Friday Fable. Aesop’s “THE OLD DOG AND HIS MASTER”*

Posted by jlubans on October 11, 2013

Caption: “The Old Hound” taken to task. By Francis Barlow in his 
Aesop's Fables…. 
London: 1666.
“There was a dog who had been swift and strong when attacking all kinds of wild beasts, never failing to do what his master wanted, but now he found himself beginning to grow feeble under the burden of old age. On one occasion he was sent forward to fight with a bristling boar. The dog seized the boar by the ear, but the weak grip of his decaying teeth allowed the quarry to get away. The hunter was angry and scolded the dog. The stalwart old hound said to the man in reply, 'I did not fail you in spirit, only in strength. Praise me for what I once was, even if you must condemn me for what I am now!’....”

And, so it can be in the workplace for the plateued manager, especially for someone who has been bold and innovative and a help in transforming an organization – in other words, a worker who has contributed a great deal to the organization’s well being.
A bad boss might suffer, like the hunter in the picture, from the “recency error”. That’s the tendency for minor recent events – like the manager’s doldrums - to have more influence on one’s perspective than the many positive events in a long career. It may well be time to have that “difficult conversation” with the manager. By difficult, I don’t mean, “Sorry, old timer, we don’t need you anymore. You’re gone!” That’s the cowardly way out for a petty boss.
By difficult conversation I mean spending a few hours listening and talking in private about options and ambitions. What is the formerly innovative manager seeking? What’s causing the doldrums? What’s hindering her performance? How might her skills be put to good use in other ways? What can the organization offer with a dignity commensurate with the worker’s commitment to the organization?

The angry hunter should lay down his stick and think about the dog’s many good qualities. Perhaps it is time for the hunting dog to become an unchained watchdog, training, by example, the new pups.

*Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.

Leading from the Middle Library of the Week: Higher Colleges of Technology – UAE
If your library does not have a copy, recommend it today. Click here.

Copyright John Lubans 2013

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