It has commonly been described as an absence or suppression of concern, emotion, excitement, feeling, motivation or passion, and also as a state of indifference that are otherwise or generally found to be arousing. Positive psychologists describe apathy as the result of the individual feeling that s/he is unable to address challenges or also of perceiving no challenge at all (learned helplessness).
The word is derived from Greek ἀπάθεια (literally, “without emotion”) and has been variously evaluated. For Hindu-Buddhist monks and the ancient Stoics, a state of indifference toward events and entities outside one’s control was deemed desirable. The early Christians disagreed and considered apathy as an obstruction in the way of devotion to God. Soldiers returning from World War I were subject to ‘shell shock’ which induced a sense of numbness and indifference to social interaction upon returning from combat. Apathy is also considered the response of an organism when it is subject to stimuli that are excessively intense or complicated.
It has, however, largely been considered negative in modern Western discourse, because of the impact it has over relationships, political processes and personal discipline. Correlations with mental disorders have also been pointed out – schizophrenia patients do not express significant interest in events around them – as also its links with depression and shortcomings in health.
Apathy in the workplace is a concern not only for the sake of productivity but also for employee satisfaction. Causes include poor physical environment, unsuitable working conditions, lack of opportunity to apply skills, discouragement of initiative and responsibility, curbing of social interactions, burnout and lack of job security. Ensuring cleanliness, better lighting, soft background music, conducting informal meetings, providing infrastructural access and amenities, clarifying roles & goals, instituting reward systems and personal integrity on the part of managers are measures that go a long way toward boosting motivation and interest.