Video: Thursday, 24 April 2014

Employee engagement grows more and more important, as companies often ask their employees to share their ideas on how to improve business.  But not all of these ideas are taken into account: some are rejected, others accepted. Assistant Professor Dirk Deichmann of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) reveals the surprising positive effect of rejection, as it actually motivates people to come back with other new initiatives.

RSM Discovery: Rejection motivates to come back for more

Dr Dirk Deichmann researched 1800 suggestions that were submitted through a company’s online suggestion box over a time span of 12 years.  He found that rejecting an idea actually motivated people to come back with a new idea within the next four years after this first rejection. The opposite happened with people whose ideas were accepted at the first try. People who were successful and whose ideas were adopted were less likely to come back with a new suggestion in comparison to the employees who faced rejection.

So rejections have a motivating outcome, but there’s a limit. Only after a tipping point of 27 rejected ideas people would slowly stop submitting them, and the likelihood that they would continue submitting ideas decreased.

Deichmann also looked at the quality of new suggestions by people that came back with new ideas after earlier rejections. He found that even though these people are more likely to come back, their ideas would be more likely to be rejected again, and again, and again.

However, people who were successful – even though they were not as likely to come back with another idea – were successful again. So people with favorable ideas were not likely to come back with more, but if they did, their ideas are more likely to get accepted again.

Business could learn from this, that if they want employees to submit useful ideas from which the company can benefit, they should motivate people who once submitted a successfully idea, to come back with more the next time and assist those who do come back, but had their earlier ideas rejected, by telling them which general criteria should be met or by connecting them with people who were successful.

Dr. D. (Dirk) Deichmann
Associate Professor
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Dirk Deichmann

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