I’m No Zookeeper #1211 

by Sue Hawkes

Have you ever had someone walk into your office or hop onto a Zoom meeting and say: “Hey, I’ve got a problem?” It’s fine if that person needs to vent or is asking for coaching, but when they want to leave the problem with you for you to solve, that’s another story. We’ve all been there, and it stinks.  

Taking on other people’s issues is like dealing with a hungry, hyperactive chimpanzee that hasn’t been fed or cared for in days. If you’re a pet owner, I know you can relate!  

Now, here’s the thing: when someone begins that way, they are attempting to leave a wild, unruly issue (monkey) in your more than capable hands. They’re essentially saying, “Here, you take care of it.” Might I offer a word of wisdom to you, my brilliant, competent, problem-solving, friends: Don’t take the bait. 

This is the time when you need to firmly declare, “that is your monkey.” Your job, in this situation, is to ask enough questions to figure out what that person needs to care for the issue themselves. Your goal is to ensure they leave with their monkey in tow, not to leave it with you in your office. 

If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated because you couldn’t get your work done due to constant interruptions, chances are you’ve unknowingly adopted some monkeys. In fact, if you’re a manager with direct reports, it’s their responsibility to free you up from these monkey-related distractions. You should be the one working on the bigger picture, focusing on the business’s growth, not becoming a full-time zookeeper. 

So, next time someone offers you the opportunity, ask questions, remind them how capable they are, and ensure they have whatever resources they need to tend to their monkeys. 

Sue HawkesI’m No Zookeeper #1211