Honey badger don’t care…and why you’d better hope your people do

Ahhhh, the honey badger.  This wily little mammal nestled itself in our pop culture consciousness through the use of clever narration over a documentary film.  I love the honey badger.  But you know what?  Honey badger don’t care.  He doesn’t need my love.  Honey badger just doesn’t give a shit.

The thing is, most of us are NOT honey badgers.  We care a LOT about things…some are important (like the safety of loved ones), some aren’t (like the jerk who cut you off in traffic).  Human beings are an emotional species that tends to act on those emotions.  That’s why we’re always talking about “finding our passion” and “following our bliss” and other fluffy stuff that telegraphs  the fact that we tend to only work hard at something when we give a damn about it.

Call it whatever you want – be engagement, mojo or flow – but really what it comes down to is caring.  Engagement studies from BlessingWhite and TowersWatson (why don’t these firms ever have spaces anymore?) provide analysis around attraction and retention drivers, and basically all of them fall into two buckets – what’s in it for me? and why should I care?  (I’ll break these buckets down in a future post.)


Engagement definitions almost always include the concept of “discretionary effort”, or going above and beyond what is expected.  And companies need employees who are willing to give discretionary effort because they’re the ones who typically move a project over the finish line, get a company unstuck, and generally make the workplace better.

What I’m talking about is flat out EFFORT.  Do employees CARE enough to do the bare minimum of their jobs? Are they willing to work a full day at an acceptable level of effort and intensity?

Think about your workplace (or a past workplace).  What are most of the people doing most of the time?  If you have employees who CARE, you’ll hopefully see competent people doing their jobs, coming in on time and also leaving right when they are supposed to.  Occasionally you’ll see the over-achievers and ultra-engaged burning the midnight oil.

But what if employees don’t CARE?  I don’t mean the fully disengaged, out to bring down the company people.  Just…folks with jobs who don’t particularly worry about how well or what they’re doing. People wander in a few minutes late every day; they linger over longer lunches; they “sneak out” a couple of minutes early.  These seem like minor offenses…but what can they lead to?

    • Box-checking projects through the company because “it’s above their pay grade” to question its value
    • Incredibly quiet, low energy workspaces
    • A gradual erosion of morale
    • A culture of mediocrity
    • An exodus of A players
    • Dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!!

It’s hard to be fanatically engaged ALL the time.  People need to take a break now and then, and that’s okay.  But hopefully in their downtime, they still give a darn about what they do.  They ask the right questions, push back when appropriate, and make good decisions based on critical factors – not because they are highly engaged, but because they care about the company, their job, and doing the right thing.

So while engagement is important and helps drive your business and retention of talent, don’t forget about the simplicity and power of having employees who simply CARE.

The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.

– Peter Gibbons

How do you get your employees to care? How do you know your employees care?  Do YOU care?  Leave a comment below.  HONEY BADGER WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU!!! 



4 thoughts on “Honey badger don’t care…and why you’d better hope your people do

  1. I actually think the answer is not that complicated. Ask employees for their thoughts and input. Many people just want to be heard and know that their opinion counts for something. When you ignore someone, you make them feel powerless and this leads to learned helplessness (Why should I bother to do anything, no one cares anyways).

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