Many business models depend on the ability of employees to be creative, especially in corporations that emphasize such a trait. However, entrepreneurial success cannot be achieved without rigorous control over all relevant operational processes. That means the employees’ performance should be exposed to controlling procedures as well as undermining their need for autonomous behavior. Therefore, the question of the compatibility of control and creativity in the workplace remains a highly controversial subject. The balance between these two crucial elements is feasible but strongly relates to the conditions in which control and evaluation are implemented within an organization.
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The notion of creativity itself is complicated and has many interpretations. Ultimately, to be creative means to invent something original and appropriate to the task at the same time (Kaufman, 2018). This valuable ability is sensitive to the environment in which it should be exercised. Kaufman (2018) mentions several elements that support creativity in the workplace, including challenging work, an appropriate level of freedom, a supportive supervisor, communicative colleagues, a sense of cooperation, recognition, and others.
There are also a few factors that can limit creativity, such as time pressure, excessive evaluation, and the preponderance of organizational politics. However, insufficient control over employees’ performance can be restrictive as well. For example, regulatory constraints tend to decrease the level of complexity of work assignments and remove the opportunity for employees to choose trivial ideas and common solutions (Reiter-Palmon, Kennel, & Kaufman, 2018). Therefore, the optimal balance depends on the attributes of the management within the corporation.
The effectiveness of a leadership style has been considered as a primal condition for motivating employees’ creativity. Transformational leadership, in particular, is viewed to be the most conducive. As research suggests, “transformational leaders are better able to promote creativity among employees by enabling them to experience high levels of personal control over their work role and outcomes” (Tse, To, & Chiu, 2017, p. 155). Personal control relates to an individual’s belief in his or her ability to produce significant results. It is comparable to the basic need for autonomy which enables people to gain psychological satisfaction based on their actions.
Transformational managers are proficient in establishing conditions that support and foster personal control at the workplace. The research demonstrates that “employees with high levels of personal control are likely to be more effective in dealing with uncertain and ambiguous task activities during creative attempts” (Tse et al., 2017, p. 148). Moreover, workers with low creativity benefit from transformational leadership the most in terms of creativity enhancement.
Such managers encourage the employees’ engagement in the creative process, boosting their self-efficacy and prosocial motivation. Consequently, high levels of personal control lead to organizational commitment, innovative behavior, and performance improvement. Therefore, transformational leadership appears to be the most effective style to achieve a required balance between employees’ creativity and control over work operations and performance.
Corporations’ success largely relies on the ability of their employees to produce innovative ideas and unexpected solutions. Such ability can be restricted by the abundance of control and performance evaluation which can be perceived as limiting and invasive practice. However, these processes are necessary to ensure operational growth and organizational effectiveness. An optimal combination of these two sides can be achieved through the implementation of transformational leadership contributing to the overall business efficiency. Therefore, creativity and control can be successfully combined under attentive supervision and appropriate management style.
Kaufman, J. C. (2016). Creativity 101 (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
Reiter-Palmon, R., Kennel, V. L., & Kaufman, J. C. (Eds.). (2018). Individual creativity in the workplace. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Tse, H. H. M., To, M. L., & Chiu, W. C. K. (2017). When and why does transformational leadership influence employee creativity? The roles of personal control and creative personality. Human Resource Management, 57(1), 145-157. Web.