How to overcome complacency at work

Bored man at work

Often when we talk about careers we focus on the big changes. The moments we realise we’re unhappy in our jobs or when we decide to take the leap to become self-employed. We can forget about the less eventful moments, even though these can have a negative impact on our happiness.

For example, what if we’ve been working in a role for some time and are feeling complacent? Nothing is wrong exactly, but we’re also not challenging ourselves and growing. Over time this can lead to rust-out, a term used to describe feeling understimulated at work which can become detrimental to your mental health. 

If you can relate to this feeling, we’ve outlined some steps you can take to bust the rust and get those cogs whirring again.

Take a break

When was the last time you took some holiday? Sometimes resentment and bitterness can grow when we feel stuck in a rut, doing the same thing over and over. While the other tips will tackle the underlying cause and move you out of complacency, a good starting point is to take a break. If it’s possible, book a full week or more off. 

Allow yourself some space to get out of work mode, really relax and feel refreshed. Reconnecting with yourself outside of work can give you some perspective and help with the next step which is to identify why you’re feeling complacent.

Identify the root cause

Now is the time to ask yourself some difficult questions. How long have you been feeling complacent at work? What’s shifted within your role or company to make you feel this way? Or was it something within you that shifted? 

Consider whether or not your complacency is a sign of a larger problem – are you unhappy with your job? Can you make changes to your role that will help you enjoy it more or do you need to consider another role/company? Are you unhappy overall? This stage can be difficult so don’t be afraid to get some support while doing it. You may want to go through these questions with a friend, someone in your HR department or even a career coach.

woman having career coaching

Start learning again

Often we become complacent when we’ve been doing our job for a long time. Perhaps we think we know everything we need to know and have fallen into a habit of coasting and doing the bare minimum. 

To shake off this feeling, start learning again. Take a look at your job role with fresh eyes and think about what skills you could learn to enhance both your performance and your enjoyment. Do you need to introduce more creativity into the way you work? What workshops or courses could help you feel inspired about the industry again? 

If you keep this curious mindset, you’ll never stop learning, developing and growing. This can help you get more enjoyment out of your current role and may even lead to future changes, depending on what you learn. 

Change your environment

If you’re feeling more stuck in a rut than anything else, don’t underestimate the power of a change in scenery. While it may not be possible for everyone, consider if you would benefit from changing your environment by working remotely or even from a different room in your building. Could you spruce up your working environment with some plants or inspiring quotes? 

It may not sound like much, but our mindset can be affected by our environment and sometimes to access different ways of thinking we need to change what’s around us.  

Consider starting a passion project

Another idea is to pick up a new hobby or start a passion project outside of work. Finding fulfillment outside of work could help you feel more motivated overall which will no doubt have a knock-on effect at work. 

Carve out some dedicated time to your hobby/project and let the inspiration and enjoyment you get from this spill over into all areas of your life. 


Whatever’s troubling you at work, know that you’re not alone and that change is possible. Find a career coach to support you. 

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Katherine

Written by Katherine

Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.

Written by Katherine

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