I’d like to preface this blog post by affirming that no employee is too small. From the CEO to the office assistant, every worker serves a purpose. Just because an employee plays a smaller role doesn’t mean their work can’t achieve the biggest impact possible. In popular culture, we look for practical examples to support such a model. In this case, it’s fantasy literature’s smallest creatures: the Hobbits of JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
The hierarchy in Middle-earth, when broken down by the unique races of people and applied to the corporate environment, looks a little something like this:
At the top are the Elves, the CEOs. They hold the most power. They’re ancient and wise, and they’ve been in the business longer than anyone. Sometimes it seems like they pull the strings, and are four steps ahead of the competition, but they keep their respective river and forest homes peaceful and safe. Like business owners and CEOs, they run the show, and even if they’re not always liked, they are widely respected.
Dwarves are mountain dwellers. They’re drawn deep underground, because they have an unyielding thirst for gold and treasure. Remember that time 13 dwarves opted to fight a dragon for ownership of their kingdom and their treasure? Dwarves don’t mess around, so in the world of business, they’re the financial advisors, the payroll managers, the penny pinchers, and the big spenders.
The race of Men are the backbone of the workplace, as they are in Middle-earth. From the great and powerfully immortal Dunedain to the Men of Gondor all the way to the fishing peoples of Laketown, they’re the ones on the ground trading goods, news, and spreading secrets across the land. They’re loyal to their kings and leaders, so assigning a task to any from the race of Men means it’s going to get done at any cost.
Finally, there are the Hobbits. Measurably, the smallest creatures in Middle-earth (they rarely reach 4 feet in height) are not the least important, not by a long shot. Hobbits, not unlike the less noticeable rungs of employees, exist unto themselves. They mind their own business. They’re generally well-thought-of, when they’re thought of at all. They till their fields and act accordingly in their roles day after day, sometimes thanklessly, but nonetheless with pride. Then they return to their Hobbit holes and families, where they remain largely unaffected by the world of the Big Folk (Elves, Men, even Dwarves are Big Folk to the little Halflings). They share a love of food and good company but dislike change, so “disturbers of the peace” be warned. To sum up, they never have any adventures or do anything unexpected. No admittance, except on party business.
As the employer of such Hobbit-like people, that’s probably best for you, since you require skilled workers, who consistently get the job done. But Hobbits and the like are not the kind of people you should just write off. There are plenty of famous Hobbits, who have gone far above the call of duty for the sake of a greater good. The ancient Fallohide hobbits, Marcho and Blanco, traveled west from Bree to settle what is now the Shire. Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took used his unnatural 4’5” height to ride a horse, lead the only defense ever fought within the Shire, and create the sport of golf. Further down the line, the Bagginses (with the assistance of one invaluable Samwise Gamgee) forever altered the course of all of Middle-earth through the rediscovery and destruction of the One Ring.
The point is, discounting the smallest of workers is a potential detriment to the entire operation. More than the Elves, Dwarves, and Men, at the end of the day, it’s the Hobbits who just might be the ones to welcome a new Age for your business.