Don't encourage bad bird behavior!

January 27, 2012

I recently made the decision to relocate from Rochester, New York to Sarasota, Florida. Leaving annual accumulations of snow averaging 130 inches along with 80% of my days under grey clouds was my family’s motivation for the move. We couldn’t be happier. One of our new founded traditions is too be beach side every Sunday. Looking over the Gulf of Mexico is a certain fix for a hectic work week.

I wanted to share with my readers that I have come to appreciate a phenomenon that exist on the beach that is strangely similar to what you as a leader face every day in the workplace.

Majestic brown pelicans are often seen perched on channel markers or swooping inches above the rolling waves. Great Blue Heron standing at up to four feet in height can be spotted wading along the shores of Sarasota's waterways and coastlines. Add to that hundreds of seagulls and you get the picture.

I noticed early on that these creatures seemed bothered. It appears to me that these birds have the entire natural habitat available to identify food sources but are reluctant to do so. Why? Because human species has been intentionally or unintentionally feeding them for years and consequently the birds have no motivation to seek food on their own. Additionally, if for some reason the birds are unable to feed on something provided by a beach goer, they begin to act erratic. I know it sounds crazy, but you can actually see their frustration. Instead of them searching the natural habitat for food, they wait irritated that the entitlement of their next meal has been disturbed.  

In this country and in our workplace we have a similar story. In the US, how many people are so accustomed to receiving handouts generation after generation that the thought of dismantling Obama’s social giveaways would be paramount to a heart attack.   We also sometimes find our people, even in this economy feeling as though they are entitled. Employee’s who are so self centered that nothing you provide them is good enough. These people are typically only interested in what the employer can do for them and will only participate within the company norms as long as it also serves a purpose for them. Sometimes,  leaders ignore these traits because the employee is talented or has the potential of making money for the company. In most cases, their self absorbed behaviors begin to blend into the culture as others decide that maybe they should also mirror these “me” behaviors.

My advice is to remove anyone in your organization that is not a team minded person. We can’t afford this type of virus to permeate our culture and to drive the entitlement mentality into our work environments.

Stay away from conditioning your employees towards entitlements as my bird analogy indicates and you will have a team who is optimizing your ROI.