Warning: Once again, this blog post might upset some of you and make you upset. So be it. If I hit a nerve, then ask yourself “Why did I react that way?” I am not responsible for your whining, complaining and upset stomach after reading this, so you’ve been warned.
The subtleties of the sheep herding mentality are as dangerous as a leader with all the authority but with no common sense to use that authority effectively.
Take a look at the short case study below to get a better understanding of what I mean.
Tom had been working at Puddinhead Industries for 7 years now. Every day he would clock in at 8am and clock out at 5pm, and yet he felt uncomfortable with himself and his job. He felt that his personal integrity and character was in jeopardy. This uneasiness was a strange feeling for Tom considering the fact that he got paid well and had great benefits. Yet, something was just not right. The universe was amiss and Tom didn’t know what to do about it. He re-ran his days in his head over and over again to pinpoint the anomaly – until one day, it hit him like a big brick. He was finally able to pinpoint the situation and causes that made him feel so uneasy and sad. During that day at work he witnessed something that went against everything he was taught was wrong. He also realized that he may have been so attached to his job that he forgot who he was as a man and what he really stood for in life. Was he so committed to his job and benefits that he was willing to give up all that he was raised to be – honest, authentic and a true man of character?
What Tom was referring to was a situation that was occurring with another employee, Helen. A few months ago Helen had been promised a promotion and raise for her excellent work at the company, and was told that it would come into effect as soon as the budget would allow. This made Helen very excited, as her faith in Puddinhead was rejuvenated. This raise also looked promising because the company had won several contracts and was doing very well. Tom was part of the leadership team that made the decision of giving Helen the raise. However, when the time came for it, Tom went along with the sheep mentality, which turned out, was not in favor of moving Helen up the salary ladder. One of his peers, Bill, had an issue with a decision Helen had made just a few weeks earlier, and Bill’s precious ego was hurt. Helen, unknowingly to her, made him look like a fool by pointing out some potential flaws about a project that Helen and Bill where working on, thus leaving Bill in the dust (in his thoughts). Bill was unable to get past this, so he convinced the rest of the team, including Tom, that Helen was not worthy of a raise.
This was not a mutual feeling, however. Tom knew in his heart the decision to renege on the raise was morally and fundamentally wrong, yet he went along with Bill’s argument anyway. Tom didn’t want to be the odd man out and be different from his peers. He had forgotten how to stand up for himself and do the right thing. He bought into groupthink, the sheep mentality and it was hurting his heart.
Bringing it all home. Sometimes we get so caught up in the groupthink of others and the sheep mentality, as I like to call it, that we forget to first honor ourselves and those who are most important in our lives. When we do this, we lose a bit of who we really are and it is tough to get back. Tom knew this in his heart but was afraid of saying anything in fear of looking different in front of his peers. And as a consequence, he was losing himself. When you lie or don’t keep a promise to an employee, family member, or friend, you begin to lose that person. You lose trust with that employee, and what is worse, you lose yourself. Please try hard not to make promises to employees, friends, or family members that you cannot keep.