When I was younger, I was definitely more fun. Somewhat of a practical joker, even. The following story was par for the course.
Garden Design: A friend of my wife, Betty Cassidy, lived in the flats in Bride Street. The Cassidy’s saved up and eventually moved to what we used to refer to, somewhat quaintly, as a purchased house. When she moved into the new place in Glenageary, they had a lot of initial expense in kitting it out. So, the garden had to wait awhile. Knowing this, I sent a note from the ‘Chairperson’ of the Glenageary Residents Association (I’ve no idea if such a body actually exists). The letter read: “Dear Ms. Cassidy, on behalf of the Glenageary Residents Association I am delighted to welcome you to this superb neighbourhood. I am sure that you and your family will spend many happy years here. However, it has been brought to my attention that you have not, as yet, got around to landscaping the front of your house. If you are from a background which did not provide much exposure to garden design, there are members of our association that would be more than happy to help you speed up the landscaping process. Once again, a warm welcome to Glenageary. Yours Sincerely etc.”
Betty was incandescent with rage and kept repeating the mantra “how do they know where we are from?” (after Bill Cullen’s ‘Penny Apples’, being from a working class area actually became a badge of honour). We had great fun before we eventually told Betty it was a wind-up. Perhaps a bit cruel, but she took it in good spirit.
Replacement Candidate: A couple of years later, I was working for Sterling Drug, a pharmaceutical company in Waterford, trying to hire my own replacement when I was moving to Singapore. The headhunter in Dublin, Paddy Feeney, told me he had a great candidate. So I interviewed this guy who turned out to be somewhat bizarre. At one point during the interview he broke down crying and told me it was awful when his mother died! He also accused me during the interview of using ‘buzz words’ (after I’d used the term ‘management development’). When I eventually told him that I wasn’t sure that he was quite ready for the job he replied: “The guy in Dublin thinks I’m ready. I think I’m ready. You’re the odd man out”. Turned out that the candidate for my job was really an actor. Mike Burke, the General Manager had hired him to do a ‘spoof interview’ with me and I never copped on. Even worse, my office was bugged by the electrical engineers prior to the interview and all the staff in the plant (about 60 people at that stage) were listening live to the interview – they were all having coffee in the canteen – falling around laughing as I was trying to cope with a range of crazy scenarios presented. What goes around comes around, so I just had to laugh at their ingenuity. It was the talk of the place for weeks.
The Message: Bullying cases, increased sensitivity around sexual harassment and a general rise in litigation, have all led managers to become somewhat insecure around using humour. Many managers lead organisation with a heavy dose of blandness, stripping every ounce of fun out of the workday. Of course there are limits, stuff you can’t mess with, lines that should never be crossed. But, that doesn’t mean a diet of zero fun, po-faced management. The central question is: How much fun are you to work for? Get out there and inject a bit of humanity into the organisation. The staff will love you for it. And, best of all, you will move the productivity needle north. Try it. You’ve nothing to lose except that serious face.
PS: Lighter Note: This one courtesy of my son, Cillian; there’s hope for him yet!
Three guys in a pub discussing ‘what would you like someone to say about you at your wake?’
1st Guy: “What a smart guy. He made a lot of money”
2nd Guy: “I admired him. He really made a difference to other people’s lives”
3rd Guy: “Jesus, he’s moving!”
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