Ruin the Joke

Joe Still
2 min readJul 1, 2021

Stay at a company long enough and sooner or later you will run into long standing problems or initiatives no one believes are actually going to be resolved. These problems are joked about in private settings hidden from executive leadership. I ran into this exact experience and there was no shortage of jokes causing snickers and eye rolls. Some jokes are so funny, they aren’t even talked at work for fear that “The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the scythe”.

I decided to collect the funniest jokes in a highly visible Confluence page editable by anyone. We collected at least a good 20 one-liners. The title of the page was “Jokes to Ruin” and the idea was to emphasize our longest running jokes in a very visible place and to do so in a fun self-deprecating way to disarm some of the more resentful or defensive attitudes that might usually accompany discussion of the jokes.

I worked my way up to managing a team by this time and was honored to find a couple jokes up there about myself! I barely recall, but I am sure I had some kind of bad habit of overoptimistic delivery dates or something else worth coming to terms with. Maybe it was worse than that, I swear I don’t recall it well or I’d tell you!

The jokes were ranked with the funniest jokes at the top. It became a fun motivator to ruin the jokes within our control and we even saw some jokes ruined by executive leadership now that they were clearly visible. In the end, we weren’t able to ruin every joke and some jokes still remained far too funny to publish like this.

This practice only lasted a month or so before we forgot about it like most wiki pages and initiatives that exist only in contemporaneous dialogue… but it brought a lot of visibility to long standing problems we actually made progress on and challenged the practice of cowardly low-agency snickering.

What jokes get told frequently at your job? How could you ruin them?

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