How To Not Handle Creative Employees

Creative employees are extremely important to any workplace. These are people who think outside the box, or maybe see something that you don’t, and a lot of the time they don’t shy away from expressing themselves.

Entrepreneur tells us that we need to establish a balance when it comes to encouraging creativity but not straying too far from the purpose.

With that in mind, it’s really important to think about things you probably shouldn’t be doing when it comes to handling creative employees. There are so many things we can consider, but I want to focus on two main factors: feedback and teamwork.

Not providing feedback

Image: Leading With Trust

In a question of balance, how are you supposed to form an understanding with your employees without giving constructive feedback? Creativity can go in any direction. Hearing what your employees have to say and then guiding them with a bit of feedback keeps everything moving smoothly, and keeps everybody happy.

There are a few obvious reasons why you might hold back on giving constructive criticism. First of all, you might not want to hurt their feelings. This could be especially hard in situations where your employee is extremely passionate about something, but they’re just a bit off track.

Giving feedback can also be intimidating, and not just to the employee, but to the person giving it.

So it’s important to know how to give constructive criticism:

  • Firstly, don’t beat around the bush. If you want to give some good, solid criticism, get straight to the point so that issues are addressed without confusing intentions. Get to the nitty gritty nasty stuff before reminding them that the employee and their creativity is valued.
  • Know what you’re talking about. It may seem like a no-brainer, but before giving anyone constructive criticism on their ideas, it’s important that you have all the facts straight – the confrontation is already awkward enough.
  • Lastly, remember it’s a two-way street. Don’t just talk, make a conversation out of it. Not only does it build an understanding, it also builds good relationships.

Put them in the wrong team environment

Image: CoDesign

For the creative individual, working in a team environment can be tricky. A good question to ask is: what kind of team does a creative employee work best in?

If we have a look at the Harvard Business Review, they recommend putting a creative person in a group of ‘boring’ people. Why would they say this? There’s nothing wrong with a bit of friendly competition, but in a situation where two or more equally strong minded people clash ideas and start to become a little bit too competitive, then the team structure breaks down.

You want to create an environment where they can feel valued and most importantly, not threatened or under pressure.

In my opinion, I think ‘boring’ is the wrong word to use. If we’re confident that the “creative person” is ‘strong-minded’, then the others need to be ‘flexible’ or ‘open-minded’, give him or her space and listen. In many situations creative people are not extravert or strong, some of the very best ideas may not be shared because the group can avoid stepping out of the norms, e.g. Groupthink

Multiple creatives working together can be a great thing for a team environment. It gives the employee someone with a similar mindset to collaborate with. Multiple creative can also bounce ideas off each other, boosting productivity. However, it does have the potential to have problems. Creatives may not see eye to eye on the direction of project, or be too strong-minded and not willing to compromise on their idea. It’s important to make sure each creative person has a role in the team.

There is the person who has all the ideas, and people to expand on those ideas rather than compete against them. The work gets done and everyone has a purpose.

Of course, no team dynamic is perfect. However, with these ideas in mind, it will be easier to understand the function of each team member.  

Image: CUHK Business School

Don’t forget, be flexible:

It’s easy to make generalisations about your creative employees. However, like no two people are the same, no two situations are the same. In order to manage a creative employee, you yourself have to become dynamic and have the flexibility to handle different situations.