Compliments of MadPole via Flickr

We’ve all heard the phrase “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” regarding the power of complaints. On the job and off the clock, we tend to give more traction to the noisemakers. As a manager, do you lavish more attention on the most clamorous (appeasing them at every turn), while ignoring those who say nothing?

In his book Monday Morning Leadership: 8 Mentoring Sessions You Can’t Afford to Miss, Cottrell explains that stars act dispirited when they experience neglect. If people don’t receive applause, they’re unlikely to keep performing (at least at the level that attracts attention), and perhaps not for you. There are only so many times one can turn cartwheels in an arena with no audience.

Subversive disgruntlement can take several forms; these include:

  1. pulling out” in terms of organizational activity (exhibited by the closed door syndrome);
  2. only showing up when absolutely essential;
  3. not signing up for “extras;” and
  4. unwillingness to lend a hand to one’s peers.

It may also manifest in volunteering not for in-house company service, but only for those options that serve one’s interests. A blackout on accolades may be time-saving for bosses, but irksome for individuals who don’t receive their due. If you feel that winning the Noble Peace Prize would go unnoticed, there’s a serious problem. Performing in a vacuum only sets people up to go someplace else.

If you’re a manager:

  • Yes, we know you’re busy. But consider that silent stars are question marks in terms of continued employment. Their unexpected departure is no time to initiate back praise. Proactivity is the key: a pleasantry here, a handwritten acknowledgement there, a toast at an informal lunch. That way, people who polish your image don’t feel like they’ve disappeared. With regard to compliments, a modicum of effort can yield handsome rewards.

If you’re a co-worker:

Step out and smell the aroma of disenchantment. Then make some changes. According to Cottrell, as a leader it’s your job to keep peoples’ buckets filled. This occasionally entails taking a peek at their contents.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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