I fear that these words have passed my lips at some point in the past and I imagine that they fell on the ears of the listener about the same way they fall on me when I hear them. Shut down, denied, rejected. Unintended enthusiasm killer.
I got together for brunch recently with some friends, we used to be co-workers, but now all work in other places. This phrase came up and stuck with me because it is a common thing to hear in many offices. New people mean new opportunities to examine old process and tasks in a new way. New people could be new to the company or new to the team with prior experience at the company in a different role.
When I first heard ‘we already tried that’ in response to something that I said, I was rather crestfallen and rolled the rest of my comment back up, folded my hands and clammed up. Now, I redouble my efforts to find a way to introduce the idea in a manner that will be palatable to the listener. Or if I overhear someone else get shot down, I try to help them get an opening to complete their thought.
My thought isn’t so much that we should take action on the idea itself as much as it is about giving people the opportunity to speak up and participate in solutions. Or the process for developing solutions. Maybe we really did try exactly that and it didn’t work at that time, in that manner. But that isn’t the point (plus this is a new time and maybe with a couple of tweaks the idea is valid again.) Maybe it didn’t work the first time for some sub reason that would no longer affect the outcome.
The objective, purportedly, is to have engaged employees – ones who participate actively in creating solutions to the situations that invariably come up. This phrase is high on the list of reasons why employees stop participating and just trudge along. It is in my DNA to keep putting forth new suggestions, but this isn’t true for many people. Who knows how hard someone had to screw up their courage to put forth an idea to be told ‘we already tried that’ before the whole idea was out of their mouth?
We already tried to shoot down ideas with ‘we already tried that’ and it failed miserably.
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