Don't Try to Make Work Fun

DON’T?  Wait, but the whole theme of this blog is “having fun at work.” Our motto is “Healthy, productive and fun workplaces.”  What’s going on here? Focus for a moment on the words “trying to make”. We want work to be fun. We don’t want to try and make it fun, we want to allow it to be fun.

I was at work the other day, and I was thinking to myself, “this is so much fun!”  It was hard work, and some dysfunction was rearing its ugly head, but I happen to love this.  Not everyone thinks this is fun, but I do. It was way more fun than forcing goofy fun activities that have no relevance to our work.  (BTW I’m guilty of this too) Taking a crappy job and injecting a few scavenger hunts is like a wife-beater buying his wife flowers. It doesn’t undo the beating.  

What can we do to allow our jobs to be fun?  And what’s making them un-fun?

Are you in the right job?  When I ask this, what I mean is the core job purpose minus the day-to-day crap.  Do you truly believe in the purpose of your work? If not, it’s never going to be fun no matter how many fun team events you plan.  If this is the case for you, you have some soul searching to do.

Frustration blocks fun.  A minute ago I asked you to put aside the day-to-day grind.  Let’s bring it back. The grind can suck the fun out of even the most inspiring job.  When people can’t get their work done, it’s simply not fun. I used to think, “well you’re still getting paid”, but money doesn’t feed the soul.  Stop accepting the frustrating processes and organizational blockers as ‘the way things are’. Insist that you cannot do your job unless they are removed. Be clear and escalate right up the hierarchy.

Do people get reamed out at work?  A fear based environment can suck the fun right out of the day.  Do not underestimate the impact of other people being reamed out.  It doesn’t have to be aimed at you for you to feel the effects, there is collateral damage when someone is admonished.  Why do people sit silently when a coworker is being grilled and skewered? Because we are trying to avoid the wrath. What if we all banded together to stand up and say “this is not ok!”  If anyone has a report of this ever happening, I would love to hear that story.

Building on ideas is fun.  Have you ever been in a meeting where one person raises an idea, and everyone else starts getting ideas, and it becomes an idea bonanza?  The crescendo grows and people keep adding to it, it sounds like this, “and we can add in balloons!”, “how about if we give everyone crayons!”, “I have an idea, we can make it like a Vegas theme!”, “What if we bring in our business partners!”  People are energized and excited. Why does this happen in some meetings and not in others? The key is that ideas are not shot down. And here’s the secret, I’m going to whisper it so listen carefully, just because an idea is not shot down, that doesn’t mean we’re going to do it.  I think people are so afraid that a bad idea will get implemented, that they need to shoot it down on sight.  Let it go for a minute and see what happens. A bad idea can turn into a good idea with a little nurturing.

Brain Twist.  Pick one meeting you have this week.  Go into it with the intention of allowing the work to be fun.  Notice what takes the fun out and what makes it more fun. Verbalize one thing that is making the meeting fun, right on the spot.  “Hey Jim, I love how you are building on my idea, this is fun!” What might be possible if we encourage the behavior that makes our lives enjoyable?