Managing Sacred Cows In The Workplace

Llook around your workplace and chances are you will notice some Sacred Cows freely roaming up and down the office corridors. 

Sacred Cows Meaning

Sacred cows are people who feel and behave like they are untouchable within the workplace.  And usually, managers protect them without really bothering to analyze their consequences due to fear and royalties.  Most managers become very intimidated, so, they take all the crap from these individuals. 

Sacred cows are usually the minority who have stayed within one company for years.  They tend to build up significant experience and knowledge of everything going on within the company. 

They can influence, or impede crucial decisions, progress, and perpetuate toxic politics around the workplace.  They tend to be emotionally fragile, and can quickly destroy the team dynamics and cause organizational dysfunction. 

It is not difficult to identify ‘Sacred Cows’ within the team.  Just look around your workplace and see any formalized work pattern that does not make sense to you. 

Then keep questioning about that work pattern until you hear someone vehemently defending it by insisting; why? we have always done it this way! 

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Oh, no, we cannot change this, we should not do it that way!  The previous managers also questioned it and came up with ideas that didn’t work!

They usually cannot tell you why they’re putting down your question – although they make a vague reference to not working last time other managers tried.  

Even when they make references to previous failures as a reason to stick to useless working patterns, they do not come up with constructive conclusions. Only, it did not work last time.  Let us keep it that way and move on.

They do not often have any credibility when they say that sort of thing.  They use the negative tone as a sword and shield to maintaining their work behaviours and habits.

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Such behaviours and habits turn into the status quo.  And then, the status quo becomes the default for everyone in the team to adapt – including the managers. 

As a manager, understand that your management style can contribute to the creation of these Sacred Cows.  

So, check your management style to ensure that you’re not creating these type of people within your team.  

And if you have inherited a team that has specific individuals who behave like a sacred cow, you must deal with them as quickly as possible. 

If you fail to manage them properly, there is a considerable cost to pay.  And that cost is not just in terms of money.  But also in career-limiting, productivity, creativity, progress, respect, and trust.

Sacred Cows can take control of the entire team and its operations.  They can intoxicate everybody to accept that without them the job can’t be done.  

Even managers accept that without the sacred cow, nothing can move – meaning the company will disintegrate without them. 

It is also common for managers to neglect the risks of limiting skills to very few individuals. And when those few individuals realize how important they are to the team, it even becomes a bigger problem.

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So, do not allow these so-called untouchables to hold you, the team and company hostage.  

To keep Sacred Cows at bay, you must have a robust succession plan in place.  Also, ensure you embed cross-training programs into your employees’ annual development plans. 

Follow-up and ensure that the development programs are progressing as planned – you can evaluate the progress during your routine one-on-one conversations with team members.  You want to make sure that the skills of all your team members keep growing. 

Once you have more skilled team members available for every position, then terminate all the Sacred Cows.  And make sure you do not replace them with new ones. 

Do you have Sacred cows in your business or at work?  Please leave your comment in the box below 

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