“Passing the Monkey” – A Problem-Solving Spread

We have all been in situations that make us squirm uncomfortably, wishing with all our heart that we could “get off the hot seat” or “out from under the microscope.” I was just reading some commentary about an old Harvard Business Review book titled Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? by William Oncken and Donald L. Weiss, in which the authors observe that employees can be devilishly clever and creative in shifting their responsibilities onto the boss’s back by dumping a problem on him or her and then walking away to wait for an answer. Being a self-styled “problem-solver,” the boss automatically picks up the load (the “monkey-on-the-back”) and runs with it, crowding legitimate supervisory duties into the background. In these scenarios, the boss winds up with too little time and the employees with too little work (not that they necessarily mind once they learn to play the game of “pass-the-monkey”).

I’ve been tossing around ways to turn the “getting off the hot seat” paradigm into an effective tarot spread. It has to be one that admits to multiple possibilities and not just offers a one-note “slam-dunk” solution; “shades of gray” are all too common when we’re trying to get ourselves out of a tight spot since our salvation may be someone else’s damnation, and we don’t want our monkey to become their on-board 800-pound gorilla (or do we?). I’ve created spreads like this before; I call them “alternate outcome” spreads that often follow Frank R. Stockton’s “Lady or the Tiger?” conundrum.

Alternate Realities: The Lady or the Tiger

The idea here is that we may be tempted to take one of several avenues of escape:
1) “take the bull by the horns” and proactively fix the problem ourselves (“Fix It”);
2) run and hide (or more discreetly, lay low and keep our head down), hoping nobody finds us until it all blows over (“Dodge It”);
3) do nothing but admit our guilt and take our lumps (“Own It”);
4) protest loudly and finger-point vigorously, flinging the dirt about until some or all of it sticks to someone else (“Shift It”); or
5) put on our “Machiavelli cap” and quietly plant seeds of doubt that muddy the water enough for someone else to adopt the monkey out of sheer frustration (“Sleaze It”).

The main challenge was to come up with a convincing way create the “forks in the road” that lead to the preferred solution (or its approximation) in one of the five “Monkey ” cards. This will require two tarot decks: one to populate the “Presumed Nature and Severity of the Problem” line of four cards as well as the “Monkeys” column (proposed solutions), and another from which to derive the five “Mount” (aka “Boss’s Back”) cards that will align with the “Monkeys.” The “Problem” line should be read as a four-part story and not as a timeline; it might show that the situation isn’t as bad as the querent supposed, or that it could be worse. No outcome should be sought at this point since it is just laying the situational “groundwork” for the narrative. The “Mount” card will identify which “Monkey” offers the best option for handling the problem, and they are to be read as a pair for insight into how the solution should be approached.

With that working model in mind, here is what I came up with. An example reading will follow tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s