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Don’t Use the Suggestion Box: New Ideas Deserve Dialogue

  • Posted by: Ellen Kandell

The Sunday New York Times Business section has two fabulous columns that I read religiously because  they are replete with wisdom that is relevant to the conflict management world.  One is Corner Office by Adam Bryant which is an interview with business leaders about leadership.  It contains early career lessons about management and tips for rising managers and leaders.  The Workologist by Rob Walker contains workplace conundrums posted by readers and thoughtfully answered by Mr. Walker.

In last Sunday’s Workologist, “Face the Fussbudgets” a consultant posed a concern about financial pettiness at the workplace and sought recommendations about creating a mind shift in the CEO and CFO to look at the impacts of fiscal cautions on productivity and morale.  The Workologist gave some good recommendations about having perspective and respect for different functions in an organization.  But what is the best way to raise the flag of concern to upper management?

A traditional technique is the old-fashioned suggestion box.  The problem with this tool is that it is one dimensional and passive.  The person with the brilliant idea generally receives no feedback unless the suggestion box is part of a culture of organizational feedback.

Strong leaders and forward thinking organizations should welcome feedback and dialogue from their employees.  It enhances employee engagement.  The consultant in Rob Walker’s column should be advised to raise the concern with a manager.  As Rob notes, one needs to be sensitive to how concerns are raised, being careful not to characterize an important organizational function, like accounting, in the pejorative.  A concern could be raised privately or in a regular team meeting, if those take place.  There is a lot of wisdom in teams and with the help of a skilled facilitator, a carefully designed problem solving dialogue would be a good way to discuss these concerns and develop some creative ideas to solve perceived organizational challenges.

Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse, national clients. Get in touch with her via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or give her a call at 301-588-5390.

Author: Ellen Kandell

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