Magazine article Management Review

Gorillas in the Mist of Work

Magazine article Management Review

Gorillas in the Mist of Work

Article excerpt

Have you ever come to work dressed as a gorilla?" I ask my ophthalmologist.

While in the waiting room, I'd read an article about an accounting firm where the CEO routinely dresses up as a gorilla. He does this to relieve office stress, and apparently it works, although it seems just as probable that something like this could cause office stress. "The CEO has finally gone mad," people might mutter. "Thinks he's a gorilla."

Here's what I'm wondering: Are CEOs dressing up as gorillas because office life is getting more playful? Or, are things so stressful that even CEOs are cracking?

Also, what do animals do to relieve stress? Animals appear to have a less-developed sense of fun than we do. When was the last time you heard about a stressed-out gorilla dressing up as an accountant?

Stress is on my mind right now. I'm about to have a "routine" eye operation. My routine doesn't usually include surgery, unless you count almost cutting off a finger or two in the morning when slicing bagels.

My ophthalmologist says he usually comes to work dressed as an ophthalmologist. But then, sensing my disappointment, he admits, "Sometimes on the weekend I come in without shaving."

Fun is in. People say they took a job because it seemed "like a fun place to work," or that they left a job because "it stopped being fun?'

There's something about all this fun-talk that's depressing. Maybe it's the lingering influence of the Protestant ethic, which promoted hard work, self-discipline, and normal clothing. Work wasn't supposed to be fun. Work was supposed to be...work.

In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), sociologist Max Weber argues that the Protestant ethic led to capitalism. Although he never comes right out and says it, Weber implies that capitalism would have never gotten off the ground if everyone had shown up for work in gorilla suits.

By the way, there was another Max Weber who lived around the same time. (Theory: a lot of people back then called themselves, for some reason, Max Weber.) This Max Weber was a painter. His first one-man show, according to my Encyclopedia Americana, was described as a "brutal, vulgar and unnecessary display of art," and I think this was from someone who liked it. But he didn't let it get to him. He kept at it, and now lives next door to the other Max Weber in most encyclopedias. …

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