Never Smile at a Monkey


Amy and the monkey … just before the toothy smile and quick evasion from a monkey attack.

My daughter, Amy, escaped a monkey attack.  As Amy put it “Evolution won again and I got out of the way before it bit me.”  It turns out smiling at monkeys is a BAD idea as they interpret the sight of teeth as a sign of aggression.

Amy is about eight months into a year-long adventure and she learned this valuable lesson recently in Indonesia.  She had been warned not to smile at the monkey but was so completely thrilled, she couldn’t help it.

Her story got me thinking about some of the unknown dangers lurking in the workplace.   Here are some of the dangers I’ve met … names changed of course to protect the guilty!

  1. Nasty Nellie:  Approach Nasty Nellie carefully. She is likely to bite your head off if you ask a question the wrong way or at the wrong time. Oh wait. All questions are asked the wrong way at the wrong time.  Nellie slams her phone and door a LOT!  Put on protective armor before going to Nellie.  You are going to need it.
  2. Condescending Charlie:  Charlie doesn’t yell, swear or call anyone names.  Instead he looks down his nose at you from a position of superiority.  He will answer your questions, but not before clearly pointing out why it was a stupid question with an obvious answer.
  3. Jocular Joe:  Joe laughs and laughs and laughs. He’s got lots and lots of stories to tell and pranks to pull.  He’s fun, fun, fun … which is great at staff parties but not so great when you and your team are in a meeting or trying to come to some sort of decision.  Joe is the class clown all grown up.  If he could wear the red nose to work, he would.
  4. Chatty Cathy:  Cathy is kind of like Joe.  Do NOT go and talk to Cathy if you need a quick answer or are short of time.  There is no getting away from Cathy quickly once she has you in her clutches.  She will talk, talk, talk and talk some more. And just when you think she’s is finally wrapping up and getting to the point, she’ll go back to the beginning and tell you the story again because she forget one tiny detail in the original telling.
  5. No Way Ned:  Ned is your go-to guy if you want an idea or plan to die on the vine.  He quickly and easily comes up with lots and lots of reasons as to why any new idea will fail.  If you don’t want your idea to die on the vine, one idea is to approach Ned first. Find out all his whys and then either ask him how they can be overcome or if he refuses to do that, do your own research and be prepared to address them when he brings them up in front of others.
  6. Back stabbing Betsy:  Betsy loves to have deep chats. She asks lots of probing questions trying to find out what you really think or feel.   Betsy has also been known to volunteer to help others, so that she can then go to the boss and demonstrate how she is soooo much better than the person she supposedly ‘helped’. And all that information she is getting from you?  She is looking for dirt, for one little negative she can share with others to spread misery and hard feelings. Be very, very careful what you say to Betsy.

Getting along just fine now that the boundaries have been identified and established! It’s ok to smile … just not when the monkey is looking!

It’s easy to judge the Cathys, Betsys, Neds, Joes, Charlies and Nellies in the workplace and to assume that we are somehow nicer, smarter and better than they are.  One of the many lessons I learned throughout the years though is that judging them turns us into Judgmental Judys, which means we then play a role in inter-office drama, conflict and miscommunication.

Our role is not to judge but to instead find a way to communicate with them.  A lot of the negative behaviours we associate with people (and perhaps display ourselves?) are protection mechanisms.  They are habits put in place to feel stronger, smarter or perhaps more truthfully, hide feelings of insecurity.  If we can get past our own ego, we increase the odds of successful communication.




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