My boss is getting ready to retire this week after 37 or so years with the company. That seems like a long time, but where I work 30 year employees are more the norm than the exception. It is an extremely “old” company, in part due to the generic Baby Boom influence, but also in part due to the insular nature of the company. I work with several people who are second and third-generation employees. It’s a rare company environment these days, and it certainly won’t be that way in 10 more years. Over half the company population will be eligible to retire in the next five years. That’s amazing.
I walk the halls and most of the people look ready to go. Hell, you can barely go anywhere without hearing people talk about “getting their numbers”, counting the days till they are out the door. A former co-worker who was a good friend actually changed his screen saver every day to count down the day he retired, something he started doing at least 10 years before the day came. I’m not sure what he puts on his screen saver now; he may not need one, since he spends much of his time prospecting for gold in the Black Hills.
But back to my boss. I’ve had some good bosses and some bad ones, but Dave, my current one, is the best I’ve had. There are a lot of reasons I’ll miss him, but the number one thing is that Dave was the first person I’ve worked for who I thought was reasonably like me. It pretty much boils down to his sense of humor and willingness to use it. I can’t tell you how often in my career I’ve wanted to say something funny but resisted the urge because nobody else was saying anything funny. It’s not that I work with humorless automatons; it’s just that the instinct to use humor so often seemed so much stronger with me than the people I worked with.
Not to mention the fact that my sense of humor doesn’t always translate to a lot of people. Rather than risk offending anyone, or making a reference nobody would understand, I instead began passing my time in meetings looking around at the other participants when something absurd was said. I just wanted to catch that little moment of eye contact that would tell me I wasn’t the only one who knew there was a good line hanging out there in the room. Every once in awhile, it happened, but not often. I got used to it.
But shortly after he hired me, I found that Dave was the person most likely to make that joke that was hanging out there. And lo and behold, once he did it, other people chimed in, too. His humor’s always G-rated, as it should be when dealing with mixed crowds. But the quality is consistent, and so is the instinct to provide it. It’s not like he’s a non-stop comedy routine, but he doesn’t have to be; you can’t imagine the oasis a smart line provides in the middle of a two hour death march of a meeting.
He’s the first supervisor I’ve worked with that could really be considered a cut-up, and that makes him an important role model for me. Until I worked with Dave I always assumed I would have to stifle my instinct to make a joke if I wanted to become a manager. I only had three years under him, but I’m thankful for that time, and I will miss him.