Everything you need to know to make your own workplace fun – Part I: The Most Important Thing

Here are all the secrets I’ve gathered up over the years that you can apply to your own workplace.  I care about fun, and, by extension, about your fun.  Let me help.

First, foremost, and most importantly – safety.  A safe space.  You must have a safe space in order to have fun.

I worked for many years for a man whom I believed had my back.  He didn’t.  When the chips were in the pot, he chose to back his own play at my expense.  He didn’t have my back.

Once I was unemployed, due in large part to my former boss’s lack of confidence in my work, I worked through the exercises in a book I can wholeheartedly recommend:  What Color is Your Parachute?  I needed a job, and this book truly helps you find one.  The section I was working through was directed towards finding the right people to work with.  It made you list the things you really wanted to have in your coworkers, and then prioritize that list so you understood what was really important.  I did this exercise with my son, who is also looking for better employment.

When I finished, read through my list, and gave it some thought, I realized that the first four –the most important – items on my list could be translated as, “I have your back.”  I admit that I was traumatized, but there are other, independent researches supporting my tender feelings. In Csikszentmihályi’s formative work on flow (the psychology of optimal experience), one of the four basic requirements for the sort of deep involvement with your own work (he studied chess players, surgeons, dancers, and mountain climbers) is a safe space.  He discovered that you can’t truly integrate with your work unless you feel safe.

You know this already, at least if you’ve ever worked in crappy conditions for a boss who didn’t understand this concept.  He, or she, most likely subscribed to the dominance theory of management, where the most important thing is to keep your worker bees under control and compliant. They believe in a state where management equals keeping track of your workers performance and holding them to their promises, rather than giving underlings authority to exert their own judgement.  These managers believe that exerting their own judgement into every aspect of the organization is important for keeping their people on track.

How crippling.  How pathetic.  How micromanagerial.  Control, control, control.  Let go of your futile grip on the lives of your subordinates.  They want to please you.  They live for the moment that you give them a compliment.  Is it truly that hard for you to stop being the bitch and start being the enabler?  Why not help instead of criticize?

I admit that I was both a villain and a victim of the system.  I managed badly.  I suffered in my career from it.  I criticized and failed to compliment.  I failed.

Why not let the Dark Side go, and give a chance to the Light Side?  Feel the Force, Luke!  Walk out into your cubicle cluster and give a sincere compliment to everyone who works for you.  Or everyone who works with you.  Let them know that you have a real human connection with them, that you actually give a shit.  Be human, and be vulnerable, and be real.

Make them feel safe.  MAKE THEM FEEL SAFE!

You may have tried punishment management, based on fear and fear of loss.  How has it worked for you?  How have you felt when it was used on you?  Are you simply echoing the bad management you’ve received rather than rejecting the abuse and trying for something better?

Why not try the management of safety, of caring, of love and appreciation and respect?

I love you,

Richard

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