Workplace Wisdom

8 Ways to Prevent Participation and Innovation

Employees can be such a headache, especially the proactive ones! They’re always asking questions, wanting things to be either some new way or the way they used to be, or else they’re making suggestions and proposals — as if there was a better way than your way. How’s a senior person supposed to get any work done and have a decent day when the team always needs so much attention?

But don’t worry, you can nip all that proactivity in the bud! Just use these eight approaches that have been perfected by other leaders who only want to do things their way without any interference or disruption. And if you work with particularly optimistic, forward-looking, tenacious people, don’t despair: It may take a little while to wear them down, but dull, unyielding persistence on your part will surely win in the end. Here’s how:

Ignore them. There are so many ways you can do this: not answering emails; keeping your hands on your pile of papers or your cellphone and your eyes on any screen when people come to your office; or staring at team members blankly, shaking your head, and changing the subject in meetings after they speak.

Prevent them from collaborating with each other. Insist on maintaining strong functional silos. Prevent the sharing of information by specifying the kinds of reporting that can only be done by each group separately, so that you never have to look at the big picture with anyone. Set lots of goals that require people to focus internally, rather than on shared pursuits.

Make sure they’re overloaded and under resourced. If they’re really busy, they won’t bother you so much! So add lots of extra procedures, quality checks, and milestones to their goals. Deny their requests for adding staff, hiring contractors, etc. And definitely don’t permit attendance at outside conferences, workshops, or any kind of educational events where they might get new ideas or — heaven forbid! — network with industry peers.

Waste their time. Keep changing their priorities. Reschedule meetings multiple times, then arrive late, and don’t bother with agendas; instead, just talk, or even ramble, about whatever’s on your mind.

Renege on your commitments. Don’t do any of those pesky follow-ups you promised, and definitely forget any and all details that are important to team members and their efforts.

Be negative, both publicly and privately. Say things like: “But we’ve already tried that!” or “That’s just not how things work here.” If you’re a new leader who’s come in from the outside, emphasize the way you did things at your old company. Learn to make facial expressions and gestures of disgust and disdain: wrinkling your nose, rolling your eyes, shaking your head, and holding up your hand to let people know they should stop talking. Now.

Keep moving their targets. Whenever someone does manage to accomplish something, tell them that whatever they did is not what’s really important. Or say it was not as good as what someone else was able to do, and that they’ll really need to do better in the future. Or criticize the way they got the thing done at all: “It’s okay that you hit these numbers, but you really shouldn’t have gotten any other teams involved,” or “Next time, you need to go it alone the way your peers do.”

Reward incompetence, bad behavior, and above all, loyalty to you. Spend all your one-on-one time with the folks who aren’t nuisances, the ones who make your life easy because they seem comfortable with how things are and agree with everything you say. If you have to meet with the others, give them 15 to 30 minutes max, and don’t really pay attention. You can definitely manage to stay distracted for that long.

If you follow these eight guidelines, all those go-getters who are so annoying will eventually leave, and the meek, broken, or incompetent will stay. Your days will be much more restful, less taxing, and you can count on going home early. Mission accomplished!

Onward and upward,

LK

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