IS HAVING FUN AT WORK FUN?!

Schumpeter’s article in The Economist was titled “Down with Fun: The Depressing Vogue for Having Fun at Work” (http://www.economist.com/node/17035923/)

I pushed past Schumpeter’s nostalgia for smoking and drinking whisky in the mornings in the workplace, to pick up on another point the author made. Surveys show that only 20% of workers are “fully engaged with their job.”

Google, Twitter and Zappos were used as examples of places here fun is seen as a driver of engagement. The author set out, it seemed, to question the degree of direct impact of institutionally organised fun. It may be that, by their very nature, the likes of these trendy companies enjoy more than 20% engagement. However, if you think your less trendy organisation might be in the 20% category, there is a crucial question to be asked. What are people doing in the other 80% of disengaged time? Moaning and groaning about “management”? Or, more positively, thinking good thoughts about being at work?

Institutionally organised, forced fun seems to me to be a strange result of the climate of workplace litigation. Forced fun aims to permit only legally safe fun – not merely physically safe, but safe from some of the perceivably negative aspects of fun like the “dissing” of others (dismissing, discriminating, disrespecting or disparaging) that is said to lie at the heart of jokes and pranks. Hence the atmosphere of “inclusion” is present in the games and activities prevalent in the Google-Twitter-Zappos examples quoted in the article, and often referred to elsewhere.

When people have fun away from the workplace, they choose to have fun away from the “regiment of busybodies—from lawyers to human-resources functionaries” referred to by Schumpeter. This kind of fun is more personal, more spontaneous and more adventurous in nature. Note that these characteristics align with the very same attributes that signal the “engagement” that employers are trying to elicit in their employees.

Ideal employees should act on their own personal impetus in a spontaneous unbidden way to do, or try, something new or unconventional in their work to the benefit of the organisation. In a working world of rules, guidelines, regulations, procedures and boxes to be checked, institutionally imposed, compulsory and regimented fun sends the wrong signal. It is diametrically opposed to the more empowering message – “Go on, it’s OK to step outside the conventions – the social ones and therefore also professional ones.”

If you want to understand why compulsory, mandated fun fails to promote engagement consider this. In a cubicled world, while some employees leave their space unadorned, others choose to decorate their space with personal items such as photos of family, friends and company events, picture frames, figurines and small signs. However, it would be ill-advised for an organisation to decree “as of the 31st of the month all cubicles will be decorated by occupants with the following, and only the following items:

1. A family portrait photograph (8×10, wood frames only)
2. A set of three coffee mugs with humorous slogans (no reference to race, gender, sexual activity, intelligence of senior management to be displayed)
3. A stuffed animal (only soft toys permitted, no taxidermy)
4. An amusing poster (see 2 above for restrictions)
5. A figurine of a cartoon character (the pose of figurines must be non-aggressive, non-sexual and non-offensive in any way)
6. A seasonal object to reflect the nearest holiday celebration (the holidays of all faiths must be equally represented in this display)”

In principle these items can be motivators, but the obligation to include them has a negative reaction — on those who would rather not bother with decorating their cubicle, and on those who would normally do so if left to their own decision.

Why then, do organisations take a similarly dictatorial approach to fun? “Fun is good for you, so we have arranged fun and we insist that you will join in!” forms their approach. It must be grim to be a curmudgeon working in the Google-Twitter-Zappos world.

I remember seeing a large sign in the orchestra pit in the Theatre Royal, in Bath, England, years ago. It read “The floggings will continue until morale improves.” Now that looked like someone having fun at work!

I believe engagement lies not in compulsory fun – that’ll only turn people off, — but in allowing space for natural fun, the kind of fun that is generated genuinely among people. Find the key to that and you will find employee engagement increases naturally beyond the 20%, too.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 22nd, 2010 at 8:19 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

234 Responses to “IS HAVING FUN AT WORK FUN?!”

  1. Milton Says:

    .

    hello!!…

  2. Clifton Says:

    .

    ñïàñèáî!…

  3. Kelly Says:

    .

    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó!!…

  4. wade Says:

    .

    ñýíêñ çà èíôó!!…

  5. Johnnie Says:

    .

    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó!…

  6. ronald Says:

    .

    ñïñ!…

  7. peter Says:

    .

    ñýíêñ çà èíôó!!…

  8. gordon Says:

    .

    tnx for info….

  9. Jeremiah Says:

    .

    good info!…

  10. Bryan Says:

    .

    áëàãîäàðþ!…

  11. luis Says:

    .

    good info!…

  12. hector Says:

    .

    ñýíêñ çà èíôó….

  13. Max Says:

    .

    thanks!…

  14. brandon Says:

    .

    ñïñ….

  15. Calvin Says:

    .

    tnx for info!!…

  16. Joshua Says:

    .

    thank you….

  17. Evan Says:

    .

    ñïñ çà èíôó!!…

  18. marcus Says:

    .

    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó!…

  19. charlie Says:

    .

    ñïñ!…

  20. Mitchell Says:

    .

    áëàãîäàðåí!…

  21. Floyd Says:

    .

    thanks!…

  22. Roland Says:

    .

    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó!!…

  23. Phillip Says:

    .

    good….

  24. William Says:

    .

    ñïñ….

  25. Brandon Says:

    .

    ñïñ çà èíôó….

  26. Hubert Says:

    .

    ñïñ….

  27. victor Says:

    .

    ñïàñèáî çà èíôó!…

  28. Oscar Says:

    .

    tnx!…

  29. Francisco Says:

    .

    áëàãîäàðåí!!…

  30. byron Says:

    .

    áëàãîäàðñòâóþ….

  31. tom Says:

    .

    tnx for info….

  32. juan Says:

    .

    hello!…

  33. Jessie Says:

    .

    thank you!!…

  34. nathaniel Says:

    .

    good….

 
 

Introducing Alignomics


Alignomics distills 25 years’ consulting experience to offer crucial advice to start-up, emerging and established companies aiming to grow; to teams seeking cohesion and higher performance; and to individuals wanting to increase their professional impact. Alignomics builds structures that foster focus and creativity and then develops soft-skill strategies that align aspirations and actions for sustained success.

Blog       White Papers      Subscribe

White Papers


Leadership in practice today draws upon new paradigms. These white papers are observations based on these different perspectives.

 

    Contact

    [contact-form 1 "Contact form 1"]

    Contact Us

     

    Alignomics
    208 West 19th Street
    Kansas City, MO 64108 USA
    +1 816 979 1725