When I left Procter & Gamble two years ago to focus on Humor That Works, I wrote a love / break up letter of sorts to share some of my thoughts on the company I spent 6 years with. Here is that letter (edited slightly for non-P&G people).

My Break Up Letter with P&G

June 29th, 2012

Dear Procter & Gamble (aka P&G aka PeeG),

first day cartoon
My first day at P&G

It is with great sadness that I write type this letter. In my 2,138 days with you as a P&G employee, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow like I never could have imagined. Thanks to incredible managers and mentors, a grow-from-within culture, and an incredible amount of support, I’ve accomplished things during my career I never thought possible.

But it is now time we go our separate ways. Please, don’t be sad. Be happy for both of our bright futures and for the great moments we had together.

And we have had some great times together.

We worked on some incredible projects with some incredible teams. You had the confidence in me to let me lead a multi-year multi-million dollar project with people from 4 different continents, help build applications for predictive modeling of consumer behavior, work with engineers doing upstream development more than 7 years away, and analyze hundreds of thousands of data points to propose new organizational structures.

We’ve traveled to some amazing cities and places, with trips to Columbus, Dallas, Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Mexico City, and Geneva (which included a personal journey to London, Paris, and Edinburgh). We’ve also lived together in two of my favorite cities in the world: my hometown of Cincinnati and the city that never sleeps, New York, NY.

You also granted me the opportunity to have some unique experiences, like the time I sat in the pressbox of a Cincinnati Reds game with a sitting CEO, shared the same training stage as a former CEO, co-wrote a story with the Corporate Storyteller, saw the inside of the corporate jet, produced a fashion show in front of a VP of beauty, sang karaoke with a director of IT, banged on drums with an entire sales organization, and talked workout tips with a Philippines-based VP.

And of course you helped me find and pursue my passion. You supported me when I proclaimed myself the corporate humorist of Procter & Gamble, wrote a blog about humor in the workplace, and led as many humor-based activities as I could.

pringles rap
MC Pringle

As the corporate humorist, I at one point had one of the top ten blogs internally, taught a 4-week improv class, performed stand- up at corporate off-sites, performed improv for a VP in IT (that included an impersonation of the CIO), taught communication training in New York, Cincinnati, and Mexico City, spearheaded a duct-tape fashion show, led a number of improvised talent shows, wrote a poem for the Fine Arts Fund, won internal awards for speaking and training, and even wrote a rap song for Pringles.

And you supported me through all of it (though we both know my rap career isn’t likely to take off).

So if things are so great, why must I leave? What did you do wrong? While it may be cliché, it’s true: It’s not you, it’s me.

You helped me find my true passion—my passion for speaking and training on humor in the workplace, for finding ways to improve the everyday work experience, and for helping others use humor to be more effective at work, at home, and in life.

And if you had the need for a NYC-based full-time corporate humorist, I’d stay in a heartbeat. But truth be told, you don’t need a full-time humorist. You already have a great sense of humor. You had one before you met me and will have one after I’m gone (though I hope I helped you grow your sense of humor, or at least your appreciation of puns).

That’s not to say that there’s not room for improvement. Are there times people need to be reminded of having fun? Sure. Could some individuals or teams use some in loosening up a bit? Of course. Should you hire me to train people to use humor effectively? Absolutely.

But you don’t need me like others do; you’ve already got a great start.

Our recent history together in Business Intelligence is a perfect example. In this organization alone, I’ve attended virtual trainings that used interactive elements to increase engagement (and asked important questions like what color socks are you wearing); I’ve been to off-sites where we’ve sang karaoke, threw paper airplanes to ask questions, and performed an improv show; and the leaders of the organization have dressed in thematic costumes ranging from formal Chinese attire to swash-buckling pirate outfits. I mean this is the organization that had special Humor Awards with categories ranging from Best Email to the “Free the Hamster” Award.

But it’s not the only organization with a sense of humor. I’ve also been to off-sites that have included massages, team-building events like bike-building, and of course scavenger hunts–I’ve scavengly hunted in Cincinnati, Boston, and Las Vegas (I’d love to tell you what I found but it apparently has to stay in Vegas).

You have entire organizations that are seemingly founded on humor, organizations such as the Clay Street Project (which includes improv as part of the business reinvention process), the Corporate Archives (which captures the history of P&G and its brands and is available for sharing and reapply)* and the Behavioral Science group (who explores creative ways to improve employee productivity).

Ivory Baby
Ivory Baby

*Side Note: The Corporate Archives also has a picture of what has to be the ugliest baby ever used in advertising.**
**Side Note Note: I’m not trying to be mean, just being honest. I’m sure the baby went on to become an attractive adult.

But the fun / humor / buck doesn’t stop there. You’re also teeming with incredible individuals who live and breathe humor in almost everything they do. Individuals who have avatars in their email signatures, mix witticism along with smart answers, and teach the power of storytelling.

Perhaps no individual effort is as great as the recently retired Corporate Storyteller, Jim Bangel, who over the course of 10 years wrote more than 100 stories helping educate employees on topics ranging from leadership to productivity to understanding percentage of booklet NPV (I didn’t know what it meant either).

Still it doesn’t end. The opportunity for using humor is available to any one of us, every day. For all the jokes I’ve shared at the bottom of emails, all the meetings I’ve started with a personal question, and all the projects I’ve given a fun name–never once was I told it was too much. Never once did I have to beg for forgiveness, despite actively seeking the bounds to which I could avoid asking permission.

Not everything I worked on was inherently fun, but almost everything I did could be done in a fun way. Did you still expect me to deliver my W&DP? Of course. Did I have days full of stress? Affirmative. But could I make the choice to use humor in a company that will support it? Most definitely.

In fact, that’s what I did for six years. Six years of including the same humorous observation in my OOO message:

Don’t you think it’s cool that the acronym for “Out of Office” is OoO? It’s like people are thinking “Oooooo, where’d you go while you were out of the office?”

Six years of incorporating pictures of myself into every presentation I’ve given:

pictures of drew

And of course 6 years of putting work-related puns at the end of my emails:

  • Why did the barge with bad breath open up our retail tracking tool? So he could get some ship-mints.
  • How is reading email on your iPad like Justin Timberlake? Because it always stays N*Sync!
  • Why did the new employee hire chauffeurs? He heard about the importance of success drivers.

Truly, you are a unique company, one that I hope continues to grow (and not just because of the stock I still own), but because of the incredible things you do and people you hire.

Don’t lose sight of what makes you great. And at the end of the day, realize that if your role or career isn’t as fun as you want it to be, it’s up to you to change it.

Sincerely,

Andrew Tarvin
P&G’s former self-proclaimed Corporate Humorist Chief Humorist of Humor That Works

PS. If you ever have any questions about humor or need help figuring out how to effectively use it, don’t hesitate to reach out; I’m always willing to help a fellow P&Ger. The price: your favorite joke.

Email: drew@drewtarvin.com | Web: drewtarvin.com | Twitter: @drewtarvin

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