There are a lot of "golfing with the boss" jokes out there, but I've always understood the basic premise to be that it's a no-win situation.
If your boss loves to golf, and you're a hack, then you wind up looking like a dope. But if your boss loves to golf, and you're a 1-handicap on the back nine, then you run the risk of making him feel insecure. So you can't be too good or too bad.
It's the same reason you should never go to a gentleman's club with your brother-in-law. Not into it, and you're a square. Too into it, and you're suspect.
I bumped into Kad Barma the other day, and we were saying the same thing about "mandatory fun" events with co-workers (i.e. cocktail hours, pub crawls, etc.) If you're a teetotaler, you're no fun, but if you really just let loose, you'll be getting whispered about in front of all the water coolers on Monday.
I now have an entirely new category to add to the list: Never leave your office during an intense work period.
Sometimes, you can't control it though. Last week, I skipped town with one day's notice. I did a quick "battle handover" of a project I was working on to another soldier. By a crazy coincidence, some of our leaders began inquiring about the project immediately afterwards, some information was misrepresented (not necessarily anyone's fault, but it would be sort of like someone coming to your house to look for something, but you were away on vacation and couldn't help them look, so they couldn't find it).
Anyway, crisis ensued. Being barked at by senior officers is never fun, and the guy I had handed the project off to was sort of left twisting in the wind. He stayed quiet about it for a while, but sent me a distress call on Saturday night. He was taking heavies and needed help.
So what did I do?
It's not in my nature to run away from problems, so I dove in. I got on the phone. I got on the various e-mail systems. I reiterated all the stuff I had turned over, sometimes several times, to the guy left in my stead. I sent a friendly but terse cease-and-desist letter to someone overseas who was causing some of the problems. I e-mailed some of the leaders directly to ask them to calm down. I sent supporting documents and I told them I could and would explain it all on Friday the 11th.
And what happened?
Well, the end result is that things calmed down quite a bit. I can already sense I'm jumping back into calmer waters now that the tsunami flood has started to recede. Plus, I'm glad to have the situational awareness so I'm not blindsided on Friday. However...the intervention also led itself to cries of "micromanagement" from some other corners, and even some armchair psychoanalysis about needing to control something, not wanting to lose the spotlight, and not letting the "temp" handle the show.
That would all be well and good, but I would've happily stayed out of the fray had I never gotten than "Oh, shit, I'm in over my head and need help" phone call. In fact, prior to that time I had not initiated a single phone call or e-mail "back that way."
If I could relive all the events, I wouldn't have changed what I did, or how. But seeing where some huffing and puffing resulted, it reminded me to add "leaving the office during intense times" into that certain category of life situations that don't tend to end well, regardless of the way they're executed.