By Frank J. Rich
Lauded for their essential devotion to humans, though uniquely qualified for temperament and training across the breeding spectrum, dogs may possess the most well developed sense of belonging (to others) among God’s creatures. So strong is their bond that some will grow the fidelity of a captain of the guard, prepared to fiercely protect their protector, if necessary to the death.
Humans may find this quality near impossible under most circumstances, no less love as a popular movement. But despite claims to the contrary in the exchange between them, and the rhetoric of expectation in conversation, we humans express more hope in others than we are willing to fulfill in ourselves. Oddly, the giftedness in each, the contribution that fulfills, is not only our birthright but our yearning as well. The popular reference to one’s own, “dogs of another stripe,” reminds the viscera of its fundamental motivations – to wit, the need to belong. In fact, for some, those they gather around them are their “dogs.” Can you feel me, dog?
In the effort (to belong) we find associations in all areas of life – the connection in relatives, school activities and friendships, the fellowship of faith, community involvement, and the work environment. Though created as social beings, living in harmony with others may be the single most difficult human accomplishment, even more difficult than public speaking. However do we manage?
The workplace may be most confusing for its insistence on driving a failed ethic into workers’ habits and the market. It is evident in both the representation of one’s capabilities, the first person singular in all resumes; and the presumed certainty in suggesting initiatives imbued of the same ethic. Picture a marketing candidate whose proposed pricing strategy is to charge what the traffic will bear, or what the competition charges for like products. Or the sales candidate who asks for a higher base salary, almost immediately following his assurance that the opportunity for increased income is a direct result of performance. Or the sales director, whose measure of success drives him to resign his post when, decreasing the rate of decline in revenue loses its value in comparison to growth above the X-axis. How likely is it for these people to find comity with those whose pricing strategy combines an informed market model and a cost plus manufacturing pricing strategy, or those who have a clear understanding of a working meritocracy, or an executive staff grateful for the bleeding to have stopped?
We go to work because we like the people and environment, usually encouraging. This trumps money and benefits in most studies of the issue – among the most popular workplace analyses. The sense of belonging to something fulfilling is so compelling that workers select it above money, the motivation most sales managers believe (mistakenly) is what moves sales people to greater performance. More accurately, we want most to be “actively engaged in meaningful work.” When joined with others of like mind, the ethic in teams – a selfless devotion to the success of team members – the glue in belonging is so strong that most would be in conflict should they make a different choice.
How might we look like the super nova in our deepest yearning? Easy, just see the quality of your giftedness, and work hard at making the most of your contribution, independent of all that would distract you from it.
We hear repeatedly that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Clearly, every man’s reality is his own. Gratefully, dogs seek another motivation: to please, and to grow their sense of belonging to others. Can you feel me, dog?