Aesop’s The Oxen and the Axle-Trees*

Posted by jlubans on August 20, 2022

Caption: Illustration by Fulvio Bianconi, 1946.

A HEAVY WAGON was being dragged along a country lane by a team of Oxen.
The axle-trees groaned and creaked terribly, when the oxen, turning round, thus addressed the wheels:
Hallo there!
Why do you make so much noise?
We bear all the labor, and we, not you, ought to cry out.
Moral: Those who suffer most, cry out the least.
Why is that? Is martyrdom preferable to getting your grievances taken care of?
If it is true that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, maybe the oxen need to heed that folksy saying.
Or is there virtue in suffering quietly?
In the workplace, my suffering in silence was unlikely to receive attention or help from any of my bosses.
Of course, you can over-do the martyr bit.
One department head with whom I met monthly would invariably list out all the bad things being done to her department. For her, our meeting was an opportunity to vent about seemingly insurmountable problems.
Not once did she comment on the good things done for her unit.
While I was annoyed - eventually to distraction by her belly-aching - I should have intervened early on but failed to do so.
I remember one of my bosses – Leo Cabell, a great guy - when I was an assistant director at the University of Colorado’s Norlin Library telling me: “Don’t bring problems to me without solutions.”
That was among the best advice I’ve been given by anyone and I should have shared it with my whining department head.
Well, time to go. Let’s trundle on down the road.
*SOURCE: Aesop's Fables: A New Revised Version From Original Sources” WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
AND OTHERS” New York : Frank F. Lovell & Company, c1884

Post Script:

A voice raised!
Unlike the frequent, often national, strikes in western Europe – think of work stoppages in Italy, France, UK - Latvians in the north rarely protest or strike.
They (we) are a bit like Aesop’s oxen.
My sculptor friend, Antons Rancāns, recently posted his wood sculpture from 2004 to promote teachers striking in Latvia; too long a time suffering in silence.
Here is his caption along with a translation.
Pietiek vergot! Jāstreiko!
"Latvijas skolotājs", koks, 2004.
(Enough of the slaving! We must strike!
"Teacher of Latvia", wood, 2004)

My book, Fables for Leaders is available. Click on the image and order up!

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

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

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