Living along coastal South Carolina; I’ve enjoyed several opportunities to go crabbing at the beach. A good place to capture crab is along the jetties since they like to hide among the rocks. The rewards of crabbing are delicious as crab can be served up many ways, crab cakes being my favorite.
Once a crab has been caught with a net, they are typically placed in a basket until the desired number of crab has been acquired. The crab in a basket syndrome is amazing to observe. The general idea is that crabs seek out crabs attempting to escape and then pull them back into the pot, making it nearly impossible to escape.
Understanding the theory is important because the lessons transcend crabbing and can apply right where you work. What happens when boiling hot water is poured in a basket of live crabs? Panic sets in and they will do whatever to escape, including pulling each other down. Simply put, they are just trying to survive the dangers of the pot.
Apply this theory to people and you will begin to understand what may, at times, be going on where you work. The pressure is on, things are heating up at work, and instead of lending a helping hand, others see you climbing to the top and they are trying to pull you down.
The crab basket syndrome is alive and well and knowing how to handle it will make all the difference. Allow me to help you identify who the crabs are so you’ll know what to look out for. The ones that will pull you down are known by these characteristics. Let me spell it out for you.
Crabs in your office are critics. The sad reality you must come to terms with is that not everyone will be glad about your success. Your success, however, is not dependant upon the approval of the crab.
Climbing to the top is a journey that is characterized by risk, reward, setbacks, and determination. Professional jealousy is a sad reality. As you climb your way up, others will try to bring you down through criticism to deflect attention away from their lack of achievement.
Joseph Addison said, “It is ridiculous for any man to criticize the works of another if he has not distinguished himself by his own performance.” When the critics come, keep climbing. Soon you’ll be out of their reach.
Crabs in your office are resentful. Not only will the crabs criticize you but they will be resentful of your success. The crab had rather you be miserable in the pot with him than to watch you climb out of the pot and succeed. It’s twisted in a way, but the crab had rather you stay down with him than climb out with you.
Robert A. Cook said, “Don’t resent the fact that people check on you; if you weren’t worth anything, they wouldn’t bother.” The crab is watching and checking. The crab wants to keep close tabs on you. Don’t worry about the crab, keep climbing.
Crabs in your office are angry. The further you move away from the crab the angrier he becomes. Your climb out of the basket is the very thing he despises. But your focus must remain steadfast. Sure, no one likes to be in the pressure cooker, especially in these economic times. You have to understand, your climb out of the basket is the focus of anger for the crabs in your office, but not the root of it.
Someone once said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it’s stored than to anything on which it is poured.” That’s so true. Don’t worry about the anger of the crab, nor take it personal, just keep climbing.
Crabs in your office are baggage. They are the ones that attempt to keep you as well as others in the office from succeeding. When others are working, climbing, and making their way to the top, they are the bottom feeders.
I remember a saying from many years back, “What you tolerate, you promote.” You don’t always have a say about which crabs are in the basket with you, but there comes a time when a crab has to be cooked.
A good leader realizes that some will rise to the occasion no matter what. Some crabs will boil in the pressure and try to pull others down to their level. Peter Drucker said, “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of person’s performance to a higher standard.”
Remember, crabs are critics, resentful, angry, and baggage. Therefore, your climb to the top may be lonely at times, but the payoff will be worth it all.