As the Harbus’ new Humor Editor, I’d like to set the proper expectations for the upcoming editorial term. And if I learned anything during my five years in corporate America (this is still a debatable point), it was the importance of setting expectations. After all, where else but in corporate America can one be rewarded for performing badly, as long as one performs “less badly” than expected. And where else, but in corporate America can one learn the true art of setting expectations…and become an Expectations Setting Master (ESM). Are you an ESM? If the scene below sounds familiar, consider yourself certified.
Your boss shimmies over at 2pm on a Friday afternoon, taps lightly on your cube wall, and asks in a voice so smooth, a car salesman would be suspicious:
“Mike, would it be possible to get me a breakdown of the number of albino monkeys currently living in third world countries led by fourth generation dictators where inflation rates have ranged between 15% and 45% over the last 7 decades?”
Not the na‹ve rookie you once were, you reply:
“Sure, I can get that to you no problem. I estimate it’ll take 2-3 weeks.”
“Two to three weeks?! I promised it to the client by Monday”
“Monday? Oh boy. I’m not sure what you were smoking, Sir, but I’ll do my best to get it to you by the following Friday”
“Friday?! But I just said I needed it Monday.”
“With all due respect, Sir, we both know you hung yourself with that one. No need to put both of our careers in jeopardy because of one silly mistake.”
“Mike, what am I going to do?!”
“Well, Sir, I hate to see a man with a beautiful wife, 2 gorgeous kids, 4 beautiful ex-wives, 6 gorgeous step-kids, 4 cars he can’t afford, 3 live-in maids, and a pool the size of a small Texas town lose his job due to pure idiocy, so I’ll tell you what. I’ll have that number to you by Wednesday…just 2 days late.”
“Oh, Mike. What did I ever do to deserve such an incredible employee?”
“It was pure good fortune, Sir. Pure good fortune.”
When your boss exits your cube, you punch ‘albino monkeys’ into Google allowing that “Internet thingy”, as your boss calls it, to work its magic. A mere thirty-seven minutes of research – thirty-four of which are spent procrastinating on an offshore gambling site – yields the answer your boss covets. It’s a bit past 3pm at this point, which means it’s still too early to leave for the weekend, considering there’s a good chance that annoying guy Larry will yell out “Mike, working banker hours, eh?” as you’re making your getaway. So you call your friends to make plans for the night and then head to the company kitchen, where you empty all the Cokes and Sprites out of the refrigerator to use as mixers for the night’s pre-party.
You return to your office to begin counting down the minutes until 4pm – a respectable leaving time, given the insult of a Christmas bonus you received this year. At 4:00:00, you fling your coat over your shoulder and head for the parking lot, while whistling the tune to “It’s Friday night, I just got paid…”
On your way out, you drop a post-it note with the number 16 on your boss’ desk and announce “there you go, Sir…six days early.” Your boss is flabbergasted. He sighs deeply, and with his glasses still hanging out of his mouth, he says, “Mike, I don’t know how you do it. Does HBS know what they’re getting?”
“I don’t think so, Sir. I don’t think so.”
You push the office doors open, take a long, deep breath of the weekend air, and strut over to your teal Ford Taurus, content with the knowledge that corporate America has produced an expectations setting machine.
If the above sounds familiar, then either you’re an ESM…or you’re a na‹ve boss with too many ex-wives. If the above doesn’t sound familiar, don’t panic. There’s an upcoming three-month training program that should improve your skills – I believe it’s called a summer internship.
So, in the true spirit of expectations setting, I hope you find the Humor Section for the next editorial term every bit as entertaining, amusing, enjoyable, humorous, witty, comical, and funny (I should have bought a more expensive thesaurus) as you expect, but just to make sure I’ve set proper expectations: Don’t count on it.
If you’re interested in contributing to the Humor section, please shoot me an e-mail with an article, or even an idea for an article, or even a picture of a person in your section who said he or she thought they knew someone who had an idea for an article. Thanks.