Friday Fable. Lubans’ “The Snake and the Egg.”

Posted by jlubans on August 30, 2013

Caption: Before the Fall.
Not long ago I got to care for a large horse, two outside cats, two chickens, one super Dog and assorted plantings and flowers. All went swimmingly until a serpent slithered into my Idyll. One of my chores was to feed and water the chickens. The chickens were in a portable, fenced-in coop. When I was done feeding and watering, I’d open the side door and pull out a freshly laid egg. A well-balanced free market, one could say. For their eggs the chickens got shelter, food and water and avoided the stew pot (and the passing fox or stray dog). And, in compensation, the farmer got the occasional egg or two for his breakfast.
Two days after I got to the farm, the egg production stopped; I concluded labor unrest about the new management - me. However, I did notice some stray feathers on the turf, apparent signs of a struggle, but the chickens were still there, uninjured and eating with gusto and relish the feed and vegetable scraps I gave them. So, I figured it was a critter, a snake likely, picking up some easy eating.
I never did see the perp, but I was told later that the culprit was a long, shiny, black snake.

And so it can be in the world of work. The “snake” – I know my bandying about the term is unfair to real snakes, a wrongly-maligned species - is anyone who steals another’s person’s work for personal, unearned gain. Plagiarism’s the word. I recall a story I wrote reappeared with a few changes as someone else’s work, now for sale at a term paper mill. Or, similarly, some idea I have shared freely is then picked up by someone and used without attribution. Use it to your heart’s content, but do mention the source! It's simple courtesy as your mother will tell you.
Likewise, there’s the leader who takes credit and fails to acknowledge the people actually doing the work. This boss never praises the person who thought up the great idea, who pulled off the impossible, who got the big job done. This organization has a single face – that of the boss, and you had better not forget it! Even worse on the corporate envy scale, is the boss who hates to hear public or private praise about the good work of a subordinate. One colleague particularly got a rise out of observing his boss when a visiting Pooh-Bah praised a subordinate in the jealous boss’ presence. My colleague detected from the boss’ expression a mental note-making to punish the person being praised; that there was soon going to be a getting-even moment. This same boss was, my colleague claimed, all about teamwork. Not exactly how most of us would understand it. He was all about anonymous teamwork for which he would then take full credit. Of course, if the team “failed” then individual team members would be singled out for punishment.

You want to know what happened to the snake? Let’s just say egg production is back to former highs and the snake is now slinking around more ethereal pastures than heretofore; a solution not generally open to us in the workplace, at least not in most!

Leading from the Middle Library of the Week
: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Copyright 2013 John Lubans

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