What drives someone to complain? Selfishness and frustration. Last week I published a post about complaining, driven by selfish reasons, and how it stands in our way of making progress.
Today I’ll focus on frustration.
People complain about many things, one of them is not being heard or ignored. This is frustrating. It’s an organizational problem, and you should complain about that.
Who likes being brushed off and ignored? No one does! At some point people stop caring and leave.
For example, I have a friend who works for a meat-packing company. It’s a well structured operation, still he sees many areas of improvement because he experiences the pain on the ground floor, from first-hand experience. He actually cares about making things better, the ideas he laid out to me were focused on making his job, and others, more efficient; therefore making the operation more efficient and employees more productive .
Unfortunately, he gets brushed off by his bosses because he’s just a “low-level employee”.
Let the people who are doing the work come up with ways to do the work better
This problem is present in all types of organizations. Leaders complain that employees are disengaged. But they give instructions without asking questions and treat people like objects.
It’s a big source of frustration for passionate, curious and caring employees. All companies, in one way or another, source ideas from employees for improvements; but most don’t take action. Some employees contribute more than others, they’re doing their job, but others are not happy with just proposing ideas; they want follow-through.
There are two types of employees, those who keep their heads down and those who speak up. My friend is the latter, he actually “cares”. He pushes instead of waiting until asked, and keeps insisting.
Instead of being seen as an asset by his bosses, he’s a nuisance. At some point he’s going to give up and stop speaking out; he’ll become another disengaged employee.
— Amy Edmondson (@AmyCEdmondson) January 12, 2019
Listening to your passionate employees can make all the difference
The companies that are special are the ones who welcome ideas from employees without asking for them. They reward people who are proactive, instead of brushing them off or ignoring them. They understand that turning a blind eye to low-level employees is a dangerous move, because they have the most insight to give since they’re on the ground.
As an organization, the worst thing you can do is kill someone’s giving enthusiasm. You don’t have to beg them to be engaged, they already are; you have to listen to them, trust and encourage them to roll with their ideas.
Bottom line: If leaders want to unleash individual and collective talent, they must foster a psychologically safe climate where employees feel free to contribute ideas, share information, and report mistakes.