Speaking Moth. How (not) to Prepare for a Performance Review

IMG_5379This is a brilliantly weird story I heard last week. Thank you to Andy Middleton from TYF for letting me share it.

Saturday Night at the Pub. Picture saturday night in an Australian Outback mining settlement, a good few years ago. At the local (only) Pub is a younger Andy, sampling the hospitality.

As the night wears on one of the operatives from the local mine, a Mr Digger, enters a state of ‘advanced refreshment’ (as do most of the Pub’s inhabitants).

During a conversation between Mr Digger and the Boss of the Mine, it becomes apparent that they need to discuss some aspect of workplace performance. An impromptu ‘Performance Review’ if you like.

I was once given an ‘impromptu performance review’ by an ‘over refreshed manager’ at a  conference – I strongly recommend against the practice. Good or Bad news, it never works out in the morning…

Back to Mr Digger and the Boss. In the way of these things, it was decided to continue the conversation, ‘outside on the porch…’

Guess what happens next? I bet you are thinking, “I know what happens next… spilt beer, broken chairs, a bloody nose and Mr Digger gets sacked on Monday morning”. An excellent guess, possibly based on years of experience, but wide of the mark.

What actually happens is as follows. The Boss steps out of the back door of the pub. Mr Digger takes a brief detour out the front heading for the road. Everyone sighs, thank goodness, ‘Digger’s seen some sense and is heading home’.

In fact Mr Digger does not head home, instead he steps up to the nearest, and only, street light in the settlement. Being the only outside light source, for 500 square miles, it does a fine job of attracting swarms of flying insects that hang about the outback on a saturday night. Mostly moths as it happens. Massive great clouds of them, flapping around the light bulb.

Mr Digger approaches the light carefully scoops up a large cupped handful of moths and places them in his mouth. You get the picture, puffed out cheeks, a weird look in his eyes and a strange ‘flapping’ noise coming from his general direction. Then what happens is truly bizarre.

Mr Digger walks back around the corner of the Pub, towards the Boss, gets up good and personal and opens his mouth. The moths, delighted at their new-found freedom make a dash for safety, in the direction of the Boss. Sadly, some of the moths didn’t make it (survival of the fittest huh!) and just dribble down Mr Diggers chin in their final death throes.

Apparently that was the end of the ‘performance review’ conversation. People went back to drinking beer, and resumed work on Monday morning like nothing unusual had happened.

Key Skills & Behaviours. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what happened here, it’s either genius or lunacy.

You are in a ‘no win’ situation with your Boss, what do you do? Do you choose the ‘standard’ option and get sacked, or something; new, innovative and completely bizarre. In my view Mr Digger displayed some exemplary behaviours that should have got him promoted on Monday morning:

  1. Thinking on your feet,
  2. Flexibility and creative thinking,
  3. Handling difficult situations,
  4. Well managed risk taking (some species of moth are poisonous – probably all of them in Australia),
  5. Excellent forward planning skills. If this ever got to a Disciplinary Hearing, who on earth is going to believe a Boss who says ‘Employee X disrespected me by speaking with a mouthful of moths…’ Ha ha ha.

On the subject of Moths.

Moths can be a bit of a nuisance is Australia. Here is a link to an article describing how the town of Winton in Queensland was invaded by ‘Millions’ of moths.

The Moth, is an event in New York (and other places) where people stand on stage and share stories (a bit like this one). They are worth looking at. In particular, have a look at this description of life on an outback ranch where the speaker has his ‘trousers eaten by a giant lizard’. I have a friend who had his shoes stolen by a fox (only ever one shoe at a time) but that’s another story. Video of the giant lizard storybelow:

One final thing. If you are wondering how on earth we got onto the subject of moths (me too) I think it was to do with me referencing their use as a tool of sabotage. In a previous post I mentioned an old CIA Field Sabotage Manual,where it was recommended you take moths to the cinema in bag, to release during propaganda films. I was going to write an update to that post, but to be honest, Andy’s ‘Speaking Moth’ story is much more interesting.

So What’s the PONT?

  1. None really, that’s just a great story, thanks Andy.

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

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