As a goal, “fun” is a bunch of hooey.
Before I was a consultant, I held various Director-level positions at local companies. Each organization had mandatory fun days.
In one organization, we played softball. Yes, everyone—especially the managers—had to play softball as part of a team. The management team expected me to play softball even though I was six months pregnant. I was supposed to “model the behavior.” I declined.
In another organization, we had holiday celebrations. We had to:
- Dress in costume for Halloween
- Get each other presents for Christmas
- Participate with our families at all-company summer outings
There was more, but I'll spare you.
I don't find these activities fun. I found the “fun” a source of additional pressure. I had to spend a ton of time preparing for these activities. My management role suffered because I wasn't managing. What did I do?
- Find work-appropriate costumes.
- Find presents in the $5 range for someone I didn't know.
- At the event, attempt to manage my children's behavior in a strange place with strangers. And, those strangers wanted to talk to me about work. (Yes, at a holiday party or at a summer outing, with my small children.)
Even worse than mandatory fun is mandatory “team-building” so a team has fun together. I've written about fake team building before and how much I hate it.
Fun is not the point. Neither is happiness. Fun and happiness are byproducts, the results of working towards real outcomes.
When we work in an environment that's mostly congruent, where people use integrity to make decisions, we can create an environment of joy in the work. Organizations (and managers) are not parents. They do not have to create fun (or happiness) in the organization.
Stop imposing fun on people. Stop creating mandatory fun.
People are happy and they have fun as a result of the environment and the work.
If we can create an environment where:
- We know about and agree with the purpose behind the work—and I would add that the purpose energizes us.
- We have sufficient autonomy to work as a team.
- We have the time to master our jobs, to improve on our proficiency, just a little every day.
That environment will allow us to create our fun and happiness.
And, we'll get a great product or service—while we have fun.