The Beavers in Your Stream

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When we lived in Greensboro, NC we loved the Bog Garden. It's a natural habitat park designed as a natural bog, with a wooden walkway that winds through the bog, past a lake, and over a couple of small streams.

It's almost like paradise. But I remember a time when there was trouble in paradise. Trouble's name was "beaver."

This particular beaver was, as they say in this part of the world, "A big 'un." He was probably more than four feet from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail and weighed more than fifty pounds.

Mr. Beaver coursed through the waterways in the bog garden and did what beavers do best. Mr. Beaver chopped down trees. Mr. Beaver built dams and a lodge to live in.

The problem was that the stream was really too small for Mr. Beaver, even though he made the best of it. And Mr. Beaver's activity created problems for the garden and the larger park that it's part of.

You may have "beavers" in your work environment. They work hard. But all they really create is trouble.  Like the beaver, they don't understand why what they do isn't helping.

That's the problem with beavers in your workplace. They're industrious. They work really hard. But they do the wrong things, enthusiastically and efficiently. Beavers are the people who are a poor fit for your work environment.

Ultimately, the Beaver in the Bog wound up in a new place to live where he could build bigger dams and live in a bigger lodge. His chopping and damming and building made the new place better. It happened against his will. But in the end both the bog and the beaver were better.

In the workplace, sometimes a change in assignment or expectations or system turns disruptive behavior into productive behavior. That's the preferred option. Sometimes, though the beaver in your workplace will need to find a new workplace.

Boss's Bottom Line

Your (very tough) job is to help your beavers move to a place where what they do well and energetically is valued, so that everyone is happier and more productive.


Two posts that I read yesterday inspired this one. One was Chris Edmonds' "Create Opportunities to Thrive." The other was Aubrey Daniels' "Prosthetic Environments: Optimizing the Talent Around Us."  I recommend them both.

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



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