Thursday, November 15, 2001

skewing the record slightly

I had to pipe up again on the topic of my last post with a post-script. This week, a major corporation that must go nameless put out a humor policy for its employees. The rule says that humours pictures or representations will no longer be allowed on company property without prior approval from HR. In other words, you know those cute little Dilbert cartoons hanging up? Take em down.

To the company's defense, I bet I know what prompted the policy change. Every other cube having some form of hanging, decapitated, or de-genitaled Bin-Ladens gets a little tiring, and depending upon how good of a likeness, boarderline offensive for our Arab brethren.

Possible other reasons for the humor edict are that this company just layed off a bunch of folks. So I'm sure the token phone-list-with-names-crossed-out humor and truer-than-life management jokes are wearing thin on the powers that be.

But, what about "safe" humor--you know, the kind that any idiot in their right mind couldn't take offense at? What of Children's drawings? Knock Knock jokes? Cartoons like dilbert? A picture of Chris Locke's head with an arrow through it? Norman-frickin-Rockwell? Where does the company draw the line. And, can't the company allow for some remnants of humor in an already depressing world?

Here we get to Gonzo. Corporations don't make exceptions because their communications--internal just as much as external--are aimed at the masses. It's mass broadcasting, mass marketing, and mass employee communications at it's lousiest, where conformity is the norm and the message is so broad there's no chance for exceptions to tunnel their way through. This is the problem with any macro-message in a world that is turning increasingly micro, thanks to the Internet. And the failure of mass-messages to resonate is taking it's toll inside of companies just as it is in the marketplace.

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