Invertebrates in the Office

For those of you who are biologists, I apologize in advance.  I am a recovering physicist and my knowledge of biology is limited.  To be more specific, I have never taken a biology class in my life.  Not sure how I avoided this, but I did.  Physical science, chemistry, and physics cover my school transcript, but not a biology class to show.

When talking with a friend recently he mentioned to me the lack of action taken by many he has known in the invertebrate.jpgworkplace.  Time after time we discussed situations where issues occurred and those in positions of authority did nothing at all.  You will notice that I am avoiding using the term leadership here and that is on purpose.  Invertebrates, those with no backbone or with no resolve to deal with issues, are not leaders so it makes no sense to use the term leader anywhere when talking about these kinds of people.  The may be managers or in positions of authority, but they are not leaders.

Now that I have clarified this I would like to kick off this series on dealing with Invertebrates with the first post in recognizing this species in your workplace.  I'll share a few examples today and they we will dive deeper, perhaps you might say we will dissect this subject, next week and the following week.  For now, let's learn what an invertebrate is and how to tell when you are working with or for one.

Here is one of the best definitions of Invertebrates I have found, courtesy of the University of Michigan's biokids site:

Invertebrates are animals with no bones; nearly all the ones you'll find have lots of legs (6 or more!) or none at all.

As I further develop the term invertebrate in the workplace you will see why I chose this definition in comparison to others.

Let's compare the biological invertebrate with the workplace invertebrate so that you can see the similarities:

  • Invertebrates have no bones; most definitions say they have no backbones
    • The same is true for this species in the workplace.  How often have you seen this type of person face a challenging issue and choose to do nothing or to back away?  I could cite many examples and I am sure you could too.
  • Invertebrates have many legs or none at all
    • Again, the similarities to the human invertebrate are startling.  The human species often uses their legs to run away from any situation where they need to take a stand or deal with conflict.  In other cases, they are paralyzed with fear and overly analyze the situation rather than taking action.  No legs are used or needed when this occurs.

Now that we have a basic comparison we can lay the groundwork for our next posts.  When I return in the following weeks we will discuss the following:

  • How can you identify an invertebrate manager in your workplace?
  • What can you do to deal with this type of person?
  • How can you help the invertebrate manager become a leader?
  • What do you do when nothing works?

I'll be back next week to discuss how we identify and confront the invertebrate in the workplace.  I would encourage you to reply to this post with examples you have seen of these two-legged species you have known or worked with.

Dealing with this species is frustrating for all concerned and we will also discuss some of the fallout that occurs when there are invertebrates in key roles in an organization.

Trust me, it isn't pretty.