Learned Helplessness

When employees lose their sense of agency they start to look outwardly as the source of their problems and solutions.

It’s easy to accidentally create and environment of learned helplessness. You can force people come to you for an answer rather than try to figure it out on their own first. You can recognize and reward people for status quo preserving behavior rather than solving important problems.

This is dangerous to a business because it leads to a culture of cynicism, a feeling that nothing will change. Once people start believing that, it becomes true.

  • Benign Neglect

    Most managers, at best, are a form of benign neglect. Continual attention (micro management) usually results in the opposite of what a manager hopes for—less motivation from employees, learned helplessness, and worse performance. Benign neglect leaves room for employees to have agency to do their work but it’s kind of like the placebo effect, maybe most managers are better off doing nothing at all.