Professionalism Can Be A Joke!

June 4, 2016


I have seen a great many complaints when someone posts something humorous or LinkedIn so I shared a few links on humor in the workplace.  Then I thought I would share some of my experiences on the subject.

At all of my jobs, I was the one with humor and usually the one that people came to with an issue. At my last job I was told that I was not like the typical IT person or got a “Thank God, it is you” from my clients. Some of that was for my expertise, but much of it was because of my personality.  Some said they were glad that I never made them feel stupid and that I made them laugh doing a bad day or a difficult situation.

Did I have any that did not like my humor? Yes, there were a few now and then, but for the most part clients sought me out over my colleagues.  Some of my colleagues were more knowledgeable than I was, but they were not near as jovial.  That could have been because they were taught that sounding sober, superior or just flat anal was the professional mode.  I had one co-worker that made people feel like he was arrogant and weird, but he told me he was just being professional.  Others were just not people persons.  They breathed, ate and slept tech, but hanging out with humans was a drag.

I once explained to doctors in their lingo why I could not tell them when the system would be back up.  Nine out of ten docs was impressed with that.  One called and complained to my Boss.  I called a friend in that department and asked about the young lady who said, “I’m a doctor and I’m a Vet. I should not be treated that way.”   (I have a doctorate and I am a Vet.)  Turns out she was not a MD or PhD.  She was a psychiatry trainee and apparently had various issues that the Department was aware of so my friend called my Boss to assure her that I am always the gentleman.   You cannot win them all, but I was not going to change with a 90% success rate.

I was also praised for my patience.  It is easier to be patient when you are a humorous lad like me.  Being a Vet helps with that as well since hurry up and wait is an unwritten rule in the military.  Indeed, I laughed with them and not at them.  At one job, I always had the people with the bulging neck veins sent to me.  By the end of our interaction I sent them back to their office satisfied and laughing.   People have rough lives.   So why make things rougher by some sort of Draconian concept of what is professional?

As part of my signature block I wrote, “A happy employee is a more productive employee so make someone smile today including yourself.”  Even that made some people smile and they would write back and thank me for that line.  At one place we had plenty of people who were computer illiterate when it came to finding their Word icon if it dropped off of their desktop but could amazingly load games, screensavers, desktops and even shortcuts for online casinos.  That prompted me to add to my signature block, “It’s a WORKstation, not a PLAYstation.”  Most people loved it and one lad from Oregon asked if he could use it.

One lady who forgot that the signature block is not a part of the body of the message and hence not directed to her specifically got excited.  She shot me a complaint message and CC’d the hospital Director.   Oddly, she was the EEO person who also forgot that you solve things at the lowest level.  Well, the secretary who read the message before the Director also informed her what the difference was between message bodies and signature blocks so all was well.  Although, there is that old saying that if you throw a rock in a pack of animals the one that yelps is the one that was hit so maybe there was a conscience thing going on with her.

No matter if you are Draconian or Skeltonian, you are going to tick someone off.  (For you young folks, look up Red Skelton.)  So, you may as well try to laugh about it.  You will make more friends and happy clients with humor than with Victorian airs or being Mr. Roboto, domo arigato.  Indeed, as a young lad, I found out that bullies are less likely you hit you or not as hard if you can make them laugh and they may even start to like you and not hit you at all.

In a way, the bullies help me find a tool that has greatly helped me throughout my career and life in general. Therefore bullies are not going to change me now. Don’t wait for a bully to teach you this. Lighten up.  All people and cultures like to laugh so be funny and do a good job.  It will reward you in itself as “laughter is the best medicine” and may be the best business protocol ever conceived.

Peace, love and power to the Clowns!

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