Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Did I Say That Out Loud?

Allow me to set the stage- Its several years ago and I’m at a table of 25 people all of whom work for me. We are getting ready to have a serious discussion about planning for the coming fiscal year, and at the outset of the meeting, things are still a bit light-hearted and jovial. Ms. R walks in (the primary planner and analyst) and someone notes gleefully- Hey, you’re not blonde anymore! You dyed your hair! It looks awesome.”

So there it is. In volleyball its called "set, spike."

I wish my mind worked as fast in figuring out investments or doing my work half as fast as it works when there is a opportunity to spit out a well-timed quip or good-natured barb. It literally pops in my mind and out of my mouth in one second.

Earlier that same day I had a conversation with Ms. R and several other folks that were in this later meeting regarding concerns about the accuracy of data that Ms. R’s department was issuing. It was expressed to her, kindly, that these recurring problems needed to be fixed. Neither Ms. R nor her department were primarily at fault for the problems, we just needed them to be more vigilant about fixing the flawed raw data that was flowing in from another area of the business.

You may have already figured out what I said next after Ms. R was greeted as she walked into the meeting- it escaped my mouth without getting permission from my brain: “Wow- no longer a blonde! Maybe your reports will be more accurate.”

It was one of those well-timed “meeting jokes” that while causing uproarious laughter in the world of fluorescent-lit meeting rooms with bad coffee, it would hardly elicit a slight chuckle in the real world. I thought it was funny. Even Ms. R thought it was funny. Everyone in the room knew I greatly appreciated and respected Ms. R, so I didnt think it would be taken wrong by anyone. Apparently, some other blondes in the room did.

Human Resources contacted me the next day to read me the riot act. As soon as I got the call, I knew exactly what it was about. While some might think the joke was harmless, it hurt some feelings. No more blonde jokes from me. I have a good record of not cracking jokes at the expense of others, but we all fail sometimes, don’t we?

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