Team Dynamics between Cat and Dog

Team Dynamics: Is your new employee a fit?

picture of Oliver resting peacefully

With our foster dog gone, Oliver is able to return to some of his favorite spots for napping without concern of interruption!

When things don’t work out the way you planned, it’s easy to think you failed. Our tendency is to stick with a plan, even when serious flags are evident, because we think we can make the team dynamics work or even worse—that we can get someone to change their ways (instead of honoring that person’s needs and adjusting the environment instead).

So was the situation with our adorable foster dog, Mickey. He was acclimating beautifully to our home and we were all enjoying the arrangement — EXCEPT for the cats.

Poor Oliver and Dodger were constantly tip-toeing through the house, nervous for any sighting of the Jack Russell terrier that would descend on them in a crazed flurry. My husband and I could never get a true handle on Mickey’s intentions, but we believed he was merely curious. However, he was clearly much more aggressive than our cats understood or appreciated.

Not an easy decision to make

It was not an easy decision, but we felt it in the best interests of everyone if Mickey could be relocated to a new foster home without cats. This week, we made that move happen. Oh, the cats were immediately relieved. But for me, I had to go through stages of rationalization in order to feel okay with the change.

Could I have done something differently? Should I have worked harder at the transition? I know that changes in team dynamics don’t happen overnight. Maybe I should have stuck with it longer? These nagging questions needed to be answered in order for me to process our next move.

This exact scenario repeats itself in workplaces. Managers are loath to terminate a new employee — and that’s exactly how it should be. No one should find that activity enjoyable or desirable. However, sometimes it is the right thing to do, for all involved.

Signs to help you decide

Managers shouldn’t expect perfection in the early days of a new employee. It usually takes some work to align a person with a new position and culture. The key factor in deciding when and if to abort your current plan is whether progress — however small — is being made towards your end goal.

In this case, Mickey’s intensity around the cats was growing at a fast pace. With each instance of seeing the cats, he tried harder to chase and it took longer to get him out of his heightened state of frenzy. It was not headed in the right direction. This was getting harder, despite our constant vigilance and efforts to support their co-existence.

Maybe a cat that would stand her ground with a 20-lb missile about to descend would have stopped Mickey in his tracks. It’s possible. But it was clear that was not an option for Oliver and Dodger. They hid or fled. And that’s the team we have. We respected the needs of the family members who were already in this house and felt it appropriate to work another plan for Mickey.

Better outcomes for all

Managers tell me they delay making these difficult choices because they are concerned about the person. Sometimes they downplay the impact on others (which is a mistake). But it could help to realize that the person most likely helped the most is the employee that has created the issue. In fact, it might not even be his fault.

Poor Mickey wasn’t doing anything wrong; just because he doesn’t aligned with the cats didn’t make him a bad dog. For the safety of all, he was either tethered to me or restricted to times in a crate. Without cats, he could wander freely if he wanted. Keeping him in this environment was not in his best interest.

Don’t let your ego prevent you from taking the right, but difficult, action. Trying to be a superhero and making everyone happy isn’t always a possibility. Instead, look for objective signs that all parties are able to be themselves while co-existing without constant intervention.

Take a look at the team dynamics in your workplace. You can unleash your team’s potential by ensuring everyone is in the right job and the best environment for their success. 


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