Would an otter make a good boss?

He’s young, but he’s got moxie.
He’s young, but he’s got moxie.
Image: Reuters/Toby Melville
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When you are aware of sea otters during Sea Otter Awareness Week, it changes the way you see the world. You start imagining otters heading up banks and schools and public-health commissions. It makes you realize how different things would be if otters of any kind were in charge.

If your boss were a smooth-coated otter, she would emphasize the importance of learning by example. “Watch me unscrew the container to get at the shrimp,” she would say. “Now you try.” And you would. Now that’s mentorship!

sea otter with pup
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato

If your boss were a sea otter, he would have a big problem with sharks. “Stay away from Adams, that guy’s a shark,” he’d say. “So he’s sneaky and Machiavellian?” you’d ask. Your boss looks haunted. You notice a scar on his paw. He swims away.

If your boss were a giant otter, she would tell you that the best way to deal with hostility at work is to cultivate a strong support system. She’d recall the time she and a bunch of friends mobbed a jaguar on the riverbank and snorted at it until it went away. “That jaguar was bigger and meaner than us, but we had each others’ backs,” she’d say. The next day, you and your boss and Jan from accounting get together and snort at the vice president who’s always cracking sexist jokes. The vice president looks scared. You feel better.

If your boss were an ancient wolf-like otter who roamed China 6.6 million years ago, she’d talk a lot about the injustice of age discrimination in the workplace, and she’d be right.

Asian small-clawed sea otters playing
Image: Reuters/Jim Bourg

If your boss were a sea otter, he’d eat 1,000 sea urchins a day. Finally, a boss who understands your need for quality office snacks and is as worried as you when the inventory is low.

If your boss were a sea otter, she’d know how to give people assignments that play to their strengths. “You’re great at deep dives,” she’d say, and you’d get all excited, thinking that she’s going to hand you an important research project. But instead she just wants you to go deep into the sea to fetch some abalone while she—a medium-depth-diver—grabs some worms. Your boss is nothing if not practical.

If your boss were an otter, she’d be resourceful and optimistic. She’d understand the importance of work-life balance and encourage you to take a break and slide down snow banks just for fun. She’d champion cross-team collaboration, like helping fishermen in Bangladesh catch crabs just for the fun of it. All in all, she’d be a wonderful boss, but she wouldn’t pay you any money, because sea otters don’t understand the financial system. At the end of the week, she’d just pass you some shellfish. She’d be generous, though. “Wow,” you would say. “Thanks, Otter. That’s a lot of clams.”