My consulting and media companies are called Five Dogs Media and Five Dogs Consulting in honour of five different dogs that we have or have had. I figured branding it this way added a bit of the ‘fun factor’. Each dog has characteristics that might remind you of someone you’ve worked with. Do any of these sound familiar?
ALEX was a Border Collie/Kelpie cross we bought at a pet shop. It soon became clear he was from a puppy mill. His erratic behaviour varied from devoted and fun dog to aggressive dog with a sharp bite. After three behaviour assessments that followed interventions we tried, the Vet advised us to surrender him to the RSPCA because he was a danger to the community, our family and visitors to our house. Alex reminded me of the staff member who has moments of brilliance followed by relapses into behaviour so unacceptable that parting company is the final solution. This is never easy, because in the ‘brilliant’ moments the staff member is great to work with and generally a good person. We have learned that pet shops are not the ideal places to buy dogs and we should have been more thorough in our choice rather than rush the decision because we wanted a puppy so badly. Poor recruitment happens all the time in organisations and sometimes a decision is rushed to fill a role, even if the candidate is not fully suited. Often, a poor match between job, culture and person is more trouble than leaving the position vacant until the right person comes along.
BONNIE was a Border Collie we bought from a breeder known for breeding for temperament. She was smart, fun and active, with a sweet nature. Everyone liked her and she responded to anyone who approached her. Her slight stubborn streak meant there was some behaviour that we were not able to correct- and we now know that we did not have the knowledge and skills required to address the behaviour. Staff members like Bonnie will thrive if given the proper guidance and training. They are the type of team member that everyone likes and you can trust them to speak to or interact with anyone in the organisation. But sometimes, as with Bonnie, it can be a challenge to motivate or train them to do what they need to do and the manager needs to continue to develop people management skills to expand their tool box of addressing unwanted behaviour.
CHARMA was a German Shepherd. A quieter dog who often played ‘second fiddle’ to adorable and outgoing Bonnie. True to her breed, she responded to instructions immediately, unless she was distracted. Most of the time, she was a gentle giant. But she had a very strong aggressive streak if another dog overstepped their boundaries with her. She seriously injured Bonnie on two occasions, even though most of the time they were ‘good mates’. Ever have a team member like that? Seems quiet, cooperative and stable, only to find that when pushed to a limit, they will explode. The quiet, ignored one, suddenly finds a voice and a very aggressive one at that.
PANDA is an untraditionally marked Border Collie. He has the most easy going nature and is very much a ‘people dog’. He is large for his age, and often misunderstood. People don’t recognise him as a Border Collie and try to label him with a range of other characteristics and breeds. Being big for his age, people expect him to act settled and mature and think his puppy playfulness is misbehaviour. He excelled in his 6 month training course, so actually is well on track in terms of obedience. At times, people at work are judged wrongly based on their appearance and behaviour and therefore are either overlooked, misunderstood or underestimated like Panda.
DIXIE is a small, traditionally marked Border Collie. She is a fearful soul who appears to have been mistreated in the past. Being small for her age, people assume she is younger than she is, so forgive any ‘bad’ behaviour and often see it as cute. She has gained a lot of confidence since being with us, but still has many moments of appearing anxious and uncertain about what is going to happen next. Someone who has been bullied at work or worked under a toxic manager often brings fear behaviours or survival mechanisms to a new job. It is important to try to understand this behaviour and help the person work through this. This is often common during performance management conversations, if someone has been subjected to a punitive system in a previous job or organisation.
What have you found works best when you are dealing with a person with characteristics similar to one of the five dogs?