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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

"The truth about dogs and wolves"

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Aesop's fable of the wolf and the dog tells the story of a hungry wolf who, so enamoured by the well-fed dog's tales of meals, treats, cuddles - all in return for barking at strangers, decided to follow him home...until he saw a bald spot on the dog's neck. "What's that?" asked the Wolf? "Oh it's nothing," replied the dog, "It's just from the chain my master uses to tie me up sometimes." On hearing this, the wolf said his farewells knowing in his heart that particular sacrifice was too great.

The tale is used in Taleb's "Skin in the Game" to look at the difference between the employee (the dog) and the contractor (the wolf). The former has a regular pay check - but pays the price of the collar, the latter has freedom but not always the work. For Taleb, the former also has "skin in the game" - a reason to stay. Therefore it is the mindful organisation that makes their employees as comfortable as possible.

There is a caveat to this of course. Sometimes you may also have the temprement of the dog - the desire for the regular paycheck, the mentality of "I work to live". As such you may find yourself in a position of subservience to an employer who exploits that. Sure you might take home X amount each month, but how much do you give in return...and in this uncertain climate, even then there can be the threat of restructure or redundancy.

But it is not necessarily better to be the wolf...Taleb points out that there is an even older story which characterises the wolf as a different animal - who in turn runs back into the forest...and gets eaten. The worst thing of all, for Taleb is to " a dog who thinks he's a wolf" because then the shock of either the collar tightening, or being cut free may be distressing.

For me, this whole tale offers a word of advice to employers:

1. While the contractor may be cheaper (in some cases) or more dynamic, hire them with caution - if they are unhappy, or get a better offer, they will not stay...and have no notice period to work through. Work with them for who they are.

2. While the person who seeks regularity may be preferable for their loyalty, keep motivating their drive and ambition, and treat them well.

Even my dog (a rescue, hugely obedient, and certainly the sweetest thing you'll ever meet), was still a runaway for two weeks before I adopted her!

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt

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