Yesterday we talked about the importance of ceremonies, because they give people an excuse to communicate.
You know what else is good for communication?
Shel Holtz remembered in a recent blog post that the smoking clatch outside his long-ago corporate workplace was a gaggle of ever-rotating strangers who had nothing in common but work, so they wound up learning a lot about the company by talking to one another.
When you think of the potential for employees to communicate with one another in that organic way—you wonder how people learn about anything in these days when the only smokers left are either old or crazy or both.
Cigarettes are good management tools, too.
When I was editorial director at Ragan Communications, I used to practice a management technique I called Managing By Smoking Around. If I had something to tell one of my writers, or if she had something to ask me—about story structure or salary structure—the idea was always just, "Let's go have a smoke."
We'd go down the back stairs and outside, I'd light a butt, and we'd have five or 10 minutes to hammer the issue out. If we needed longer, fine—I had a whole pack—but we tried to wrap it up quick.
And the point is, it was no big deal. I wanted a smoke anyway and it was a nice private way to chat without having a private chat with the boss in the ominous conference room. I think a lot of little issues were kept from becoming big issues because they were snuffed out as quick as the cigarette itself.
It's funny to say, but now that I don't smoke, I honestly wonder if I could manage people at all.