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  • Kick Ass Zombie Hunter

Climbing the Ladder

Monkey in suit sitting at a work desk with papers piled up.

Bad culture, behaviour, actions don’t happen overnight – it happens over years of people not paying attention to the day-to-day actions and behaviours of the people who are part of the culture. And initially it can be difficult to turn the ship around because people have become used to it – the saying “That’s just how things are done around here” comes to mind. It can become scary for people to change things, even if they want them to change. We are creatures of habit, even when it’s in our best interest.

Think about the 5 Monkeys Experiment for a second. There was an experiment that placed 5 monkeys in a cage and in this cage was a ladder with bananas dangling from the top. Of course, monkeys love bananas so they tried to climb all the way to the top of the ladder. However, every time a monkey tried to make this climb, the scientists would blast cold, icy water over the monkey. The scientist continued to this with each monkey until not one monkey dared to climb again.

The experiment continued as monkeys were substituted one by one in the cage with a brand new monkey. Of course, the first thing the new monkey tried to do was to reach the bananas at the top. Every time the new monkey would climb the ladder, the other monkeys would beat it and not allow the monkey to get the bananas. After being beaten up multiple times, the monkey learned the rules of the cage and stopped trying. He didn’t know why the monkeys were stopping him from reaching the bananas. He was never sprayed with ice colde water. But he learned that his behaviour was not going to be accepted.

The experiment continued until no original monkeys remained. And sure enough, each time a new monkey was brought into the cage and went up the ladder, the rest of the monkeys pulled him off. And yet none of them had ever been hit by the cold water.

If we could have asked the monkeys why they wouldn’t let the others climb the ladder, they probably would answer something like, “It’s always been done that way” with no true explanation.

In workplaces, we tend to do things the way we have been told to do it. We don’t question. We don’t challenge.

Next time you hear someone say “that’s just how we’ve always done it around here” we challenge you to ask “why”. To challenge the status quo and not just accept mediocrity because it’s always been that way. This becomes the power of culture in shaping behaviour.


A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick-start your conversation.

  1. How can poor behaviour in the workplace impact overall morale, culture, wellness and productivity?

  2. What strategies can we implement to encourage our teams to challenge the status quo?

  3. In what ways can we actively involve our team in the process of creating and sustaining a positive workplace culture, where people feel their thoughts and perspectives are considered?


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