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Welcome dissension–and redirect it

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Uwe Reinhardt, a professor at Princeton University, says that innovation comes from being uncomfortable. It’s easier to motivate people who are at least slightly dissatisfied.

When you supervise hungry, driven workers, they’re ripe for motivation. Give them something to fight for—or propose a pathway to solve whatever problems they’re confronting—and they’ll push themselves harder.

Some managers dread facing a restive workforce. But impatient employees may simply need your help to overcome institutional obstacles.

Unfortunately, some managers view dissension as a disease. They discourage employees from sharing concerns and label intelligent workers who criticize or complain as “malcontents.”

It’s better to provide multiple ways for complainers to speak up. When peers can exchange information and gripe about what’s broken, they lay the groundwork to pull together to implement fixes. They’re more motivated to act if they know you won’t chastise them for expressing dissent.

The next time your employees highlight problems, don’t shut them down. Instead, say, “Why don’t we dig a bit deeper so that we understand this fully?” Let the workers examine what’s wrong, why it’s harmful and how they’re affected by the status quo.

After they elaborate on the complexities of the issue at hand, motivate them to test solutions by providing tools and resources, expressing faith in their skills (cite their past triumphs) and dangling rewards. Your willingness to listen to negativity and transform it into a positive call to action can elevate the team’s spirit and enhance your stature as a motivational leader.

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