Tao of Management: Verse 5

Today we look at how Taoism advises against straw dogs and sentimentality.

Verse 5:

HEAVEN-and-Earth is not sentimental;
It treats all things as straw-dogs.
The Sage is not sentimental;
He treats all his people as straw-dogs.

Between Heaven and Earth,
There seems to be a Bellows:
It is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible;
The more it works, the more comes out of it.
No amount of words can fathom it:
Better look for it within you.

My interpretation

The universe does not care
About you or your theories
About your personal problems
Or the latest gossip

Something greater is at work
Something that cannot be reduced
To the latest theory or management fad
Look within yourself to find the truth

I think rather than focusing on treating your employees like straw-dogs, I might simply suggest that you take the personalities out of your management issues.  I think this might seem counter-intuitive, to take the humans out of human resources. However, if you can have at least some reflection on the issues at hand without personalities or policies, you may find some insight.

You may find that by taking out the humans, you uncover systems, rules, or corporate culture is creating the problem, and that the employees really are straw dogs for underlying issues you need to resolve.  If so, get these employees involved in the solution, and be up front with them about your thoughts.

On the other hand, I once had a manager who couldn’t produce. Turned out this manager treated their employees badly, so they didn’t work hard enough in response.  Despite seniority, it was the manager that needed the attitude adjustment on how to treat (much younger) employees, not the other way around.  I this instance I believe it was wise to not rest on ceremony (seniority rules) but let this manager know that seniority would not protect bad behavior.

Translation (as always) from John H. C. Wu


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