There are few things that make you realize the value of time, the transitory nature of life and the futility of human existence, like sitting and listening to someone tell, very slowly and with great delight, a joke you’ve heard before.
Especially when the joke-telling happens during an important business meeting, and the joke-teller is someone you can’t slap across the face with a whole sea-bass because he/she is a superior, or a valuable client. (Unless you’re already in notice period or due to be laid off. If so I suggest you pick up some grilled bulky seafood, whisper a ‘Saranam Ayappa’, and swing with passion. There are few better, more satisfying ways to exit.)
This is why I am very pleased that almost all contemporary joke-telling is now being driven by the Twitter social media platform. Twitter has eclipsed the email forward, the “99 Jokes About Sachin Tendulkar” type book sold on the footpath, and the well-informed grandparent as the primary conveyor of humour in today’s urban Indian society.
One moment you are sitting in office wondering why the “Monthly MIS Report” spreadsheet has forecast next month’s profit before tax as: “Approximately 17.2 kilograms”. The next moment the guy sitting next to you is howling with laughter at his mobile phone: “Ha ha ha Sidin. Did you know if you rearrange the words ‘Suresh Kalmadi’ you get the phrase ‘Salami Red Husk’. Ha ha ha. Salami! Hilarious...”
Now this might be a horrible joke. (It is not. Salami! So funny.) But by virtue of the fact that it was conveyed by twitter, you are only subject to 140 characters of misery. There are important lessons for the workplace. No really. Let me explain.
Earlier this week I read an interesting blogpost on Mashable.com about how people can use Twitter to circulate their resumes and find exciting new jobs in companies with easily distracted HR managers. The trick, the post says, is to send out bite-sized profiles within the 140-character limits: “While the Twesume can be anything you like, try to include this information: what you do, an accomplishment, a goal, skills and/or a link to a detailed profile or website.”
For instance, if I had to tweet out a Twesume it could be: ‘Office culture columnist. 5+ years experience in typing furiously while printing press operator waits. Seeks relaxed semi-retired position in government. May not win election. Can be prime minister. Can and will walkout very fast. #twesume’
Now recruiters can easily filter tweets with the #twesume hashtag, search for qualifications and accomplishments, click through to resumes, shortlist, interview candidates, promise to revert, and then effortlessly forget to do so faster than they could ever before.
But why not subject the entire cubicle experience to the 140-character treatment? Think about it. What if all office communication—letters, presentations, circulars, announcements, suggestions, rules, policies, Blackberry Allocation Directives From The Supreme Politburo Of Administration—had to be communicated in 140 characters or less?
Imagine the time, space and energy that would save.
It is no secret our modern workplaces sag and sigh under the weight of bloated communication. Everywhere we look we run into the complicated sentence, verbose articulation, redundant phrase, tiresome metaphor, politically correct disclaimer, jarring jargon and redundant phrase that has come to symbolize modern business communication. Look at this line from a research report on ERP by a major Indian software company:
“It is also imperative to spend enough time on deriving the optimal to-be process design model. Also, it is important to baseline a core process framework that should drive the detailed process modelling on the ERP package and use a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches for arriving at the to-be requirements set.”
I wish I was making that up. But I am not.
Imagine if the author of that report had to compress everything into a 140-character tweet. I suppose it would be something like this: ‘ERP is awesome. But you will definitely screw it up. So give us a call. Don’t make us send you our white paper. Thanks. #twarketing.’
Resignation letters, under this new Twitter communication paradigm, will no longer have to be written with the veiled passive aggression popular today. Instead you keep could keep it short, sweet and straight: ‘Hey @Boss, I quit. Low pay. Stupid coworkers. Terrible coffee. Relieve immediately. Prolonged notice period drama will lead to staggering drop in productivity. Open to counter-offer. Check DM for details. cc @HRManager.’
Email exchanges, a blackhole for productivity, can become remarkably efficient with employees having to trade-off between being polite and being productive. With a 140-character limit, cubiclists will now have no option but to come straight to the point:
Hi @summerintern, saw your presentation. ROFLMAO! Data analysis terrible. On sheet 3, today’s date has been added to revenue. However fonts and animations impressive. Have you chosen your major? Avoid finance.
From bottom-up to top-down, this Twitter approach can revolutionise the workplace. Please implement immediately.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life.Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also Read | Sidin Vadukut’s earlier columns