Everybody Matters: Why Can’t Work Be Fun?

Abhishek Paul
3 min readMay 2, 2019

Continuing my learnings from the book “Everybody Matters”. We’re still on chapter 2. The series began here.

Bob’s early morning visit to a new company gave him an opportunity to see the employees gather around in the coffee area before work. There was a lot of fun and lively discussion around the current sports tournament. Bob was struck most by their body language — they were all highly animated and the room echoed with loud laughter. He also noticed that the closer it got to 8 a.m, the enthusiasm and joy started to drain out of their bodies. Their shoulders sagged and their faces became serious, they all seemed to deflate a little at the prospect of “getting to work”. Sadly, a lot of us can resonate with this.

This incident gave rise to a simple question, “Why can’t work be fun?”. We prepare ourselves for years, get an expensive education and excited to get out first job. But it doesn’t take long for the excitement to fade and our job to become “work”. People are so joyful, vibrant and alive when they’re having fun. Why can’t it be that way when we’re working?

Make Work a Game

The proposal was simple — make achieving results a game both individually and at a team level. The initial reaction was predictable, a feeling of unsettlement, people coming up with objection after objection to convince others why it wouldn’t work.

But once adopted, unanticipated (and real) roadblocks that hindered work emerge when work became a game and results that were never achieved before became possible. For eg, an employee shared what had changed — “when we got a big order in the past, we didn’t think it was a good thing, because there was a lot of paperwork involved — it became a lot of work. But now, because of the game, we see every order as a way to win, and we love it!”. This reason would have not been uncovered in normal course of work!

Here’s the key — when people start having fun in their roles, we see transformation in their skills and growth. Employees were having fun everyday, both individually and collectively, stretching to meet the challenge to achieve their goal. It became a game instead of work and people began to apply their natural skills fully and to thrive (Note: it’s natural and just being applied).

The typical response by organizations to a performance problem is training, but giving them a game gives much better results. They weren’t doing anything they were told to do; they just naturally did what you would do to win, and guess what happened? Customers were delighted.

Learnings:

Classic management practices suppress the creative gifts of people.

Learning happens from sitting down and asking people, “How do you feel about these programs/policies and how have they changed your approach to what you do?

Team members step up to help each other achieve their goals. When someone sees that others care enough to let them win their individual prize, they are transformed.

When people know their goal, they are inspired to express their gifts and discover capabilities they didn’t know they had.

--

--