Andy Rooney was an early writer for radio and TV. It’s hard to believe today, but he became noted for writing essays which he would read on air. When the popular TV show, 60 Minutes, hired him as a summer replacement, the essays he wrote became very popular. A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney soon became so popular that it ended each show.
Andy Rooney was a curmudgeon who poked fun at everyday life. His satirical wit was something that made you think about silliness that has become normal. Andy Rooney is gone now, but for one corporation the spirit of Andy Rooney lives on.
At Ajantex, some employee had adopted the avatar of Andy Rooney. When corporate leaders would mandate a new employee program, policy, or other initiative, every employee would find an email message poking fun at the stupidity of the executive actions. The emails would come from the revived Andy Rooney. In spite of a very expensive effort to unveil the identity of the new Andy Rooney, the person was never identified.
Andy Rooney’s messages didn’t stop at corporate leader’s actions. They also touched on other issues. Of particular interest was mandated training, but everything was fair game. The messages were done in fun and were tasteful. The messages often contained themes supporting social justice, employee rights, and equality.
What began as outrage to the messages took a surprising turn. What people began to ask themselves was: “What will Andy Rooney think about this?” Plans were revised to meet the common sense approach of whoever the new Andy Rooney was. Over time, the Andy Rooney messages became less and less frequent as the silliness of the corporate world began to disappear.
How valuable was the Andy Rooney to Ajantex? It became so valuable that other corporations started visiting Ajantex to see if they could duplicate their success. But the question that was the greatest challenge was how do we encourage curmudgeons. For Ajantex, their curmudgeon remained unknown. What motivated Andy? How did Andy challenge without being offensive? How did Andy appeal to the better nature of all? And finally, could Andy have been effective as an approved entity? Those are questions that every organization should be asking itself.
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“Curmudgeon: Anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner.”
– Joe Winokur (writer)