-3

In my mind, an employee deserves credit for their work, and if the employee doesn't get just credit for such work, they have a right to be dissatisfied. As a manager, I am well aware of this and I always try to ensure I do right by my employees.

However, it seems there is a separate trend where employees come up with ideas - and I don't mean ideas that took work, like Newton's ideas about gravity or Einstein's ideas about relativity. I'm talking ideas as in somebody just woke up one day and thought hey, you know what, I think we should do this instead of that. And it's a good idea and we'd like to implement it.

However, in these situations, we find that employees seemingly have started demanding credit not just for their work, but for such ideas as well. I was reminded of this trend once again when I read this question (Boss wants someone else to lead a project based on the idea I presented to him) where an employee is moaning about not being allowed to lead an entire project just because they came up with the idea. What makes it worse is when they want to lead projects for ideas that aren't even all that groundbreaking. I mean, the person who asked the question above came up with the idea of using Stack Overflow's new Teams service to facilitate communication in their department. That's hardly even an idea, that's ... well, that's just stumbling upon the service and going "yup, this would be useful", and yet this person is demanding that he lead the entire project.

To me, that sounds asinine. You don't have a patent on an idea. If we like it, we'll thank you for your contribution and keep it in mind for your next evaluation, but we certainly don't feel the obligation to let you lead the development and implementation of that idea. I mean, that's just nonsensical and honestly a little bit childish.

How do we deal with employees who behave in this way, i.e. demanding that they implement the idea they came up with, rather than the person we find best suitable?

Naturally, in some cases the person who comes up with the idea is the best suitable to implement it. But that is for us to evaluate, not for you to decide.

  • 9
    This is very broad and reads almost like your main point is to scold the OP of the question you linked. You may want to consider editing to a more neutral tone and making it a little clear what you're asking. "How do we deal with employees who behave in this way" is hard to answer, since it would depend heavily on the context, the employee, and the idea at hand. – dwizum Jun 18 at 17:44
  • 5
    In creative intellectual work, Ideas are work. As such wanting credit for them is entirely valid. – user85135 Jun 18 at 17:46
  • 1
    A lot of your problems could be resolved by adding something like "as suggested by [insert person's name here]" somewhere in your communication of a change that was sparked by that person's idea. They get credit for their contribution and you keep the ball rolling. – TCFP Jun 18 at 20:07
  • 3
    This isn't a developed enough idea for an answer, but a lot of workplaces today talk about wanting to 'drive engagement' in their employees. It occurs to me that someone being able to implement an idea that they thought up will REALLY 'drive engagement'. Also, someone coming up with an idea is likely to be more enthusiastic to implement it than somebody who is just handed someone else's idea and told 'implement this'. This doesn't obviate concerns about leadership ability, tech or project management skills etc. but you probably SHOULD have the employee with the idea implement it when they can. – Bruno Jun 18 at 22:28
  • 3
    Mind being a little less condescending of other users in your question? As it stands, half of your question is attacking another user. – さりげない告白 Jun 19 at 3:13
12

How do we deal with employees who behave in this way, i.e. demanding that they implement the idea they came up with, rather than the person we find best suitable?

I think that asking to lead the idea they came with is different from asking credit or recognition for such idea.

Credit or recognition should be given to the one that came up with the idea, in ways like a commendation in their reviews (as you correctly pointed out), a mention in the preface or acknowledgments of the document, mentioning/praising during the next weekly stand-up meeting, etc..

Now, expecting to obtain the lead on the development of such idea just because they came up with it is not reasonable IMHO. The one that should lead the development is something that management has to determine, based on several factors, like employee burden, experience, etc..

If an employee asks for the lead, explain them that the one leading it will be determined by the management team after careful consideration. Thank them for their idea and contribution, and assure that they will get recognition for it... but who will lead it is up to management to decide.

  • 5
    If you assure them that they will get recognition for it, make DAMNED certain you follow through and see that they get the recognition for it. – John R. Strohm Jun 18 at 20:25
8

Late answer, so I'll link first then add my bits

  • Asking to lead/participate is different from just asking for credit. Asking to lead, not to participate may be unreasonable from the employee depending on context. DarkCygnus has already answered this perfectly.
  • Ideas are work. Some are trivial, some are the result of experimentation, experience and careful observation. Some credit is due.
  • You get the behavior you encourage. Ie If you don't value ideas, less employees will share ideas in general. see cdkMoose's answer. I would add that if you're lucky enough to have amazing people, they may be motivated enough to circumvent you, but this isn't great either.

There's also the fact that if employees come to you with ideas on things to work on, they've just massively telegraphed that they're interested and excited in doing something to provide value to your company. They're also communicating to you that they've invested emotionally and professionally in this idea. I would be tread carefully here. Doing otherwise is just tone deaf people management. It doesn't really matter if the employees' reaction is irrational, they're not robots, we manage people with emotions.

5

If you don't find a away to appropriately acknowledge/reward people who come up with good ideas, people are going to stop trying to identify areas of improvement and innovation. Companies that don't improve usually die.

You need to make sure the ideas are worthwhile, which doesn't always mean successful. But you should be encouraging employees to think beyond their immediate tasks.

1

People are ambitious. They hope for more responsibility and bigger challenges. They hope to make names for themselves. And, they hope to play a personal role in the success of your group and the company.

Their ambition is good for your company and you, their manager. The company benefits when employees dream up better ideas. You, personally, benefit when somebody in your group makes a name for themselves by helping the company. Ten years from now when people say, "QUESTI's group produced some of our greatest innovators," that's a big win for you personally. Encourage peoples' ambition and innovation.

The behavior you describe -- coming up with an idea and wanting to lead its implementation -- is a way of pursuing their ambition. What to do?

  • Recognize ambition and encourage it; try to react positively. "That's good!" rather than "Hey, get back to work!"
  • Visibly and transparently track good ideas and the people suggesting them. Maybe you can use a 💡 whiteboard 💡 or some electronic equivalent to do that.
  • When somebody wants to lead a project to implement their own idea, ask them, "what do you think the project will take to complete?" This kind of question opens conversations:
    • will the project pay off?
    • what more experience does the person need to lead this kind of project?
  • Hold a 💡 symposium 💡 (a simple meeting) once a month or so to give people a chance to pitch their ideas to their peers. (If an idea has flaws, it is probably easier for people to hear that from their peers than from you.)
  • Firmly remind people about existing priorities and the need to complete the work that's already committed. (Notice I put this one last.)
0

Many companies pay a referral bonus for a new employee hire. By merely mentioning an opening to a friend, one can make hundreds of dollars. Doesn't take a lot of work...it only takes a simple conversation.

Compare that to someone mentioning a way to improve the company. At my job, we have an all-employee meeting every morning. 1 day a week, the owner asks for suggestions for improvement. 90% of the people rarely open their mouths. Why? Maybe theyr'e shy, not wanting to speak up. Maybe they think "Why bother? I won't get anything for it". On the other hand, I've seen a few really good ideas brought up. If the company were willing to give a small bonus to an employee who brings up a good idea, I bet more people would be willing to mention ideas....

Come to think of it, tomorrow is improvement talk Wednesday...maybe I'll mention a new idea to reward new ideas....

0

Explain to such an employee what qualities, skills and experience are needed to lead that project.

This fulfills two purposes:

  • Teaches them what they need to improve/work on, in order to get to lead something in the future
  • Shows that your process of choosing who is going to lead is not some sort of an old boys club.

The more open and visible this process is, the better. If no one knows how leaders are chosen, and if people think that neither a reward not any career improvement path are available, they get frustrated, and the real info (which you didn't give them) is then replaced by rumors and opinions.

If the company does have some financial gains from the new idea, make sure at least some of it trickles down to the person who had the idea.

For other ideas, that don't result in a significant amount of money, but are good for other reasons, give some recognition at least, it doesn't have to be an expensive one. Give him one day off work (above and beyond his vacation days) or something. People will easier accept that they aren't leads if at least some recognition is given.

0

Sometimes, when I've put forward ideas, I have presented the idea as well as staffing suggestions for implementing it. For one particularly complicated idea, I proposed someone to manage it, and had their agreement ahead of time. The team was made up largely of people I hoped to make free by convincing management that another project would not meet the objectives, and should be ended.

Management approved the project to implement the idea. The team came quickly into place, including a couple of great new-hired, and we made it happen.

Fun days.

This is one advantage of companies with a dual-track advancement system. There is room to grow without giving up engineering.

If the only way to grow in the company is to be the honcho of a big team, not leading the project may feel to the person like they are being held back.

If I faced the situation, I would discuss where they want to go in their career, and how they imagine getting there. I would try to balance their abilities and ambition with the current business needs and the other personnel. I would consider the investment required to implement the idea, and how badly we needed success. Then I would decide... or higher management would decide.

I don't think that the one who proposes an idea is necessarily the best one to guide it, but motivation counts for a lot. Whatever I decided, I would talk with those involved, and place praise where due, and specific thanks wherever I could.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.