“We don’t know how lucky we are (mate)” goes a song here in New Zealand. An annoying song, yes, but a good lyric and message despite that.

Lately, at work, we have been having problem with a certain government body (and if that shocks you, you must live under a rock…) and thinking back on some of the conversations I’ve had with people there, I have to thank my lucky stars that I have such a wonderful job and wonderful people to work with.

To fill you in on all this — and believe you me, I will — I’ll have to let you know a major event that made me come to this conclusion.

Last year, we had an audit. Again, government department, wasn’t very well planned (came out of the blue actually). Anyway, the two auditors (one senior, one junior) took their places at the desk across from mine (then vacant) and proceeded with their audit.

The tutors, in the office next to mine, were on break. And, by the sound of things, enjoying themselves immensely, which they always seem to do. So their laughter grew louder and more frenzied as time went by.

I have to admit, I was a bit embarrassed because, quite frankly, it sounded like our teaching team was nuts. Sure, some students could probably drive them to that — especially that small group of our “special needs” students which we inevitably get from year to year — but the laughter kept going strong. Probably some random thing one of them said and the others were taking the piss out of them.

I turned to the auditors, who looked back at me. “I’m sorry,” my left hand pointed towards the office next door, “that they’re so loud. I can have them keep it down if you like.”

The two auditors looked at one another and smiled slightly. “No,” one said. “It’s nice to hear laughter. We’re not allowed to laugh in our offices.”

They proceeded to tell me, not in so many words, that those government desk jockeys vying for a higher position — willing to walk, crawl or jump all over anyone who got in their way — made their office a hell to work in. Not a pleasant atmosphere at all.

To be honest, at the time, I didn’t really give it much more thought. Making the assumption that all government departments were like that (and hey, I have to admit I am not a fan of bureaucracy or government departments), I thought, “Well, you have a choice to work there and that choice is yours alone.”

But with some applicants we have been interviewing lately, it’s not just government departments. Many other offices and places of business don’t allow laughter or fun in any way, shape or form. And how sad is that? How good is that for morale? For staff retention?

Noel and Don created a wonderful place to work. Sure, sometimes it is stressful and we have our moments of bitching at one another, but the more I hear from others, the more I realise how lucky I am — we all are — to have such an excellent workplace.

So the morals of the story are: If you think you’re bad off, there’s always someone worse off than you; and if you’re not happy with where you are or what you are doing, only you can change it to make it something better!

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