Good Managers Get the Rainbow

In business, we characterize conformity as a situation when everyone politely agrees.  Similarly, we label deviance in situations when our rules or opinions are challenged.  To be a good manager, we need to understand the value of the rainbow.

Imagine a full, vibrantly colored rainbow that graces the bright blue sky.  It begins where the skyline ends and gloriously streaks across the sky where it disappears near the other side of the horizon.  Now let’s get a little nerdy – visualize the shape of that rainbow and think of it as a graph.  Imagine that the height of the rainbow (Y-axis) is actually a measure of productivity.  Meaning, the peak of the rainbow demonstrates high productivity, and the bottom points of the rainbow reveal low productivity.  Then, envision where the two points of the rainbow meet the horizon (X axis).  Label the first point conformity; the other point is deviance.  The distance between the two points is actually a scale that assesses the degree of agreement within a group in a given scenario.  

If you stand right in the middle of this vibrant rainbow and look up, you see the peak.  In this metaphor, it’s the optimum productivity.  As a manager, when you can create a healthy balance between conformity and deviance on your team, you hit the jackpot.  

When too much conformity exists in an organization, employees seek to satisfy.  They don’t challenge the norm, push to innovate, or question decisions.  When deviance dominates the culture, employee morale drops.  Professionalism and respect disappear, and trust is lost.  The work environment becomes unpleasant, and stress and anxiety become prevalent.

Good managers trust their employees. They hire quality candidates, set realistic expectations upfront, and both encourage and allow their employees to showcase their talents.  They ask for feedback by setting aside time after a project to understand (from an employee perspective) what went well and what can be improved upon in the future.  They don’t judge feedback; they appreciate it.   

Good managers slowly groom their employees to partake in the decision-making process.  They provide guidance and immediate constructive feedback throughout the process in a supportive manner, with encouragement.  The swifter a manager can transfer the bulk of the decision-making process to the employee (i.e. doing the due diligence), the more time they will have to focus on strategy and other initiatives in the future.   Thus, increasing productivity.

This means, if you want to have more time to focus on your organization, if you want your projects to turn out better than you expected, if you want your employees to feel valued and enjoy their workplace environment and capitalize on their skills and experience, then understand the value of standing in the middle of the rainbow.  Don’t accept an environment where everyone agrees with you.  Encourage your employees to respectfully and professionally present other alternatives and to critique your solutions.  If you hired talented people who are valuably contributing to your organization, then respect and allow their opinion.  To control the situation, you could appoint someone to play the Devil’s Advocate, that way everyone in the room understands that you want to create a flawless product, and this is a manner of seeking constructive feedback.  You don’t have to take action on every piece of advice, but as a good manager, you do have to create an environment where feedback is encouraged and where employees want to showcase their strengths because you collectively want to deliver a better product to the marketplace.  When you do this, you will enjoy the beauty of the rainbow with optimum employee productivity.


Dr. Mary Kovach, Associate Professor

Miami University


Dr. Mary Kovach is an Associate Professor at Miami University and teaches Business Management courses.  Her research interests include leadership, motivation, and power, primarily in business contexts.


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