Fear and Politics

When I was younger, I worked for a company that micromanaged on every level. The executives were micromanaged by the CEO, and the agents were micromanaged by their managers. If ever an agent had an idea, they were encouraged to hold onto it until they reached their scheduled one-on-one time with their manager. I had a brilliant idea.

I waited almost two weeks for the opportunity to tell my boss about the idea, and when I did, I was surprised to find that my boss was not interested. Even though my idea would help agents with their jobs, the idea would not help him reach his goals.

Managers make a terrifying habit of seeking employees who are willing to answer the way they want them to (even when the employee believes the opposite to be true). Managers think they know what they want. They have a roadmap, a goal, or a promised deliverable that, when not met, calls a function to end the world. But, in reality, that goal was probably set by some guy who was willing to just say “yes” to his boss.

Maybe just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ facilitates survival, and maybe that’s good enough. But for companies who cringe at the idea of only surviving, thoughtful recruiting and a politics-free culture are key. Hiring individuals who put their work first and politics last generates dynamically better output. The best employees have learned to never allow fear to influence a decision, and the best managers have learned to never, ever allow fear to exist in the workplace.

The best employees do not build what their managers want. The best employees show their managers what they want. Empower your employees to innovate without permission, to fail without fear, and to let absolutely nothing stand between a brilliant mind and an idea.