The Demoralizing Workplace

Reduction in quality and productivity spread in the workplace as millions of minds began disengaging in the mid-twentieth century. It started happening when TV entered American life. TV reduces brain function, intelligence and creativity, lowers job performance, shuts down empathy towards others and caring in general, increases crime, disease, depression, boredom, complaining, aggression, and incompetence.1Self Mocking

Incompetence spread throughout our nation’s places of employment, especially government agencies where there is more bureaucracy, less accountability or motivation for efficiency, and large numbers of people where it is easier to absorb incompetence. The private sector is far from immune. The plague increases throughout all workplaces, as video devices increase, and time spent developing minds decreases.

As the population deteriorates into the new passive, distracted condition, the more incompetence replaces competence. People are irresponsible, slower and shallower thinkers, less precise, less observant, less reliable, less focused, they can’t concentrate, they can’t pay attention or sustain work for very long, they don’t solve problems, and they don’t care as much2—they make mistakes more often than they get it right, and it doesn’t matter.

The New Norm
This decline becomes the new norm: a deadly cycle of negligence, sloppy work, and sluggish productivity. The result is the inevitable collapse of a workforce under the weight of millions of disengaged minds deteriorating into passivity, carelessness, and blundering.

While US workers put in long hours, we are far from the most productive. “Workers in the US put in more hours than nearly everyone but Koreans” But…“Are Americans the world’s most productive employees? Not even close, according to recent research” (based on ratio of GDP to hours worked).3

Reward Incompetence
Over time, employers and employees begin to expect less from each other. What used to be appalling carelessness or gross negligence is now commonplace, average performance. We condone and encourage screw-ups with soothing reassurances like, “We all make mistakes,” “No problem,” “It wasn’t really your fault.”

But it was your fault. It is your problem. This behavior has created a culture of ineptitude and sloppiness that we now accept as normal.

Increasingly people in the workforce think they are entitled to occupy a workstation, or sit at a desk, and get a paycheck, regardless of low productivity. Low productivity and high error rates have become accepted. The concept of merit is often taboo in workplaces today.

Punish Excellence
Acknowledging merit means you have to separate hard work and skill from error-prone ineptitude and laziness. But many people today think it is unfair to recognize and reward the few who still merit recognition and reward.

Merit systems are considered elitist. Merit systems hurt the feelings of low-performing employees. Our culture of incompetence nurtures self-esteem by rewarding self-indulgent laziness. Everyone is treated equally, even if there are big differences in productivity and quality of work. Stellar performance and dismal performance are treated the same. High performers are devalued and demoralized.

As a result, today’s culture punishes positive spirit, discipline, conscientiousness, long attention span, initiative, problem solving, diligence, and productivity. These qualities once filled our culture with energy. Today they are so rare it is considered elitist to value them. The energy is gone.

Culture of Incompetence
We are left with a hollow spirit and bad attitudes: Entitlement replaces Earning: “I don’t have to earn it, but it’s owed to me regardless of how little I contribute.” We not only let people to get away with it, we encourage it, just as we punish excellence. Lower expectations breed lower results. Our society today is a breeding ground for lower results, a culture of incompetence.


1, 2, 3
Studies confirm the sad realities described in this post. A wealth of references on these and related topics are compiled and explained in detail, with end notes and a works cited section, in THE BOOK Call of the Active Mind.

You can also read these posts for more on how TV and other passive screen time damages the hearts and minds of people, which deteriorates productivity and quality in the workplace, as well as in all areas of life:

Call of the Active Mind, ©Copyright Robert Rose-Coutré 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016

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