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Don't Demonize Employees Who Raise Problems

The key to growth

Divergent and dissident people are the key to growth and innovation. However, some leaders demonize the people who raise a problem instead of solving the problem that is raised.

They do this because it is uncomfortable to see their shortcomings. The problem makes them anxious and afraid, and not knowing how to fix it makes them uncomfortable, causing them to push the discomfort away.

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Don't Demonize Employees Who Raise Problems

Don't Demonize Employees Who Raise Problems

https://hbr.org/2020/01/dont-demonize-employees-who-raise-problems

hbr.org

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Key Ideas

The key to growth

Divergent and dissident people are the key to growth and innovation. However, some leaders demonize the people who raise a problem instead of solving the problem that is raised.

They do this because it is uncomfortable to see their shortcomings. The problem makes them anxious and afraid, and not knowing how to fix it makes them uncomfortable, causing them to push the discomfort away.

Notice the problem

Disruption, change, or growth is often the cause for the issues becoming uncomfortable.

Ask if management/key status reports explicitly name open issues that could significantly affect the future of the business?

Remind yourself that as uncomfortable as it is, when you no longer have answers, you get to start building what comes next.

Define the processes

Define the processes to work on gaps to solve difficult problems all the time. The fast market dynamic requires constant learners, adapting and growing and trying new things.

  • Is there an ongoing mechanism to address far-reaching issues?
  • Can difficult topics be raised?
  • Is it a regular process? 

Study what percent of your time is spent working on bigger critical issues that seem unsolvable.

Celebrate the agitation

Instead of demonizing people raising issues, celebrate the agitation. If people don't raise issues, consider why not. It could be because they stop believing you care or don't think you want their best ideas. Both are problematic.

The day your people stop bringing you their problems, you have stopped leading them.

Not complainers, but champions

Problem spotters don't enjoy bearing bad tidings. However, they do it to advance the organization.

Stop making it so hard on them to help you. Don't say "I hear you have a problem with us." Instead, state that you appreciate them helping you to get better.

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