Employees as hamsters. A recent large scale employee engagement survey categorized some workers as hamsters: “those working hard but at the wrong things.” Initially I thought it was a cute image to understand engagement. Later I began to wonder about the appropriateness of using the term hamster to refer to employees.
112 responses. 112 people responded to the following question:
Do you believe it is appropriate to refer to a category of employees
from an employee engagement survey as hamsters
(working hard but at the wrong things)?
54 participants said yes and 58 participants said no.
Here were some of the yes comments:
- If the story line helps to understand the behavior it probably is appropriately used notwithstanding that it does not make us warm and fuzzy inside.
- It’s all in how you say it. I think it’s pretty funny, and would disarm people a bit, and at the same time they’d get it.
- It’s an image that people can immediately grasp, and is therefore a powerful one.
- MOST SUITS ARE HAMSTERS
- I don’t have a problem with the reference (though I’m just not sure that a hamster is the right animal metaphor for this group)…but then it’s all in how it’s used as a way to help organizations and employees…if it’s used in a derogatory way then it’s inappropriate.
Here were some of the no comments:
- As I read leadership blogs, I see managers referring to front line staff as though they’re a different species. I hate to see anyone being *that* obvious about it, though.
- Engagement properly understood is not about the employee at all; it’s about the organization and how well the org is ENGAGING its… hamsters.
- We should refer to the leader of that group as an Ostrich.
- Yeah…referring to people as rodents who poop in wood shavings is such a way to inspire them. Yeesh.
- Whereas the behavior may parallel that of hamsters, people are intelligent, sometimes misguided, confused, or mismanaged, people are not without willpower.
- Oh my gosh! I can’t imagine how negative the reaction would be if any of those employees saw that category!
My thoughts. It seems like the overall response is quite divided. My own response has been influenced by this. If the term was seen negatively by even a small percentage of the sample then I will not use it. I believe it was an attempt at a playful and “sticky” categorization but it is viewed by many as disrespectful.
R- E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means. Without respect, conversational safety it at jeopardy in the workplace. I will avoid references to people as small furry animals as these are the people I want to work with to achieve full engagement. Of course I also don’t like people being referred to as resources or capital as in human resources or human capital.
Just human. Perhaps we can just leave humans as humans!
Photo Credit: I have to think the through now by http://flickr.com/photos/annia316/488876291/