonstrate to them what their colleagues are up to. 3) Shrink the group to make each team member feel more accountable. 4) Try job rotation to prevent them from believing their job is redundant.
Thank you for reading. I hope you find this useful.
Do write to me about your thoughts.
Thank you for reading my newsletter Mindful Mondays
Every Monday, I share practical life advice and productivity tips. I also share my recent readings on business news and economic trends. Get them straight to your inbox by subscribing now.