Derek Sivers

Don’t add your 2 cents


My friend just became the big boss at work, managing other people for the first time. She asked if I had any non-obvious advice on management.

My only advice: don’t add your two cents to their ideas.

My two cents” is American slang for adding a small opinion or suggestion to someone else’s thing.

Here’s how it plays out at work:


“I’ve been working for the past two weeks on this new design. What do you think?”


“I like it! Really good. Maybe just a darker shade of blue there, and change the word ‘giant’ to ‘huge’. Other than that, it’s great!”

Now, because the boss said so, the creator of that design will have to change it just a little bit.

Because of that small change, that person no longer feels full ownership of their project. (Then you wonder why they’re not motivated!)

Imagine this instead:


“I’ve been working for the past two weeks on this new design. What do you think?”


“It’s perfect. Great work!”

This slight change made a huge difference in the psychology of motivation. Now that person can feel full ownership of this project, which is more likely to lead to more involvement and commitment for future projects.

The boss’s opinion is no better than anyone else’s. But once you become the boss, unfortunately your opinion is dangerous because it’s not just one person’s opinion anymore — it’s a command! So adding your two cents can really hurt morale.

A business should not focus on the boss, so this restraint is healthy. You shouldn’t give your opinion on everything just because you can.

Obviously, if there’s more than “2 cents” worth of stuff that needs to change, then this rule does not apply.

But if your contribution is small and probably just a meaningless opinion, just let it go. Let the other person feel full ownership of the idea, instead.

For more thoughts along this line, read the great book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”.

Pennies photo © Maura Teague