Why should we be passionate about improving the workplace? We should be passionate about improving the workplace because our work can either be a hilarious, fun and brilliant experience or a frustrating, mind-numbing bore. The moments of the former in my work-life have made me long for the hilarious, fun and brilliant moments for everyone. Also, I’ve found that greater understanding and depth can make pockets of brilliant teams, even in a larger lethargic organization. Let me explain how the workplace can be hilarious, fun and brilliant to encourage you to set foot on this path.
The work environment can contain depths of humor. At times, it’s almost like a comedy play and no one can clap. There are classic moments that we’ve all seen. For example, the long and boring training days where the company must “train” you on this or that, but in all actuality, the training is only designed to make you accept liability for this or that, not to have you know the material. You’ve been there before…everyone must make it out of there, in as little time as possible. Even the instructor knows that everyone in the training is a live hostage and is trying to minimize the pain and speed through the “required” material. Right about then, there is one person who apparently didn’t get the memo on the rules of the engagement. Yes, that person, oddly enough, cares to ask an in-depth question at 3:30 in the afternoon. Then, they ask another question at 4:00. Don’t they know that no one is here to learn? Don’t they realize we aren’t even supposed to know the information? Everyone glares at this person. The group will take mental note and waste THAT person’s time later this week. The intruder doesn’t notice the glares. It’s like the whole culture of the organization is united, but that person is on planet Alderon. These moments make me chuckle. How can the unwritten rules be so clear to most and NOT communicated to THAT person? The other classic that I enjoy is when, in a meeting, said-person brings up the topic that embarrasses his or her own team. The resounding response is “yes, let’s talk about that off-line.” The message, whether the clueless person knows it or not is “why did you bring that up here, dummy, don’t you realize we’re not ready with that, yet—translation “Shut up-about that!” These are examples of the moments that are humorous that we all experience in the workplace. It tickles me no end that there are these “rules” of the workplace that somehow, most understand, and yet, not all—get the memo. I still can’t figure out why there aren’t many more sit-coms about office politics that tickles me no end.
Second, the workplace can be fun. I worked in one office where, every Friday at 2:00 PM, many would congregate for a dice game that resulted in eliminating each person consecutively until the last person standing bought everyone a soda from the snack bar. It was a ritual that made the entire division a fun place to work. Another time, we were on a long endurance combat sortie and the crew decided to compete for who could drink the most beverages in the 13-hour flight. This competition went on for 4-5 flights and finally, one person “scored” or “drank” up to 27 drinks, including either a soda, water bottle, or Gatorade bottle. Of course, the facilities were starting to become limited when we decided to declare a winner and knock off that game. And of course, it’s not just the games, it’s the camaraderie and the work itself that can be an exciting challenge. One time, a man named “Woojay” and I tried to create an Access program to calculate the takeoff data for the C-135 we were flying. We set about to make equations out of the lines in the performance manual of the airplane. He brilliantly figured out a way to program the algorithm to figure out the “degrees off” of the crosswind component even if the wind was coming from 350 and the runway heading was 010. The method was to subtract 350 from 360 and add 010 minus 0, and then add the absolute values of both, using a clockwise calculations on the compass rose. I still remember how long that had stumped us and the brilliant