When you ask an organ grinder for feedback you don’t want to hear from the monkey in the workplace



When you ask an organ grinder for feedback you don’t want to hear from the monkey in the workplace


Feedback is difficult for many to process both in personal and work realms. For some managers, providing feedback is akin to getting a root canal. For many providing feedback is a thankless endeavor as it is often unwelcomed. Of course, how one provides feedback is just as important as to what the feedback is about. Some managers, thus, avoid providing feedback in a direct manner. My preference is for direct feedback that provides not only critiques but solutions as well. A critique to just flex one’s muscle is not a way to move staff forward.

What is even more disturbing is when managers run away from providing feedback directly to the person.   There are awful moments when, instead of getting direct feedback, the feedback is whispered in one’s ear by someone else. It is akin to having an organ grinder’s monkey layering the music. The monkey should be added-value entertainment and not the main source of information.  These days it seems that we come across countless organ-grinder monkeys.  Does anyone remember what happened to the monkey sidekick on Indiana Jones?

There are those that relish being the boss’ pet. They love the attention even if it means wearing a white shirt and tie while flanking the boss at all times with two other similarly dressed monkeys.  They even love it when the boss literally leaves them holding the bag at the table while the big man works the room. It’s a sad scene. How many monkeys does an organ-grinder need?  At this point, assuredly you get that by monkey I mean lackey. They are an infuriating, increasing part of the workforce. Especially, during these hard economic times wherein salary raises are dwindling. If you can’t get a raise you can at least get to sit at the head table and wipe the drool off the organ-grinder’s mouth. Dare to dream, dare to dream.

An organ-grinder kind of boss is that individual that deals in a different currency.  He holds tightly onto the truth doling out musical bits here and there in the hope of appeasing the few that dare to question.  The truth comes in the form of a carefully crafted stanza that is meant more as a distraction. The monkey gets to hear more bits of truth as he has to make up a dance to entertain the worker masses.  The monkey starts to believe he has power. He starts to believe in his own production.  Slowly the monkey gets some key solo parts and shines in the fecal-riddled spotlight. Then one day the monkey does the wrong step. The monkey is getting too many of his own accolades and there goes the monkey.   No way can the monkey use its own brains or shine on his own.

While the monkeys come and go, the organ-grinder’s tune doesn’t change. The organ-grinder is quite attuned to the needs of many to feel wanted and is crafty in the monkey selection. Sadly, there is a never-ending workforce supply.

Ok, Perhaps this is a bit bitter diatribe stemming from the thought of how one should get feedback in the workplace. It ain’t a pretty scene at times. Did you know that Wednesday’s are often the most depressing day of the week?

Carry on.

A Monkey in Panama

9 replies »

  1. I don’t want to be an organ grinder! Nice metaphor.
    I think you learn how to give and receive good feedback. i don’t think anyone talks about it let alone tries to get better at it. They just suffer through it so we all suffer through it.

    Here’s a good link I keep going back to (not that you were looking for advice but just to show we can learn how to give and receive better feedback).


  2. Been there, done that. Had a boss who was the monkey. Didn’t feel sorry for him, just stopped listening to all of the music in that place with just a very few exceptions. In my case, there were several lower level monkeys. I was able to tune them out since I knew that they knew nothing of any value, other than to toot their own horns back to the organ grinder while strutting in their shiny monkey suits. My organ grinder was too stupid and insecure to qualify for the position in my eyes, which is why I called her “Princess Fairy Dust.” I left that place six months ago, but reading posts like this from people who are still in the trenches brings the bile and bitterness to the surface.
    PS A colleague who retired from that place just before I did loved to play something from a cartoon or something like that about Wednesday being hump day. Maybe that explains why it can also be the most depressing day of the week?


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