Forced fun. The tell-tale sign of organizations and teams struggling with building a strong culture. Why? Because nobody wants to admit their team culture might be lacking. Instead of addressing the elephant in the room, organizations try to substitute forced fun as a solution for the gaps in their culture. After all, everyone enjoys having fun and it will give the perception the workforce is engaged.
While my advice will always start with building culture first, I recognize it’s an uphill battle to overcome the urge to integrate forced fun into the workplace. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! So here are some suggestions for creating forced fun in the workplace and how you can slowly kill the motivation and engagement of everyone around you:
(Please don’t really do any of these things.)
Pre-plan and over-organize social activities for your employees
Company sponsored happy hours or evening socials are a great way to get employees out of the office and into a more comfortable setting. Here they can finally let loose and be their natural self! Since your company culture might be forcing employees to be someone else at the office than they are at home, you’re going to have to help them along with some preplanned and “forced” activities. Sure – some of your employees would enjoy the chance to unwind and socialize, but those ones are freaks! It’s much more natural to put so much pressure on the organized events and party to-do’s that nobody can relax in the first place! That’s FUN!
Create rules for engagement
Continuing off the first, everyone loves rules. Without rules and guidelines, we would be a society of lawless animals roaming the Earth guideless. If you’re going to get employees together, there’s no way to expect them to connect on their own. Creating rules to your games or strategically partnering people together is a great way to make sure business partners get time with each other. My rule? More rules = More FUN!
Have a virtual team and worried someone (or some team) would feel left out of the fun activities? If you do it for one, you must do it for another, right? Exactly! Nothing says fun like conformity. If your team comes to you with ideas to energize the workforce, immediately start thinking about how everyone else in the office would feel if you enacted these plans.
Now, maybe you realized those three are all bad ideas. I could have written those in the sarcasm font, but we haven’t invented it yet (somebody get on it, please).
The challenge organizations face is not about creating fun but creating opportunities for fun to happen organically. Simply stated, don’t over-engineer the process. Too often, organizations or leaders try to put restrictions or guidelines in place for the very perks they created to engage a workforce. I once worked with an organization which invested millions of dollars on collaborative workspaces. Unfortunately, employees felt restricted in using those spaces because the leadership team felt they needed to set up community guidelines so the spaces wouldn’t get abused. Talk about sucking all the fun out of the air before the organization could even reap the benefit of their workspace!
That example shows why we must start with culture first. The culture of your organization or team must be ready. Once a strong culture is in place, look for opportunities to let fun and engagement happen organically and you’ll never find yourself in the situation of creating forced fun.