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Summary:

You’ve got to read this great post on our sister site WedWorkerDaily today, by Pete Johnson, Chief Architect at HP.com: Get Mad But Don’t Get Even – Turn an Insult Into a Favor . It’s funny and astute, offering a great example for how to turn […]

You’ve got to read this great post on our sister site WedWorkerDaily today, by Pete Johnson, Chief Architect at HP.com: Get Mad But Don’t Get Even – Turn an Insult Into a Favor . It’s funny and astute, offering a great example for how to turn a potentially uncomfortable confrontation into an opportunity — a skill every founder can use, in just about any situation! Hint: use humor. (We offer more resources on the value of humor in business at the end.)

Read Pete’s whole blogpost, but here is a highlight:

Pete & Ewan are on a company conference call. Ewan is a big fish, Pete runs a developer group:

…the topic turned to which organization should write a particular piece of functionality. Rather quickly, Ewan emphatically chimed in with, “Nobody from [Pete's organization] knows how to write any code!” Then an awkward pause came followed by him timidly saying, “Uh, are any of those guys on the call?”

Now, my initial reaction was to completely jump down Ewan’s throat…..[Then] I realized that if I reacted how I wanted to, I risked looking like an even bigger jerk myself. So I went the other way.

Pete: “I think what you meant to say,” I said calmly, “is that nobody from knows how to write any code . . . . except for Pete.”

That got a big laugh from everyone on the phone and completely diffused the tension that the Ewan’s comment created.

And now, for the payoff

Immediately after the meeting ended, Ewan called me directly and was incredibly apologetic… Ewan concluded the call by telling me that if there were anything he could do for me, to let him know. (Emphasis added.)

Conflict avoided. Ally made. A win-win! For more on how to use humor in the workplace — it really can be a salve, see:

Be Funny: Humor for the Businessperson, by Ben Casnocha, author of My Startup Life: What a (Very) young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley. (Ben’s forward is written by Salesforce.com founder, Marc Benioff.)

Ben hosts a business salon in San Francisco called Junto, and last year the topic of humor came up: “Funny Business: Using Humor To Thrive In The Professional World.” Scroll to the bottom of this page for some notes on the meeting.
Or read Tim Taylor’s blog post about the meeting called, Junto Humor.
And last, Ben refers us to this NPR piece called Humor in Public Life. I suggest you listen to it.

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Carleen! Hopefully we can have you there next time. :)

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  2. Hi Carleen,

    Thanks a bunch for the kind words and for the trackback!

    I was literally a few seconds away from telling Ewan off and I’m soooo glad I went the other way instead. I’m lucky my little joke with it didn’t fall flat 8).

    Thanks again for noticing, I really appreciate it.

    Pete Johnson
    HP.com Chief Architect
    Personal blog: http://nerdguru.net

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