Creative employees are often left behind


Hiring practices don't match what managers say is a desired trait.

What do you look for in a team member when considering him or her for a management position in your veterinary practice? Creativity might be the trait many business leaders say is essential for senior leadership to possess, but Cornell University researchers found that it actually blocked some employees from reaching the top slots on the career ladder. Three studies showed that when employees voiced creative ideas, others viewed them as having less leadership potential, researchers said. The research will be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2011.

The implication of the study is that creative people are getting filtered out on their way to the top. Researchers said the reason is that our deeply held expectations of “creative people” and “effective leaders” often clash. Creative people are viewed as risky and unpredictable, while leaders are expected to reduce uncertainty and uphold the norms of the group. Although hiring managers claim they want creativity in their employees, when given the opportunity, they actually preserve the status quo by sticking with unoriginal thinkers, the data suggests.

This might help explain why many of the 1,500 leaders surveyed in 2010 by IBM’s Institute for Business Value doubted their abilities to lead through complex times, researchers said. Perhaps promoted for their unspoken promises to preserve the status quo, leaders are often expected to change the status quo when they arrive at the top—an uncanny mismatch that was previously unidentified.

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