Lessing’s THE SHEEP AND THE SWALLOW*

Posted by jlubans on March 16, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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A SWALLOW alighted on the back of a Sheep, to pluck a little wool for her nest.
The Sheep, unwilling to lose any of his coat, tried to shake off the intruder.
"What makes you so unfriendly towards me?" asked the Swallow.
"You allow the Shepherd to shear you of your wool from head to foot; yet you grudge me the smallest bit of it.
Whatever is the reason?"
"The reason," replied the Sheep, "is that you lack the skill to take off my wool in the same easy manner that the Shepherd shears me."

__________
How one is fleeced matters. Ditto for the manner of being bilked, defrauded, diddled, fiddled, hustled, squeezed, and swindled.
If we feel unhappy being “done to” when flying economy, we feel much better in business class. The “done to” in shrink sized economy become “done for” in super-sized biz class.
When travelers are surveyed about flying guess who praises the experience? It ain’t economy class.
We are all subject to being shorned; how we feel about it and how we understand it comes down to how we are treated, how we are respected or not, how we are put on eternal hold (depicted) and/or forced to chat with robots.
Had the swallow asked before plucking, perhaps the sheep would have said, “My privilege” and kindly shared his wool.

*SOURCE: Lessing, Fables, Book III, No. 3. Translated by G. Moir Bussey.Excerpted From: Cooper, Frederic Taber, 1864-1937. “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land.” New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

Lessing’s SOLOMON'S GHOST*

Posted by jlubans on March 10, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1721 – 1789) Painting by Anna Rosina de Gasc (Lisiewska)

A VENERABLE old man, despite his years and the heat of the day, was ploughing his field with his own hand, and sowing the grain in the willing earth, in anticipation of the harvest it would produce.
Suddenly beneath the deep shadow of a spreading oak, a divine apparition stood before him!
The old man was seized with affright.
"I am Solomon," said the phantom encouragingly. "What dost thou here, old friend?"
"If thou art Solomon," said the owner of the field, "how canst thou ask?
In my youth I learnt from the ant to be industrious and to accumulate wealth.
That which I then learnt I now practise."
“Thou hast learnt but the half of thy lesson," pursued the spirit.
"Go once more to the ant, and she will teach thee to rest in the winter of thy existence, and enjoy what thou hast earned."

___________
While work is noble and fulfilling, there comes a time to knock off.
According to Solomon, there’s a time to “savor the flavor” of accomplishment and “enjoy what thou hast earned.”
For me, this is not only about taking a well-earned break or a vacation to a foreign clime but barring travel, simply sitting down and going over what you’ve done. Reflecting on the other “half of thy lesson”.
If you can stop and reflect, good on you.
If you cannot, make an appointment with yourself – yes, a real scheduled appointment: date, time and place - to think about what you are doing and why.
If you have a trusted friend, that person can help guide you. Do this out-of-doors – no phone or watch.
Questions for yourself:
What’s gone really well?
What are you avoiding?
Continue avoiding or stop procrastinating? If the latter, what’s the first step?
Or, getting back to the old farmer, is what we do, however exalted we might think it, really “Just a job”?
A friend used that deflating phrase when I groused about how we old-timers in the profession were soon forgotten, in some cases put out to pasture without recognition for a job well done.
Solomon doesn’t think so.
Maybe if we looked back on challenges and accomplishments on a regular basis we’d realize an inner contentment and not keep grinding away.

*SOURCE: Lessing, Fables, Book III, No. 3. Translated by G. Moir Bussey.Excerpted From: Cooper, Frederic Taber, 1864-1937. “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land.” New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.
As you might guess, there is/was a rock band called Solomon’s Ghost. They play(ed) metal out of Statesboro, Georgia, USA. Facebook offers a link to one of their albums, screeching and clashing with occasional jangled nerve soothing interludes.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

Griset’s INDUSTRY AND SLOTH*

Posted by jlubans on March 08, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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An indolent young man being asked why he lay in bed so long, jocosely and carelessly answered, "Every morning of my life I am hearing causes.
I have two fine damsels, their names are Industry and Sloth, at my bedside, as soon as ever I awake, pressing their different suits.
One entreats me to get up, the other persuades me to lie still; and then they alternately give me various reasons why I should rise, and why I should not.
This detains me so long, as it is the duty of an impartial judge to hear all that can be said on both sides, that before the pleadings are over it is time to go to dinner."

Many men waste the prime of their days in deliberating what they shall do, and bring them to a period without coming to any determination.

_____________

From well before the 1890s to the 1920s it was not unusual for a British gentleman, often classically educated, to not work.
Yet, he was hardly homeless.
If rusticated (kicked out) from Oxford or Cambridge, there were still those life-long friends from public school (like Eton or Dulwich College) to rely on.
He could be a dabbler at writing or painting, but nothing regimented or 9-5.
What permitted this life style?
A surplus of poor people looking for work and willing to work for little above room and board.
However, an enterprising valet or butler could do well, building a nest egg with tips from the young master's guests and graft from butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, and fish mongers and green grocers not to mention vintners.
It is said that a yearly allowance of 200 pounds sterling from the Governor – Dear Old Dad – could sustain in style the indolent youngster.
That 200 pounds is today the equivalent of well over 10,000 pounds .
The 200 pounds per year bought a pleasant apartment, a gentleman’s gentleman (think Jeeves) and membership in a men’s club.
Some gambled promiscuously and spent long, free, weekends at friends’ country estates, wearing bespoke clothing.
And, when so motivated, Reggie, Bertie, Ronnie or Alfie (or all four) could be found salivating at stage doors for the girls of the chorus to invite to dinner.
When in serious “trouble” Dad could be relied to fetch him out.
Paying one’s bills was another matter and much leeway was given by beleaguered tailors and restauranteurs.
With a little help from his friends the indolent could borrow money – a mutually reciprocating activity - until the next allowance installment.
As for the chorus girls, well, a quiet settlement for breach of promise could be had for a few hundred pounds from Dad.
Not infrequently, Dad could not stop the marriage and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to Reggie or Ronald or Bertie or Artie.
The ex-chorus girl took the poor sap in hand and guided him toward responsible behavior and on into the paths of righteousness.
Alas, this did result in un-employing the Jeeves.
But, as happens, the newly marrieds employed a butler and a few maids along with a cook.
Not long after World War I this type of living – apart from the Royalty – began to diminish.
All said and done, Griset's indolent young man did know enough to get up for dinner.

*Source: Aesop's fables by Aesop; Griset, Ernest Henry, 1844-1907
London ; New York : Cassell, Petter, and Galpin 1874

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

Jerks No More

Posted by jlubans on March 02, 2022  •  Leave comment (0)

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Jerks play big in my blog.
Here are several I’ve written:
“Fifty Shades of Jerkiness”
“Of Jerks, Bozos, Dorks, Fatheads, Nincompoops, Dunderheads, Twerps, Bamboozlers, Fakers, Hornswogglers, et al.
“’Bossholes’ and Other Dour Denizens”
“Telling-off the Jerk Boss: Bad Idea?”
“How Jerks Happen”
and finally an exploration of New Zealand’s “No Dickheads” rule in “Rugby in the Workplace”.
A friend and colleague – long retired - has been writing workplace vignettes on social media (SM). She writes, without giving names other than her own, about her experiences working with a jerk boss at an ultra-prestigious university.
Her boss displayed common jerkiness traits like vindictiveness and an erratic pettiness. While the boss no doubt could recite good leadership qualities such as fairness, awareness of self, developing and inspiring others, flexibility, and effective interpersonal communication, she practiced few, if any.
My friend’s SM posts are more than tragi-comic; they are instructive and invariably I come away admiring her courage and acuity of mind in speaking frankly to the boss, face to face.
My friend was unafraid to tell the boss when she was screwing up. Had her boss listened she’d have been a star performer instead of a petty tyrant.
I would call her boss a jerk. I know the word is not the kindest but it does capture for most of us someone who is unfair, petty and narcissistic toward others.
Today’s question:
Why do jerks get hired and stay hired? Some even survive into retirement and are often sent off with accolades.
I recall someone saying that when a bad leader leaves there’s no reason to spew negatives. Instead, like the song, “Thank God and Greyhound She’s Gone” leave it at that.
OK. How do jerks get hired?
First a clarification: Incompetent jerks tend not to move; it is simply too difficult for them to cultivate a support network. Often, they stay in place illustrating the Peter Principle of how organizations are reluctant to admit a hiring mistake, so instead they create face-saving ways to sideline the individual.
However, competent jerks do move.
In my experience jerks can come into a new job via a side door, an access point that limits their exposure to intensive review and analysis. Taking this route requires influential friends outside an organization who can bypass – in a closed system - the more public recruitment process.
Not that an open recruitment is any guarantee for flushing out the potential jerk.
I have had a candidate’s boss lie glowingly to me about a person’s capabilities; to such an extent that I began to question why would this boss want to give up such a paragon. Well, that was just it. They were lying to get rid of their bad apple.
Bosses who turn out to be jerks often have an inordinate ability to cultivate others – they are pre-eminent suck-upppers.
And, of course, in passive professions (most bureaucracies) standards may be low. Indeed a mediocre performer – no boat rockers, please! - might be valued over someone with a reputation for innovation and getting things done in spite of ruffling some traditionalist feathers.
My SM friend’s boss probably was well practiced at kissing up/kicking down. Had someone asked the jerk’s boss – far removed from this organization’s day-to-day operations – they’d get a largely one-sided recommendation. The more removed – but well cultivated by the subordinate jerk - the more favorably biased.
How to avoid hiring jerks.
A NYT’s article recommends asking interview questions like
“What aspect of yourself are you most proud of?”
Followed by “What aspect about yourself would you most like to change?”
The hard-core jerk is unlikely “to recognize (personal) failures and try to improve”.
The person you want to hire will have the capacity to admit failure and how he or she changed direction for the better.
And, the organization can codify and put into writing for all to see that jerky behavior is an organizational “no, no”. For example, New Zealand’s rugby team (mentioned above) has the No Dickheads Rule.
The NYT article suggests that the free pass days for jerk bosses may be running out. Driving this is the phenomenon termed the “Great Resignation” which suggests many people are leaving their fields of work for other interests.
Those fleeing the 9-5 treadmill may include some of your best people and it would be wise to listen to them on their way out.
Someone quitting for other challenges may not worry about burning bridges by giving a candid assessment of their supervisor.
If enough negatives accumulate for any one boss, maybe you – if you are the organizational leader – might want to probe some more.

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022