Jan 2014

Work and Fun

We’ve all had a boss who wants everyone on the team to be a tight knit group of friends, enjoying each others’ company and hanging out outside of work.  He’s the boss who is always talking about “making work fun” and is always coming up with another “Mandatory Fun” event outside of work that he expects everyone to attend.

And there are some leaders who don’t want to see any fun in the workplace. They prefer that everyone is focused, productive and have as few distractions as possible.  Both of these extremes usually end up alienating people and generally reducing the morale and productivity of the team, exactly the opposite effect the boss was hoping for.

I’m a big believer that allowing people to be relaxed and have fun in the workplace is a great thing that improves results and attitudes overall, but it has to come about in a natural way. Trying to force fun down people’s throats is about as successful as never letting them enjoy a moment.

The amount of “fun” that you, as a leader, should allow to happen on your team can be difficult to gauge.  A lot has been written about organizational culture and how to foster it.  One of the best things you can do for your organizational culture, especially if your organization is new, is to let traditions form and evolve organically. Even older organizations can find new life in their traditions by letting them adapt to the ideas of newer members while still maintaining the original tenets behind the tradition.

As a leader you can let your team develop an organizational culture under your watchful eye and guiding hand. Some tips keep in mind as you let your people build their traditions:

1)      As a leader you are responsible for creating an inclusive environment, free from harassment and bias. It can be a short trip from everyone having a good time in a joking way to someone crossing the line and splitting your team apart.

2)      Set the example. Propose an informal event either during or outside of office time and host it. If being the social director isn’t your thing, chances are one of your team members are and would most likely enjoy getting the ball rolling. Encourage others to put together activities that share their interests with the rest of the team.

3)      Be respectful of people’s time outside of work. Short notice events can cause havoc if a member of your team suddenly needs to rearrange a pickup for their kids or miss one of their events. There are certainly times where the job calls for personal sacrifice, but informal social events probably don’t fall into that category.

4)      Don’t get caught up in how many people participate. If only a few people show up but it’s a fun time, word will get around and more people will show up next time.

The organizations I’ve been in that have had the best balance in their culture are the ones who allow fun to happen, but don’t try to force it in a certain direction. Don’t forget, one of your duties as a leader is to make sure appropriate standards of behavior are maintained at events and in the office.

What are some of the ways you balance work and fun on your team?

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