Trophy Syndrome and flying chickens in the Workplace


I recently brought in some rubber chickens into the workplace. Specifically, I brought in small flying rubber chickens to use in management meetings. They are funny! They fly high. They wake people up. You can zip up to a sleeping manager. You can toss them around when tensions are high.

When I first brought them in, people were skeptical. However, they started using them (cautiously). Then one day, I stopped bringing the chickens in because I forgot since I was running from meeting to meeting.  The subsequent meeting was low-energy and a bit tense. I couldn’t snap people out of their inertia and ennui. I really wanted the rubber chicken. I sat there daydreaming of the chickens.  That is how sad the meeting had become.

As I dreamed of the flying chickens, I caught a few words here and there of the sad, angry and unmotivated. Many of them, I came to realize, had one thing in common.  They all wanted recognition of some sort even when things that had gone wrong had occurred during their watch.  It was almost as if I was experiencing a Shirley MacLaine moment. You know, an out of body experience. Or rather I wasn’t experiencing that sensation. I felt like I was watching a group of people “floating” and observing the group wondering where their praise had floated onto.

As Bill Maher recently noted, what we are experiencing in this day and age (as reflected in Trump’s rise) is a rise in Trophy syndrome.  We raised kids to think they are the number one person in the world and that everything they do is great. How do we expect people in the workplace suffering from Trophy syndrome to interact with one another. One prime example, of Trophy Syndrome, as noted by Bill Maher is that moment when NBA players give each other high fives after one of them misses the free throw. The guy just failed but everyone gets a high-five. Obviously, that is an extreme example since the high fives are meant to show team spirit and encouragement. However, everyone seems to expect the high fives even when they have failed or not done anything at all.

As a result of this syndrome, it appears that instead of flying rubber chickens, I should just bring in little trophies to just hand out at random times throughout workplace meetings.  I know that my son loves the gold star stickers.  I suppose I could just bring in batches of those and place them on people’s foreheads whenever they say anything no matter how ridiculous. Maybe then people would stay awake. Maybe then people would treat each other more nicely. Maybe then eventually someone will be bold enough to admit a mistake and try to find a real solution other than ego stroking and massaging. Maybe. But probably not.


12 replies »

  1. You’ve brought back some not so fond memories of the many meetings I was in during my career. I left the job a year ago. When our meetings got like that (often) I would get up, draw a stick figure on the white board, or giant easel, whatever was available and I called him Bob, our customer. He became part of our meeting. When the discussion became accusatory or was going around in circles I would ask, “let’s ask Bob what he thinks of this”. It brought us back to why we were there in the first place and out of our own drama. I would have definitely used flying chickens had I ever thought of it 🙂


  2. Elephant stamps. They were always my daughter’s favourite. When she was about nine, she came home from school once really upset. They had just had an assembly and she wanted to know why she never got a certificate for ‘working hard’, ‘turning up to school’ or ‘trying her best’. Only the naughty kids got them. That was a tough one to explain! On the plus side, she’s grown up to be a self-motivated young woman.


  3. Not sure how I would have felt had management utilized a flying chicken in meetings at my last job. Twit and especially Princess Fairy Dust were big believers in some of the recognition and awards you’ve described, which more often made me resentful rather than providing incentive, which I believe was the intent. Frankly, I would have loved to have flying chickens at my disposal on those occasions!🐔


  4. I am as guilty of desiring recognition for my accomplishments as anyone else, but that doesn’t preclude me from recognizing and admitting to my mistakes. If anything, my desire for acknowledgment makes me more willing to admit it. “Recognize what an honest and mature person I am being! I am so very worthy!” 🙂

    Which is sort of why I am here: I’ve started a personal project of nonsense workplace challenges – harmless mischief to make things a little more interesting for myself. I give myself (and readers who play along) points for, essentially, goofing off at work.

    But, now that I’m doing it, I want more people to notice. So, here I am commenting on your post that is thematically aligned with my own project in the hope you might check it out. My feelings of inadequacy and need for validation extend beyond the workplace and to a very silly project I am doing just for fun.

    Anywho, not sure where I was going with this. I suppose it was simply to say: I think to some degree most folks recognize this need as problematic, but it is so deeply ingrained that we cannot help ourselves. Even in the best of circumstances and with the best of intentions.


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