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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Work like a dog? Perhaps you should…

Things improved for me at work when I started to behave more like my dog. What do I mean? There are a lot of articles on how to be a better manager. This is about how to be a better employee.

1. Work with enthusiasm. There are days when we drag ourselves to work, fueled by copious cups of coffee, grumbling the whole way. We contemplate calling in sick, when the only malady is we don’t want to go to work when other activities, such as going to the beach, beckon. Let’s face it, there are some days (especially Mondays) when enthusiasm is low.

If only we could be more like my dog, who responds cheerfully and enthusiastically to just about any activity. She bounds to greet me at every opportunity. She wags with her whole body when I say we are going to go for a walk. She tells me she is excited to go anywhere, even the vet’s office.

If we could bring a dog’s enthusiasm to work, we would start off the day cheerful and smiling. If we can trust that the day will be full of new challenges, knowing that we are able to handle whatever happens, we might be more pleasant. We could worry less about the bad things that could happen. We could be genuinely grateful that we are healthy enough to have a job, and we might be able to muster up more zeal for what we do.

2. Support the boss’s ideas. Has your boss ever come up with a seemingly brainless idea (no, not my boss, you think, as you roll your eyes.) Well, yes, sometimes. We admit, occasionally when the boss relays his latest brilliant new plan, we may have given him that, “you gotta be kidding, right?” look before saying out loud, “this isn’t going to work.”

This is probably not the correct nor desired response. Even if it is a dumb idea, maybe we could give the supervisor the benefit of the doubt.

My dog is supportive all the time. Sure, my dog may think it’s ridiculous to lock up the house, get into the car and drive 15 minutes for a Starbucks coffee when she knows I have a working coffee maker at home. But she nevertheless races to the car, leaps into the seat, and eagerly sticks her head out the window, ready to go.

While most bosses probably don’t need that kind of exuberant demonstration, maybe we could try harder to at least be open-minded about what the manager has to say. Maybe we could work on being more receptive to the ideas of others in the workplace.

3. Some focus, please. Sometimes when the boss talks, or we are trapped in another seemingly endless meeting, do you find yourself not listening as attentively as you could? What are we doing? We do all sorts of non-listening actions. We are thinking of what we are going to say when it is our turn to talk, we ponder the growing pile of work on our desks, or we doodle our next grocery list. This is not particularly great focus.

My dog, however, has great focus. When she lies down, her eyes are focused on me. When I move around the room, she turns her head to follow my movements. She looks at me directly and waits for me to talk to her.

So maybe we can do a better job of focusing in the workplace. We can make an effort to really listen, to focus completely on what people say, and to concentrate on the issue at hand instead of allowing stray thoughts to impede work. We can strive to give people the full attention that my dog gives me.

So now when I feel myself lagging, drowsy, or unmotivated, I remind myself to work like a dog.

Some days I even promise myself a treat for being good.


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