Is Your Creativity Supported or Stifled at Work

"The new corporate contract is that we'll offer you an opportunity to express yourself and grow, if you promise to leash yourself to our dream, at least for a while." - John Sculley, former Apple CEO Creativity is self-expression. One of my favorite business books is David Whyte's The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America.

In the book, Whyte talks about the dark side that is created in organizations when creativity is stifled. Is it unreasonable to expect the honoring of your creativity by the organization you work for? No it is not. Our workplaces would be more productive and happier places if creativity was encouraged. In many organizations, self expression is silenced. What is needed is the integrating of individual creativity with the goals of an organization.

It can be done. The starting point is the honoring of the individual. The organization is an organic system. The whole is the sum of its parts.

The people who constitute the organization create it. Clearly, honoring each individual's creativity is not about anarchy. There has to be a common purpose that people work towards.

This common purpose is one that all employees can buy into and have input on. Creativity and self-expression are encouraged in furtherance of the common purpose. It is not imposed on others, but is shaped and grown by the entire organization.

Every employee has dignity in their participation. Creativity implies movement and creation. That movement and creation feeds and fulfills the individual and fuels the organization. For creativity to thrive, hierarchy for the sake of authority has to go. Bully bosses, disrespect and disregard have no place.

Honoring the individual and commitment to a common purpose are the center points of a successful organization. The possibilities are limitless. Is your creativity encouraged in your work? What has occurred when you have expressed a unique view? The dark side that David Whyte writes about occurs when people are demeaned or silenced. Creativity is like a river and when dammed up, the water has to go somewhere. If stifled, creativity stays inward and can wreak havoc.

Resentment, anger, and disillusionment can occur. What basis is that for doing good work? Here are some exercises you can do to express your creativity at work and to assess if your creativity is supported or stifled in your place of work. Expressing Your Creativity - The next time you undertake an assignment at work, take some time to identify at least three different ways to approach the task.

- Once a week at work, take a walk or create quiet time to daydream. Focus on the work you are doing. Imagine it being everything you want it to be.

- Float a few new ideas to your co workers or customers. - Give yourself permission to think creatively. - Observe your workplace and, on a scale of 1 to 10, rate it for its support of creativity and self expression (1 = low, 10 = high).

Is Your Creativity Supported or Stifled at Work? Ask yourself these questions to determine if your creativity is supported (yes answer) at work: - Can you name three creative contributions you have made to your organization's mission that were appreciated by others? - Do you feel respected by those you work with for your skills and what you bring to your organization? - Is creative self expression valued by your organization or customers? - Are new ideas a regular occurrence in your workplace? - Are you fulfilled in your work? Ask yourself these questions to determine if your creativity is stifled (yes answer) at work: - Do you hold back in presenting your ideas to others? - Have you ever had an idea shot down by someone in a negative way? - Does your organization have only one way of doing business? - Is there a dominant person in your workplace who calls all the shots and does not consult others? - Are you dissatisfied in your work?" You have a right to creative expression. If you honor your creativity and find ways to express it, you will find fulfillment and satisfaction in your work.

Ann Vanino is a career coach, trainer and writer who specializes in helping people find fulfillment in their work lives. Ann's book, "Leadership on Trial: Lessons from The Apprentice," and her new e-book, "Power Stories," include stories of personal power at work. You can learn more about Ann and her work at . E-mail: or call: 661-944-6329 (US.)


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