In a typical organization, three distinctive individuals can be identified based on activity, attitude, and contribution to the collective work. These individuals rarely identify themselves as one or another, yet all three persist in most organizations. They do not wear tee shirts for identification yet you will recognize each of them once you read a description. Ironically, the separation of these identity groups is never really discussed or acknowledged. Self-examination and a candid workforce will help you discover where most of the team members fall within this analysis.
One specific identity group is best described as “Seaweed”. Just as seaweed does in nature, these individuals simply move with the current. They go with the flow. They exert nothing positive or influential and offer little resistance to either positive or negative situations within the organization. They do not “rock the boat”. They come to work and do the job they are paid to perform.
Seaweed is necessary to your organization. They provide the bulk of effort to get things done. No fanfare or exciting changes result from daily grind they deliver. Call them the Honda Accord or the Toyota Camry. They are nothing fancy yet dependable. They are humbled by their own mediocrity. They will rarely speak up in the face of potential organizational failure. They are like sheep and will move in whatever direction they are pushed.
Another identity group for your organization is known as the “C.A.V.E. people”. Cave is an acronym for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. They are rarely excited about anything and resist effort to change or improve the organization. Nothing the organization does will satisfy their preoccupation with negativity. They wallow in the muck of cynicism. They are eternal pessimists that do not see a positive outcome. Their half-empty perspective is more than that of devil’s advocate. This group seems to enjoy the perpetual failures of the organization as a way of confirming the same negative sentiment. They are bitter and distrustful. They have a contemptuous attitude that others recognize but do not really understand.
Cave people are the complainers. This tendency to complain is not constructive. Nothing will ever work to improve things. We are all doomed to certain and eventual failure. If given a crisp fifty dollar bill, the cave people would complain because they did not receive two twenties and ten dollar bill.
The third identity group is the leaders of the organization. With or without a title, these people influence those around them. They have been influential all their lives. People simply follow their lead. Others look to them to determine a response. Some may despise them however they always desire to be accepted by them. They are those that make things happen in your organization. Gaining buy-in from this team is imperative to success in whatever your organization attempts.
They key to organizational success involves two simple ideas. Gaining the support of the leaders is necessary. There are proven techniques to leverage and influence the leadership group. Assigning them to project teams and facilitating their buy-in is very important. Organizations may constructively influence these individuals to gain support. It requires special skill and technique (that can be learned) to prevent this influence from coming across as a threat. Earning the support of this group is essential for organizational change or improvement.
The neglected identity group is the seaweed. These individuals have likely been driven into this apathetic reality. They are potential leaders waiting for a spark to reengage the organization. Do not ignore the opportunity required to engage these people. They can be inspired and resurrected to become significant contributors for your team.
They are sleeping giants resulting from dysfunctional management of the past. Managers who do not listen or those who view correctable issues as complaints are just two examples of this dysfunction. Poor management is a tranquilizer dart that causes potential leaders to become tranquilized. Bad managers and supervisors walk around your organization darting people into becoming seaweed.
According to Gallup, more than seventy percent of people are disengaged at work. More than fifty percent of people are contemplating leaving their current job. Consider your own co-workers; you can easily place them into one of these three distinct categories. What if more of your seaweed became engaged? Which one are you?