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Program identifies workplace ‘animals’

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
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 department.
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 different people
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.”

Office 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; indecisive

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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