Paul Butler: Five types of co-workers

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

My wife and I recently went to watch the movie, “Christopher Robin,” based on A.A. Milne’s book, “Winnie-the-Pooh.” It’s a beautifully, winsome tale about a little boy and his fictional animal friends in an imaginary place called One Hundred Acre wood.

Five of Christopher’s friends are; Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Owl and Piglet. I must say it was very refreshing to watch a movie without profanity and blasphemy – to be entertained without the need to watch stuff being blown up or have people shooting each other.

Winnie-the-Pooh is the closest friend of little Christopher. One of the greatest attributes of Winnie is also his greatest downfall — he is completely in the present.

In fact he declares: “Today is my favorite day.” He likes to do nothing as “Nothing always leads to something.” There’s a beautiful scene toward the end of the movie when Christopher thinks he’s lost Winnie, only to remember he’s likely to be sitting on a tree log in a place Winnie called, “Somewhere, close by nowhere.”

Winnie’s view on life made me think of an article I’d read this past weekend about a study that had been done on mindfulness and meditation in the workplace.

The study found that although people who practiced these techniques were more likely to be “in the present,” they were less likely to think about future tasks and to plan ahead. Within the workplace we need people to be focused on the present; not constantly looking back over their shoulders at the past, but we also need employees, especially leaders, to be visionaries — thinking and planning ahead.

We consulted with a company once who were really big into workplace meditation and yoga classes during the working day. Nothing seemed to ever get done. Last I heard they purchased by another company somewhere and therefore no longer exist anywhere.

We’ve all worked with an Eeyore I’m sure. Worse still, others may see us in the workplace as an Eeyore.

If you’re not familiar with the story, Eeyore is a miserable, and downbeat donkey that lacks energy and looks at life through a negative lens. This person in the workplace can be very draining and needy.

Tigger is just a ball of energy. Within the workplace we need enthusiastic individuals but within reason.

Tigger bounces when he speaks and wears others out with his boundless energy but doesn’t seem to actually achieve much — do you know any work colleagues or bosses like this: lots of words, little action.

Mr. Owl is an interesting character. He doesn’t say much but when he does, it’s bordering on the profound … but not quite. This is emblematic of the seemingly wise person who will quote authors out of context; refer to a book but can’t recall who wrote it, or will recite a wise proverb which doesn’t sound quite correct. Mr. or Mrs. Owls in the workplace mean well but their theoretical sojourns can lack pragmatism — their ideas are rather like Winnie-the-Pooh’s red balloon but with no string attached to pull down to earth and actually apply.

Piglet is a worrier — whereas Pooh seems to be perpetually in the present, Piglet is fearful of the future — about what may or may not happen. Whereas we need people to be cautious in the workplace especially when it comes to health and safety and compliance-related matters, we can’t all be Piglets, else we’d get very little done.

So, a simple movie with profound workplace application: The heartbeat of the story is that as Christopher Robin grows up, he no longer goes back to One Hundred Acre wood. Likewise, as we mature as employees and grow in our career we need to ensure we’re not too much like Winnie-the-Pooh (always in the present) or Eeyore (too much in the past) or too much like Piglet (worrying about the future). We also need to bridle our energy to keep it focused, so we’re not an overbearing Tigger and when we do offer our nuggets of wisdom: make sure our suggestions are practical.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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