The Worst Things You Can Do to Your Creative Employees

You’ve fought in the boardrooms with them. You almost waved the white flag when faced with their moody and erratic behavior.  You’ve alternately been impressed and distressed by their eccentric and seemingly impractical ideas.  Sounds familiar? Welcome to the world of the creative.

A creative person may frustrate the most conventional of managers and employees. But whatever negative impression you have about the creatives in your team, the fact of the matter is you can’t work without them. If it makes you feel better, they can’t work without you either. Granted, that’s an exaggeration. Of course, you can work without each other. Lump all the conventionals on one department and the creatives on another department – or better yet, let one group move to another company. Sounds like utopia, but it’s not. The truth of the matter is, every organization needs a mix of both personalities to thrive.  If you’re a rather conventional manager who wants to learn how to manage his creative employees, here are some no-no’s:

The Worst Things You Can Do to Your Creative Employees image kill creativity 201x300The Worst Things You Can Do to Your Creative Employees

Tell them what to do 

This may seem to come off as a bit arrogant to you, but creatives don’t thrive in dictatorial atmospheres where only the heads have monopoly of knowledge.   Instead of telling them how you’re going to do things and what they should do to make your ideas succeed, encourage collaboration. Involve them in your vision by telling them why you came up with an idea and why you feel that a particular course of action would work. Then ask them for their participation. Don’t feel affronted if they need some time to work alone for a while; many creatives are also introverts whose most productive hours are spent in solitary work. Let them suggest, debate, comment, and think.

Give them meaningless tasks 

Are you limiting your creatives by giving them menial tasks that a machine can do better? This is tantamount to creative asphyxiation. Research by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic  indicates that your creatives are more visionary than others, seeing the bigger picture and understanding how certain aspects matter.  They perform their best doing meaningful and purposeful work. If you want to inspire your creatives to work better, emphasize how a certain task is relevant and how it impacts processes and people beyond your organization’s interests.

Cage them in routine

Creatives thrive in free and flexible atmospheres. They usually hate structured environments where everyone can already predict what’s going to happen from 8-5 (usually nothing new or exciting).  Some managers feel like everyone would thrive  in this kind of organized environment for the simple reason that it’s “organized”. Kindergarten class would be more stimulating for your creatives, if that’s the case. While creatives  also enjoy some order in their lives, placing them in  tightly controlled  situations will only give them hallucinations of Alcatraz. You can’t expect a creative to stay in a workplace where every little mistake has a corresponding penalty and where meaningless rules are created for the sake of having rules. In fact, this kind of atmosphere may not be healthy for any type of employee.  Check if  you made some rules that are slowly draining away the life of your employees. Reconsider these rules and change them if necessary.

Patronize them

Adopting a patronizing attitude with your creatives is enough to make them gag. Some employees like “father figures”, but if you’re leaning towards being insincere (Amazing job on that simple memo! I can really count on you! Woohoo!), then you can just expect the creative’s eyes to roll.  Creatives don’t take pride in being extolled for meaningless tasks. They’d rather swallow constructive criticism than drown in hollow praise.

The key to motivating your creatives is to value them, quirks and all.  Cut them some slack and learn to have a little fun yourself. Granted, there are some rules in your organization that you can’t compromise. But if how they act and think is not negatively affecting your company, then don’t let them bother you!  Relax and you might be surprised at the difference your creative can make in your company.

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