I met Mateusz Pawłowski a couple of months ago at the Social Innovation Conference in Krakow, where he coordinated volunteers. We talked about what motivates us as humans to work, volunteer, and to take action. It was very inspirational! As a follow-up to our conversation, Mateusz wrote an interesting article about “less involved” employees and what those who are over-worked and over-stressed could learn from them.

Have a look at what he wrote! We hope it will inspire you to have a discussion with your colleagues about your work attitude:

Mateusz Pawłowski

It can be very challenging to work with people who strike us as showing little commitment, especially when we ourselves are motivated and have high expectations. We want to change our projects, the companies or even the world for the better, but we come across resistance from people who, in our opinion, do not care.

People like this, who do not put work first, are called “uninvolved”. For them, work is not their main priority. They are reluctant to take overtime and are often unwilling to change their plans for the company or to take work home. You could say that, from the company’s point of view, these are the employees who do the least. In this blog, I want to look more into who these people are. Why do they see the world differently? What is their motivation? And, finally, what can we learn from them?

Setting priorities

While observing “uninvolved” people, we see that, just like you, they make a choice. While your priority may be the development of your organisation, it does not mean that your colleagues and employees must have the same priority. You may say that, if this is the case, and the employee is not as invested in the organisation as you are, why did they accept the job? And there may be some validity to this. However, for some people, their nine to five job is a means of funding a hobby that they are truly passionate about. For others, they feel that eight hours a day is enough to do their job effectively and wish to spend the remainder of their time with family, friends, or even just watching a good movie.

What is important to us is not necessarily important to others. Other perspectives on the same things can drastically diversify how we function. Even if our work brings us tremendous satisfaction, if we feel that it absorbs too much of the time we should be dedicating to our loved ones, it is worth looking at the “uninvolved” to see what we can learn from them. Perhaps there is something to the way they respect boundaries, safeguard their free time, and use their time more effectively while at work by “working smart, not hard”, as the old adage says. Doing this may change the way we schedule our own work and encourage us to prioritise better. It’s all a matter of choices.

In most cases, the “uninvolved” have plenty of free time. The weekend is not another opportunity to catch up on work. It is time to sleep late, spend time with family, have dinner with friends, or to have time just for yourself. This time allows you to charge the batteries and enter the new work week with fresh energy. After the weekend, the “uninvolved” usually come back to work smiling, refreshed from a relaxing and rejuvenating couple of days. 

Expecting benefits

When we observe the “uninvolved”, we notice that their attitude can seem demanding. They expect advancement, additional benefits, a good atmosphere and a cooperative team. As co-workers and employers, we believe that the “uninvolved” are not desirable employees.

However, as with many things in life, the truth lies in the middle. It is natural that an employee’s responsibilities increase according to the length of time they are with the company, the assumption being that they will perform their old duties automatically and need new challenges. Often more responsibility is seen as a reward in and of itself that the employee should be satisfied with. An “uninvolved” employee will not see it like this. They expect a fair exchange and will want a raise or increased benefits for additional responsibilities.

The “uninvolved” employee expects a supportive atmosphere and a good team. They expect standards. They expect their capacity to be respected, not to be overstretched in their duties, and for their employer to provide them with security. This might seem unreasonable, but is it really? If someone accepts a position, they want to perform the tasks outlined in their job description. They want to specialise in activities that they are good at, not try to fill gaps and staff deficits outside of their expertise. They want to feel supported and feel good while they are at work. This is hardly surprising. They will spend almost 50 years of their lives working. It’s understandable that they don’t want to have to reluctantly drag themselves to work every day.

Taking care of yourself

When thinking about “uninvolved” employees, we think about those who put their own welfare ahead of the welfare of others. They focus on themselves, not on teammates or the organisation. One could say that they are calculating. They do not engage in activities that require them to sacrifice in the name of a “higher purpose.” They assume that if they don’t take care of themselves first, no one else will. Such an attitude is rational. They’re not being overly optimistic about things and basing their lives around expectations, rather than facts.

Many people think that if they work hard, they simply deserve respect, raise, recognition, and promotions. They offer more than what is expected of them in the hope that someone will notice their virtue.“Involved” employees often struggle to say no to their bosses, while the “uninvolved” are usually much more assertive. They undertake activities that are required of them and give up the rest. They don’t overwhelm themselves or take on the burdens of colleagues who are overwhelmed. These colleagues who take on too much sometimes do so because of supervisor overburdening them but usually it is because they were not assertive enough to refuse extra responsibilities or did not estimate their time effectively. This does not happen to the “uninvolved” person who is realistic about their time and capacity and therefore comes to work calm and organised.

Taking care of yourself often boils down to knowing your abilities and your limits. The “uninvolved” never take on too much work. They do not chase deadlines or waste time worrying about an unfinished plan. They do everything they have to do and, although they may not get as much done as other employees, they work at a pace agreed upon with their employer, and, ultimately, avoid exhaustion and burnout.

Work is not everything

Work can give satisfaction. It can be important for achieving our ambitions. It can let you create great things and change the world. It plays a huge role in our lives and is where we spend 8 hours a day for 50 years, give or take. However, it is not the most important thing. It is not more important than time spent with family, satisfaction in life and our physical and mental health.

If we ever regret something, it’s certainly not going to be that we didn’t work harder. We will regret the relationships that we have sacrificed because they were not prioritised. We will regret the work that did not reap meaningful rewards. We will regret not saying no to people who overwhelmed us with task that led us to stress, sleepless nights, and a sense of uncertainty.

If you can take something away from the “uninvolved”, take care and caring for yourself as the key message. You won’t regret it.

Mateusz’s article became a catalyst for discussion at M-Powered. Kasia Piecuch, our Head of Work-life Balance, made a valuable comment:

I am very grateful to Mateusz for this blog article. He presented a different perspective of work life balance. We at M-Powered believe in life balance. It’s fair to say that we dedicate our lives to promoting it, teaching it, and inspiring others. But we are aware that many people do not share this passion and see people who seek work life balance as “uninvolved”.

I would like to make a couple of brief remarks about that.

You can be “uninvolved” but still committed to your job, to your company vision or simply to your colleagues. You can also take on fewer tasks than others but still care very much about fulfilling them properly. Maybe you have circumstances that mean you must prioritise other things at that moment, for example, taking care of family or loved ones, and so you’re being realistic in what you can take on. In fact, it may be worse to take on lots of task and responsibilities, but do them poorly, perhaps because you’re no longer happy with your job. This is not a good situation for the individual or for the company.

How we perform in our work very often is not about how many hours we put in but how we work, how we communicate with others, and how we cooperate with them. If we are ready to see and respect the big picture of our team work, not only our individual duties and individual KPIs, and if we are mindful of the people with whom we work, we won’t perceive those looking for balance as being uncommitted and the “uninvolved” will, therefore, not be seen as a problem.