When the joke’s on you: Finding the humor in bizarre business encounters


By Jenny Schade, Guest Columnist

Consultant Jenny Schade finds humor in the most unlikely situations
Jenny Schade shares strange but true business stories. Photo by Light Design Photography

Colleagues often tease me that I’ve had more than my share of strange but true adventures. Perhaps I’m simply more open to finding the humor in unusual workplace events. In the spirit of April Fool Day, I hope you enjoy the following bizarrely humorous real-life adventures.

 1. Always compliment the client’s mother

A colleague tells of a meeting he and his boss, the president of a public relations firm, had with the chief executive officer of a large pharmaceutical company. Unaccustomed to being kept waiting, his employer paced back and forth, intensely examining the reception-area artwork while the receptionist assured him it would be just a few more minutes.

When the pharmaceutical chief executive finally emerged, the public relations man exclaimed loudly, “I noticed that you have a portrait of Benjamin Disraeli in your waiting area. I, too, am a huge fan of Disraeli.”

After a brief pause, the pharmaceutical executive quietly replied, “That is not a portrait of Disraeli. That is a portrait of my mother.”

Without missing a beat, the public relations leader said, “Did you know that your mother bears a striking resemblance to Disraeli?”

2. Caught on voicemail

As I listened to my voicemail one morning, I was surprised to hear a diatribe about myself from a subcontractor that included such comments as, “I’ll set her straight” and “No one tells me what to do!” It became clear that he had called me from a meeting with his own staff and believed he had disconnected from my voicemail. Without realizing he was being recorded, he left a scathing monologue.

I returned the call, and the subcontractor immediately put me on speaker phone. After responding to his questions, I repeated some of the comments that had been left on my voicemail and asked if he wanted to add anything else. After clearing his throat numerous times, he replied in an unusual accent, “Uh, that wasn’t me.” I suggested he get in touch with me after further reflection.

I chuckled to myself when he called later that day in his usual voice to say, “Actually, Jenny, that was me. Sorry about that.”

3. Dressing in the dark

A colleague rose early one morning to get a head start on a busy day.   To avoid waking his wife, he dressed  in the dark and caught the train.

He had put in several productive hours in the office  when his colleagues began to arrive. A British colleague stopped in his tracks as soon as he entered the office and exclaimed in a loud voice, “My God, man, what do you have on?”

Further examination revealed that in his haste to dress that morning, he had put on his wife’s blouse, complete with lace collar and cuffs.

4. Accent on the way home

On my way home from a business trip, feeling tired and slightly bored, I decided to amuse myself by speaking in a British accent to my limousine driver. While I chatted away, he glanced back in his rear-view mirror. “You from these parts?” he asked. “Just visiting from England,” I continued, feeling quite pleased with my accent.

Upon our arrival at my home, the driver regarded me with a mixture of pity and humor after he received my payment. “Cheerio,” I said.

“You know, I took you home just last week,” he said, shaking his head ever so slightly. We were both laughing as he pulled away.

Numerous studies have shown laughter to be both physically and emotionally beneficial. Taking a few minutes to see the humor in a situation can be just plain fun. Surely you have your own “strange but true” stories. I invite you to share them by posting a comment on SmallBusinessChicago.

Jenny Schade is president of JRS Consulting Inc., a Chicago-area firm dedicated to helping  organizations build  brands,  attract customers and  motivate employees. Schade also publishes the JRS Newsletter.