Metaphors Gone Wild: Bells and Employee Satisfaction

By Marlene Caroselli


The term “bellwether” dates back to the year of the Norman Conquest, 1066. A “weather” is a castrated ram, used to lead flocks of sheep. The bell around its neck helped it lead the other animals. Today, the term is used to indicate emerging trends. For employers, survey information will provide information about raising employee satisfaction levels.

The metaphoric bell, ideally, will not set off alarms. If it does, be grateful–you’d rather know about potential dangers than not know. Typically, though, the bellwether sound will help guide you into improvements that will benefit the organization, the employees, and even the customers who sustain you. As Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, affirms: “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

Taking the metaphoric pulse of the corporate body need not be difficult or expensive. A simple Agree/Disagree set of questions can be emailed to the workforce and then the results compiled. Some of the statements on that survey might include:

I am encouraged to do the very best work of which I am capable.
Employees are considered the company’s most valuable resource.
We are encouraged to take reasonable risks.
There are incentives in place for recognizing those who provide good service to our
There are regular meetings at which employees can share ideas for improving the
way we do business.
I am proud to be associated with this company.
Management has shown concern for employee morale.
I can point to ways the workplace has improved since I was hired.
Communications here are honest and direct.
I am willing to go above and beyond what my job calls for.
Management cares about the way employees feel.

The results can be analyzed by management alone, or by a team of management and frontline workers. Among other things, broad patterns should be noted. So should plans for ways to improve upon workplace conditions. Following analysis, management can determine how best to share the results.

In addition to the actual survey, supervisors can meet with small groups to ask questions such as these:

What three adjectives best describe the way you work?
What three adjectives would your immediate boss use to describe your work?
How would you describe the ideal work environment?
What would enable us to move closer to that ideal?

Supervisors can subsequently meet and prepare a collective report. Or, a given supervisor could assess what he or she has learned from the meeting and then report back to his or her direct reports.

Despite the common believe that knowledge is power, it’s not. If it were, librarians would rule the world. The power comes from taking the knowledge and using it appropriately. e best managers will take the survey information and apply it in the form of improved policies, procedures, and practices.

Oscar Hammerstein maintained that “a bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it.” Workplace bells can be rung by surveys or simple observation. But if you ignore what bellwethers are telling you, you may not be turning off the alarms that are sounding possible disaster.



Dr. Marlene Caroselli is an author, keynoter, and corporate trainer whose clients include Lockheed Martin, Allied Signal, Department of the Interior, and Navy SEALS. She writes extensively about education, business, self-improvement, and careers and has adjuncted at UCLA and National University. Her first book, The Language of Leadership, was named a main selection by the Executive Book Club. Principled Persuasion, a more recent title, was designated a Director’s Choice by the Doubleday Book Club. Applying Mr. Albert: 365+ Einstein-Inspired Brain Boosts, her 62nd book, will be released by HRD Press in 2018.


Categories: Opinion


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