Complacency at Work. Beware The Velvet Coffin

Complacency at Work. Beware The Velvet Coffin

Let’s face it: most career advice articles are written for people who are unhappy. They’re unemployed, underemployed, stuck in a holding pattern, working for a jerk, floundering aboard a sinking concern, unfulfilled, or unappreciated. Regardless, they want out, and who can blame them?

This missive, however, is for people on the other side of that fence. They’re happy at work. Satisfied. Maybe not doing exactly what they’ve always wanted to do, maybe bored a little too often, but it’s good enough. Their complacency at work is killing them.

Are you among them? If so, be afraid. Be very afraid.

You just might be in a situation that, over the years, I’ve come to call “The Velvet Coffin.” A job that’s comfortable but terminal, comprised of challenges you could handle practically lying down. A title that feels good, enough pay to keep your lifestyle as you wish, but a future lacking any sense of wonder.


Complacency at Work is a Cushy Dead-End Job

It’s so easy to stay in this position. You like your company and your colleagues. You like feeling competent and well compensated. And, come on, what’s so bad about hanging out in your comfort zone for a couple of years?

What’s so bad is that if you’re not growing as a human being, you’re dying.

OK, maybe that sounds hyperbolic. And true, it’s a subjective, personal view. But I don’t think I’m alone in observing that the people who love life to the hilt are those who also live it that way, always hungry to learn more, always embracing change, always seeking new and exciting challenges.

Yes, of course, there’s risk in leaving your old familiar. But there’s more risk, I would suggest, in opting out of a growth trajectory. There’s more risk in saying, “This will do.”

That risk is reaching the end of your career with the half-full feeling that comes with regrets about what might have been. The stuff you would have learned. The people you would have met. The achievements that would have surprised and delighted you, expanding your heart and soul. The lives you might have changed.


In a slow-growth economy, it’s often particularly hard to climb out of a Velvet Coffin. Again, understood. But in any situation, the biggest problem with complacency at work is that by the time you realize you’re shrinking inside and summon up the willpower to leave, it’s too late. Your resume marks you as a person who checked out long ago.

Look, I’m not a grouch, I promise. If you’re genuinely happy at work, growing and thriving in exciting ways, savor it. But take a long and steely-eyed moment, too, to ask yourself if your happiness has lulled you into settling for stasis. And if it has, consider then what it would take to push back that lid and climb out of your box, velvet though it may be.

There’s more living to do.

Source: This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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