Have you ever entered a workplace to find a Hippo causing a ruckus at the office? No, we’re not talking about the semi-aquatic animal that is very large and very loud.
Although, the animal hippo does share some traits with its business counterpart. An office Hippo is something that we at Innovolo like to refer to as a dominant team member at a business meeting. Their dominance is often not exerted out of expertise or tact, but quite the opposite. They are loud, privileged, and have a fancy title. Plus, they probably get paid too much for anyone to question their opinions.
In this article, we’re going on a safari to investigate the disruptive behaviours of the office Hippo. We’ll look at two scenarios: one where an office Hippo dominates proceedings and one where the corporate culture embraces the contributions of all colleagues at the workplace.
Part 1: The Hippo rules the business world
When an employee feels that they are “under the Hippo”, they typically feel as though their voice isn’t being heard at the workplace. Someone with a higher pay scale probably talks over them at meetings and further dismisses their ideas in one-on-one conversations.
Using their loud opinions and fancy title as protection, the office Hippo dominates whatever room they are in and prevents the valuable wisdom of others from being shared.
To make matters worse, while the Hippo often dominates the airwaves at the meeting itself, it’s truly after the meeting that the company suffers the most. Employees and managers come away from the meeting feeling uncomfortable with the new ideas. With a lack of dialogue about the ideas, it is difficult to gain support for them and everyone leaves the meeting with a different interpretation of the events. Employees are also often unsure about how their own work fits into the vision described by the Hippo.
At this kind of workplace, the office Hippos thrive while the rest of the employees feel stifled. It is very difficult for employees at the bottom rungs of the organisation chart to make an impact. For the long-term efficiency of the business, a new solution must be put in place!
Part 2: New ideas are embraced throughout the company
Now, in part two of the story, the CEO of the company takes a different approach.
Fed up with having the office Hippo dominate all the proceedings, the CEO launches a new innovation initiative that values the feedback of all colleagues, in all departments. In this new model, the voice of all employees is heard, regardless of loudness or pay scale.
This type of innovative culture is suggested by some of the best minds in the innovation business, such as PricewaterCoopers. For culture to be embraced throughout an organisation and for Hippos to be silenced, it has to start at the top. A commitment from the top level of the executive team, such as the CEO or CIO, will really make an impression that the culture and the initiative are being taken seriously.
Then, all staff members are encouraged to contribute with new ideas. Through conversations between employees and managers, individual goals are set and staff feel like they are contributing to the company as a whole. This type of innovation goal-setting is integral to having everyone involved in the ideation process at an organisation.
Over time, and with some crucial conversations between managers and staff, the office Hippo will learn that times are changing. They’ll realise that the environment that previously let them run wild is being altered into a more collaborative workplace. They’ll either adapt to the new reality or move on in search of a new habitat that they can abuse.
If you want to further investigate the characteristics of the office Hippo (and how they hold your innovation back), we put on a webinar specific to this topic. You can find a recording of the webinar here.