Risqué to risky: Have we lost our ability to have a laugh in the office?

The Aussie teachers embroiled in an 'explicit' calendar furore may just have forgotten they're no longer living in the 90s, writes Adam Lucius.

I recently rediscovered an old work photo from a time that no longer exists.

There I am, sitting on a chair with a stripper straddling me after I'd received a lap dance in front of the entire office on my birthday. I can remember my colleagues – male and female - grinning and falling about laughing as they bathed in my humiliation and embarrassment.

Adam Lucius with a stripper.
Adam in the office with his birthday visitor, whose face has been blurred to save her blushes. Source: Supplied

Believe it or not, lingerie-clad strip-a-grams – or black-tie strippers for the ladies – were a thing once upon a time. No one spared a thought for the participant or the performer and there was no requirement to clear the show with the hierarchy. Back then, HR stood for Hydration Restoration – basically a lunchtime trip to the pub with no guarantee of a return to duty.

On one of those rare occasions when we did make it back, I was in deep concentration putting the final touches to a feature piece for a local paper when the deputy editor flashed past me performing a wheelie on a motorbike. No, I wasn't working from a roadside café or the pits at Bathurst. The boss had pinched the bike from our promotions team – it was a prize in a competition we were running - and decided a test run through the middle of the office was in order.

The 80s/90s workplaces were loose, crazy - even a touch dangerous - but a helluva lot of fun. No one took a sickie because you didn't want to miss out on the action. Don't get me wrong, no one is suggesting strippers at morning tea have a place in the modern-day office.

In hindsight, it's incredible to think they ever did. And any form of bullying, sexism, racism and ageism is quite rightly cracked down on nowadays.

A group of men hold up big ties.
Many people chose not to call in sick in the 1990s because they didn't want to miss the fun in the office. Adam is pictured with his colleagues (second from the left). Source: Supplied

We are sent endless online tutorials reminding us of our responsibilities and obligations to our office colleagues. Anyone who steps over the line is either a complete moron or has been cryogenically frozen since 1986 and recently defrosted and let loose in a Ron Bennett suit and tasselled Florsheims.

But in our desire to make the workplace such a squeaky-clean environment, have we lost something?

Where have all the characters gone? Where are the office storytellers? Where are the robust conversations? Where are the laughs?

'Explicit' calendar furore reveals how times have changed

That thought struck me again this week as I read about the "explicit" calendar produced by a bunch of Queensland school teachers. One teacher was snapped dressed as a nun, another in a mankini and a carton of milk used erotically in another photo.

It was all meant to be a bit of in-house fun involving willing participants, presumably in their downtime. No one – apart from, it seems, one alleged complainant – was offended. The pictures probably shouldn’t have been taken in the first place given the PC world we live in and the fact a school was involved.

A man dressed in a gold mankini kneels in front of a person dressed as a nun.
The two Queensland teachers in this controversial photo are now under investigation. Source: NCA Newswire

It ranks in the dumb, naive and tasteless category, but must we be outraged by everything?

What is everyone going to talk about at office reunions 20 years from now? The time Ed swapped the English breakfast tea bags for peppermint and Mel in accounts didn't notice?

I hear friends talk about how they now keep to themselves during work hours, ensuring conversations stick to banal comments about the weather, the cricket score and what everyone thinks of the new photocopier. No one dares venture into topics that could be in any way misconstrued or show any sort of personality.

A man wearing a gold mankini sits with his legs spread at an office desk (left) and one staff member seems to be about to pour milk on another (right).
The teachers featured in the calendar may now face some serious consequences. Source: NCA Newswire

One former colleague told me he hadn’t attended a work function for 10 years due to the risk of someone taking something the wrong way.

We're all for an inclusive workplace environment where respect and equity is given and received. But what I wouldn't give to hear the sound of a Yamaha 250 roaring past my desk one more time.

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