Friday Fable. Aesop’s “THE DOG-CATCHER AND THE DOG”*

Posted by jlubans on January 25, 2013

“A man saw a dog walking by and threw him some bits of food. The dog then said to the man, 'O man, keep away from me! All your well-wishing warns me to be even more on my guard.'

This fable shows that people who offer to give someone many gifts are no doubt trying to deceive him.”**

Caption: Mark Twain's stove-top cat.
The appended moral is largely common sense. Certainly, if a stranger stops his car and offers a young child candy, the child should say “No, thank you!” and scramble home to Ma and Pa.
However, morals tend to be absolute, kind of like Mark Twain’s cat. The cat sat on a hot stove-lid and got burned. “She will never sit on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but she’ll never sit down on a cold one any more.”
I’ve encountered some of that in the workplace. I was a newly appointed manager, following on the heels of a departed micromanager. Things were not in good shape, so one of my first actions was to talk with staff and elicit their ideas. That’s just the way I work; staff know what we need to do to get better. So, I asked. Some, like the dog in the fable, and the once-burned cat, clammed up, never volunteering ideas or suggestions. Apparently, their ideas had been repeatedly rejected – even ridiculed – by the former micromanager. A few of the staff gave me the benefit of the doubt, and more than a few ideas. A mutual respect and trust soon blossomed; they saw I applied the suggestion or told them to act on it. We improved, mightily.

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
**Translator’s Note: “The man in this fable is called a 'hunter' (or perhaps a 'thief,' as one editor has conjectured); he appears to be a kind of 'dog thief' or 'dog catcher.' In another version of the story the man is a thief throwing food to a watchdog.”

PS. Speaking of Mark Twain with whom I share a fondness for San Francisco, you can find a copy of Leading from the Middle nearby.

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