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Avoid toxic work culture if led by animals or bugs?

A toxic work culture costs you money.

Employees are leaving at an alarming rate; especially millennials, who are the largest working group. When new hires come in to replace leaving ones, they leave you on deficit as just after a few months, they quit too.

Employee turnover impacts negatively your productivity, efficiency, and profits.

You can retain top talent with small tweaks to your culture, through your leaders.

A natural way of impacting your team and eradicating toxicity is to identify it and apply millennial knowledge, the one surviving several millions of years of evolution: leadership lessons from social animals and insects.

Can you imagine the difference at work if led by the principles of an alpha primate, a king of the jungle, a queen bee or a wise old owl?

Toxic companies

Your teams need a workforce to succeed.

You’re losing high-performing persons and top talent. 

The intermittent exit of your talent force costs you a lot; depending on your operations you will start seeing results only after spending 9x the monthly salary up to 24x (yes, that’s 2 years).

What keeps this loop?

  • According to a survey in the US, 60% of employees have left their jobs, or are considering leaving because of bad bosses

  • In 2018, 21% of millennials left their jobs according to Harvard Business Review; most because of culture or mental health

  • Mexico is considered one of the countries with the most work stress: UNAM said last year over 85% of companies are toxic, even leading employees’ physical and psychological problems

Toxic companies and a bad work culture usually start from the top.

As a leader, you can ignore, encourage or stop any form of culture within your teams; do your best to keep it positive.

There are several ways to recognize work toxicity, although the best is to focus on the solution (next section). 

How to identify work toxicity? 

Pay attention to signs like disrespect, gossiping, blaming others, micromanagement, dishonesty, employee turnover, lack of support, poor communication, etc.

Focus on solving and getting rid of your toxic culture, benefit from the immense value of your team to improve your efficiency and profits.

Your business needs a structure and you need leaders. The way you lead is what makes the difference.

Solution: 5 leadership lessons from the animal kingdom

Social animals live in societies, and societies need rules to guarantee order. When you have rules, you need to have leaders to implement them. Let’s note that leaders have willing followers; not out of fear. 

As humans, we sometimes forget we are part of a greater whole; and there is knowledge everywhere we look if we learn to look. Ever-growing cities are impeding us from a real connection with nature and with its inherent knowledge. Asides from admiring a landscape the next time you go out, take some time to pay attention and learn.

You, leader, can apply these 5 lessons, as learned from the leadership styles of animals and insects (yes, you may even think twice the next time you want to crush a bug).

1. Identify your teams’ expertise and show it

The approach each person takes is different, although the results can be as positive. 

Some people are good and respectful followers but are ready to jump into action the minute they are needed. For example, elephants and some whales are led by a matriarch, usually the oldest in the herd because they rely on their expertise for survival. Living in the wild is more dangerous than working at the office, so this expertise is quickly acquired by others. How often do you identify which future leaders are ready to take action or more responsibility?

Also, take an owl, whose insight, vision and wisdom shine in the darkness of the night. Remember an owl approach is the opposite of “speed” falcons. Owls are cautionary, they take their time, look at risk and wait for adequate timing. Are you able to spot these talents and show them during daylight?

[Owls in Yucatan are seen close to caves or deep in the jungle. Mexico is home to a large part of the world’s biodiversity. Do you know what percentage… or did you know that Yucatan hosts over 50% of Mexico’s bird species? including owls, falcons, flamingos, etc.]

2. Establish collaboration and alliances

Define clearly what you need to move forward and set a clear collaboration strategy. Be certain everyone knows what are they aiming to achieve, and leave always room for each to print their style. 

Alliances and collaboration are key for several species. Great leaders build amazing communities. 

It’s important to note this is the common factor for successful female leaders. So if you are a woman, make sure you build active and working collaborations or alliances.

For example, hyenas, bonobos, elephants, and orca whales are led by females. They all have strong alliances among them or with other groups to survive or maintain leadership. Female hyena leadership is important during clan wars, when groups battle, or defusing conflict within clans.

Has this strategy been key in your leading style?

3. Serve and work hard

Remember leadership doesn’t mean dominance. Animal leaders serve their teams to ensure future survival. 

Lead by example, this trait can be seen in queen bees, alpha primates, matriarchs, etc. 

Your example should include hard work, as only working hard will bring great results over time. And it will prepare you for the ups and downs. 

Even when the sun shines keep producing; just as bees, ants, and many other animals who know there may be leaner times around the corner. You can find references to this lesson from the animal kingdom even in fables like the cicada one, made popular by Jean de La Fontaine.

Make sure you value and praise effort. An effort is the first step to learn, become efficient at work, and to achieve success. 

(Find here a different example of hard work and the art of success. Get here some inspiration from The Beatles)

4. Rely on diversity for better teamwork

The world and its biodiversity are full of colors. And remember no size fits all. Pay close attention to the differences, value them and benefit from each color shade.

Have you seen ants’ paths? their paths follow complicated patterns, and still, they rarely go out of track. Also, ants can carry over 10x their own weight, and still, they rely on their collaboration roles to fulfill tasks successfully. For example, when they carry large insects there are groups of supporting ants along the way ready to take over. When they find death ants along the way, there are others responsible for bringing them back. Have you set your support network?

Learn from each style and role. Bees, as they mature, work different jobs in the hive prior to being food gatherers. This means they all know how to perform a whole range of jobs; in an emergency, they can assist reverting to former occupations. This diversity is key for survival, empathy, innovation, flexibility, and adaptability.

[Yucatan is known for the melipona bee; which by itself has several subspecies. They’re distinctive because they’re stingless bees and the many benefits from its honey, due to the fact that most of their gatherings are made from medicinal plants’ flowers. Also, melipona bees build their homes inside trunks.]

5. Dare to set high goals

No matter how big or small our goal or obstacle, we are able to accomplish what we put our mind to. Remember the massive weight an ant can carry? Do you think dogs’ and cats’ vision is diminished or that they are color-blind? Do you believe bats can’t see?

Or have you heard the popular misconception that bees or bumblebees can’t fly? This belief grew only because of scientists’ aviation theory; however, there are multiple ways of achieving something, like a flight. And as said in point 1, expertise and skills vary across species and individuals. The good news for you is that if you set a high goal for you and your team, you will eventually come up with the how.

To achieve this, setting the goal and communicating it effectively is key. Make it easy, memorable and shareable (read more about Communication tips here).

[Bats in Yucatan inhabit in caves (many times in cenotes as well, just as swallows or tho birds). Did you know there is a “Bat volcano” in the peninsula where literally millions leave at sunset to immerse in the jungle for food?]


Statistically, you could easily be 1 of the several people working at a toxic team or company.   

This causes stress, physical or psychological problems, and costs organizations several billions of dollars a year, due to inefficiency or employee turnover.

Retain top talent and foster a productive work environment through leadership.

Humans can learn leadership from life in the wild.

5 key takeaways for you to remember, from the animal kingdom are:

  1. As elephants, owls or falcons - rely on your expertise, develop others and show it

  2. As hyenas or bonobos -  establish your support network - especially useful for women

  3. Animal leaders serve their teams: lead by example, work hard and praise effort

  4. Get teamwork done through roles; and like bees, learn, practice and rotate

  5. Set high goals - as bumblebees or ants

Nature is full of lessons if you learn to observe. Explore with your group and bond, or encourage people to achieve goals through recognition or reward. Get here some ideas, we help you. 

Take action

The animal kingdom holds many life surprises and secrets waiting for you to uncover them; from butterflies metamorphosis, birds migration knowledge, jaguars survival, bats vision, or insect collaboration. When you are open and perceptive, you learn a lot. Let yourself feel this connection and spirituality leading you to professional growth.

Give yourself 1 day to relax in nature and receive these concepts through activities to strengthen your leadership and communication. We help you, let’s talk.

When you want a deep understanding, take a break for 3 days up to a couple of weeks. We’ll make you reconnect with yourself, and your surroundings. Contact us.

[Enjoy nature, share and live your own metamorphosis. Contact us to help you.]

7NEWS. (2019, September 17). What wild animals can teach you about leadership. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from
BioBees. (2013, October). The top five lessons team leaders can learn from bees. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from
Fox, A. (2018, April 11). Drive Turnover Down. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from
Jules, A. (2019, October). Toxic work culture is forcing top talent to head to the exit. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from
Maughan, K. G. V. B. M. (2019, October 7). Research: People Want Their Employers to Talk About Mental Health. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from
Ogden, L. E. (2018, September 26). What animals tell us about female leadership. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from
Randstad. (2018, August). Your best employees are leaving. but is it personal or practical? Retrieved November 7, 2019, from
Steinberg, J. (2014, November 9). The day I learnt about leadership from bugs. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from UNAM. (2018, April). México, entre los países con mayor estrés laboral. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from

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