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Are employees housebroken dogs? The power dynamics of "reward assignments"

In his wonderful "Skin in The Game" Nassim Taleb calls employees "housebroken dogs".

Is he right?

Are employees powerless housebroken dogs?

I think it's a bit exaggerated to call employees housebroken dogs because there are many who acquire enough freedom to just do their thing. And some get enough power that they call the shots and do mostly as they please.

However, there definitely is an element of "housebroken" dogs in many employees and in many roles.

The other day I saw this on LinkedIn and I thought it was quite disempowering:


Do you see the oppressive power dynamics in there?

He is basically saying:

She has been so good at doing her job so far (for which I am the final judge)... That now we are giving her this little reward (keep doing the good job and we'll keep liking you)

It's the equivalent of the dog's treat.

"you be a good boy, and you'll get the treat".

The gift is conditional on you doing his job the way he likes.
Stop doing the job the way he likes, and you're out of treats.

Extremely disempowering.

It's also coldly rational.
You don't get it because you're an awesome person or because we're happy for you to see a new place.
It's because of the job you've been doing.
Just because of the job, a very cold transaction (and a mistake from the part of his manager, who should probably read on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, Drive would be a good start).

The "gift" comes with strings attached or, shall we say, with a leash attached.

Indeed, as a final note, consider the timeframe and the constraints.
It's a mere 3 months in which she will be working.
Limited travel, limited freedom and no real choice about place and time.

This feels like an assignment "masked" as a gift.
It's like giving her another dog house in another location and calling it a "gift".

And we might also speculate they're doing it simply because the company needs it.

Another example of corporate manipulation, maybe?

How Would a Freedom-Lover React

I'd feel patronized being at the receiving end of that message.

And I'd also feel incensed for the obvious power move this guy is pulling on me. And making it public, too, WTF does this guy think he is?

My indignant reaction there would be something along these lines:

I can go to San Paolo whenever I want. I can Stay there for however long I please or move around the country however I pleasae.
You can keep your "award" for your sorry housebroken ass and don't you dare patronize me like that ever again.

Yeah.... Freedom lovers and power-sensitive people don't make for good employees, do they ?

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DMRiley Thomas
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