Do You Prefer Having Fun at Work or Working at Work? Part I

WorkorFun01“Despite the sobering economic shocks of recent years,” Oliver Burkeman wrote, ”the Fun at Work movement seems irrepressible. Major companies boast of employing Chief Fun Officers or Happiness Engineers; corporations call upon a burgeoning industry of happiness consultants, who’ll construct a Gross Happiness Index for your workplace, then advise you on ways to boost it… Self-help bloggers offer tips for generating cheer among the cubicles (‘Buy donuts for everyone’; ‘Hang movie posters on your walls, with employees’ faces replacing those of the real movie stars’)… Enjoyable jobs are surely preferable to boring or unpleasant ones; moreover, studies suggest that happy employees are more productive ones. But it doesn’t follow that the path to this desirable state of affairs is through deliberate efforts, on the part of managers, to try to generate fun. Indeed, there’s evidence that this approach—which has been labeled, suitably appallingly, ‘fungineering’—might have precisely the opposite effect, making people miserable and thus reaffirming one of the oldest observations about happiness: When you try too hard to obtain it, you’re almost guaranteed to fail.”

A comment on the Burkeman article: “The management at our facility a few years back established a ‘No Frown Zone’ for our data entry department. I guess they thought we were too serious trying to type and retain our jobs by not falling into the bottom 20 percent of performers and subject to removal. So smiley faced posters went up. Casual dress days are viewed as a perk too. But not sure if that helps make up for the atmosphere of 400 people in cubicles on the floor overseen by an unblinking computer measuring everything.” – Pragmatic, USA.


This blog is based on New York Times’ Op-Ed Contributor Oliver Burkeman’s article, “Who Goes to Work to Have Fun?” 12-11-2013. How Enneagram personality types fit into fun at work – or not—are my own additions. 7-Adventurers are typically the most fun-loving of the 9 personality types. Bosses who are 7s, 2-Helpers, who want everyone to get along, or 9-Peace Seekers might be most attracted to adding fun activities. 

The Times article continues: “A study by management experts at Penn State and other universities, published last month, found that while ‘fun’ activities imposed by bosses might slow employee turnover, they can damage overall productivity. Another concluded that the fashionable tactic of “gamification”—turning work tasks into games, with scores and prizes—reduced the productivity and job satisfaction of those workers who didn’t approve the notion.” As a 5-Observer, I’d be one of these employees. I like to get into my work. Party atmospheres make me feel uncomfortable. 1-Perfectionists could also be annoyed when their work is interrupted by fun and games.


“Worse still, the pressure to maintain a cheery facade in such workplaces can be stressful and exhausting in itself, a form of what the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild called ‘emotional labor.’ In a 2011 study of workers at an Australian call center, where bosses championed the focus, fun and fulfillment, researchers found many experienced the party atmosphere as a burden, not a boon…” I would for sure.


 To be continued 12-31-13.

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