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Are Your Employees RIP?

By: Yvonne F. Brown
Last updated 8/5/2010

As a speaker I am privileged to meet many people on my travels. I enjoy learning from my attendees as I teach my topic; and since I am a lifelong learner, I consider it a job perk. Sometimes the things I learn leave me challenged to process what I am hearing.  Recently, I experienced one of those moments. 

A raised hand got my attention during my program. The question was: “What can you do when the people you work with aren't interested in growing anymore?”

The attendee explained that the people she works with say things like:
1.  No more learning.
2.  I’ve spent the bulk of my life learning and there's no need to learn anything else.
3.  This is who I am.
4.  This is the best it’s going to get.
5.  I'm not interested in training on any new stuff—and they mean it!

For a moment, I was speechless.

In a world where new innovative products and services are created on a daily basis, these people have stopped their personal growth. Not only that—they proudly verbalize it for all to hear.

Does your company have people who think this way?
As a business, your success in the marketplace relies on competitively marketing your products and services. Innovation, ideas, vision and success comes from the people you employ.  If your people have decided to stop growing, so will you and your company.

At another recent event I sat next to an individual who suddenly sighed loudly. “What's wrong?” I asked her. 

She replied, “I miss carbon paper.” She told me she had five years until retirement and didn't want to learn anything more. She just wanted her job to stay the same until she finished her time and retired. 

This is an “RIP” employee: she has “Retired In Place.” She's just taking up space while collecting a paycheck. If she worked for me, she'd have to retire NOW!

In today's marketplace, there is no place for this kind of impotent thinking. Employees like these stifle creativity, kill ideas, and dilute the positive contributions of other employees who have what you need to succeed in your industry.

Contrast the above mentioned employee mindset with the culture at Sony Corporation. At Sony, you can conceive of an idea in the morning, prototype it that day, and if turns out no to be feasible, discard it at the end of the day. This organizational model is what brought us the Sony sneaker that wirelessly communicates with your iPod. Imagine the moment when an employee suggested that a sneaker could coordinate with your iPod while you jog to change the songs to match your pace. In addition, the sneaker allows you to download your running information and share it with other runners worldwide. It’s positively amazing, all of the things you can do with a pair of sneakers.

Can you imagine the environment in which an employee can comfortably share an idea like that? It comes from the top down. The ability to innovate must be encouraged!

Another example: at Google and other companies, employees are able to take time off to think and be creative.
How about your company? Can your employees share new ideas without fear of ridicule? Are you open to suggestions? Would you have laughed off the idea of a “smart sneaker"? 

One final question: do you have RIP employees like the ones mentioned in my seminar? And if so, what are you doing about it?

About the Author(s)

Yvonne F. Brown is Chief Empowerment Officer of JAD Communications® International, a training, coaching, and personal development firm. She is a featured writer on leadership for Diversity MBA Magazine and is an AMA faculty member. For more information, visit www.yvonnefbrown.com