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Program identifies workplace ‘animals’
by Mary Helen
Not long after Scott Reeves, M.D., became chair of Anesthesia and
Perioperative Medicine (APM), he realized that ineffective
communication could threaten the success of his rapidly-expanding
In his efforts to improve communication and patient, faculty and staff
satisfaction, Reeves learned, through a program by his executive coach,
Randy Douglass, that difficult people (colleagues, co-workers,
students, patients and patient’s families) can turn a workplace into a
veritable untamed zoo of difficult personalities that could erode
overall performance and morale.
Douglass, CEO of Workplace Peace and author of Integrity at Work:
Finding Your Ethical Compass in a Post-Enron World, created a workplace
personality inventory and intervention system called “Office Zoo:
Taming the Animals at Work.”
At Reeves’ request, Douglass, a doctor of theology with expertise in
crisis, domestic and workplace counseling, facilitated a retreat for
APM’s executive committee that included physician leaders, the
residency coordinator, chief nurse anesthetists, the administrator and
the manager. They learned about the 10 most difficult personality
types, symbolized by animals, and were offered insight into how to deal
with these individuals to improve the workplace. The program also
included tools managers need to build on each person’s positive side.
“In stressful situations or when we do not get our way, all of us can
act like animals. Through this process we learned the necessary skills
to handle conflict with colleagues, co-workers, patients and patient’s
families,” Reeves said.
In essence, the Office Zoo seminar was designed to expand upon the
initiatives and training occurring in the MUSC Excellence campaign of
the College of Medicine/UMA and supported by the Studer group.
This seminar aligns with Studer, which designed the Excellence model.
One participant stated, “Studer tells us what to do in relating to
others, while Douglass’ program [Office Zoo] showed us how to do it.”
The leadership team learned what makes the workplace at MUSC a zoo, the
unexpected cost of an office zoo, why some people are difficult, and
the best approach to relate to and motivate them.
What animals are
encountered at work?
The animal types Douglass developed came from his observations during
trips to the zoo with his family. They include the lion, hyena, owl,
wolf, donkey, chameleon, turtle, sloth, skunk, and otter. Each of these
personalities prefers a particular type of “cage.” That cage represents
what normally motivates them. These cages are labeled control,
perfection, relationship and applause. It is important to note that
each cage, as well as the animal itself, has both positive as well as
negative aspects. For example, a lion’s negative traits can be that he
or she is overly aggressive in getting ahead and a positive trait can
be that he or she is a decisive leader whom people follow.
Reeves’ personality, according to the Douglass model, was likened to
that of a lion, because of his drive to get things done, which borders
on aggressive. His cage is control, because it accommodates his
communication style as driving and directing.
“During the retreat, we all learned what animal we are, which required
a significant amount of self-reflection,” Reeves said. “We learned what
we need is to modify behavior in ourselves before working with others.
Randy’s program helps you identify individuals (by animal types) and
then it helps you devise appropriate tools for working with them. …It
gives us the ability to approach somebody and interact with him. It’s a
very positive process.”
Different cages for
The cages demonstrate how people are wired for tasks or relationships,
and determine their motivations for doing things a certain way,
Douglass said. They also predict how people will behave in a given
situation. For example, the task-oriented person can be driven by two
cages, control and perfection. Control gets things done, and perfection
gets the task done right, whereas a people-oriented person will
primarily be driven by the relationship cage, i.e., getting along well
with others. The applause cage individual responds well by being
continually appreciated by others.
Department leaders, after first identifying what animal they are and
how they react to external situations, are better able to figure out
how to motivate or enlighten a low-performing coworker, student or
employee. Departmental leaders often take the ostrich approach by
sticking their heads in the sand, ignoring the problem and hoping the
problem goes away. Some managers could use a stampede or attack
approach, which is self-explanatory.
“The reality is that we all have an office zoo,” Douglass said. “The
goal of the leader is to learn to become an effective animal tamer who
can tame the negative aspects of the office animals and turn them into
productive, well adjusted performers.” Reeves said he recognizes that
the negative aspects of his own animal must be addressed in order to
better communicate with others. Once he understands what type of animal
a difficult person is, his approach is to adopt one of the seminar
tools to communicate for a positive outcome. The ultimate goal is to
better understand the variety of personalities that must co-exist and,
somehow, work cohesively for improved performance.
“Since becoming chairman in 2006, the department’s been expanding, and
as we’ve gotten bigger, communication has become more of an issue,”
Reeves said. “As a result, we’ve initiated various communication
systems, including a weekly calendar, frequent faculty meetings, a
monthly newsletter, e-mail alerts and an active Web page.”
Despite these efforts, some still choose not to participate. While the
Studer system identifies high performers and low performers, it does
not address how to deal with the low performers.
“I do not want to give up on people. These individuals have good and
needed clinical skills. They need to be motivated and rewarded to
become a part of the team and to accept challenges,” Reeves said.
“Unfortunately, not even the best trainer can tame every animal. If
leaders do not act on bad attitudes and poor performance, we condone
it. It is our hope that the retreat will give the departmental
leadership the tools necessary to bring employee and patient
satisfaction to a higher level and thus make the department an even
better place to work.”
Zoo offers examples of positive, negative personalities
The animal types Randy Douglass developed in his Office Zoo seminar
came from his observations during trips to the zoo with his family.
They have both negative and positive traits, and most people have
characteristics of more than one animal type.
These animals are considered the most difficult personality types in a
workplace and include the lion, hyena, owl, wolf, donkey, chameleon,
turtle, sloth, skunk, and otter. Each of these personalities relegate
themselves to a type of “cage” they prefer, which normally is what
motivates them. These cages are labeled: control (driver/director),
perfection (analytical/thinker), relationship (relater), and applause
(expresser/socializer). Many people also have more than one cage that
identifies what motivates them.
Positive: Results-oriented; assertive
Negative: Insensitive, aggressive, bullying
Positive: Opportunistic, critical thinkers
Negative: Devious, backstabbing, retaliatory, gossipy
Positive: Intelligent, wise, insightful
Negative: Opinionated, fault-finding, pompous
Positive: Detail, task-oriented
Negative: Perfectionist, whining, hypersensitive
Positive: Even-tempered, patient, rule-oriented
Negative: Stubborn, negative, defeatist, rule-oriented
Positive: Loyal, good listeners, peacemakers, tolerant, encouragers
Negative: Approval-seeking; commits but does not follow through;
Positive: Accommodating, non-combative, independent worker
Negative: Avoids decisions, resists working with others, procrastinating
Positive: Task-focused, quiet, gets along with others
Negative: Lazy, jaded, at work but not working
Positive: Docile, accepts responsibility
Negative: Irrational temper, self-loathing, feeling unappreciated
Positive: Social, assertive, creative, ice-breakers, good networkers
Negative: Craves attention, silly, prefers play
Friday, Feb. 29, 2008
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