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Don't be funny

Joel advises to make your specs
fun to read.

In the consultancy jobs I did
(big companies) I never found
one document that was funny.
I found that humour in documents is
not accepted. When you want
the system to work for you,
I would advice you *NOT* to be funny.

With regards to humour and behaviour
I went to the following process:

I always tried to work as hard as I could
to contribute to the developing process.
Always doing the extra mile.

When I discussed my own work with others
I never bragged about it.
No matter how hard I worked, I always
tended to make a joke about my work.
Laugh at my own shortcomings.

In discussing problems with managerial
types, I just bluntly told what I thought.
I meetings with management
I sometimes made remarks which
caused seconds of silence.
Everybody thought the same
but me, Mr. Blunt throw it

Most people like me and lot of them
feel completely free to tell me whatever
they want.
Nice stories, but also complains, gossip,
conflicts with management.

After a while I heard too many negative stories.
And I got fed up with it.
I also got fed up with myself
being the nice guy, always in for
a joke. The first one to go to
when you do have a problem but you
don't have a budget.
Mr. Nice will help you.
Also the last when it comes
to delegating responsibilities.
Handing over budget to a

I wanted to shut my mouth
for a while. I knew I could
make people laugh and work my ass off,
but what was in it for me?
I just talked too

Then after a while I
changed my behaviour
to my colleagues a bit.
I kept my mouth shut for
two days.

I heard well-known topics from others:
Their salary is too low,
the manager does not know what he is talking
about, Mr. X is an overpaid blah, etc. etc.

As kind of an experiment I just
started to make positive remarks
about my company when I heard somebody
complain about how stupid management was acting.

No, I do not agree with you that the
salaries are too low. I did agree but
I just could not hear the talk anymore.

I made some other "artificial" changes
in my behaviour but it felt like a
relief. So when you want to make
progress in a (big) company, this worked
for me:

1) Never make a joke about work you did.
  Be bloody serious, when you talk about work
2) Don't talk negative about management with
  colleagues. Nothing changes and you will
  just get sick of the complaining.
3) Don't talk negative about one of your team members.
  Kick one out, but don't talk about it.
4) Speak slowly and low.
  (I experimented with it, it really works)
5) Try to avoid rants about politics as much as you can.
6) When you hear something negative about a person
  bring up some good news.
7) Don't write funny documents, only produce
  humourless unreadable papers.
8) When somebody is reporting to you about work status,
  just try this cheap trick: Don't say a word.
  What happens: after 10 seconds the person in front of
  you will start to make excuses why he/she did not get any
9) Did you made a big mess of your project?
  Ignore it. On many projects it is not clear who
  is exactly responsible for what.
  Who is going to take the hard knocks?
  Just the one that looks guilty and nervous and works late.

10)On most jobs nobody measures contributions from
  team members. Just go to bed early. Let it burn.

Are you going too feel "plastic" after a while?
It feels a bit unreal but you won't miss anything.

When I did this my salary more then doubled, suddenly
I had leading capacities, my colleagues stopped
telling me negative stories and I feel a lot better.
I can imagine lots of situations were it doesn't work

My 2cts.

kind regards
John Fisher

John Fisher
Friday, February 20, 2004

That's pretty cynical, but tell me more about the high wages.

Li-fan Chen
Friday, February 20, 2004


That is the funniest reply I could possibly imagine to that post!

Josh No-Spam Jones
Friday, February 20, 2004

Not that impressive, about 80 K dollars a year.

John Fisher
Friday, February 20, 2004

>1) Never make a joke about work you did.
> Be bloody serious, when you talk about work

I did once. Its ok if you poke fun at yourself. I wrote both the program and the documentation, and I added some humor into the document. Got no reactions on it, either good or bad.  So I guess people really does not read the documents you deliver anyway.

It does not matter is my take on it.

Shall I tell you about the high wages? ;-)

Friday, February 20, 2004

Yes, Patrik, do tell us about the high wages, the women, the power, etc. Our inquiring minds really want to know.

The Original Anonymous Coward
Friday, February 20, 2004

For some screenshots used in a manual I once put the Name / Company info as Jim Jones / Kool-Aid Ltd.

Would have been declared as 'not funny' had anyone noticed.

Anyway, who reads specs or manuals?

Friday, February 20, 2004

Joel's advice on adding humor to specs comes from a different perspective than most of ours.  He runs his own company.  Most of us don't.  I used to work for a medical device manufacturer.  The people who pay the most attention to the SRS's are the FDA auditors - the single most humorless group of people on the face of the planet.

Unfortunately, as a formerly "good-natured, humorous guy" I have to agree with the OP's 10 points above.  My experiences echoed his -- especially once I made it into management.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Also, re 2) and 3):

Dont' hang out with people who are known for being negative.  It has a tendency to bring you down, and you get a reputation for hanging out with malcontents.

I once had an excellent worker on my team.  I gave him a good review and raise.  My manager questioned it because he knew that the guy hung out with Malcontent #1 at the company.  Against my arguments he knocked the guy's review and raise down a few notches.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Another goto guy.  Will wonders never cease?

Friday, February 20, 2004

"Another goto guy"

No.  I got laid off from the management position.  Had I followed the 10 points, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have.

I got pulled into a VP's office one day and told that they basically wanted me to be an asshole.  The VP showed me a memo she had written to one of the teams.  It it, she told the team that if they didn't accomplish a Herculean project in 2 months, they'd all be fired.  I knew people on that team.  Some of them were single parents.  Yet to keep their jobs they needed to work 15 hours days, 7 days a week for 2 months.  The VP didn't give a shit.  She told me that writing memos like that were "fun".  She got a "charge" out of it.

I knew that I could never and would never be like that.  Six months later we had our 5th round of cuts, and I won the layoff lottery.  Oh well, crappy place to work anyway.

But one thing I did learn from that place was that trying to enliven the atmosphere with a little humor never got you anywhere.  At some companies, even if you produced and your team produced, you just don't get taken seriously by upper management if you don't have a game face on 24/7.

Thank God not all companies are like that, though.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Can I come to your office and remove the carriage return please?

Friday, February 20, 2004

Indeed. I'd like to welcome ee cummings cousin to the forum...


Friday, February 20, 2004

Whatup, 'cuz?

Friday, February 20, 2004

From one early on in his carreer: thank you for the good advice.

Slightly off-topic, but does anyone let humour show in their code comments?  I'm not talking about immature tactics that obfuscate the meaning of the code or the comment, but I tend to let unexpected ajectives/adverbs from my stream of conciousness creep in, or occasionally insert 3-13 lines of that same stream.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Sorry, not you - the original poster.

Friday, February 20, 2004

What mixed advice.

Have fun at work. If others don't want to have fun, screw them, but I value a fun work environment over a chance to cow-tow to upper management and double my salary in three weeks. Fun does not mean being unprofessional! Keeping promises and working hard are not incongruent with having fun.

I do agree with ignoring the negative nelly's.

As Covey says, changing one's behavior does not lead to meaningful relationships. You must base your actions on principles. Of course if you don't value relationships with other humans, do as you will.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Well, I nobody likes people who laugh at their own jokes.  The best way is to pull a Tyler Durden; slip humor/porn in almost subconsciously.  Think "plausible deniability".

Richard P
Friday, February 20, 2004

i appreciated your comment philo
even if no one else

Les C
Friday, February 20, 2004

maybe this 10-point game helped you to achive 2x salary, but maybe there is an opposite solution (be nice) that would make it 3x. which one would you choose?

Saturday, February 21, 2004

>She told me that writing memos like that were "fun".
>She got a "charge" out of it.

Wow!  I only suspected that some VP level people actually got enjoyment out of making their staff have indigestion.  Did she also happen to have some snakes writhing on her head and a green glowing eyes?

Velvet Glove
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

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