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Book:  Shifting the Monkey

Author:  Todd Whitaker

Purchase:  PrinteBook

Citation:  Whitaker, T. (2014). Shifting the monkey : the art of protecting good people from liars, criers, and other slackers. Bloomington, Indiana: Solution Tree Press.

Three Big Takeaways:​​
  1. Treat everyone well and as if they are doing the right things – our actions validate the good people and make bad people uncomfortable.  Try to treat all individuals evenly and always assume they are doing the right thing. Do not act as if everyone is guilty.

  2. Need to address the few who behave inappropriately.  This involved using firm enforcement of your expectations.  In order to be able to address expectations, but have expectations outlined in the first place! 

  3. Never address an entire group regarding the negative behavior of a few - you must have the courage to approach your ineffective employees on a one-to-one basis


Other Key Ideas:

Good people are honest people who try hard; Bad people are dishonest people who are lazy, unreliable, and self-centered.  Bad/Lazy/Argumentative workers can destroy any school or business.  You always need to think: “How do I protect my good people?”

Cannot allow lazy workers to shift their work to someone else; Even if the manager takes on just a small portion of the responsibility, this is taking the burden off of a lazy employee

It’s a fine line between being helpful and being a pushover.  In order to determine where that line is at, always be thinking about these three questions: Where is the responsibility? Where should the responsibility be? How do I get the responsibility to its proper place?  There are times when it’s ok to say yes to the responsibility, but usually its in everyone’s best interest to make sure the responsibility stays put​

Don’t need an elaborate program to detect your poor employees, just need to talk to people – they will know

When you walk into a meeting ask yourself who is the most comfortable and who is the least comfortable?  The worst employees should be least comfortable.

Make your instructions/expectations very clear so that they understand and you don’t feel guilty that they may not have understood expectations

Never have a desk or a “barrier” between you and the negative person.  Approach them from the side if possible.  

Don’t make threats, but do have expectations and consequences that can be met if you need to fall back on them.  

Use the line “I’m telling you because I would want to know” – this will be an inarguable statement

If a bad employee makes a blanket statement saying “All people….(feel you did something wrong) then treat them positively and ask for a list of those people so you can approach them.

If they don’t want to give you the list, then tell them “just get me the list please, I’d really like to apologize”

Treat the mean person as if they were polite and kind; treat a negative person with a positive attitude

When people are doing something well, don’t give them a bunch of cumbersome requirements.  Give the good people autonomy, let them follow their instinct; Since they are already good, don’t make them jump through all the hoops

Don’t sympathize with your worst employees’ excuses.  Also, don’t shift their responsibilities to another employee because of excuses.  

When a bad worker whines, don’t sympathize, help, or get someone else.  In fact, don’t interact at all except when giving them clear expectations.  If they do the task, great! If they don’t, document. You are one step closer to being able to fire them.

Never do something someone else can do because there are certain things only the leader can do

Even is someone else wants to handle discipline of a teacher, the leader should still do this so that everyone knows YOU are in charge

Deal directly with the offender, don’t do a blanket email/communication.  Also, do not make new rules/policies based on a few bad workers; deal with the bad workers

Always speak truthfully – never lie.  If you must, say “I’m not at liberty to discuss that”

Don’t start arguments and don’t engage in them.  Your worst employees are probably a lot better at arguing than you are!

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