A Tap on the Glass - 90 - Managing Monkeys

by Michael Darling

Whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar business, a manager of a team, a supervisor or a hard working employee, chances are there’s someone in your working life who will try to load extra things onto you.

These ‘extra tasks’ are often called the ‘monkey on our back’.  It’s common in a lot of offices where one or more members of the staff is determined to push a problem away from them and give it to someone else, rather than deal with it.  Even in your family or personal friendships you can probably think of people who are good at trying to throw those annoying apes onto your back!

Meet the monkey! KNOW the monkey!  Get rid of the monkey!

Monkeys can often seem harmless enough. As a single creature, they pose no significant threat to you unless you wander too close.    In such instances, a monkey’s reputation for throwing specific material at you when you least expect it has a marvelous shared synergy with the modern business world not unlike the actual creatures that swing through the trees.

But, in reality they are distractions and occurrences where extra work or additional tasks are given to you by someone else. These distractions, or monkeys, if not managed properly will stop you from achieving your own goals or objectives.

A ‘monkey’ is transferred to us the moment that we accept the responsibility for its care. The monkey could come in the form of a crashed computer, an angry customer, a document that needs to copied or a seemingly simple request for help from a friend.  They’re very devious, these monkeys!

Individually, each monkey thrown onto your back might seem harmless enough, but imagine the results if you were to take on a couple of new monkeys every day… that’s a lot of bananas!

Here is a simple monkey test to see if you could be inadvertently attracting  monkeys from other people.

  1. Do people often drop things on your desk and ask you to do them?
  2. Do you find it hard to say “no” to other people?
  3. By the end of the week, do you realize that you have overcommitted your time?
  4. Do you feel like you are a magnet for ‘things to do’ from your manager?
  5. Do you find yourself volunteering for things only to regret it later?
  6. Do you know that you are just too nice to people?

So, if you have answered “yes” to 3 or more of these questions then it’s likely you’re in serious need of a chiropractor from damaging your back by carrying too many monkeys. In all seriousness, you need to find a way to get rid of them.

How to manage your monkeys

One of the first things you will need to learn about training monkeys is to use the word “no”.

If you feel like you are a monkey magnet (guilty!) then you should start to be more assertive. When someone asks you to do something, rather than just accept their request, ask them to explain a little bit more about the task or what’s involved. If you feel that you can do the job without being overwhelmed then give them a timeline that suits you.   All easier said than done, right?  Sure….    But while you contemplate that, some of those Monkeys are growing into big hairy Gorillas.

Rather than say, “Sure leave it to  me”, say something like “I have a lot on at the moment, so I can have this done for you by Friday afternoon.”

Many times, it’s just a matter of someone having enough confidence in their actions to do it themselves.  In our office, I’m prone to asking a staff member; “what would you do if I wasn’t here?”.  Ironically, we discover that what they planned to do was the right course of action, they were just afraid to commit themselves to what they already KNEW was the right answer!

Final thoughts

Don’t flinch even if you feel you want to. Hold your ground. If it’s your manager asking, you might also want to explain what you are already doing. There are many other techniques that you can learn to master your monkeys. Just remember that being assertive is not only the first rule of monkey management, it is also the most important.

That, and bananas…….lots of bananas……….

Thanks for reading…