Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Enhancing Organizational Performance

Fears of Birds

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Can a bird be afraid of heights? Can a fish fear water? Do earthworms worry about germs that might exist in the soil? Can a raccoon fear the dark? Animals when in their natural habitats are unlikely to show fear of things that are part of their very existence. But fear can be learned and once learned that fear can be debilitating.

There is an old children’s story of a fish that angered the elders of a village. The recently caught fish angered the elders when upon being examined by one of them slapped the elder with his tail. The elders were then caught up in debate, trying to decide on a suitable punishment for the disrespectful fish. They thought about eating him, but decided that since captured fish are eaten anyway, that would be no punishment. They thought about hanging him, but realized that the fish had no neck. After much deliberation, during which time the fish was carefully taken care of, since the punishment would not be as meaningful if the fish was sick or injured, they decided to drown the fish. They took the fish, which was swimming vigorously and had gained quite a bit of weight while in the care of the elders, to a nearby lake and threw him in. Since the fish was never seen or caught again they assumed their punishment had worked and that the fish had drowned. 

When employees come to work for a new organization, get promoted or assume new responsibilities they most typically display a great deal of excitement about the new job or opportunity, they are in their element, they know no fear. Most people when given a chance to achieve and are appropriately rewarded for their accomplishments revel in the opportunity made available. The data demonstrating this is unequivocal. It is typically only after the passage of time, during which they are interacting with the organization and the environment that has been created does that excitement often diminish. The challenge to the organization and those living within it is, how do we make the organization a part of the typical employee’s very existence? How do we make the organization part of the employee’s natural element? How do we make an employee take to an organization as a fish would take to water?

Not everyone is a perfect fit for every organization, but since we also know that in general people are looking for the same fundamentals out of the work environment regardless of generation, gender, geography or ethnicity, most people (assuming they came in with the appropriate skill set) have what it takes to succeed in most organizations. It is the organization’s environment that causes them to fail.

We as a species are not natural creatures of the air, of the night, the earth, oceans or space. We don’t fly on our evolutionarily provided wings, soaring through the clouds or use our gills to swim in the ocean’s depths. We are a social species and are natural creatures of our brains.  We use our brains to dream of soaring and then we fashion wings upon which we can soar. And those of us who dreamed of soaring revel in the act of flying upon the realization of our dreams. Our birds show no fear of flying. When sufficiently motivated, when appropriately organized we realize our dreams.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

December 3, 2009 at 11:30 am

Posted in Human Behavior

Tagged with ,

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