Do You Work With A Mushroom?

Advice from a mushroom -
Be down to earth
Keep a low profile
Know when to show up
Start from the ground up
Be a fun guy! -

My son has been digging for gold the past two weeks spending time in the woods searching for treasure and dragging his older brother along. We are fortunate to have acreage and there are rumors that there is treasure on the land going way back to the Indians. Sadly, the gold he is looking for is mushrooms! Morel mushrooms to be exact. Now, as a non-mushroom eater I just don’t get it. To me eating a mushroom is a little bit like eating a worm.

I never knew that Morel mushrooms are such a hot commodity. People search for them as if they are truly gold. They spend hours just to find a handful of pitted looking little creatures. Once enthusiasts find some Morels they keep the location secret and protect it with their life so that they can go back the next year. My boys trudged into the wet woods creeping around decaying trees and looking under debris for mushrooms. Their find was a handful of mushrooms which they promptly decided to dehydrate to eat later. I decided it was time to see what is so special about an unsightly mushroom.

We have shady woods, spring moisture, and a lot of decaying trees. I discovered that Morels often grow near particular trees such as Sycamore, Hickory, Ash, and Elm. In the Mid-West they pop up in the late spring seemingly overnight and love warmer air, wet soil, and they are heavily dependent on the right weather conditions. These ugly little buggers are indeed a fungus and spread by spores. In fact, my son collected his in a mesh bad so that as he walked the spores could still be released to grow future generations. Morels are such a find because they cannot be commercially grown. Only Mother Nature can successfully grow them and hence, gold! Morel Mushrooms

Surprisingly mushrooms are very interesting, um, plants. They are indeed fungi and can only reproduce by spores – trillions of them. They are simple looking with just a stem and cap however, they are actually rather self-sufficient. They aren’t greedy about needing sunlight like other plants and thrive in the deep shade or dark. They only ask for moisture and love rainy days. In fact, mushrooms are made up of about 90% water. As ugly as they are, mushrooms have a ton of vitamins and they even have their own specialized immune system. Mushrooms love dead stuff and they spring quickly from decomposing matter. You could almost think of them as plant zombies rising from underground.  Not all mushrooms are ugly little fungi; some have beautiful coloration, glow in the dark, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. I was surprised how firm and strong the Morel mushroom felt when I had the courage to handle one. Mushroom facts

After my own mushroom information hunt I will admit that I have a better appreciation for mushrooms. They are rather fascinating and I can see why looking for Morel mushrooms is a quest because of how scarce they are. My boys came back from the woods with about 20 Morels and you would think that they found gold coins. As I examined a fat Morel in my palm I smiled as I thought about a coworker that I worked with early on in my banking days.  Mary was a stout woman and was referred to as “the mushroom”. She liked to rule the office and didn’t realize just how the “spores” she threw out impacted everyone around her.

“If you treat your employees like mushrooms (keep them in the dark and regularly throw crap on them) it’s entirely likely that you will get precisely the work you deserve in return” – Seth Godin

I have had the pleasure of working with several different organizations and have been blessed with so many learning opportunities and experiences. Conversely, I have met some interesting and even toxic characters along the way. Whereas the Morel mushroom is a treasure, some of the “mushrooms” that you may have worked belong in the dark and hidden out of reach!

How to identify a mushroom in your midst

·         The shroom in the cubicle near you enjoys keeping everyone in the dark. No genuine team player here. This person is sneaky and navigates underground and behind the scenes to get her way.
·         Surprising, most of the mushroom is actually below the ground. The roots are deep and go unnoticed. Watch out for those with hidden “roots”. They have their own agenda.
·         Morels know that they are rare, the best, and a catch. Sadly, a Morel in the cube has the same thoughts.
·         Know someone who hoards information and keeps people out of his territory? He thrives on power and hides data under things.
·         Mushrooms thrive off the debris of others. Every office has that one person who loves to see others take the blame or relishes in the mistakes or failures of others. It gives them power.
·         Morels love moisture and it feeds their growth. Your tears and misery are food and give strength to the office mushroom.
·         Some mushrooms are toxic – literally. They are poisonous for others to be around and their bad attitude spits out like trillions of tiny spores. Stay clear!
·         Your office mushroom is always hard to find. No one is ever sure where she went or what she is doing and a search finds nothing.
·         Many mushrooms smell - your adversary smells of trouble. Walk away quickly!
·         Mushrooms like Morels grow quickly given the right environment. Your old buddy the mushroom grows big and ugly overnight. He rises out of nowhere with a clear purpose.

Hopefully you work in a bright and positive environment that fosters growth and team cohesiveness. It wouldn’t hurt every now and then to open your eyes and go on a slow walk around to see if there are any “mushrooms” thriving in your midst that could drag you under into the dark…….