Arise, consciousness!

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.  Albert Einstein

We have been looking at Amabile and Kramer’s research on how to give workers a vision for the meaning in their work.  In our last blog we looked at catalysts and nourishers – methods that we as managers can use to help our employees see the contributions they make in our organizations.  We also looked at a daily checklist to use as a guideline as we infuse our employees with a sense of purpose, engagement, and productivity.

However, we would be remiss if we didn’t look at the inhibitors to that meaning and progress.   Inhibitors fail to support or even interfere with the work our employees are engaged in.  Toxins are those acts that interfere with interpersonal support.  Both inhibitors and toxins affect inner work life directly and immediately.  See the following Setbacks Checklist below for examples of inhibitors and toxins and questions to ask yourself at the end of the workday:


  • Was there any confusion regarding long- or short-term goals?
  • Were team members constrained in problem solving or ownership?
  • Did team members lack resources?
  • Did they lack sufficient time to focus on meaningful work?
  • Did others or I fail to provide necessary or requested assistance?
  • Did I punish failure or neglect to find learning opportunities?
  • Did others or I cut off the flow of ideas prematurely?


  • Did I disrespect anyone’s ideas, contributions, or abilities?
  • Did I discourage a member of the team in any way?
  • Did I neglect a personal or professional problem of a team member?
  • Is there tension or antagonism among our team and/or me?

Adapted from The Daily Progress Checklist

HBR, May 2011

Along with our last checklist – this thinking process will grow your management skills to the point where you can avoid these inhibitors and toxins before they even occur, or you can recognize and address them immediately before greater damage is done.  When these setbacks between team members and you are minimized, you will foster a more engaged and satisfied workforce.

In our next blog we will examine what this checklist process might look like in your workplace.


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