Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Never, Ever Joke About Your Teams' Career Safety

Long ago I was on a mission flight with my Air Force E-3 AWACS crew. We had a bit of idle time and the crew team next to my console was cutting up a bit. I joined in the friendly insults. One of the younger crew gave her supervisor a really good one, laughter ensued, and I said something like “Oh, she’ll hear about that on her annual performance report (APR)!”

Without missing a beat the supervisor instantly replied “Of course she won’t. I don’t even joke about something like that landing on her APR. Ever.”

The way he said it made it even more impactful: he didn’t get intense, he didn’t yell, he didn’t joke. He just said it emphatically and in a matter-of-fact tone.

That moment has vividly stuck with me over the 30-plus years since it occurred. It’s changed how I interact with teams I run or even those junior to me who aren’t on my teams. The point is a crucial one in helping set a culture of safety and respect.

Those on your teams, those who report to you, those who have any form of accountability to you should know, without a doubt, that their performance reports will be based only on merit and fact, never spite or rumor.

You don’t do performance reports? Fine. Don’t fixate on the mechanics. This is more about the meta concept: safety in one’s career progression.

The other day on Facebook someone posted an article that ran something like “Seven Signs You’re About to Be Fired.” The poster tagged someone on their team and made a joking comment like “Yo, pay attention!”

I got the joke, but it also made me recall the terrific lesson I learned all those years ago.

Some things you just shouldn’t ever joke about. And your teams should know it.

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