We were on a Microsoft Teams call, but we may as well have been on different planets. My friend Mike rolled his eyes and covered his mouth to hide a smile, while another coworker temporarily muted her audio. Of course, I looked down at my pen as if it might give me the answer.
Our boss had asked us to think of four words that best describe us. Like little kids in a classroom, looking to avoid answering the teacher’s question, everyone on the call put our heads down, waiting for someone else to go, no one wanting to be the first.
I thought about how I would answer. I didn’t want to be called, but if I was, I wanted to be ready. I guess this is the point where I should say, I hate ice breakers. I’m a strong worker and I enjoy getting to know my manager and peers, they become like a second family for me, but I hate small talk. You know the kind of ice-breakers that I’m talking about, where you’re asked to tell the celebrity that you most look like or your most embarrassing moment or when you have to tell three truths and lie and everyone else has to vote.
For the record, when I was younger, I would have responded that my celebrity look-alike was Doogie Howser, M.D., aka actor Neil Patrick Harris, and now a cross between Mr. Clean and The Rock in their best paunchy dad-bods.
Corporate America gone crazy
I’m not a prude. I like to have fun too, but instead of playing silly games and ice-breakers, I’d much rather learn real facts about my peers. When Corporate America resorts to games, then “Sarcastic Brian” makes his presence felt. I’m normally able to keep him at bay, but when you ask silly questions then you just may get silly answers.
Here’s what I mean. I was in a group once and the leader asked what would happen if we all won a million dollars. What would we do with our time? I laughed as soon as I heard the question. Right on cue, I asked when she was giving the money out, because I wanted to cash my check right away, I didn’t trust that the check wouldn’t bounce. I then told her that since I won a million dollars I had to leave, because I had other places I needed to be.
Now my boss and I had worked together for years and knew each other well. She knew I was joking, but she got my point that I was interested in us having a real dialogue and working to become a better team.
Reading the room
However, in this particular meeting, I knew it probably wasn’t the best time for Sarcastic Brian to be coming out of his shell, so I stuffed him back in his cage and thought about what I was going to say. Right on cue, the manager picked me, asking me to give the four words that best describe me. I thought for a few seconds and then chose: Friendly, dedicated, creative, and perfectionist.
The manager loved my answer, but I was sure to tell her that the four words were only half the answer. I told her that she’d probably be interested in learning too that I like solving problems, have a strong work ethic, and care deeply about my family. Of course, I was quick to add that you wouldn’t learn any of those facts from an ice breaker!