The Scary Unproductive Attitudes That Sabotage Your Work

If you have ever wondered why so many people aren’t successful at becoming financially healthy, wealthy and wise in the real world, you may have discovered that a lot of people are adept at the practice and behavior of being unproductive. After so many years of working in business, I think I’ve seen and heard just about every kind of excuse making for lack of productivity there is to be had. Those attitudes are pretty easy to spot in people and it matters not if you are a co-worker or the supervisor; it adds nothing to your day and hinders everyone around. In fact, it’s scary in the ways it can affect a business and even affect you, a productive dedicated employee.

The Scary Unproductive Attitudes That Sabotage Your Work

In past posts, we’ve talked about how you can be more successful, earn more, and get ahead in your career and thus your advancement on the road to financial health and wealth. Actions like going the extra mile, not being a clock watcher, and contributing your ideas to help solve problems will put you on that track every time. If you’re not careful, the unproductive people you see every day, or your own unproductive attitudes, can pull you into their karma and have you spinning your wheels just as they do.

Do you recognize these people like I do? They are the ones you see wandering aimlessly around the office either just on their way to or just on their way from someplace but never actually going anywhere! So how can you avoid falling into their trap and sharing their unproductive attitudes? Be aware of the signs and excuses you see and hear:

“Why am I so overworked!”

Well, reality is that we all feel that way. Sitting around complaining about it wastes time and energy and makes the work pile up even more. In a world of high tech instant access, information and job duties are sped up for everyone. Just do what you have to do and develop best practices that save time and energy.

“Hey, that’s not MY job!”

The truth is that you don’t want nor should you do the work of another person. However, when an assignment is a group assignment, don’t sit around listening to or being the one complaining with why, why, why! Do what needs to be done after a brief discussion and make sure you are focused on the goal whether or not the unproductive person pulls his weight. He or she will be discovered quickly.

“Oh, I’ll do it later!”

This is a good way to get buried in a pile of never completed work. Either it gets started and then quickly put on a back burner, or it just never gets done. No one has the job of jump starting anyone else to do what they’re supposed to do routinely. If they need that kind of inspiration, they aren’t long for the job. Stay focused on your own work and keep clear of the procrastinators.

“I was never told to do that!”

Please. Does someone have to tell you over and over again the things you need to do? Lack of independence and motivation kills tons of businesses. The boss would love it if you took the initiative or at least asked about that “thing” you weren’t told directly to do that you did last week, the week before, and will have to do next week (as well as others things).  Don’t ever be that guy.

“I want it to be just perfect!”

Does anything really need to be perfect? As they say, perfection is the enemy of progress. If you seek perfection in the climate of today’s business world you may get it eventually, but at the same time may create a disaster amongst all the other projects you just won’t ever get to. Know the difference between quality work and perfection. The unproductive use seeking perfection as an excuse.

“What do I get if I bust my butt?”

Wow. How about you get to keep your job? They call it work for a reason and if you spend most of your time trying to figure out “what’s in it for me?”, consider your paycheck and perks that may come along with you efforts. Look, it’s not called party or social media time (you know the ones who are constantly tweeting about everything that happens all day long). You have down time occasionally; do you give back your pay when that happens?

“Who gets the credit for it?”

Needing to get the full credit is a surefire productivity killer. When the team succeeds everyone benefits, and when it doesn’t, it is usually obvious as to who dropped the ball. Don’t risk being the one who fumbles.

“But what if it doesn’t turn out right?”

The unproductive are so afraid to fail at something that they often never try to succeed. They put off, fail to complete, make a zillion excuses as to why and they may infect others around them. They will be found out, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Everything you accomplish comes on a learning curve. You will learn that lesson if you ask.

So there’s my list of unproductive attitudes and how to spot the people who have them. As time goes on in your work life, you will know them almost right away. You can tolerate the results of that work for just so long before it makes the job extremely unpleasant. Have the faith in your own work, and make sure you don’t let these unproductive attitudes seep in.

Do you know some people with unproductive attitudes? Do you have one yourself? What can you do to try to make the situation better?


  1. I would always tell any of my direct reports if you are going to come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution for it too.

    Work ethic is tough in the today’s work environment, so many distractions, Facebook, twitter, smartphones, texts, etc. I;\’d love to see productive numbers over the last 10-15 years compared to 20-30 years ago.

    1. I would think, Brian, that productivity has increased primarily because of the advancement in office technology and the fact that many places of business operate 24 hours a day. Having said that, individuals use the technology you mentioned as a distraction and in many cases it’s harmful to productivity. I’m not sure we could find the numbers you seek, but I’d love to see them too.

  2. Great insights, Gary. I’ve seen all of these in motion. The saddest trait IMO is the perfectionist. He at least wants to do a good job, but gets in his own way. He can’t compete with those who are more productive. I’d rather get 95% of my work done with a 5% error margin, than get 75% of my work done without error.

  3. All I know is that, while I sometimes get a little lax, I still go above and beyond the other gal at work. I think she definitely has some of the attitudes you mentioned above. I’m sure she’s very nice (I work remotely) but sometimes I get the fallout of her doing the bare minimum and it drives me crazy. Usually it’s just a tad more effort, and the customer would’ve been happy/correctly answered.

    I wasn’t even completely sure how much the boss was noticing, but what mattered to me was keeping the customers happy. (Especially since the boss overpays me, as far as I’m concerned.) I mean, it matters a little that he notice I do way more than she does. But mainly I just care that he is happy with *my* work. Which means going above and beyond the basic form letters at least 1/3 of the time.

    1. I think that when it comes to dealing with unproductive coworkers, the best way to handle it is exactly what you are doing, Abigail. To explain, you can only control your own behaviors and if you’re doing the right thing, it may inspire another worker to copy your behavior. If it doesn’t, then you have to depend on the supervisor to take note. I always have tried not to dwell on unproductive behaviors in others because that will only be a distraction to my productivity.

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