Are Managers Disproportionately 'Dog People'?
I gathered some data to find out.
Sun Mar 07 2021
A few weeks ago I adopted a puppy. She's an adorable, 3-4 month old black lab (I think..) who I named Pepper. The "Dog Dad" life has been a new, exciting journey, and although challenging at times, I know what benefits are to come from the compounding interest of the investment I'm making now. Pepper is frequently requested to make appearances during my zoom meetings at work, which usually sparks some conversation around adopting/owning a dog. During a recent one on one with another manager, we were on the topic of personality types of managers that we knew. After some discussion and speculation, we stumbled onto the question: Are managers more likely to be dog people? To answer the question, we formed a hypothesis and I created a 1 question survey to send to our research group; the employees at Ada. Results poured in and after about 24 hours, I began to review the data.
Glossary and Definitions
Dog Person/People: A person who identifies as being more fond of Dogs than Cats; the opposite of a Dog Person.
Cat Person/People: A person who identifies as being more fond of Cats than Dogs; the opposite of a Cat Person.
Manager: An individual who, at the time of the survey, had direct reports.
Individual Contributor (IC): An individual who, at the time of the survey, had no direct reports.
The Data and My Findings
There was a split of "Dog People" and "Cat People" that didn't really surprise me, 56:20. So, of the people surveyed at Ada, about ~3/4 (73.6%) of people self-identify as "Dog People". My guess is that this didn't surprise any of you, but the interesting part is when you look into how it breaks down when you take into account whether the respondents have direct reports or not. Of the 76 people surveyed at Ada, 15 are managers. Take a moment to guess how many of the 15 managers are dog people, given the result of 3/4 identified as dog people overall...
Have your answer? Of the 15 managers who responded, 14 of them were Dog People – that's 93%, a number that I hadn't expected at all! And when you compare it to the number of IC's who are dog people, you may begin to come to some conclusions. Of the 61 IC's who responded, only 42 of them identified as dog people. Now, that's still a majority of people identifying as dog people but 69% is far less than 93%; fascinating!
Let's compare further the cat people versus the dog people. 14 of the 56 respondents who identified as dog people, are managers – a number that comes to exactly 25%. Now, if there was no correlation between the type of job, or role, that someone takes on, and whether they were a cat person or dog person, then we would expect to see roughly the same split along the IC's. But to my surprise, of the people that responded as cat people, 95% are IC's, which leaves only 5% of the respondents that identified as cat people, as managers.
Maybe it's nothing... but maybe it's something. Dogs, anecdotally, are seen as higher maintenance pets, requiring vast amounts of attention, exercise, and other forms of training. While on the other side, pet cats are seen as much lower maintenance, more independent, and not requiring much training. Maybe the data here is suggesting that there really is a relationship between the types of people who seek out the responsibility of coaching and nurturing a dog, and their desire to take on a managerial leadership role in the workplace.
Can We Actually Come To Any Conclusions?
The dataset that I've collected is quite narrow – I've only looked at a very small subset of people at a single company; not very scientific. So, in short: no, I do not think that with the limited amount of data I've looked at, we can come to any conclusions. One thing that I think I should make very clear is that Leadership != Manager. There are many ICs that I work with every day who I absolutely see as leaders, and while I do think that it is the responsibility of a manager to be a leader, I do not think that all leaders seek to be a manager.
However, what I can do is continue to collect data to explore my hypothesis, further. So if you'd like to volunteer your own information, please fill out this google form. With more data, I can better understand the relationship (or lack thereof) between the role someone pursues and self-identifying dog people.
Written by Brandon Mowat who lives and works at Ada in Toronto -- building useful things. You should follow him on Twitter