A Dog’s Tail Tale

4 December 2017

In a recent article on the BBC website it was argued that giving employees impressively sounding job titles can make a difference to their attitude towards work, making them better motivated, happier within themselves, and generally less stressed. It transpired that even without increase in pay or improved conditions, workers responded positively after being given the title ‘manager’ or ‘supervisor’ etc. Similar effects were realised when staff were encouraged to invent titles for themselves to express how they perceived their jobs.

I appreciate that such articles reflect fairly isolated anecdotal cases with limited research and no extensive long-term studies that can be referenced to prove positive lasting effects. Having said that, what if such practices induce positive benefits for a limited period of time that last long enough to allow us to assume a positive frame of mind to re-assess our work environment, redefine our relationships and in some cases, revise our career objectives and find better alternatives? Surly, that’s not a bad outcome.

Just like the above article, I have similar anecdotes from personal experience, including one from the animal world that might sway the doubters to keep an open mind.

A few months ago, a small marketing company bid for a project at my company. The two partners came to discuss their bid and handed us their very artistically designed business cards. Their titles were: “The Creative One” and “The Negotiating One”. We spent a few minutes discussing their titles, which helped to break the ice before we got down to business. Regrettably, they did not win the contract but not, I hasten to add, because of their amusing and original titles.

A couple of years ago, I was in the USA on a business trip visiting a company which provided training services. I presented myself to the infectiously cheerful lady at the front desk of the company offices who had the delightful title of: “Vice President of First Impressions”. Now, there is a title that absolutely lifts anyone’s tail!

Speaking of tails, if you have ever watched a reality programme called “The Dog Whisperer” starring Caesar Milan, you would be familiar with the miraculous things this gentleman is able to do to rehabilitate aggressive, out of control, undomesticated, or traumatised dogs to becoming the model pooches we all wish to have as our best friends.

In one episode, the dog whisperer is called in to a family home where they had recently adopted an abandoned dog who was, to put it mildly, very depressed. The dog cowers in a corner of the house looking dejected, frightened and miserable, where no amount of cajoling would entice him to cheer up and join in the merry activities of the families.

Clearly, the family wanted to help and Caesar Milan was their last hope. Caesar walks in and observes the dog for a while. He then suggests that everyone, including the reluctant dog, goes out for a walk. As they begin their walk, Caesar falls back behind and observes the family on their walk and notes that the dog was still nervous of everything that went on around him from pedestrians, to other dogs, cars, cyclists etc. A few minutes later, Caesar moves to apply his remedy. He catches up with the family and takes control of the dog’s lead with one hand and with the other, he reaches down for the dog’s tail, which is firmly nestling between his legs and lifts it up in the air as high as it could go without causing the dog discomfort. Within a few seconds, the dog’s demeanour begins to change, his head lifts up, his walk turns in to canter and his entire body is filled with energy! Caesar Milan explains that a dog’s mood is reflected in the state of its tale. When he is frightened and nervous, the tail tucks between the legs (hence the expression of someone skulking away with his tail between his legs after a major disappointment or a put down). Conversely, when a dog is proud, confident or happy, his tail automatically lifts up. So, using reverse psychology, Caesar Milan convinced the dog that since his tail is up in the air, albeit with external help, then it must be in a good mood. So, the dog, slowly but surely, changes its demeanour. With repeated practice by the family, the dog was rehabilitated within a couple of weeks.

Back to the job titles. It is not that far off the dog’s tail concept. For us to have funky, senior or happy sounding titles, we might, just might, feel better about things in general, for long enough to assume the necessary positive attitude to do something more permanent about our work and life environments.

So, shall we try it? Here are some examples:

If your job title is say: “Office Attendant”, this does not fill anyone with pride and motivation. However, with your duties of clerical work unchanged, we call you: “Corporate Coordinator”, then this grand sounding title must surely put a spring in your heel.

If you are a “Bookkeeper” irrespective of how thin or fat these books are, no one at a social gathering is going to ask you to tell them more about your duties. But if you are to be called: “Fiscal Comptroller” no doubt you will draw attention to yourself. Be sure to spell it as “Comptroller” with the grand-sounding “p” in the middle and not with a boring “n” letter.

Another example: if you work in any type of retail shop you may be called the generic “Shopkeeper” or worse “Shop Assistant” then a more uplifting title would be: “Commodities Negotiator”.

Finally, if you are employed to run a hot-dog stand then a fitting title would be “Principal Nutritionist” because there is only one of you at the kiosk so, you are the principal person there.

So, go on, campaign to have your job title changed to Corporate Poet; Chief Refreshments Officer; Principal Co-workers Problem Listener; Senior Joke Appreciator; Director of Birthday Celebrations; or whatever else you think best describes you. Me? I am a “Verbal Artist”!

Mufid Sukkar