Bad behaviour and organisational culture: the creativity problem

Monday, August 1, 2016 - 18:28

By AIM Education and Training

While many people think creativity is a trait best suited to the art studio, it's also valuable in the office. Whether you're trying to develop a unique strategy to deal with an unforeseen contingency, or creating novel work processes to improve efficiency, creativity can add value to all manner of work.

Managing creative talent is an essential leadership skill.

It could be a natural talent, or an ability honed in an effective leadership course. Whatever the basis, creativity is one of the most important characteristics an employee can have. However, it's also associated with entitlement, or a "diva complex" as it's otherwise known. For business leaders, finding a way to balance creativity against a strong organisational culture is an important issue. 

Creative cultures and entitled individuals

Entitlement is very much the enemy of success. Research from Canada's Queen's University in 2010 found that employees who have unfounded beliefs in their abilities can have a negative impact on the productivity of their organisation. 

One of the major reasons employees obtain a sense of entitlement is due to the value many organisations place on creativity. Recent research from the Kellogg School of Management and Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management found that entitlement is more than just a consequence creativity, it also takes very specific organisational circumstances. Specifically, researchers found that when an organisation is devoid of creative talent, it can act as a permit for the few creative employees to behave badly.

It's understandable that a company would value creativity more if it was lacking this special talent. Yet, for business leaders, a culture of entitlement can be a major obstacle to organisational success. 

Curbing a culture of entitlement

So why do we allow people to get their own way? Research from the Regents' Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Arizona State University Robert Cialdini found that we rationalise immoral behaviour to bolster our own status and esteem. Or in other words, we "bask in reflected glory", as Cialdini put it.

Instead of this, leaders should be looking to devalue immoral behaviour, no matter if they're a successful MBA graduate or a leading BDM. One way to do this is through specific, directed and systematic forms of feedback. A study conducted by psychologist Dr Eddie Brummelman found that participants who were offered warm feedback ("I love you") were much less entitled than participants who were overvalued ("you're special"). 

For leaders, curbing entitlement without losing creative talents involves feedback that does not individualise and overvalue, but is instead based on warmth. Whether its through expressions of support or appreciation, what is important is not over playing the feelings of uniqueness that can lead to entitlement.