How to Avoid Cow Tipping at Work
by Bill Catlette
Urban mythology has it that teenagers, likely fueled by alcohol have, in the pursuit of fun, been known to enter a pasture, sneak up on a grazing cow and, through brute force upend the animal, pushing (aka “tipping”) it onto its side. Rural mythology, however, aided by people who have actually touched a cow with something besides a fork know that “tipping” a cow is a lot more difficult than the legend allows. In fact, tipping a Toyota Celica onto its side would be considerably easier. The Celica after all would at least hold still.
And you’re wondering what on Earth cow tipping has to do with a management-oriented post. Fair question. For the last twenty years we’ve maintained that just as well cared for dairy cattle produce more milk (that’s not an AltFact), well led humans in the workspace produce more and better stuff (also a fact). We’ve done more than “maintain” that notion, we’ve proven it, and written three books about same. If you’ll permit one more little extension of the metaphor, I will submit that there is a LOT more cow tipping that goes on in the workspace than in any pasture. Here are three ways that managers derail, frustrate, or prevent outright the best efforts of a contented (read, engaged) workforce:
Hanging Onto “Non-Producing and Misfit Cows, ‘er Workers” - Even after proving beyond reasonable doubt that they cannot or will not produce / behave as expected, many employees remain in position because their management chooses to avoid confrontation with the individual (or HR), doesn’t want to expend the energy to hire and train a replacement, or has fallen in love with them for other reasons. Managers then look to A and B players to pick up the slack. This thoroughly disrupts the “spirit of the hive” as others rightfully resent having to carry someone else’s load, and lose pride in what they view as a diminished team. Nobody gets up in the morning and says to themselves, “I want to go lose today”, or, “I want to hang out with losers.” By tolerating this behavior, management tacitly lowers its standards and disenfranchises its best performers.
Systemic Defects - Embedded in every (yes) work process are policies, procedures, methods, tools, equipment, etc. that are not working as expected, and as a result, they add friction to productive effort. Left untreated, this friction is demotivating to the entire workforce. By way of example, the next time you board a commercial aircraft, take note of all the extra effort that flight attendants must exert in order to shoe horn the over-limit and excess carry-on luggage into the overhead bins. Add to that the inevitable arguments with passengers, delays due to deboarding excess luggage, and the realization that this occurs on nearly every flight. If these ladies (mostly) wanted to work for a freight hauler, they would have signed on with FedEx. Your people are enduring comparable irritants. You would do well to spend thirty minutes a day discovering and dispatching these dispiriting productivity killers.
Bad Hiring - By hiring people who, by virtue of pace, preference, values and temperament are out of sync with the organization, managers are adding people who are easily “tipped over”. One misfit person in the right position amidst a hundred others can represent critical mass. Smart managers and smart recruiters take pains to put job fit requirements on an equal basis with talent, and to recognize and deal with hiring mistakes as soon as they become apparent.
If you would like to hear more about this topic in a one-on-one coaching session, keynote speech, or seminar, we would love to hear from you.