All Your Fault

Have you suddenly realized that you are driving your employees stark, raving mad?

Amabile and Kramer asked 238 creative project team members to keep a diary that revealed how managers stripped work of its meaning.  Their research found four commonalities, the third being when managers inadvertently send the message that an employee’s work is of no value.  This message can be conveyed when managers shift their priorities or change how they want work to be completed.

One IT worker spent weeks designing user-interface technology to help non-English speakers with transitions.  He was greatly disturbed to find that other options for the international interfaces were given to the team during a team meeting which could render the work I am doing useless.

Note that the managers inadvertently sent a message.  Managing is our job, and that includes changing direction when necessary and shifting priorities according to a myriad of changes internally or externally.  However, there are some things we can do to mitigate the message when our employees’ work might be wasted:

  • Share the decision process when priorities change
  • Help the employee find a different use for their work
  • When changing a process or system, ask for their input and suggestions for improvement
  • Tell employees prior to assignments that shifts in strategy or process might occur, or that other options will be considered

As with many managerial challenges, thoughtful communication up front can go a long way.  Have you faced any of these challenges?  Or have you attempted any of the strategies above?  Share your experience with us, and next time we will share the final way you might be stripping work of its meaning.


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