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Ideas are Vital to Success: Eliminate Employee Reluctance to Suggest Them

One of my pet peeves in the office is walking out into the main work area and asking a question meant for everyone, only to have it met with resounding silence. To their credit, my team claims to be “engrossed in their work.” I’ve got no choice but to buy into that propaganda. But despite not being listened to heard, we do have a very collaborative environment here. Everybody’s input is heard and considered. The only rule is that if your advice is rejected, you get over it and support the decision made.

But not every office gets to enjoy the open idea environment we have here. In fact, in many businesses employees are afraid to speak up, whether it be in offering a new idea or providing constructive criticism of an existing policy or procedure. Author M. Michael Markowich, as cited in Behavioral Sciences Newsletter, tells us why employees are reluctant to suggest ideas.

  • They think their ideas will be rejected
  • They feel co-workers won’t like the ideas
  • They think they won’t get credit if the ideas work
  • They’re afraid the boss will be threatened by the ideas
  • They’re concerned that they’ll be labeled as troublemakers
  • They’re afraid of losing their jobs if they suggest ideas that don’t work

When employees are afraid to speak up, creativity and productivity are stifled. And it’s up to management to change the environment. Let’s go through these one at a time:

They think their ideas will be rejected
Well, it’s true. Their ideas might be rejected. But management needs to be sure to create an atmosphere that all ideas are respected. Most people can deal with the rejection of the idea so long as they know that their idea is just as welcome as any other and that it will be considered along with the rest.

They feel co-workers won’t like the ideas
While there is nothing management can do to make employees like the ideas of others, they can certainly foster the environment in which ideas are accepted. Rule of thumb is to tell employees to treat every idea as if it were their own.

They think they won’t get credit if the ideas work
Everybody wants recognition for their ideas and accomplishments. It’s every managers job to ensure that each employee gets recognition for their idea, especially with upper management. The more team members get rewarded for good ideas, the more good ideas are presented.

They’re afraid the boss will be threatened by the ideas
Managers who are threatened by their teams creativity or try to take credit for other people’s ideas are sad, pathetic humans and really need to be excised from the company. What these people don’t realize is the better the team beneath the manager looks, the better the manager looks.

They’re concerned that they’ll be labeled as troublemakers
This certainly can be true, especially if the “ideas” are always complaints about the system or arguing about how things should be done. This is where management needs to make it clear that all ideas are welcome, but once a decision has been made then everybody needs to be on board. Be sure to welcome additional feedback about how the decision might be improved.

They’re afraid of losing their jobs if they suggest ideas that don’t work
You’ve heard it said that “failure is not an option”. Well, that’s true and it’s not. Intermittent failure is always going to happen, but only true failure, the one that is not an option, is when you accept any individual failure as final. Employees must be encouraged to try new things, even if the result is a failure. Who knows, it may be that failure that that leads to the lesson necessary for the next great success!

For any business (or manager) to succeed, they must have a forum that welcomes all ideas, no matter how great or small. Ideas are the backbone of success and no one person can come up with all the ideas themselves. Managers need to rely on the skill and experience of their team to come up with ideas that help make them, and every person within the team, a success.


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Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm who's pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his bride enjoy and his children. Read Stoney's full bio.

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3 Responses to Ideas are Vital to Success: Eliminate Employee Reluctance to Suggest Them

  1. Stoney, good point is brought in this post. I find that the more “relaxed” the team feels, the more great ideas come out of the conversations with the “boss”.

    To achieve that,… the BOSS should stick with the Dale Carnegie rule called “Save the face of the other person”. This means that even if someone says something really dumb in front of the others, you, the boss, make sure to take the best out of that comment and thus save the face of the person. Simply …. don’t put him/her down in front of the others.

    On the side note … Stoney … why don’t you take a picture of the workplace? It would be interesting to see the facilities.

  2. Igor! Where have you been my friend? Take a picture of the facilities? Heh, its not much to look at. I’m too frugal to splurge on a nice office… but what we got now is much better than the closet we were in last November and prior!

    So you going to SES SJ? I’ll be there.

  3. Under the radar. :-)

    Stoney … I won’t be at the SES SJ. I don’t even know if I want to fly 5 hours again to PubCon in Vegas. We’ll see.

    I do believe that I’ll be at the SES NYC for the 3rd year.

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