There are lots of books coming out today about employees taking initiative. Not simply checking off items on a to do list that someone else gives you, but having the guts to take your ideas and run with them. Seeing them through and then asking for permission later. Empowerment and initiative are very important traits employees should have if they are truly going to help organizations grow today.
However I think that having a strong will and speaking your mind in the workplace has a negative side effect. If the position taken by someone on the team is one of defensiveness, self-righteousness and devoid of humility, this posturing and attitude is like a cancer eating away at an organization. I recently heard some great business advice that goes something like this.
“If an employee identifies a problem or something in the organization that they think is wrong, they can’t just bring their complaint to management. They must come up with three solutions to the problem as well”.
This is an interesting approach. It forces employees to take action, become autonomous and to shift their mindset from problems to solutions. As I observe the communication that takes place in our office, I hear a lot of defensive talk. “I would have done that if she didn’t do X”. Or “Maybe I could have done this better but she should have known Y”. I rarely hear anyone completely admitting to a mistake like, “I missed that one, sorry”. There is always a caveat, always an excuse, always CYA.
The question I would ask if you work in an environment like this is the following: “If everyone is so perfect, and no one makes mistakes, why does the company seem to have so many problems?”
Everyone points the finger at the other guy and its always because he or she did not do this, or didn’t tell me that or a process wasn’t communicated effectively. What happened to initiative? What happened to seeking knowledge? What happened to humility in the workplace?