Humor Is an Important Ingredient for These Chefs

Every profession and occupation has its own brand of humor, usually intelligible only to insiders

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And each group takes its humor seriously. When you joke with your co-workers about your boss, each other, another work group, or even when your boss jokes with you, it’s more than idle humor. And if you’ve ever worked for a company that tried to stifle workplace humor, you know it’s practically impossible. (more…)

Nixon resigns – 40 years ago today

I remember exactly where I was Thursday, August 8, 1974, the night Richard Nixon announced his impending resignation

NixonI and a friend were glued to the radio in his car, parked outside the house where our band was practicing. Band practice or not, Nixon’s speech was not to be missed. Not all the band members felt that way.

Things had not been going well for Nixon that summer. The Watergate scandal was closing in on him but the embattled president clung to power, stonewalling to the bitter end. Finally, on August 8 we learned that he would address the nation that evening, 8 p.m. Central time. Lee, the band’s drummer and my best friend (I was the bass player), and I knew we’d be at practice but planned to listen on the radio if nothing else. (more…)

Why you and I might not retire

When I was around 10 years old, my vision of retirement was to work until 65 and then “fish my life away.” Role models included my maternal grandfather, who retired from the Ford plant (I guess he was 65), and other men of that cohort who seemed to be enjoying life after work.

By the time I was in high school, fishing as a retirement option was less compelling. By my 20s, I’d given up the whole idea of traditional retirement. My so-called career path was anything but traditional and, in any case, doing something I really liked until giving up the ghost sounded like the best thing. Today, assuming good health, anything that even resembles retirement is out of the question. I’m pretty much on the “feet first” retirement plan. Researchers address the very issues that baby boomers like me face as we approach the traditional retirement age. (more…)

Finding the Ghost in the Machine

“Management researchers . . . dig deeper and deeper into the human psyche in their search for the ‘ghost in the machine’ – that elusive spirit that inspired enthusiastic human action and commitment without concern for external rewards and without asking for more.”

Working-coverIn first part of The Working Life, The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work (2000, Three Rivers Press), Joanne B. Ciulla, ethics professor at University of Richmond, Virginia, explores aspects of work throughout Western history. She moves through Aristotle and the Greeks to craft guilds in the Middle Ages. She discusses the influence of the Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformation, scientific management and more.

But this is not a history book. Ciulla’s real topic is working for others as a paid employee. Why do we work? What does work mean and how does it fit into our lives? How does it affect our identities? Ciulla doesn’t answer these questions directly as much as she explores them from different angles so we can answer for ourselves. (more…)

New era takes off in Red skies as another goes down the drain

One can’t have read Arlie Hochschild’s The Managed Heart and continue thinking about any working stiff, woman or man, in the same way. Ever. It affects me especially when I’m at a restaurant, but also during any other commercial interaction, where the server (or whatever) and I share a brief moment of humor, acknowledgment or even intimacy. Are all these emotional exchanges suspect? Are we both presenting our front-of-the-house selves? Are they ever genuine? I’d like to think so, at least sometimes.

A recent article in the New York Times reminded me of all this and then, a week later, another made an even deeper impression. (more…)