Curing apathy

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Curing apathy

Postby JimBoice » September 13th, 2013, 10:49 pm

Like the flu, apathy takes many forms, has many causes, and can spread rapidly. What can you do about it?

-- Treat it like a disease.
-- Note the symptoms.
-- Diagnose the cause(s).
-- Take appropriate remedial action.

Some symptoms are present in almost all cases of apathy. The victims are listless, unresponsive, seemingly uninterested in doing anything. Their only interests seem to be in griping and going home.

To determine the causes of their apathy, you must look beyond these surface symptoms to the more specific ones.

Generally, patients' symptoms can best be observed when -- and if -- they speak. Listen carefully to a group of apathy victims, or talk with them after a meeting, and you'll soon discern a pattern which should help you identify the cause of the trouble.
Jim Boice
UniServ Field Representative ~ Membership & Organizational Development
New Jersey Education Association
180 West State Street
Post Office Box 1211
Trenton, NJ 08607-1211
609-599-4561 ext. 2236

http://www.facebook.com/NJEAPRIDE
JimBoice
 
Posts: 546
Joined: November 20th, 2012, 11:27 am

Re: Curing apathy

Postby JimBoice » September 13th, 2013, 10:53 pm

The "diagnosis chart" below sets forth some common causes of apathy, the symptoms most often present for each, and a suggested remedy:

"TYPE A" APATHY -- "I'D RATHER BE SAILING"

Cause: The group's task doesn't seem important to its members, doesn't seem worth the effort required, or seems less important than something else they'd prefer to be doing.

Symptoms: People ask, "What do they want us to do?" No one volunteers to do anything. Suggestions often "plop." Nobody takes them up and builds on them. When, in rare cases, a decision is made, members fail to follow through in it.

Remedy: If you can't demonstrate the importance of the group's task to their satisfaction and relate it to an important objective, then you'd better give them something more important to do. Find out what their interests are. Keep assignments short. Assure quick achievements.
JimBoice
 
Posts: 546
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Re: Curing apathy

Postby JimBoice » September 13th, 2013, 10:57 pm

"TYPE B"APATHY -- "WHO, ME? LET GEORGE DO IT!"

Cause: The problem may seem important to the members, but they are afraid to work on it. The group atmosphere leads them to feel exposed to attack or ridicule, so they feel insecure, self-conscious, or embarrassed about presenting ideas.

Symptoms: Members never seem to have enough information. They emphasize the consequences of a wrong decision. Proposed solutions are attached as unrealistic, unworkable, or too rash. They suggest that somebody else make the decision.

Remedy: Act fast to improve the climate. Encourage the group to brainstorm. Everybody contributes any idea that comes to mind, no matter how simple, silly, or grandiose it may seem. All ideas are accepted and listed without any attempt at evaluation. When a long list of ideas has been assembled, usually two or three will stand out as the most likely for the group to explore, without anyone feeling put down. Sharply discourage any forms of ridicule (distinct from good humored joking) or rash personal criticism. If two or three members are the source of the trouble, confer with them privately -- get them to see how their behavior inhibits the group.
Jim Boice
UniServ Field Representative ~ Membership & Organizational Development
New Jersey Education Association
180 West State Street
Post Office Box 1211
Trenton, NJ 08607-1211
609-599-4561 ext. 2236

http://www.facebook.com/NJEAPRIDE
JimBoice
 
Posts: 546
Joined: November 20th, 2012, 11:27 am

Re: Curing apathy

Postby JimBoice » September 13th, 2013, 11:02 pm

"TYPE C" APATHY -- "YOU CAN'T FIGHT CITY HALL"

Cause: Members agree upon the problem but fear trying to seek a solution because they believe that powers outside the association are stronger than they are. They'd rather live with their misery than run any risks.

Symptoms: Similar to "Type B," except that, in this case, discussions center around the powers outside the organization. There are many horror tales about "what happened to so-and-so when he/she tried to do something about it." Or,there may be a lot of talk about "how much worse off we could be." Nobody makes a move to take any real action -- the only actions suggested are the cop-out variety.

Remedy: If you can't reassure them (and you probably can't) with success stories of people who have fought similar battles and won, then try to get them to see the greater risk of doing nothing. Show how each time they lie down and play doormat, another of their rights will be trampled upon -- until they have nothing left.

Having created a counter-fear, help them tackle only a tiny part of the problem. Get them to take a small no-risk step that will register their resentment -- however mildly. Be sure success is built-in. Repeat the process encouraging them gradually to bite off bigger chunks of the problem until they realize that together, they do have power.
Jim Boice
UniServ Field Representative ~ Membership & Organizational Development
New Jersey Education Association
180 West State Street
Post Office Box 1211
Trenton, NJ 08607-1211
609-599-4561 ext. 2236

http://www.facebook.com/NJEAPRIDE
JimBoice
 
Posts: 546
Joined: November 20th, 2012, 11:27 am

Re: Curing apathy

Postby JimBoice » September 13th, 2013, 11:03 pm

'TYPE D" APATHY -- "WHAT'S THE QUESTION?"

Cause: the group has inadequate procedures for solving problems. members don't really communicate. There is little coordination of effort, and no system for collecting facts against which to test proposals. Discussions are disorganized,fruitless.

Symptoms: 1. No one suggests a first step toward the goal. People complain that the task is impossible. They talk past each other; there's much misunderstanding. Little attention is given to fact-finding or to possible consequences of decisions. Members don't restate each other's ideas to test their understanding. They don't summarize points of agreement; meetings simply dissolve.

Remedy: Encourage systematic group problem: identify the problem, summarize available information, brainstorm about possible solutions, select a few promising solutions and identify the additional information needed, collect data, test proposed solutions against data, make a decision, implement the decision, evaluate and revise course as needed, and seek consensus on each step. Show that a systematic approach makes the task manageable.
Jim Boice
UniServ Field Representative ~ Membership & Organizational Development
New Jersey Education Association
180 West State Street
Post Office Box 1211
Trenton, NJ 08607-1211
609-599-4561 ext. 2236

http://www.facebook.com/NJEAPRIDE
JimBoice
 
Posts: 546
Joined: November 20th, 2012, 11:27 am

Re: Curing apathy

Postby JimBoice » September 13th, 2013, 11:18 pm

"TYPE E" APATHY -- "NOBODY LISTENS TO US ANYWAY"

Cause: Members feel powerless to influence decisions. They think that either their leader will force a decision on them or that the "people higher up" will ignore their recommendations.

Symptoms: They say, "What difference will it make? Nobody pays attention to us." They complain often about wasting their efforts. The discussion centers around who really counts in the organization, instead of around the problem. They leave with the feeling that they have good ideas, which they were never able to get across.

Remedy: If the members' perception is inaccurate, then demonstrate that fact by coaxing them to offer ideas, listening receptively to what they have to say, showing appreciation for their contributions, acting on as many suggestions as you can, and explaining "why not" on those you can't.

If the members' perception of the group leader and/or the association is accurate, straighten out the problem by following the same four steps indicated here and seeing that the group leader does likewise.
Jim Boice
UniServ Field Representative ~ Membership & Organizational Development
New Jersey Education Association
180 West State Street
Post Office Box 1211
Trenton, NJ 08607-1211
609-599-4561 ext. 2236

http://www.facebook.com/NJEAPRIDE
JimBoice
 
Posts: 546
Joined: November 20th, 2012, 11:27 am

Re: Curing apathy

Postby JimBoice » September 13th, 2013, 11:23 pm

"TYPE F" APATHY -- "OH, NO - THEY'RE AT IT AGAIN!"

Cause: Conflict among a few creates apathy in the rest.

Symptoms: Two or three members dominate all discussion but never agree. No matter what the topic, conflict between dominate members always surfaces. Dominant members sometimes appeal to quiet members for support but otherwise control the discussion. Members not engaged in the conflict tend to withdraw -- mentally or physically. Two or three end up making all decisions.

Remedy: If the conflict is cause by deep-rooted personality class or philosophical differences that can't be overcome through private conferences and rational discussion, then the best solution is often to separate the combatants. Assign them to different groups whose leaders are strong enough to keep them in check.

The removal option may not always be available to you, in which case you will have to fight fire with fire: organize the peer pressure of the silent majority to unite in quelling the disturbing factors. There's a difference between healthy debate and destructive dissension.
Jim Boice
UniServ Field Representative ~ Membership & Organizational Development
New Jersey Education Association
180 West State Street
Post Office Box 1211
Trenton, NJ 08607-1211
609-599-4561 ext. 2236

http://www.facebook.com/NJEAPRIDE
JimBoice
 
Posts: 546
Joined: November 20th, 2012, 11:27 am


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