Get Your Hands Off Me

Happy Halloween everyone! This year I decided to dress up as a multifamily housing professional. I’m wearing too many hats.

Next year I’ll be a comedian.

A few weeks ago I kicked off my Halloween festivities with a trip to Pennhurst Haunted Asylum outside of Philadelphia. A three-year tradition with my younger brother and cousin, the attraction includes two haunted houses, a ghost walk and a tunnel of terror. Apparently we enjoy paying money to scream.

Thirty seconds in to the first attraction, I spotted one of the haunted house actors sporting a giant, live rat on his shoulder. I had been through this before—two years ago it was a large snake. Pushing children and elderly alike in a scene straight out of Walmart on Black Friday, I raced past the rat and up the stairs. I don’t do rodents. My cousin was not as fortunate, and received a tail straight to the face.

In case you’ve forgotten, we paid for this.

Four hours and ridiculously long lines later, we arrived at our final stop for the night—the tunnel of terror. As the oldest in the group, it was only right that I hide behind my 16-year-old cousin and brother. Turns out the only thing more terrifying than someone jumping out in front of you is someone touching the back of your neck. If you want to make a coworker feel uncomfortable, I highly suggest doing the same.

After a little more screaming and a lot more neck touching—sort of similar to a middle school dance—we emerged from the tunnel. I was exhausted and anxious and ready to go home. Money well spent!

Once you’ve been to Pennhurst, it’s hard to think of anything more terrifying—but then conference calls come to mind.

Painful as they may be for many professionals, conference calls are often used as an important channel of communication between corporate managers and outside stakeholders. They’re typically a quarterly ritual for many public companies, consisting of prepared remarks from executives followed by a round of questions and answers. Also, people doodle. 

But is there a certain time of day when conference calls are more effective than others?

Harvard Business Review analyzed the earnings conference calls of 2,113 publicly held U.S. firms based in the Eastern and Central time zones from January 2001 to end of 2007’s second quarter—more than 26,500 calls. Researchers used linguistic algorithms to measure positivity, negativity and uncertainty during the Q&A portion of each call.

The results indicated that tone grew more negative as the morning progressed and improved slightly at midday, presumably because participants recharged at lunch. I know my officemate, Frank Mauck, always feels rejuvenated after eating Arby’s entire menu.

Negativity increased during the afternoon—when you realize you still have three hours before you can leave and start Googling Restless Leg Syndrome—then dropped after the market’s closing bell.

“Overall,” the report states, “calls originating late in the afternoon were more negative, irritable, and combative than calls made early in the morning.” This was true even after controlling for factors such as industry norms, financial distress, growth opportunities, the news that companies were reporting and waking up on the wrong side of the bed. 

For more, check out Management Insider in the November issue of units Magazine, which mails Nov. 10.