Another Hindu Fable: THE SERVANT WHO LOOKED AFTER A DOOR*

Posted by jlubans on August 15, 2019

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Caption: Two doors, one gone.

A CERTAIN merchant said one day to his Servant, "I am obliged to go home for a short time. Take good care of the Door of my shop until I come back."
Having said this the merchant went his way, and the Servant, removing the shop Door placed it on his shoulder and went off to see some actors who were performing nearby.
Later, as the Servant was returning, his master met him and scolded him roundly.
But the Servant answered, "What have I done amiss? I have taken the best of care of this shop Door, just as you told me to."

It is folly to heed only the words of an order, without trying to understand its meaning.
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Language, whether written or spoken, has its limits.
The servant literally took good care of the door, never letting it out of his sight.
Doing so, he left the shop open to plunder. How much leeway to give the servant? The shop steward for the servants union, I assure you, would blame the shopkeeper for his lack of clarity. The steward might add, it is not only for the audience to understand; it is also the speaker to be clear as to what is desired.
Of course, the shop owner would see it just the opposite; he was speaking figuratively and no reasonable person would remove the door leaving the shop open.
Is the servant being spitefully disingenuous or simply guile-less and a bit thick? If the latter, what did the owner expect?
If the former, youve got a personnel problem.
I recall spending hours drafting policy. Looking back, I have to admit it was not worth the effort.
Finding the mot juste, the precise word, made little difference. If the staff supported the policy it worked well.
If they were agin it, then no matter how well worded, theyd find ways to circumvent.
A verbal command with a back and forth - would have been better. Too late for me, but the reader might think about how she might do a better job of keeping an eye on the shop Door.

*Source: Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (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, my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

Fables for Leaders Library of the Week: University of Puget Sound Collins Library where Béatrice Coron, colleague and inestimable illustrator of Fables for Leaders just concluded a lecture today, August 22, 19: "From Book Shelves to Cat Walk: Wearable Papercuts and Artists Books."

Copyright John Lubans 2019

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