Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Time the dog had its day? Try the cat's way

10 Sep 2007, ST

If yours is a dog's life, here's a solution that might make you feel better

By Jessica Lim

'WORK like a dog, lor,' my ex-friend snapped when I asked him over dinner two years ago how his day had been.

He then began a two-hour tirade: It was painfully complicated, his boss asked him to do something redundant (explained in detail), he was given menial tasks (this and that), he had no idea what he was doing in construction, he was quitting the next day.

It got stale hearing the same refrain, so we stopped hanging out soon after that.

Surreptitious checks with mutual acquaintances have revealed that he is still stuck in the pound, and, yes, whining all the way.

But his might well be a dog's life because, according to an article in Ohio's daily The Plain Dealer, dog-like behaviour can lead to one being treated like a dog.

Its author, Jim Pawlak, thinks most employees 'live for that gratuitous 'good dog' pat on the head'.

Anyone just starting out in his career knows how that goes. A day at work is not unlike performing - you heel, you get barked at to jump higher, quite likely for the equivalent of a measly biscuit - all to gain approval.

When that pat doesn't come, you slink home, tail between your legs. This, despite your going to all extremes to please your master.

So you just obey, don't think, and repeat it, until 5pm - also your cue to start howling about your very tragic life to anyone who will listen.

The whole aim of this, uh, doggie style, is simple: Get your boss to throw you a bone for your efforts; or at least, just tell you where to dig for a better assignment.

Pawlak offers this antidote: Get catty.

No, not hiss and scratch - not all the time anyway - but adopt cat-like characteristics.

I agree.

Cats manage their owners by showing they are capable and know what they are doing. In turn, their owners leave them to it.

Which boss wouldn't want more time to manage his own bosses? To dig up his own treasure?

After all, the boss-employee relationship is a symbiotic one. The more you understand your boss' constraints and pressures, the better you can help him succeed. And, yes, score one for the team.

I realised this when I became a small boss of sorts myself when I was asked to mentor a few interns.

One, in particular, irritated me because he asked if I was free to talk when I was clearly in the middle of a phone interview.

When I said no, he would hover within my peripheral vision, and only after wild gesticulations and a 'COME BACK LATER!' scribbled on a notepad would he leave.

This happened repeatedly.

It made me wonder: Was I doing similar things to my boss?

So I started being more self-aware, and realised it saved me a lot of second guessing - and time. I stopped barking up the wrong tree, learning instead to read between the e-mail lines, and deciphering non-verbal cues.

At least I can now sniff out the bigger assignments from the less important ones, which saves me running around in circles trying to catch my tail.

Now you try: Does your boss prefer communicating face-to-face or on the phone? Does he prefer short, precise meetings? What are his priorities?

Figuring that out may mean getting promoted, landing ground-breaking assignments or pay raises.

Most importantly, you will no longer feel as though you'd rather jump off a building than go back to your job.

My cat, Smoky, manages me well.

Attentive, he can detect a foul mood a mile away - so no meowing for chow.

Independent, he refuses to be micro-managed and fulfils his pet duties by catching a few cockroaches a month.

In return, I fill his bowl with salmon treats. Occasionally, I throw in a neck rub.

Though lately, I've been wondering if he's ready for a bone or two...

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