Rejection Sparks Creativity in the Workplace, Study Reveals

Rejection Sparks Creativity in the Workplace, Study Reveals

Who would have ever thought that rejection in the workplace could be a really good thing? However, in the right set of circumstances, rejection can actually be the direct link to creativity. At least, that’s what a recent study, Don’t Get Mad, Get Creative: Social Rejection Can Fuel Imagination, conducted by a Johns Hopkins University business professor indicates.

What The Study Revealed

“For people who already feel separate from the crowd, social rejection can be a form of validation. Rejection confirms for independent people what they already feel about themselves—that they’re not like others. For such people, that distinction is a positive one leading them to greater creativity,” says study’s lead author and Johns Hopkins Care Business School assistant professor, Sharon Kim.

In other words, a large group of the study participants were fueled by the rejection—they took pride in being different from the others — which spurred them to greater creativity.

How Can This Work in Business?

Savvy managers know that hiring creative thinkers isn’t just an option in today’s business climate — it’s a necessity. What this means for businesses is that it’s a good idea to take a second look at job candidates who may not have the most conventional of personalities and seriously consider them for employment. These are often the people who prove to be the greatest assets for businesses because they are inventive, innovative, and creative thinkers by nature.

Of course, the other great thing about working with people who don’t need constant validation or inclusion from a management perspective is that rejecting the ideas and work of employees is part of the package. It’s better to manage people who are fueled by rejection and become more creative as a result than those who mentally shut down whenever they are rejected because they feel somehow invalidated.

Making Rejection Work for Your Business

When the time comes, and it will, when you have to correct or reject the work, ideas, etc. of an independent thinker you shouldn’t spend time rationalizing the rejection, defending it, or even trying to make the person feel better. The important thing to do, to make this process work for the benefit for your business, is to reassign the employee to a new task right away—at a time when his or her creative juices are simply boiling over. Not only does this give you the full benefit of the employee’s reaction to the rejection, but it also allows the employee the satisfaction of vindication/validation when the next project has been completed.

Just remember that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for all the creative problems in the work place. This is a tactic that works best with people who are already independent thinkers and take pride in being “outsiders” rather than working hard to fit in with everyone else in the workplace.


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