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The 10 Key Points ...

  • 1. There is a prevailing myth that employees can’t be trusted with sensitive information; the risk is they may pass this information on to inappropriate sources.
  • 2. The initiative paradox is a misunderstanding, due to a lack of communication between management and employees, that results in limiting enterprising behavior from employees.
  • 3. The first of four ways of resolving the initiative paradox is goal alignment, which brings into line the perspectives of employees and management.
  • 4. Some practical measures leaders can take to align the goals of employees and employers are: putting in place a clearly-defined performance bonus system to reward and encourage alignment; managers setting an example or walking the talk; consistent informal dialogue between managers and team members; and performance feedback conversations that focus on aligning individual and organization goals.
  • 5. Boundary refinement is a second way of overcoming the initiative paradox. This involves carefully communicating the kind of initiative the leader expects and doesn’t expect.
  • 6. Some practical measures that can be taken to communicate boundaries for displaying proper initiatives are: using critical incidents in the business to illustrate and clarify boundaries for proactive behavior; coaching and mentoring employees in their work; documenting acceptable and unacceptable forms of initiative; and rewarding and reinforcing appropriate initiative.
  • 7. Sharing information is the third strategy in overcoming the initiative paradox. This strategy concentrates on minimizing unshared expectations between employer and employee.
  • 8. Some key steps you can take to share information include: holding annual strategic planning days; staging continuous improvement workshops; facilitating group problem-solving sessions; and running regular team discussion meetings.
  • 9. Active accountability is the fourth and final way to deal with the initiative paradox; it involves an understanding between the manager and employee that initiative and judgment can be exercised, but only at the risk to the employee.
  • 10. Some circumstances where active accountability may be considered an appropriate communication strategy are: conducting workplace investigations; showing initiative against unethical behavior; reporting unlawful behavior; and crisis management.


  • 1. Kristy. (2015). Case study: Tapping into employee knowledge as the engine for growth. into-employee-knowledge-as-the-engine-for-growth/
  • 2. Campbell, D.J. (2000). The proactive employee: Managingworkplace initiative. Academy of Management Executive, 14 (3), 52—66.
  • 3. Ibid.
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