You may have seen it online or in the news lately – there’s a study that claims your cat hates you, or at the very least, doesn’t really care if you’re there or not.
My first thought upon reading the article…you needed a study to learn this? Seriously, just own a cat. [Full disclosure: I’m a dog person. But cats have been in my life from time to time. Hence the dog. :)] The level of disdain even the most “loving” cats have for their owners is remarkable. Awe-inspiring, even.
Shortly after that, I thought how similar this behavior can be to employees. I’m inclined to believe that employees also have an “anxious avoidant” attachment style – they really don’t care if their leader is present or not present. Not in a positive way, anyway. Sure, employees may care to avoid an abusive or incompetent leader. But just like a cat who snubs the owner who feeds them and gives them a loving home, employees may turn their nose up at a leader who cares about his/her employees.
Leaders, try not to take it personally. There are a number of factors that play into this dynamic:
- Employees are hard-wired to hate “The Man”: Well, maybe not hate. Perhaps “intense distrust” is a better term. By and large, authority figures have it rough in the workplace. Ask any popular employee who was promoted and then spurned as a pariah – it can be tough to be the king.
- Leaders kinda feel the same way about their employees: Just like employees are hard-wired to hate “The Man”, there are a number of leaders who look at the privilege of leading with a sort of resignation. They know it’s important, it’s just….tiring sometimes.
- Leaders struggle with boundaries: There are many leaders out there who just don’t get the balance between BFF and hard ass. This can lead to credibility issues with the team that cause employees to wish “the man” wasn’t around.
- Most employees don’t really need a manager: Of course, teams need a manager. They need someone to help run interference, be their champion, set the vision, etc. But on a day-to-day basis, not so much. Think I’m wrong? Next time your manager is out of the office, take note of how much work you get done.
So what do you do to combat this indifference? We might be able to learn a lot from cat owners:
- Don’t try too hard: Most cat owners know that when the cat wants to interact with you, he/she will do so. Create an environment that is conducive to interaction, exercise some patience, and see what happens.
- Catnip works: In this case, catnip can be rewards and recognition. Make your employees’ interactions with you positive and you may see them more often. Figure out what motivates your employees, help them achieve that, and you should see an improvement in your relationships.
- Know what baggage they bring to the table: As anyone who has ever adopted a shelter cat knows, some of these guys come with serious issues. Sometimes employees do, too. Maybe they had a crappy manager 3 jobs ago and you’re paying the price. Patience, positive reinforcement, and a good dialogue can help overcome that.
- Some people just aren’t cat people: If it really bothers you that your employees don’t like you, or don’t think you’re cool, or don’t want to hang out with you…maybe you aren’t the leading kind. Re-examine your motives for getting into a leadership position in the first place – if they are still pure and you just need an attitude adjustment, do it! If not, that’s okay, too. Just don’t subject your employees to a non-leadership ready leader.
Do you have any advice for the leader whose employees are a little too cat-like in their attachment? Share in the comments below!
I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time.
– Neil Gaiman