Why suggestion boxes are wrong
Last night just when I was arriving at the hotel, I flipped on the TV while unpacking and happened to catch the end of the Undercover Boss. I’ve written about this show before, and how it is directionally correct but wrong in execution.
This episode included one of the owners of the Chicago Cubs. In his sit down with the team, he mentioned that they needed to be closer to the people. His idea was to install a suggestion box. Ugh. Suggestion boxes are always the wrong answer. Why?
I’ve always loved this New Yorker cartoon about suggestion boxes (I didn’t include it in the blog since I didn’t buy a license for its use). But suggestion boxes, while designed to bring management and employees together, actually separate them.
Employees can dump suggestions into the box without owning them. Anonymity can maintain a lack of ownership. We can suggestion the impossible, the improbably, and we don’t have to help with execution because we have passed the buck.
Management can ignore suggestion without owning their evaluation. Because management of a “box” is a collective instead of an individual, it is easy to hide behind the collective. The story of “management response” is much more anonymous than “my response”
The alternative – have a discussion. Why can’t a manager talk one-on-one with their employees to discuss what problems they are having, and what ideas they have? Why can’t they do that everyday?
Of course who needs to actually have a discussion when you have this nice box on the wall to do your job for you.