I was reading a post on Michelle’s blog last night reading about her recent interview and it got me to thinking.
I love to have fun in everything I do. I grew up watching M*A*S*H where Hawkeye and BJ were the very best surgeons around and yet they were always cutting up and having fun even though they did the very best work that could be done.
I think that had a lasting impact on me because I have tried to live my life that way. Be the best I can be but don’t be one of those people who are oh so serious all the time.
Once I worked at an oil company. Most of the people in IT there were like my M*A*S*H model- We had a hell of a lot of fun but did very good work. We had an internal forum set up so instead of having a lot of memo’s floating around we would post them on the forum. You know, important stuff like “Someone left a ring in the 30th floor ladies room, please see Janie if it is yours” kind of stuff. :)
There was also a jokes thread on the forum that was by far the majority of the posts out there.
The old Director retired and we had a youngish new director come in. We all thought he was going to be good at first but he turned out to be a stuffed suit. Before long he was onto me for using humor in the work place. He repeatedly explained to me that there was no room for humor in business and it was very unprofessional and that every time I sent out an e-mail or injected humor in a presentation I made myself look bad and by extension made him look bad which made the whole company look bad.
So I really did try to suck all of life out of anything I typed or said and I did get much more ”professional” and yet I just could not get all of ‘me’ out of my communications. He always found room to criticize my lack of professionalism. Needless to say I was pretty miserable.
Then one day at our weekly staff meeting he said, “Were you people aware that there is a jokes thread on the company forum?” We did not know if that was a trick question or not because all of our names were on many posts. Thankfully he went on, “I want that joke thread off line by close of business today! There is no room in business for that kind of unprofessional behavior; it makes all of us look bad!”
Now Peter Parker, name changed to protect the guilty, was a guy that was VERY proud of being the CFO and Vice President. He enjoyed his power immensely. He liked to see people jump when he barked. However, he did have a good sense of humor and he was on the joke thread quite a bit!
He was our new director’s boss. I thought I ought to warn our new director even though I really did not like him, “Have you mentioned this to Mr. Parker? You know he is pretty active on the joke thread.” Well since he and I had “history” about humor he just tuned me out and pretended he did not even hear me even though we were two foot apart. I shrugged my shoulders. Several of us exchanged meaningful glances in the meeting because we knew it was going to be trouble!
Now, exactly one week to the hour later we were in our next staff meeting again. Mr. Parker stuck his head in the door and said, “Sorry to disturb your meeting but I thought this would be a good time to catch you, I did not want to put in a help desk ticket because it is so minor but for some reason the joke thread disappeared off of the company forum.”
The director replied with just a trace of venom in his voice, “Yes sir, I had that taken down because humor on the job is unprofessional and it makes all of look bad.”
There was a collective gasp in the room because we all knew Parker was pretty active out there. Basically, a priest just called the Cardinal a child molester right out in public! Oh it was GREAT!
You could see the anger cloud his face, Parker’s eyes narrowed and his voice got low and gravely. He did this AWESOME but unintentional Clint Eastwood impersonation when he said, “Well, *I* read that thread and *I* post to it all time and I happen to think I am quite professional and I don’t think my jokes make any of us look bad. Put it back... Now.” His Clint Eastwood was so good I swore he was gonna finish by asking the director if he felt lucky, " well, do ya... punk!"
Ah, mister director is now in "oh no" mode. He knows he just committed a major CLM (Career Limiting Move) and is trying to recover, “Ah, yes sir! Sean, put that back on line. Have it done before you leave today.”
Parker, still in Clint Eastwood mode, growling low and quiet, “I said NOW!”
I swear I could hear the director swallow when he said “Yes, sir! Sean, take care of that right now.”
Sean and Mr. Parker walked out together.
Ooooooo the tension was thick!
Mr. Director immediately said, “Why didn’t you people warn me he posted on there!”
I was righteous, “I did warn you! You were in that very same chair when I warned you and you just blew me off!”
“You should have warned me more!”
After a moment of shocked silence and in a very unprofessional manner, I laughed long and loud right then and there! It was a very satisfying laugh too.
Of course, that laughter was my CLM. I started circulating resumes very shortly thereafter.