Emotionally-Charged Responses Gone Wrong

Despite our best efforts, sometimes we succumb to our human tendency to respond emotionally when our team responds to our guidance with frustration, doubt and discontent. However, in the interest of building teams, here is some food for thought. I am not certain where the phrase “shut up and color” originated. But I heard it used when a manager communicated with a team of subordinates. The intended message: “Shut up and do as you are told.”

Be Careful What You Ask

In the manager’s defense, his team responded to his guidance on an impending change with a chorus of “This doesn’t make sense,” and “Why can’t we just do X, Y, or Z?” However, the phrase “Shut up and color” demonstrates a genuine disinterest in sharing ideas or finding alternative solutions. Essentially, it creates a paradigm shift in the relationship. Can you imagine how frustrating a professional that solves complex problems and thinks “outside of the box” becomes when relegated to coloring?

Oh Will They Color

The problem with telling a group of intelligent professionals to “shut up and color” is that they will color. They will color with the crayons provided. As a result, the potential to create a thoughtful and contributing piece of art diminishes. In fact, they will GLADLY color the whole dang canvas with the few crayons that have been provided. You know, like the three crayons given to kids at a restaurant which also accompany a foldout that requires more colors than available.

They will color wildly and unimaginatively. Those intelligent subordinates will color the trees blue, the clouds magenta, the grass orange and the sun green. When asked “why,” they will quip “Well, you told me to shut up and color. I figured if you wanted the grass green and the clouds blue, then you’d tell me.”

Beneath the Surface

Beneath the surface, the subordinates do not feel like a valuable member of the team and they resent being relegated to coloring. It is probable that these individuals will not advise their manager against making mistakes and unless the guidance received is immoral, unethical or illegal. They will do it in exactly the manner told to them – to the letter, no interpretation, and no creativity.

So, how does one recover and rebuild the respect and trust within the team? In my next blog, I will provide simple techniques for empowering the team and solving problems.

LaMesha Craft is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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