You wouldn’t think you’d see a lot of jellyfish in landlocked Kansas City. But Jane Walton does. The workplace consultant sees jellyfish whenever she visits a dysfunctional organization.
Walton pulls a parallel from the sea, where brainless jellyfish are multiplying in harmful numbers, floating with the currents and, potentially, stinging those who come in contact with them.
Human jellyfish, she says, go with the flow, don’t think critically or innovatively, and can hurt those around them.
Blame for human jellyfish proliferation goes partly to themselves. Some people simply aren’t suited to their jobs or don’t take personal accountability. They need to find something else to do or start thinking and swimming harder in their own ponds.
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But it’s also true that a workplace “ecosystem,” like the ocean, may be hospitable to jellyfish. And that requires a broader, more concerted effort to correct. To keep human jellyfish proliferation at bay, the president of Jane Walton Consulting says, organizations need to:
▪ Turn short-term goals into long-term strategy.
▪ Clarify individual and organizational goals.
▪ Avoid non-core or pet projects that drain resources.
▪ Engage the workforce in continuous communication.
▪ Resolve conflicts.
▪ Remove jellyfish in the executive ranks.
Without those steps, it’s far too easy for workers to be “disillusioned, distracted, discouraged and trapped,” Walton says.
The first step to avoid being a jellyfish is personal accountability and the conviction that you’re in the right job for you. Closely tied to that is the ability to collaborate and communicate with others in the workplace. Teamwork is essential in most work environments.
After that, the no-jellyfish challenge moves up the management ladder. Hiring the right people in the first place makes it easier to avoid jellyfish evolution. After that, work groups must get clear direction and continuing communication to understand where the organization is going — and why. Workers also need enough support to get the required jobs done efficiently. Ideally, panic deadlines don’t exist.
“In a natural ecosystem, the activities of individuals gravitate toward the most efficient use of energy and resources,” Walton writes in a tidy self-published booklet titled “Why are the jellyfish taking over? An evolved approach to workplace success.”
“Likewise, business practices must be simple, clear and effective — with roadblocks and non-essential diversions removed — to allow resources to flow properly throughout the entire organization.”
That starts by listening to each other. Too often, in the rush to get products and services out the door, internal communication suffers.
A result: disengaged and unhappy workers. A bigger consequence: an aimlessly floating organization that can’t keep up with its competitors who are swimming ahead.