A million years ago, one of my dearest friends and mentors gave me the best advice she would ever offer: keep a funny file at work. (OK, maybe it wasn’t the very best bit of advice she gave, given that she also told me my husband and I simply had to marry each other because “no one else would ever have either of us,” and that’s just truth, but keeping a funny file still turned out to be GREAT advice.)
I’ve never broadly disclosed the contents of my funny file, but it seems like it’s time. After 20 years in the work force, the file is now at least three inches thick.
But hold up. Before I get to what’s in my funny file, let’s take a look at what it is. Or more specifically, what it does:
- Makes you laugh. Because, well, funny file.
- Makes you feel better about your own mistakes. Because there are some epic screw-ups out there, much bigger than your own.
- Forges new relationships and solidifies old ones. Because if you can’t bond with your co-workers over hilarious schadenfreude, sillies and snafus, then it’s time to find new co-workers.
A funny file is simply a repository of stuff you’ve encountered at work that makes you laugh. It can be digital or paper. Or both. It’s your funny file, knock yourself out. But you need to have one.
Here are a few of the fabulous finds in my own funny file:
- A public relations magazine featuring a “day in the life” of a PR agency CEO. And while we PR practitioners do not have boring jobs, the photo spread of this magazine managed to capture this poor CEO visually depicting the most boring job in the whole wide world. There’s a photo of him reading the paper! There’s one of him on the phone! Walking in the hallway! And, my personal favorite, pressing the elevator button! Ooooh, the suspense.
- The ground breaking ceremony VIP ribbon-cutting ceremony program, with the chairman of the board’s name spelled wrong.
- An STD-preventing device (in its original packaging) found during rounds in a hospital lobby. Why???? Why in a hospital lobby??
- Résumés featuring everything from epic descriptions of skills built from working at a farm feed supply store to unadulterated use of exclamation points and 17 fonts.
- A letter from the mother of a fortysomething guy scolding us for not hiring her son.
- A memo from a boss asking her employees to help her move to a new house. On a weekday. And she will pay in beer. Cue Michael Scott from The Office.
- A print out of an email chain written in the early days of email (read: before the IT departments got wise to us and still made it possible for anyone to easily send an email to all 10,000 employees of the company). The original email was sent by one woman to every single one of the 10,000 users, inviting them to see her compete in a karaoke contest. And at least half of the recipients hit “reply all” to tell her she was an idiot. Oh, the humanity.
So, having a bad day and need to be reassured that there are bigger mistakes out there than yours? Turn to your funny file. Having a great day and want to just add a belly laugh to it?
Check the funny file. Started a new job and don’t know what to say to your co-workers? Find something funny (but not offensive) in the file.
Laughing at work feels good. Try it.