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Mind of Jacka: The Grand Ms. Pacman Tourney

Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU Jun 13, 2024

You might enjoy this one. I’m not sure if it is a story, a parable, a fable, or just a meandering recounting of events that probably won’t lead to much of anything at all. But I think you’ll like it.

It was the ‘80s and I’d only been an auditor for about a year. Ms. Pacman was king (…or queen). Don’t know what Ms. Pacman is? Too young? Well, look it up and realize that those were the times when handheld phones, personal computers, and flying cars all held the same rank of impossibility.

Every lunch, my co-worker Steve and I would go to Peter Piper Pizza. (Yes, it was a thing.) We would indulge in all-you-can-eat pizza (three pizza places closed during our watch; we took full responsibility) and participated in what we eventually called “The Grand Ms. Pacman Tourney.”

Every lunch we’d play three times — best two out of three won. (Don’t worry, we went ahead and played the third game no matter what.) I started recording all the scores, keeping immaculate records on a ten columnar pad. (It was, indeed, the days of paper and pencil.) As we got better, our lunch hours (we were actually only allowed 45 minutes for lunch) got longer and longer, eventually reaching the point where we were gone from the office for an hour and a half.

A charming story of young tomfoolery and mischievous skirting of procedures. But here is the crux of the biscuit.

Fast forward to the end of the year when annual appraisal time came rolling around. Our manager (Hi, Sue, hope you’re reading this. And Dave, you were just as complicit) had us do self-appraisals. I don’t remember if I let my ego get the best of me or not through most of the exercise, but regarding time management, I was honest and gave myself a low score. Possibly the lowest, I don’t remember.

It came time to compare assessments. Perhaps Sue rated me one above or below what I rated myself in other areas, but when we got to “time management,” she had given me high marks.

A great disparity was greatly obvious.

I said, “Sue, you know Steve and I spend an hour and a half at lunch, and you know we are only supposed to get 45 minutes for lunch.” (And let me quickly note that, no, we did not make up that time by cutting back on breaks.) “How can you rate me so high in this category?”

She replied something to the effect of, “Of course I know how long you take. But I also know that you get the work done. No matter what the project is, you complete it on time with the necessary professionalism and accuracy. You recognize what needs to get done, and you get it done. I don’t care about anything as inconsequential as how much time you spend at lunch.”

This is just one of the stories I tell about Sue and Dave — about how they treated me and how I learned to treat others.

I never cared if someone worked a four or 20-hour workday. I knew it would all even out in the end. And I trusted my auditors to do what they needed to do. And if they didn’t? Well, then the leash came out and the freedom disappeared. But trust first.

And here’s your takeaway. (Does this make it a parable or a fable? Not sure.) Don’t worry about the arbitrary rules that people place on you and your employees. Get the work done, get it done well, and let everyone breathe when they need to.

Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPCU, CLU

Mike Jacka is co-founder and chief creative pilot of Flying Pig Audit, Consulting, and Training Services (FPACTS), based in Phoenix.