Promoting Workplace Harmony: The One-Punch Rule

Promoting Workplace Harmony: The One-Punch Rule

Do you enjoy getting punched in the face?  I recall from boxing training at the Academy that I very much do not like getting punched in the face.  (To the point that a buddy and I tried to choreograph the final bout so we’d both squeak by with Bs.  Instead, the old-assed coach spewed a torrent of filthy (and, frankly, homophobic) insults and we ended up exchanging haymakers for a horrific three minutes.  My nose bleeds like a faucet; good times heading to take a Spanish test five minutes after the fight, blood all over the place, hands shaking and smelling like 50 year old communal boxing gloves and mask.)  This memory helped drive one of the many great ideas I had while working on a submarine: the one-punch policy.  (Note that in investment banking I did not have any great ideas – the downside of aging (or possibly exposure to radioactive stuff.))

What is the one-punch policy?  It’s a simple management technique in which managers are incentivized not to act like assholes because everyone in the organization is legally entitled to punch one person, once, per day, sans ramification.  One non-recourse punch.  (Actually, I should’ve come taken this a step further when in the finance world and securitized the punches, established the market for punch non-thrown swaps and maybe even figured out how to make a synthetic fist.)  Everyone is suddenly much nicer when they consider the fact that all the minions “stepping up” or “providing leverage” (translation: actually doing sh-t) could fire a right cross under duress of snide commentary or, heaven help, passive aggression.

This is a pretty natural progression of thought for me, considering that the one-punch policy is an offshoot of the concept of mutually-assured destruction.  All those subs with missiles hang out in the middle of nowhere so that subs with missiles operated by other countries know that if some shit goes down, they are definitely getting blown up.  Sure, we will take some hits (and that’s why there are so many missile silos in Nebraska and South Dakota – those spots make West Helena, Arkansas look like Vegas) but most likely we are going to blow [fill in the name of enemy country here]’s ass right off the map.  Point being: launching a nuke is a lose/lose proposition.  So is getting punched in the face, knowing that the other guy can retaliate or even have colleagues help to beat that ass (note that there are more junior folks than senior folks in pretty much every organization.)

Do people have to stand there and take the punch?  Of course not – not knowing what’s coming, or when, is part of the positive motivation.  You’d have to position yourself for a clean shot; if you miss you can get your own ass decked.  I suspect that if this system were in place, telephone communications with colleagues on Wall Street would rise something like 800%.  Usually you would all get in a room together to review a document, but with the possibility of the 73rd format change to a meaningless table on page 132 of a pitchbook causing a couple of analysts to lose their minds, I’m betting internal conference calls would suddenly be de rigueur again.



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