#256 from R&D Innovator Volume 6, Number 1          January 1997

FORUM—from our readers

A Little Manners Shouldn’t Hurt

My supervisor doesn’t seem to realize that his rudeness significantly stifles creativity.  He barges unannounced in the lab or office and starts barking all sorts of directions, not just to me, but to people I supervise.  Furthermore, he expects us to drop what we’re doing and immediately follow up on his directions.  If we have the “nerve” to question him, he berates us nastily in front of our staff.  He does this with all his teams, and we all grumble among ourselves about this disruptive micro-management.

It gets even worse at our regular team meetings.  His voice is the one that takes over most of the meeting, usually ranting about some trivial problem.  Perhaps he just likes to hear himself speak, or maybe he has so little faith in us, or has such great confidence in his own abilities, that he feels that he has to be in control of every aspect of our activities.

On the other hand, when he attends executive meetings, he acts much calmer.  For instance in the several that I attended, he was downright nice to me, asking for my opinions.  Weird!  But it shows that he has the capability to be better mannered.

You can understand why we usually keep our mouths shut.  Who wants to put up with these tantrums?  But doesn’t innovation require new ideas?  And isn’t it common that some of the best ideas are initially treated with a negative reception, requiring much explaining to get these ideas accepted?  The personality of my supervisor, which is super negative, then becomes a major barrier to creativity.

Unfortunately, the president of my company doesn’t appreciate, or understand, the concept of creativity and the need for an environment that encourages new ideas, even bad ones.  The company is now successful, but I bet it won’t be able to maintain its position.  That’s why I’m leaving, and that’s why I’ve written this Forum.  Do you stifle creativity with your mannerisms?  Do some of your managers?  A little politeness may help.


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