Employee engagement – Hamsters

According to the BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement, hamsters come in two kinds: the ones wasting their energy in an “exercise wheel” and the ones enjoying the cozy comfort of a position with minimum contribution.
In both cases hamsters do not contribute enough to the organization success, which is a problem for the organization and often also for their coworkers.

Hamsters live in an illusion. They believe being hard workers, some even think they are crash and burners but in fact get more satisfaction for themselves than the organization gets significant contribution.

Most of hamsters I’ve seen are people with limited abilities or competencies, happy with what they achieved so far but oblivious of the (new) requirements. In most cases those people didn’t notice the changes in the world around them. They still believe what they do is enough or even great while the business changed and they should have adapted.

As an example I remember a quality manager that did not understand what I was talking about when I asked him if they use control charts, statistical process control or any six sigma tool. This was in an interview in late 2013, while the methods and tools I asked about are basic to his job since the 1970s!

Hamsters often need to be backed-up, either because they waste energy and time on non-essential tasks or because they lack competencies and abilities to take over the whole job.

Hamsters do not always appear as such to their colleagues and managers, because the adjustments that make them still look busy happened slowly over time.
Breeding hamster often happens soon in startups when the scarce available resources are given positions, jobs and tasks according to their abilities and motivation.
Most of the time hamsters keep going on because nobody really bothers about their poor contributions, sometimes because they’re some top executive’s protégé or because they do the least harm in this position. Let hamsters go on peacefully is sometimes a kind of reward for past contributions, as for example to dedicated pioneers when company was founded.

Hamsters do not appear immediately to consultants neither, they generally are found through job analysis, for example when the analysis reveals a wide spread of tasks over several people. In such case, the job is done by those who have the competency and spare capacity to take over, regardless to global consistency and efficiency.
The table below shows such a contributors-tasks analysis. People are in column while jobs and tasks are in rows.

Every time a job is scattered on a larger number of people (horizontal lines) it is a hint that competencies may not be on the right just-necessary resources. Every time a person has a large number of tasks without being a manager (vertical lines), it is a hint of a possible hamster wasting time and energy on too many things.

As competition becomes tenser, hamsters become a problem. The search for efficiency, performance and saving sheds light on the poor performers. The hamsters, long unaware of their “status” and of the gap to the required performance level, resent the revelation.

Hamsters I’ve seen often feel victimized and few of them are really able to change, spoiled for too long.

Useless to say, hamsters are preferred targets for layoffs in case of downsizing.

In France, as maybe in other employee-protective states, laying off is not that easy. Ironically, when a company in trouble asks for volunteers to quit with compensation, the first to seize the opportunity are high potentials taking the check and getting their next job soon. It leaves the company with faithful hamsters and even more trouble..!


The credit for BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement goes to BlessingWhite.
I have no connections to BlessingWhite. Opinon, analysis and testimonies are all mine.

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