Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nickname Theory

I've been thinking lately about my chronic habit of giving Tobacconists nicknames. As I think of it, giving people nicknames is a common Cuban trait. Cuban nicknames can be super-obvious like "Chino" for anyone of Asian descent, or bizarre, like "Miacere" which means a group of smelly monkeys. Whatever the case, nicknaming gives me pleasure. Over the years we have had Tobacconists nicknamed BIG, CRACK HEAD, SHAGGY, CHICHO, O.G., YE OLDE, STRETCH, SMOKEY, CHE, CRAZY EYES, and MUNCHKIN, just to name a few. Sometimes even customers merit nicknames, either created by Tobacconists or their peers.

The key to nicknaming is getting approval first; no one should be called anything they do not approve of. I have Tobacconists working for nearly a decade that never got a nickname, either because they wouldn't approve it, or because it did not come naturally; that is OK too.

So, what is the point of a nickname? Without writing a book here, I think a nickname is a form of affection. A way to share humor and bond. As any retail Tobacconist knows, our work is not all fun and games: things need to be cleaned, priced, displayed, maintained, and everything breaks, frequently. Retail Tobacconists actually have a lot of stress, so a nickname can help remind us not to take everything so seriously. While this is not a management theory like Tobacconist Whisperer, I believe there is a good lesson here:

Work hard, but don't forget to have fun and savor your time. Being a Tobacconist is serious business, but life is too short to be serious all the time.

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