Are There Elephants in Your Organization?
By: Anne Dranitsaris & Heather Hilliard
September 11, 2018 3 min read
Elephants in an organization – whether an overbearing leader, an uncooperative colleague, unrealistic expectations from management or a dysfunctional team – are impossible to overlook and everyone knows they exist.
So why aren’t “elephants” confronted? We can find all kinds of reasons and excuses — “It’s not my place,” “I am afraid my boss will fire me,” “My colleagues will get upset with me,” or the one we have heard the most over the years, “It won’t do any good anyway.” People feel powerless to do anything about them, or they are more concerned that they will become the “messenger” who gets “killed” for pointing out the existence of the elephant, a fate worse than the pain the elephant is causing.
For a business, the cost of not dealing with ‘elephants’ can be significant. Fear is triggered in both employees and leaders, causing a change in behaviour. Employees don’t emerge problems or issues they are having. They don’t offer their insight or suggestions, nor do they take initiative. Basically, they just focus on surviving their day at work, being self-protective, and leaving their resourcefulness as well as creativity at home. Although they would like to be fully engaged at work, they end up doing their job on autopilot and figuring out how to work around the issues they are confronted with daily. Although the energy spent working around issues could be put to much greater use, people simply continue to behave as they always have done, while elephants continue to wreak havoc, unchecked.
Most frequently, “elephants” are created through attempts to control the presence of emotions and emotionally-based behavior using logical or structural means. People are often so afraid of addressing emotions in the workplace that those emotions end up controlling the workplace, in one way or another. Rather than understand emotions, we attempt to make them go away, deny their existence, devalue them, or any other myriad of efforts that go into minimizing their presence and impact.
The reality is, as human beings, we are emotionally driven. There is no escaping our biological mandate. In order for organizations to grow and move out of survival, the acceptance and integration of emotions is key. Don’t let the fear caused by unchecked “elephants” get in the way of achieving your organization’s potential.
Do you have an elephant in your organization that is getting in the way of your business success that everyone is working around? What are you or other people in your business afraid to confront?