Most architects I know go about their business in an professional manner – but somehow that doesn’t necessarily translate to the behavior that happens in the office. In literally every firm I have ever worked in, the stuff I hear being said (let’s be honest, I’m the one saying a lot of it) is so inappropriate that it is shocking. Many of you are probably familiar with a series I have on the site hear titled “Heard around the architectural studio …“. For every one story that is safe to publish, there are hundreds of stories that are not. On occasion I will share one of these stories with my wife or one of my sisters – both who hold significant leadership positions in real companies – and their mouths are left agape at some of the things they hear coming out of my mouth.
I don’t think salty language and inappropriate stories are all that uncommon in architectural studios across the country. Architects get our training starting in studios in college where a group of college aged kids spend way too much time together in very small quarters. We spend time on construction sites, which are ground zero for bad language and inappropriate stories, and maybe in our attempts to fit in we adopt the language and demeanor observed while on site. Who knows where we develop our tendencies, all I know is that from personal experience, architects in private have some pretty salty language. I would also dispute this as a male characteristic because one of my last employers was a woman [she was awesome and I had respect for her abilities] and she had the foulest mouth I’ve ever heard in my life.
I told you all that to set the expectation level for a story. I have a bee hive in my backyard. It isn’t on purpose – I’m not trying to harvest the honey – and if I had a say in the matter, I’d like for them to be somewhere else. The bees showed up in Spring 2013 and in the beginning, I thought it was pretty cool. You can’t hardly go a day without seeing some article out there talking about how all the bees are disappearing and what a huge problem it is. I keep a fairly organic backyard and having a beehive seemed to be an indication to me that I have ecological balance in my yard [yay me!] But after a short while, there were A LOT of bees and nobody liked going out in the yard anymore … it’s seemed reckless.
The tree where the bees have set up shop is probably about 6′ in circumference and there is a knot towards the bottom of the trunk that allows access to what is apparently a hollow interior. It’s a small entrance point and as more and more bees showed up, a large, pulsing “waiting line” started to form. I’m not all that positive that bees are very patient because this “waiting” seemed to make then more easily irritable … which meant even the bravest of people decided that hanging out in the backyard was not a very good idea.
My wife and I had several conversations about how to get rid of these bees, which as it turns out is not as easy as you might think. I do not want to harm the hive and my repeated attempts to contact a local “bee hive” enthusiasts club to come and get these bees didn’t accomplish anything. Finally, as late fall came around, the bees simply left on their own. One day bees … the next day, no bees. I just assumed that they had finally outgrown the interior of this tree trunk and moved on to greener pastures.
I was wrong.
This Spring, they came back. They don’t all come back at once, it’s like a few show up early to make things ready – do a little beehive housecleaning. Since I missed my chance to seal the entrance to the hive up during winter, I thought I would try to make the hive less appealing, so I jabbed a large piece of bark into the entrance so that it would discourage the bees from moving back in.
Wrong again. Here is a video I took with my cell phone [Sunday, June 1st, 2014]
[if the video doesn't show up, hit refresh on your computer or watch it here]
As I was regaling my office with the tale of my bee hole, everybody couldn’t stop giggling.
I described the piece of wood that I stuck in my bee hole …
really force the wood into my bee hole so it wouldn’t fall out …
There is a lot of activity around my bee hole …
There’s a huge waiting line to get into my bee hole …
Okay, if by now you haven’t figured out why people thought this was so funny, get one of your friends to explain it because I’m not going to explain it to you. Did I know what I was saying that caused all the laughing? Not before I said it and it was still in my head. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I heard what I had just said and I might have continued for a while for my own amusement.
But not once did I ever stop and think whether or not I should be making these particular jokes. In my head, if it’s funny and everybody is laughing that seems to always make things okay. Believe it or not, I actually try to be funny around the office and frequently tell stories and anecdotes that I think will be enjoyed by the other people working in the office. I think of it as part of our particular firms culture … that we work hard, take our jobs seriously but that it’s more than okay to enjoy yourself while you are working.
Just like the content I write on this site, I don’t use foul language very often in real life. I don’t think it brings much to the mix and more times than not, I believe it undermines your effectiveness as a communicator. If you can’t make your point without resorting to dropping an F-bomb or some other curse word, maybe you should think a little longer about what you are trying to say.
So I’m curious about what others think on this subject. Is there a policy in place at your office or do you simply go by general decorum base. Would you have been offended by my bee-hole story?