FROG in the well – Of a much misunderstood phrase and Rightsizing

Not many of you know the origin of the phrase “Frog in the well”. I will not fault you for that. But what I cannot condone is the fact that you go about muddying the reputation of that ribbiting rationalist, of which you know little.

You may not condescend to kiss it; you may despise the sight of the slimy, translucent toad. I have no qualms. “Myopic individuals; people with meager social skills; those who are cooped up in their cubicles” “Aah, here is a frog in the well”, you croak, tarring the name of the good amphibian. There, my dear friends, I draw the line.

And here is why.

Once upon a time there lived a frog king named Mundaka in, well… a well. Like all kind kings who took care of their coteries and sycophants, Mundaka too was despised by a lot of lesser toads who were his subjects. Some brave blubbers even went to the extent of questioning his ways of ruling. Little could Mundaka do to either banish such lowly but large numbered leapers or bring a sword swiftly down to settle the matter once for all.

He bid his time sporting a soul-searing yet affable smile and going about the daily affairs. He needn’t have to wait for long, for good times come to all who work for personal agendas.

One year there was an exceptional drought like situation, where the water table was receding and the green algae depleting. There was pressure everywhere to survive and Mundaka had to do something to not only ensure his own survival but that of his close brood.

Being an exceptional jumper and a great believer in plotting by jumping around, Mundaka in one of his out-of-the-well thinking moments chanced upon a snake in the grass (The same stricken one who reinvented itself after an appraisal. He apparently shed the old skin and became a consultant).

Mundaka: “Hello, friend!”

Snake (hissing from the corner of one side of the forked tongue): “You are my meal.”

Mundaka: “No, I am your meal-ticket. I am a king overseeing an oversized organization. Now tell me what can you do for me?”

Snake (switching to the other): “You came to the right guy. My motto is “FROG – Fruitful Rightsizing of Organization. Guaranteed””

Mundaka: “I want neither undue panic nor inkling of the impending operation”

Snake: “Give me a large enough hole in the wall, in which I can curl up during the day. And leave the rest to me.”

Mundaka: “You are hired.”

Snake took his place in a hole in the wall and went about doing his stuff – few frogs a day, surreptitiously. Nobody noticed any difference as it wasn’t any large scale disappearance. Mundaka meanwhile had a safety plan in place for himself and his hangers on. He heard of consultants who were taken on board for advice but stayed put to takeover the reins. He kept his coterie, sycophants and family members inside the deep-end of the well; where the snake couldn’t reach. It was sure to drown if at all it ever put such a tempting thought to action.

Over a period of few months, the snake did its bit to the utmost satisfaction of Mundaka. The draught situation was also easing off and the feeders – fodder balance was restored. Rightsizing was achieved.

The snake having realized it wasn’t getting any more of its daily calories called out to Mundaka at the other end, requesting a meeting. Mundaka said thanks but no thanks and performed a rain-dance at the deeper end of the well with his hangers on.

Snake weighed both the options. Of over-reaching its mandate by jumping into the far end of the well or crawling back up in search of shallow wells lorded by less cunning kings. The risks and rewards seemed to be far better laid out in the latter case. With things under control and none to raise their voice against him or curse him, Mundaka ruled the well happily ever after!

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Now you tell me readers. Wouldn’t you want to be in the inner circle of such resourceful and wily boss, who can guarantee your survival and success even in adverse situations? Or will you still go back to what you have learnt from fools with a bit of moral fiber in them, and continue mouthing the phrase in the same disdainful manner?

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21 Comments Add yours

  1. Jim Mac says:

    Dear Arun,

    I really appreciate your site. Thank you for your insights and guidance.

    In the midst of the financial crisis, there’s a lot of bashing and cynicism towards performance recognition and inspirational efforts in the workplace. Just check any bar in lower Manhattan! It’s a shame.

    As a VP leading over 100 salespeople, I’ve found that the hard fact is that QUALITY performance recognition works. Not just for morale, but in dollars. I have been using a couple of different tools to help me retain good people and to inspire excellence in them, which = larger sales figures. A#1 tool is a personal, elegant recognition concept called Design Your
    Inspiration ( http://www.dyi.successories.com ) . Intelligent, customizable with
    any words or great quotes you want to use (such as those on this very post, FROG IN THE WELL!). All on framed art photography prints.

    Again, the quality of these, and the MEANING emparted, makes them highly effective for me. It has made an amazing difference! So while the
    cynics shed tears in their beers, we’re laughing all the way to the bank!
    Thanks again. Jim

  2. Interesting! Thanks! The frog was indeed a cunning boss yet the ending wouldn’t be a good one if the snake wasn’t that rational.

  3. Shiv Muttoo says:

    Pacy panchatantra with the moral turned on its head. A frog in the well is an insular person with little exposure to the external environment. Such strategies may last when dealing with smaller snakes but there are many anacondas doing the rounds too and one has to think far ahead to avoid being eaten for lunch.

  4. Deepak Suri says:

    Really nice one. But its not always that a boss is able to save everyone . Somebody has to go. More over you should be directly under the king frog. But you know now a days you bosses are different he reports to a different one and then that to a different. So its a long chain of synopsis.

  5. Anupama says:

    Wonderfully written! Some memorable lines here: “good times come to all who work for personal agendas” and “FROG – Fruitful Rightsizing of Organization. Guaranteed” and “consultants who were taken on board for advice but stayed put to takeover the reins” 😀
    The frog is really wily and definitely not a typical “frog in the well”.

    But I think the story ends abruptly. As in, the snake does his job and goes away but maybe he should have taught Mundaka a lesson too. The frog may be a selfish king but to simply use and dispose someone (that too an expert consultant) is a bit well… mean! I know, organizational politics is not so straight but just a thought. Maybe in the end when the snake seeks a meeting with the frog, some drama could have been introduced.

  6. M P Shyni says:

    Dear Readers,

    I do very much agree with the Essence in d Story Re – Framed by Arun (A Very Good “Out – of – the – Box” Thinker)but don’t U guys think such Bosses (Not d Genuine Hearted Bosses uh…!)can “Mis – Use” U (may b Ua Talent/ personal environment)…….????

    ‘m always suspicious of such Bosses Yaar… Infact quiet Scary…. Though U have Job Security…….

  7. sonia says:

    Well written! How do you relate yourself to this piece?

  8. Kanna says:

    Hi VAK,

    Frog in the well is too good. It is just reflecting what’s going on in my company. I am sure other readers too can relate it with what’s happening in their professional life.

    Every week your enlightened thoughts are giving different dimensions to the readers/followers. Great work.

  9. Vidushi Gupta says:

    Hi Arun….u r again back with your refined quality of work..leaving me with my nails biting while reading(which happens almost everytime when i go through your writing pieces)…:)…!!

    FROG has got such a wonderful definition…quite artistic approach…really liked it…(i could never thought of this one)…:)..

    As always i mark in my comments…the beautiful you do..and link with the present situation…mind blowing…!!

    My earlier boss was just opposite of Mundaka’s character..she was hard to bear…lucky me to have a proctective boss in my second job…who cares for the growth of self and team…n gives us all chances to fail…learn..grow…its real fun to work with such people…

    Thank You much for drwaing my attention towards such stories..grilling my mind..!!…i used to read them anyways…!!!!

    Keep up the good work…as always…waiting for next Masterpiece..

    Cheers,
    Vidushi

  10. Vlasta says:

    Hi Arun,

    Thanks again for a great article. I do have to say that being a boss myself I do like people on my team that challenge me, stand on their own 2 feet and speak up in what they believe.

    Having individuals who think for themselves and a leader to guide them builds great teams. I like my company to break new grounds not be the follower. Having more then 1 creative mind on a team make you reach higher goals.

    Thx for sharing your brilliant mind.
    Vlasta

  11. pavan says:

    Glad to know that the Snake reinvented itself by refusing to be a “Frog in the Well” .

  12. Sumita says:

    Good One !!!!!

  13. Ah ha Arun: A Wonderful Parable and Fable. Told even better The Walt Disney’s New Animated Feature about “The Princess and The Frog”.
    I have No Boss’s accept The Lord. We are Partners.
    Perhaps Sidartha would look kindly on this too.
    I concure. You again are correct Sir.
    I am but an afterthought to your kindness. Like a Frog stuck in Your Throat!

    Dr JPSinda

  14. Fauzia says:

    Hi…brilliant one…very beautifully scripted the organizational politics..and the cunning but caring boss…:)

  15. M P Shyni says:

    Arun

    A Good Interpretation of the Saying…….

  16. lavender says:

    U never fail to make me thing how does that brain of yours churn. But then tell me , what kind of boss would you be?? ( ssssss….it was coool read. Hats off)

  17. RAJANI SRIKUMAR says:

    Hi Arun,

    Like I always say….another masterpiece….

    I would certainly like to stick on to a resourceful and wily boss who would safeguard me through all adverse situations….

    Cheers!!

  18. vivek says:

    Arun

    I prefer a boss who takes care of his inner circle especially the loyal ones.

    This is a new dimension to the old adage

    Good stuff

    Cheers
    Vivek Miranda

  19. Priyanka says:

    Good One Arun….

  20. Revathy PG says:

    Hi Arun…
    As usual…gr8 entry…
    Quite interesting revelation. Never thought that the age-old saying can be interpreted this way too… You have given a thought to think 🙂
    Good one!!!
    Cheers
    Revathy

  21. anita noronha says:

    I agree with you completely Arun. I will go with a vily boss who will do all he can to survive and in doing so look after me too!

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