“Fun” at Work

With all due respect to Google, Zappos, and these guys, here are 11 real-life examples I’ve seen managers try to force their employees to lighten up and have some “fun” at work:

1. Creation of a “fun committee”. There are a few committees that I would recommend avoiding if you can: safety, quality, employee satisfaction, social, and the dreaded fun committee. I’ve seen plenty of these, and no one EVER seems to be having any fun. If you are a manager, and you’ve chartered one of these things, you’ve taken the lazy way out of doing what you’re supposed to do as a leader, that is, create an energizing environment. In fact, you’ve made it worse for those poor “volunteers” that are forced to serve their sentence, errr, term on the fun squad. BTW, I’ve seen managers pick these committees….it’s usually payback for something bad they’ve done. Betcha didn’t know that.

2. Funny hat day, fake nose and glasses day, ugly tie day, or any other stupid costume day. Yes, while it may look like everyone’s having fun in that picture on the company website, I’ll wager that for every employee that enjoys playing dress-up, there’s another one that’s trying not to vomit. I, for one, will not wear a hat.

3. Silly ice-breakers at meetings or training sessions. Are there still trainers out there that are doing these ridiculous pre-school birthday party games in the name of “loosening up” a group? It’s always amazed me how willing grown adults are usually willing to do anything they are told in a work setting.

4. Ping pong, foosball, pool, or air hockey tables. Nice try, but who’s got the time? Don’t you feel like slacker playing games while everyone else is working?

5. This one hits close to home…..having your management team dress up like cheerleaders and perform a cheerleader routine in front of the whole department. Seriously, I’m not making this up. Turnover went up 30% that year, and I’m still emotionally scared.

6. Picking on others. It’s not funny if the “fun” is at someone else’s expense. This kind of fun runs rampant in “good old boy” executive meetings. When the boss does it, everyone has a good laugh of course.

7. Inappropriate, sexual, racial, or crude humor. Although I feel like I’m losing the battle to Jersey Shore on this one.

8. Rampant cynicism or sarcasm. OK, so there’s a wee bit of both sprinkled thought-out this post. But at work, too much of it is a buzz kill, especially if it’s coming from the manager.

9. Bring your dogs to work day. Hey, I love dogs – but not everyone does. How about being inclusive and opening up the office to all pets? Farm animals?

10. Hiring a masseuse. I’m sorry, but this trend is just plain weird. Watching your co-workers get a rub-down? Yuk. But then again, I admit, I’m not really into the whole spa thing.

11. Hiring a fun consultant. The outsourced, more expensive version of the fun committee.

So what’s a leader to do to create an energizing, motivating work environment, where people can come to work, have a few laughs, and feel good about themselves and their work?

In addition to these ideas from a previous post, a leader can:

1. Lighten up

2. Smile

3. Be energetic

4. Maintain a consistent, positive attitude

5. Keep calm under stress and a crisis

6. Poke fun at yourself

7. Bring goodies to work. Food is always fun.

8. Be happy

9. Enjoy your work

10. Be a team player (don’t throw your peers under the bus)

In other words, take care of yourself first. Be a role model – if you’re enjoying yourself at work so will others – it’s contagious. And if you’re miserable, the best fun committee in the world won’t be able to lift the dark cloud following you around.

A word of caution: just don’t overdo it, or you can come across as flip, unconcerned, or clueless. As with everything, it’s all about moderation.

You can’t force “fun” on someone – it’s phony and intrusive. However, you can create an environment where a natural sense of fun is allowed to emerge on its own.

What do you think? What are some of the “fun at work” horror stories? What does it mean to you to have fun at work?