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Does your boss have a sense of humor?

In our ongoing effort to gauge organizational culture, I’ve got a new question to pose when I visit companies: When was the last time you teased the boss? And how did he or she react?

Last week, the staff at OXO pulled an amusing Halloween prank on company president Alex Lee. The employees showed up in costume – dressed as him. Khakis, blue button-down, brown shoes. It was a good-natured jab at an outfit he wears so often it might as well be his uniform.

I’ve visited a lot of companies where employees wouldn’t dare do something like that. They work for bosses who are too humorless, egocentric, or insecure. Who mistake fear for respect. Who boast of an open-door policy but keep everyone at arm’s length. And for whom self-deprecation is a foreign concept. It’s too bad. A lot of valuable feedback and daring ideas – not to mention fun – get lost in the gulf between a standoffish leader and workers.

How did Lee react? See for yourself. That guy sitting in the center of the front row? With the big grin? The guy who’s enjoying the stunt as much as anyone? That’s him.

CS