This story appeared in the August 22, 1951 edition of the Spokane Spokesman-Review:
“The body of one of the guests of last night’s city council meeting was on the table in front of the councilmen. He was a large sewer rat brought to the council chambers by Charles Vogelsong, in whose toilet bowl he was found and killed. Placing the dead rat on the table, Vogelsong stated, ‘This is the fourth to be found in my building. After we saw him, we tried lye, and that killed him. I think something should be done about the situation, and done now.’ It was estimated that it would take only $100 to rid the sewer lines of rats. That is a small figure.”
Organizations are full of significant problems that can be easily eradicated. All you have to do is empower your employees to sling the dead rats onto your desk publicly. After you thank people for their straightforwardness in addressing a problem, give them the resources to kill the remaining rats and dispose of the carcasses quickly.
Don’t ignore the dead rats in your organization. Everyone knows they are there; the customer that pays their bill late every month, the person that brings results but mistreats everyone along the way, policies that are followed blindly so as to CYA but that add costs, the team member that is habitually late, etc.
Spend zero time blaming people for the dead rats that are floating around. More importantly, put your time and energy into publicly and blamelessly eradicating them. Do that and you’ll see people get excited about their workplace. Everyone likes to eradicate rats, after all.