Super Chickens or Super Team: Which one do you want to be?

***I would like to welcome my new admin, Kristen, to the Dispatch Monkey blog. She is a police dispatcher and a “Peer to Peer” support advisor.  Kristen has a great way of writing, that makes one really contemplate the issues at hand. She will be a regular contributor to the Dispatch Monkey blog and social media pages.***


I was recently listening to a podcast about “The Meaning of Work” and the speaker, Margaret Heffernan, was talking about a study on productivity that used chickens as the subjects. The gist of it is:

  • Group 1 of chickens (control group) are average producers, just a regular bunch of chickens going about their business doing chicken-y type stuff.
  • Group 2 of chickens (super chickens) are all high producers. They were the highest layers in their respective clans and were put all together in a coop to see if they would still be high producers, or even higher.

What is so very interesting about this study, you can read it here, is that the “average” chickens continued to be good producers, all got along, and lived happy chicken lives. However, the super chickens, literally, pecked each other to death, leaving only 3 of the group alive. What Margaret Heffernan was speaking of is how a group of highly productive chickens can create an extremely toxic environment, but a group of regular chickens are amiable, perform well as a team and get the job done. Heffernan made the correlation to the workplace saying that we should be cultivating a team of diversity; high-flyers, average performers, ones who may need some assistance. This mix fosters an environment of collaboration, supportiveness, and general well-being. Can’t disagree with her there!! The other team picked each other apart! Sound familiar to anyone??

What does this mean to us as highly-effective, highly-trained, (usually) type A personality folks working in a high-stress industry, and why do we seem to have issues with “eating our own”? No 911 emergency centre is immune to bullying and harassment, no workplace is; heck, I’ll even go so far as to say that I have participated in some of that behaviour, not intentionally, because of circumstances and fatigue. How many of you have witnessed the effects of bullying and harassment in the workplace? How many of you were affected by it directly? How many of you stood up for yourself or someone else? How many of you felt defeated and deflated after it happened? Witnessing multiple bullying events, or even consistent mistreatment of employees, can be a drain on our already dwindling reserve of resilience. We need to learn to ask ourselves – why, when we are care-givers to so many other people, are we sometimes unable to care for each other? The effects of bullying and harassment in the workplace run the gamut of feelings of isolation, depression, anger, demotivation…and many others. Why, when we already have enough trouble maintaining healthy, positive attitudes, do we allow this type of behaviour to occur? Is it really because we are all a bunch of super chickens trying to succeed in our coop of choice? Do we feel like we have to beat down others to make us more important? Do we feel like we need to “weed out” the not-so-high-flyers? To be honest, it doesn’t really matter why it happens – the point is…it just CAN’T anymore, and we all need to be responsible and accountable for our actions.

So in the interest of science – well not really, but it sounds good – what can we do as a group to ensure that we don’t peck each other to death? We need to learn to accept our differences, tolerate our idiosyncrasies, and learn to appreciate those things that make us a diverse group. We need to learn to moderate our language on those days were we aren’t feeling our best. We NEED to be as tolerant and compassionate with each other as we are with our clientele!! Let’s all try to be healthy chickens – living our best chicken lives so that we can live in a happy coop, lay good eggs and do our best to take care of the hearts of those around us.