Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I understand and have been there. Here’s my story.
“Mimosa or Bloody Mary?” were the last words I expected to hear out of the director’s mouth on my first morning of work. When you start a new gig you normally hear, “Go talk to Jane in HR about your paperwork” or “Roger handles our internal IT, talk to him about getting yourself setup”.
“Are we celebrating?”, I asked. I wondered if we just closed some account, shipped a product or if this was some way of welcoming me to the team.
“No, this is life every day, welcome aboard! We do things differently here”, he said, He was proud of this, you could tell. He had a rebellious look that said, “we’re not doing things the way our parents did, we’re creatives!”.
You see, I had spend the majority of the last 20 years slinging code for financial firms. An environment where a simple mistake, a laps of judgement could cost something hundreds of thousands of dollars. In that kind of environment, you don’t do things the can hinder your ability to think. Drinking while working was probably number one on the list of things you didn’t do. I know I crossed the rubicon from button down world of Wall Street to the free flowing world of a creative agency in a Chinatown Loft. For some reason I didn’t feel comfortable making this leap.
“I’ll just have a coffee, on this side of 40 I need caffeine to get the synapses flowing”. Little did I know that I wouldn’t need them to fire for the next 7 hours.
I get settled, took out my laptop and waited for access to the code repo and development servers. As I sat at my new desk I observed what people were doing. As coders and engineers wandered in for the day, they would stop by the Kitchen / Bar, get a drink and head for the conference room. I headed over to find the entire staff just playing video games and drinking. I realized that the staff were all under 25 and this was just Frat House Life 2.0.
By now I had access to the code repos so I was reviewing what they had, getting familiar with their style and trying to learn their product. Around 2PM people were leaving the conference room and started heading out for lunch. When they returned from lunch it was siesta and people slept off a little of their buzz at their desks or on the couch.
4PM, now it’s time to start working! They worked. They worked hard and long, into the wee hours of the morning. People were starting to leave around 2AM. Proud of the “long day they just put in”. I heard one engineer referring to the 17 hour day he just “worked”. I shook my head and went home.
The next day I came in, grabbed some coffee and watched the some thing happen again. As people were sobering up, I headed to the director’s office. “Sorry, I don’t think this is going to work out”, I said, “you don’t need to pay me for these days”.
He seemed puzzled, “The Long days? I was hoping with you could help us streamline things”
“Oh, I could fix it but you don’t want to hear it”.
“Simple”, I said,”people aren’t allowed to drink or play video games until their work is done. Yesterday, although we were here until 2AM, everyone really worked a 10 hour day, from 4PM to 2AM. 9 to 4 was drinking, playing and recovery time. It’s 3:30 not and no one has stared working yet. I don’t mind long days, I don’t mind working hard. But when I work I want to work, when I play I want to play. When I was 8 my mother told me ‘you can’t go out and play until you finish your homework’. That’s what you need here. You can’t drink and play games until your code is checked in and your tickets are closed”.
He looked at me. With a little bit of pity. “Sean, I worried about hiring you. You’ve been with ‘them’ too long. You’ve forgotten what it’s like to have fun”.
“Nope”, I said, “I know how to have fun, it’s what I look to do when I’m not at work. I didn’t take this job to make friends, recapture my youth. I work to be productive to society and to be able to provide for myself.”
“Sean, you’re not going to work out here”.
“Yeah I know, that’s why I’m leaving. Let’s shake hands, admit we’re not a fit and move in”
“No Sean, you’re fired”
“Good enough, have a great day!”
Crossposted on my blog: http://bowtiesare.cool/content/drinking-work