A Lesson on Turkey Behavior

Hanging with Turkey vs Soaring with Eagles — poemsbysholaanyipoemsbysholaanyi.wordpress.com

Turkeys have become associated with stupidity. How often do we refer to a work colleague, a friend, a relative as a turkey? Many workers have lamented, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles when turkeys surround you.” Several believe that turkeys will stare into the sky when it is raining and drown ꟷ not true. Turkeys have an inherited trait known as tetanic torticollar spasms causing them to stare into the atmosphere.

Highly social with a fear of isolation are well-documented traits of the domestic turkey. Actions or behaviors of one of these feathered fowl are going to be mimicked by others. An alien or newcomer to an existing and entrenched flock will come under attack, and even with fatal consequences. Turkeys will attack each other’s heads, pecking aggressively and relentlessly. Turkey farmers, of course, must be concerned with his flocks’ health and wellbeing. Providing ample space for turkeys is vitally important. Inadequate conditions can lead to foot injuries, reduced weight, broken wings, and heat stress.

Single-sex flocks are now standard protocol for most turkey producers. Should a hen mistakenly be put with a community of toms, continued breeding is the result where the hen will usually perish due to being trampled. A tom carelessly thrown in with a flock of hens will be besieged, pecking him viciously and generally to his death. Thus, the expression hen-pecked.

While refreshing my knowledge and experience with turkeys from my days in the upper Midwest, I started seeing some startling similarities between turkey behavior and humans. I find it personally embarrassing to make comparisons of us to turkeys, and it is even shameful. The actions of co-workers, whether it be the manager or a subordinate, can emulate the life of turkeys.

It is time for all of us to reflect on our actions in our places of work.

Where you work, is there enough space to comfortably and effectively do your job? Are you too crowded with colleagues? Are they too close that it is difficult to communicate on the telephone? Is your workspace too hot, too stuffy, too dirty, too cluttered (and not with your stuff)?

If you are the boss, establish the right working environment. Be assured; you will observe greater productivity from your team.

The purpose of this article is not to expound on sexual harassment in the workplace. However, I admonish all leaders to be sure that they have a clear policy on no tolerance for sexual harassment at your organization. Healthcare is an area of work where women are in the majority. Pharmacists, I know, the ratio is about 4:1. Nursing has even a more significant number of women. I want to make it abundantly clear that I have had the pleasure of working with some clinically savvy, highly professional, and considerate female pharmacists in my career. I have seen evidence where there is but a single male in a department. The male is always doing the difficult tasks, addressing the most challenging situations, and often does more than his share of the bad shifts or working hours.

Bright, talented, dedicated, and compatible women are overlooked in the workplace because they are not part of the “good ole’ boy” club. These top-notch women will work harder, have to prove themselves consistently, and receive a lower salary than their male counterparts. What is your organization doing to provide equality and fairness in the workplace?

Striving for harmony and fairness in my department was always a primary goal. Making a new employee feel welcome and appreciated was of keen importance to me and would take up much of my time, but I always thought that it was necessary. Why? Hiring and training a new employee is a costly venture for an organization. It only makes good sense to work towards a good return on investment. Seeing a new colleague being ostracized and ridiculed would infuriate me. I have had more than one closed-door meeting with veteran colleagues for picking on their new team members.

As a leader, are you observant, making sure that new colleagues are feeling welcomed and are settling into their new roles? As a team member, are you giving your newbie a chance to excel and lending assistance where needed and assuring your new partner that they made the right choice coming to work with you? Make a point to have meetings with your team veteran members to see how the rookie to your department is doing. Have a set of meetings with your recent member of the team. It is vitally important to get their feedback, but it is also time to reinforce expectations, to determine progress, and to reiterate company policies, and procedures.

So there is possible merit in the expression, “It is hard to soar with eagles when turkeys surround you.” That exclamation should not even be a thought, either you or any of your colleagues. If so, you are on a turkey farm or worse, you are running one, and a poor one at that.

Eagles have a firm grip on building a strong foundation, support their young in taking flight, engage in teamwork, and excel in soaring. It is much better to be an eagle; the flight is inspiring, and the successes are fulfilling.



Brad earned a B.S. degree in Pharmacy from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

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Brad G. Philbrick

Brad earned a B.S. degree in Pharmacy from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.