Keeping a Sense of Humor – Who is your Chief Humor Officer?
IT is a difficult profession. It takes years of training to learn your craft and many more years of experience to become proficient. The hours are long. You spend most of your career on call 24/7. The industry is constantly changing and evolving. In fact, I hazard to guess that what you are doing right now in IT was not even invented 5 years ago. No one else in your organization understands what you do, or why anyone would want to do it. But for those of us that call IT our professional home, there is no other place to be.
We do have a secret weapon: a sense of humor. Most of the CIOs I know have a great sense of humor. More that anything else, it relieves stress and provides comradery within the department. Most of our sense of humor comes from our users. Here is a small sampling of the requests I’ve received over my 42 years in IT:
- A user told me that his 5.25” floppy disk drive was not working (yeah, I started supporting PCs in 1981 – the year they were invented. I’m old). I told him to make sure he was putting the disk in correctly. I told him to hold the disk with his thumb on the label (thumbnail facing up), insert it all the way into the drive, and close the door. He got up, walked across the room and closed his office door. When he sat back down, I said “Good, because this next part is a big secret. Now close the disk drive door!”
- A user in another building was having a problem with a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. I told him to copy it to a diskette (yep, still old), and drop it in the Intercompany mail. It showed up the next day with a note stapled to the diskette. Yes, holes in a diskette are bad.
- Last diskette story: All PCs we deployed included a recovery diskette. While visiting a user, I noticed she kept her recovery diskette on her filing cabinet held up with an industrial horseshoe magnet. Yes, magnets and diskette together are bad.
- An Executive called me into a conference room to complain, loudly, that the presentation projector hanging from the ceiling did not align with the white board on the front wall. I reached up and pulled the projector’s screen down from the ceiling with the string hanging in front of the white board, which (shockingly) was aligned perfectly with the projector. He threatened me with bodily harm if I ever told this story. Since I omitted his name, hopefully, I am safe.
- I have lots of stories about users that VPN in from a remote site (home) and submit helpdesk request that when they are logged in to work, their home printer stops working. But the printer in their office at work is spitting out paper like a champ.
The technical term for these types of issues is “PEBCAK” – Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard. I do not mean to poke fun at users. Most try hard to be self-sufficient. Most are very intelligent and, quite frankly, ask questions that stump IT Professionals frequently. But sometimes they are funny. And it’s not just users. IT people do very funny things, yes dumb things, too. CIOs are the ones that say no to helpdesk requests and turn down requests for new toys, I mean iPhones. It is not a very fun part of the job. I hung a sign on the bulletin board in my office stating that I was the “Lightening Rod of Hate”. Some were offended at my blunt attitude. Most were amused. It was my way of trying to diffuse a tense situation with humor.
This is just business, nothing personal. Humor diffuses angry colleagues in tense situations. I am well known for typing copious meeting notes into my laptop during meetings. At one Executive Team meeting, two of our Sr. Executives got into a shouting match until one dropped a perfectly-timed F-Bomb followed by deafening silence. As I pretended to type, I leaned over to the person sitting next to me and asked, loudly enough, “How do you spell Tourette’s?”. Mood broken, we returned to the business at hand. If no one else will, you need to be the Chief Humor Officer.
Upshot: I love funny stories about things that happen at work. Please drop your favorite in the comments below or click on the email link and send them to me. Thanks, John