The Silicon Valley Voice

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When Your Manager Says Fetch!

Be honest now — does your manager treat you like a dog? Does he or she scratch you behind the ears when you do a good job and smack you in the nose with a rolled-up newspaper when you don’t? Does he or she throw a ball down the cube-farm corridor and demand that you “fetch?” Does he or she come by every few hours, put a leash around your neck, and announce it’s time for “walkies”?

If your workplace master doesn’t behave this way now, expect it in the near future. Considering the continued awareness on the part of both master and pet — that’s you, Fido — of just how essential it is for you to keep your job, it won’t take a lot of dog years before your manager gets a copy of Martin P. Levin’s new book, “All I Know About Management I Learned from My Dog.”

Mr. Levin, a “92-year old management guru,” was inspired to write his book after cogitating on his experiences with Angel, the rescued golden retriever who entered his previously dog-free life. While many people have found comfort in owning a pet, Levin found something even better: “The Four Golden Rules of Management.”

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When I first heard about this book from the author’s flack, I knew I had to read it. “How refreshing,” I thought. “At last, we’re going to have a high-powered manager admit that his secret for keeping his employees in line was to treat them like dogs.” But when this mercifully slim volume finally found its way into my paws, I was surprised to read that it was not in the process of training his dog that Levin learned the golden rules, but vice versa. He used the rules he already knew to manage the dog!

Whether you’re going to train a dog or you are the dog, the rules are the rules. Like Rule No. 1 — “Trust & Leadership.” As an example of the former, Levin tells of how he purchased a cage for his new pet to sleep in. Sound familiar? It’s just like your manager welcoming you with a cubicle to sleep in.

Unlike you, Angel did not want to go into a cage, so Levin’s assistant found a place beside her bed, where the dog “cautiously settled down on the mat, rested her nose across her left paw, and went to sleep.”

I think the lesson here is quite clear, don’t you? Instead of sleeping away the day in your cubicle, crawl under your manager’s desk and rest your nose on his Ferragamo shoes. It’s a wonderful way to bond, and your manager will know that you trust his leadership, 100 percent.

Though your relationship with your manager may have a companionable beginning, like Angel’s, don’t be surprised if there are lumps in your kibble. Levin is an admirer of TV’s dog whisperer, Cesar Millan, who believes “dogs are pack animals and they need an alpha person to integrate them into the pack.”

Look around your workplace. If there’s any doubt over who is running aimlessly with the pack and who is the alpha person, this could be your opportunity to take the lead, quite literally. Herd your fellow pack animals into the conference room. Once you’ve assembled the pack, use words from Levin’s dog language glossary, such as “jump” or “sit” or “good dog” or “bad dog.” Reward the co-workers who get it right with doggy treats — or, as we call them in business, donuts.

Once upper management sees you making a bunch of unruly employees roll over and beg, you’re sure to be promoted to top dog. (Note: If they’ve been with the company through one salary review, they probably already know how to beg.)

Golden Rule No. 3 addresses problem solving and decision-making. Levin describes the logical process that Angel uses to extract a slobber-covered bone from under a kitchen cabinet. I wish you could learn something from this exercise, but, frankly, dealing with a slobber-covered bone is way beyond your pay scale. Next time, a slobber bone of an assignment comes your way, put it in your bottom drawer. If you can’t see it, it isn’t there.

Golden Rule No. 4 addresses perseverance and success. Levin believes that hard work and perseverance are essential for success. I don’t buy it. Just keep wagging your tail and licking your manager’s face. There may be bigger dogs and smarter dogs, but nobody ever lost their job for being a lap dog.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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