Children’s author Aesop in 1919 relates a fable of the monkey, the cat and the chestnuts.
Once upon a time a Cat and a Monkey lived as pets in the same house. They were great friends and were constantly in all sorts of mischief together. What they seemed to think of more than anything else was to get something to eat, and it did not matter much to them how they got it.
One day they were sitting by the fire, watching some chestnuts roasting on the hearth. How to get them was the question.
“I would gladly get them,” said the cunning Monkey, “but you are much more skillful at such things than I am. Pull them out and I’ll divide them between us.”
Pussy stretched out her paw very carefully, pushed aside some of the cinders, and drew back her paw very quickly. Then she tried it again, this time pulling a chestnut half out of the fire. A third time and she drew out the chestnut. This performance she went through several times, each time singeing her paw severely. As fast as she pulled the chestnuts out of the fire, the Monkey ate them up.
Now the master came in, and away scampered the rascals, Mistress Cat with a burnt paw and no chestnuts.
Hence the phrase – ‘he used me as a catspaw.’
How often have we been used as a catspaw in our jobs?
As a General Manager, I was given to sign termination letters and file cases against various employees. Sometimes I may not have agreed with the harsh step taken, but job insecurity out of fear, may frankly have led me to comply… not my proudest moments for sure!
We all have our values, our code of ethics, our ways of looking at life… yet moments come when we find ourselves being used as a catspaw. You may relate to situations like these:
- Your colleague convinces you against your better wishes to go along with his/her plans or ideas…
- Your subordinate entices you into signing off his/her leave form with flimsy excuses and you do so in order to gain his/her approval…
- Your boss gets you to do his/her work using flattery to keep you motivated…
- Your boss takes your idea and implements it without giving you due credit…
- People are nice to you only because they need something off you and not necessarily because they care for you…
All of the above may happen, but at a cost to you. Remember how pussy’s catspaw was singed while pulling out chestnuts from the fire for the monkey?
So keep a watch and be aware of such situations!
How many time have you been used as a catspaw recently?