The wisdom of bees and modern employment

I recently wrote this post about capturing a swarm of bees. Bees are fascinating creatures, and can offer insights into our own behavior and perhaps even teach us a thing or two–such as employment in today’s world.

A swarm is an event during which the old queen and half of the hive’s (mostly older) bees take off, leaving the new queen and half of the hive’s (mostly younger) bees behind. Late Spring is usually peak swarming time, after the hive has had a chance to reawaken from its Winter hibernation, rear new worker bees, and start to build up some early honey stores. Before they can swarm, the hive needs to create a new queen. This is a mutual decision between the workers (who must build the special queen cells used to grow a new queen), and the existing queen (who must agree to deposit an egg into each queen cell).

It takes the energy from approximately 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of wax, from which the brood and honey combs are made, so it doesn’t take much imagination to understand the investment that bees make to create a hive, and as a consequence, the selfless gift the old queen and her kin are leaving for those bees that remain behind and the leap of faith the swarm takes when it ventures out. This led me to think about the nature of employment.

For most of us, the degree of selflessness exhibited by bees is impossible to achieve–and not even desirable in most business contexts. But we can and must foster in those under our care a healthy willingness to explore and move on. With respect to the latter, the best I’ve managed is to be open and honest about what opportunities I think the company can and can’t provide to an employee going forward in relation to an individual’s particular talents and aspirations. In addition, I make it very clear that I would never stand in the way of a team member’s ambitions, and that I would gladly act as a reference even if they are leaving my team.

There are lots of ways to foster better risk-taking, including education, communication, motivation and reward, as well as an ability and willingness to tolerate the inevitable failures.


About jeffmershon

Director of Program Management at SiriusXM.
This entry was posted in Management. Bookmark the permalink.

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