Management Principle: Vicious Compliance

Today’s business environment is so challenging that we must fully employ the resources at our disposal. We underutilize our staff when we fail to delegate or tap into their thinking and judgment. This doesn’t mean we’ll always agree or decide to act on the input of those under our care, but by taking the time to develop and process their thinking, we create managerial leverage. I hope you enjoy today’s principle.

Vicious Compliance. Collaboration is one of the most important aspects of teamwork-it’s where you get the best mix of ideas, the strongest buy-in, and a true commitment to results. It requires that each person participate in the thinking and decision-making process, using each other as sounding boards. Yet when top-down managers decide to do all the thinking themselves, and, as a result, curb the creativity of others, he will almost certainly put himself at risk for vicious compliance. So what is vicious compliance? It’s when staff members turn off their judgment, and do exactly what they are told, irrespective of known consequences, which, by the way, are crystal clear in their minds. You know you are a victim of vicious compliance when a staff member does something really crazy and then responds to your inquiry with, “I did exactly as you told me to do.” The cure is found in the professional activity of pushing the thinking down, through the age-old tool of questioning and true accountability. This process guarantees managerial leverage. Coaching questions: In what managerial relationships are you vulnerable to vicious compliance? What can you do to minimize the risk? Write your answers in your journal.

Read more coaching principles from Dean Harbry on the Internal Innovations website.

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