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The Right and Wrong Way to Give Suggestions

Beware: The kind of note you put in the suggestion box could be holding you back.

By Ashley Keating

Employee suggestions keep a workplace churning—but some ideas stick more than others, finds a new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology. In fact, one type of tip could totally backfire.

Suggestions fall into two categories: those that identify methods to improve work practices and procedures (given in the “promotive” vice), and concerns surrounding existing behaviors (the “prohibitive” voice). In the study, scientists investigated the differences between both voices and their impact on managers and employees.

Turns out, bosses react better to promotive suggestions than prohibitive comments, unless the managers have a high degree of control over the issue in question. If an employee regularly submits prohibitive suggestions, they’ll likely receive lower performance ratings, the study says.

Fair deal? Maybe not. But if you’re an employee, be conscious of what kind of suggestions you slip in that box. And if you’re a manager, you might want to keep it closed most of the time.

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