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if it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right

September 22, 2010

in culture

companies that are trying to incorporate fun into the workplace are zapping all the fun right outta it, according to the article down with fun:

“The most unpleasant thing about the fashion for fun is that it is mixed with a large dose of coercion. Companies such as Zappos don’t merely celebrate wackiness. They more or less require it. Compulsory fun is nearly always cringe-making. Twitter calls its office a ‘Twoffice’. Boston Pizza encourages workers to send “golden bananas” to colleagues who are “having fun while being the best”. Behind the ‘fun’ façade there often lurks some crude management thinking: a desire to brand the company as better than its rivals, or a plan to boost productivity through team-building. Twitter even boasts that it has ‘worked hard to create an environment that spawns productivity and happiness’.”

it’s easy to call every effort to create “fun” in the workplace false or coerced, just as it’s easy to plop what zappos is doing in their shop into yours. (it’s easy, but it probably won’t work.) it’s also easy to sit on the outside and judge. what’s harder—and gutsier—is being different, stepping outside the norm to create an environment that’s stimulating, creating, celebrating and high-performing.

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Pamela Meyer September 22, 2010 at 10:53 am

Thanks for making this important point. It is all too easy to run-way from playful strategies for engagement out of fear that they will be coercive. In my experience, if people are authentically being themselves and the fun is organically created people freely join in, in the spirit of play. It only goes sour if fun is clearly a means to an end. Paradoxically, fun for fun’s sake often leads to higher engagement and greater organizational success.

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fran September 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm

that’s where i think this article ran astray. i know a few of the orgs he mentioned, and their culture of fun is anything but forced. i can clearly remember being out for an evening with a client and his partner, a TD bank employee. my client couldn’t contain his eye-rolling about what goes on inside TD bank, but his partner loved it and couldn’t stop talking about working there. what works for some does not work for all. nailing what works for your org is what we should all be focusing on.

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