Beware of the Psychological Chicken Little of the Workplace
In some workplaces (ok many these days) there is a sense of fear. There is a fear of being let go and of restructuring. There is even the fear of job promotion as many are afraid they will fail and then be let go. In some workplaces there is a fear of being yelled at or of colleagues backstabbing one another. I am not too sure if workplaces were like this in the ’80s, but it invokes the “greed is good” feel of that time period. It is also similar to the fable of the Wolf and the Crane where the wolf has a bone stuck in his throat and hires a crane to dig it out by sticking its head into the wolf’s mouth. When she gets the bone out she demands her payment to which the wolf notes her payment is that she got out of his mouth alive. And thus, the moral of the story is that in serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you escape injury for your pains. Does that not present the fear of many in the workplace?
With so much fear in the workplace, there are five archetypes of how these fears manifest and used that resemble characters from Aesop’s Fables.
Chicken Little: There is the well-meaning but always afraid employee that stirs up worry at the drop of a hat, akin to Chicken Little who caused widespread panic among the townsfolk when he mistook a falling acorn for a piece of the sky. The sky is always falling for this type of employee. They get riled up easily and then proceed to cause havoc in the workplace by riling up others. They are not ill-willed or bad-intentioned. They are just chicken little running amok. It is up to the rest of the employees to not look up in the sky and also mistake an acorn for falling sky. Those around chicken little must endeavor to not be caught up in the madness. Perhaps a sign posted on chicken little’s shirt noting that no matter what do not fall for the hype.
The Boy who Cried Wolf: Many of us heard or even used the expression of he is like the boy who cried wolf. The way the story goes, there once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. So, in order to entertain himself he screamed out loud, “Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!” He did this several times to the point that no one believed him anymore even when he was telling the truth. There are many in the workplace that like to manipulate others for sheer fun. At first they create fear amongst other staff. Then eventually staff either learn to ignore this boy who cried wolf or they quite before even learning that the boy has cried wolf. This type of employee is quite disruptive to the workplace and thrives, feeds off of , others’ fears. That type of employee should never be allowed to rise up to management level. Sadly, they often do.
The thirst pigeon: Sometimes spurred by fear and a need to address fear quickly, without thinking through all options carefully you have the “thirst pigeon” employee that lets zeal outrun discretion. The fable is as follows. An extremely thirsty pigeon sees a goblet of water painted on a signboard. Not considering that it could only be a picture, the pigeon flies with all its might towards it crashing into the billboard and getting all out of sorts. It falls to the ground is shortly caught by one of the bystanders. Such employees must not rush to a solution just to get a solution out of fear. It is a hard thing at times to teach people to be patient for a solution.
The sick stag: There are those employees that are “evil”. They are mean-girls that delight in causing havoc in the workplace and they do so not our of boredom but just because they truly enjoy the havoc. It brings them goosebumps of delight. In some roundabout way they remind me of the sick stag fable where the sick animal lays down in a quiet pasture corner where his so-called friends come by to check up and see how he is doing and little by little each one eats his food. At the end the stag dies. He dies not from his sickness, but from the fact that he had no food left. The widely touted moral of the stag story is that evil companions bring more hurt than profit. Stay away.
The mountain in labor:Sometimes there are those that claim grand calamities are under way in order to appear a hero when nothing wrong occurs. Imagine an agitated mountain that is groaning and hissing. Everyone becomes worried and stands at the foot of the mountain to see what horrible thing was about to occur (sounds like a NYC event). Then out comes a Mouse. The moral of the story is don’t make much ado about nothing. Shakespeare has also duly warned us. I will in addition add that don’t listen to those that make much ado about nothing to make themselves look good. There is always a wanna-be hero in the workplace.
There you have the workplace fear-mongers. I leave you with this thought. In the movie Moonstruck, Cher’s character says that she sees a wolf in everyone. Indeed, Cher. Indeed.