Leadership: Combat Risky Apathy of Being Big

As the business world continues to exalt everything big — mega-stores, global reach, and of course big profits — my mind focuses on the risky apathy that being big produces

Executives often focus on the businesses challenges of being big yet only a handful focus on combating the apathy that comes with it.

Leaders: Combat the Apathy of Being Big Image by:Peter Baer

Leadership: The Risky Apathy of Being Big

  • As teams get bigger they know each other less. Team members focus on those they know and are often apathetic toward the rest.

    Risky result: Silos that stop communicating.

  • As procedures grow complex to handle the bigness, employees begin to think that the procedures are the end goal instead of just one means to the true goal — delivering results to customers for business success.

    Risky result: Apathy to the customers’ needs and lower customer satisfaction.

  • If a leader with a big ego and threatening manner takes over, employees become focused on satisfying the leader instead of focusing on the organization’s mission.

    Risky result: A change in culture from service commitment to risk avoidance. Big threatening egos produce apathy as they focus on the “me” instead of the “we”. They refocus most people on protecting themselves from the wrath of the egos. Hardly the path to success.

  • As companies get big, employees feel detached from the end results. Do they make a difference? Many don’t know. Why commit to quality, follow-through, and excellence when they see little impact of their actions?

    Risky result: Apathetic routine focused employees who don’t innovate or deliver the highest quality results. Consider the difference between the self-employed and the corporate employee. Of course there are high and low performers in both. Yet in self-employment, the impact of apathetic performance is clear and far more likely to change behavior and results.

  • Big delivers a false sense of comfort. Big is often blind to the small upstart that works hard and grabs success.

    Risky result: Believing you’re too big to fail can fuel apathy.

Do’s and Don’ts to Combat the Apathy of Big

Don’t just take care of your employees; engage them all to take care of each other.
Don’t hide the truth about challenges; keep everyone hungry for and working toward success.
Don’t over-emphasize adherence to procedures; get everyone involved in improving them.
Don’t segment people into silos; use technology to connect globally for rapport and collaboration.
Don’t just give perks to retain top talent; tap their talent to show them how they make a difference.
Don’t manage the bigness; lead for success.

Combat the apathy of being big with communication, true employee engagement, celebration of talent, and accountability. Engage Employees Through Their Entrepreneurial Spirit!

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

6 Responses to “Leadership: Combat Risky Apathy of Being Big”

  1. Pattie Roberts says:

    You are so on point with this issue, Kate! Apathy is exactly the right way to characterize how some aspects of ‘big’ can push even the most motivated talent into reactive, drone-ish behavior. We might as well call it ‘sapathy’, as it saps energy, commitment, and the desire to create newness.

    I will never forget the ‘sapathetic’ words spoken to me, years ago, on my first day with a very large organization: After a long day of orientation, tours, introductions, and forms, forms, forms, I finally arrived at my cubicle and decided to stay late to read the mountain of brochures, reports, and other documentation that were handed to me to come up to speed. My brand new boss poked his head in and asked why I was still there at 6pm. When I told him I wanted to get a head start on learning the organization and it’s issues, he said, with no trace of irony, and I quote: “Well stop it, you’re making the rest of us look bad.”

    Fortunately for me, I am almost entirely internally motivated, but I knew then and there that if I wanted to excel, it was going to be 100 percent on my own initiative. Not a good way to start off a new employee.

    If even one leader reads this post and takes it to heart, you will have saved at least that person’s direct reports from the apathy abyss. Keep the insights coming Kate!



    • Kate Nasser says:

      Oh Pattie, I wish I had talked to you before I titled my post. Sapathy — that’s a home run of new word 🙂

      As for your story, I had the same thing happen to me in my corporate career. Needless to say, I left to become an entrepreneur yet your story brought back the memory and the outrage I felt at that time.

      Amazing isn’t it that you, Michelle, and I — and probably countless others experienced apathy (aka Sapathy) in the same context.

      Well here’s to committed leaders and engaged employees. A toast to ban “sapathy” forever!

      Regards and thanks,

  2. Khalid says:

    Great post Kate.

    I was asked by my manager to deliver presentations to our 2500+ employees on our newly introduced performance appraisal system. It’s a great experience as its way beyond my IT related position so I’m enjoying it.

    One of the challenges is carrying a peer review for same grade employees to other departments employees and there was a concern on comparable job importance among departments. So this clearly relates to your point of saying the bigger the company the less attached employees to the company objective and the more they are attached to the department’s objective (though they should be enherited from the company objective but individual should see the big picture and should know from where their department objective came from).

    I suggested to prepare a video recording to show individuals within the company expressing their work and it’s relation to the overall objective of the company. This should energize others to think outside their department box and at The same time this should trigger that all positions are equally important to accomplish the united objective.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Bravo Khalid — the proof is in the doing. And your “big picture” thinking will make a difference. Keep up the great work!!


  3. WOW reading Pattie’s response brought back a conversation I had this past week with another professional about a potential client – one of those large be-moth groups that lives by that sad “Well, stop it you will make the rest of us look bad” mindset.

    I am with you both, being internally motivated – I am always looking at how does this serve everyone’s needs to create a win/win/win. Not just a win/win. When you take it that extra layer deeper, it creates a new solution that serves to drive a new breakthrough – which is where the magic happens in my experience.

    Imagine a world where we all embrace Big thinking to deliver bigger results – results that improve lives globally. Yup that’s my vision “making a difference as well as a profit.”

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Well said Michele — making a difference as well as a profit. They are not mutually exclusive and thankful that there are companies doing it. We will work to help more in that vein.

      Thanks for your comment here today. Truly grateful.

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