If you are to make your staff think better of themselves, the work environment must be friendly instead of hostile, open instead of closed, supportive instead of discouraging, relaxing instead of rigid, inclusing instead of divisive. But it must be more than that. If you want ideas to flourish, the work environment must be fun.
“Make it fun to work at your organization,” wrote advertising mogul David Ogilvy. “When people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce goodwill. Kill grimness with laughter. Encourage exuberance.”
Mr. Ogilvy did not have to limit his remarks to advertising agencies and advertising. The same could be said about any kind of organization producing any kind of product or service. For you it’s true: People who have fun doing what they’re doing, do it better.
“If you ask me what’s our primary purpose,” said Ogilvy is “I would say that it is not to make the maximum profit, but to run our organizaton in such a way that our employees are happy. Everything follows from that – good work, and good service to your customers. Fun, like enthusiasm, is contagious and has a snowball effect that helps generate good work over and over again throughout the organization.
Ogilvy states that “this was proven to me early in my career.” “When I started in advertising, the writer and art directors dressed the way everybody in business dressed – the men wore suits and ties; the women, dresses or suits.”
In the late ’60’s all that changed. People started dressing in sweaters and blue jeans, T-shirts, and tennis shoes. Ogilvy was running a creative department then, and the Los Angeles Times asked him what he thought about people coming to work dressed so casually. “I don’t care if they come to work in their pajamas,” I said, “as long as they get the work out.”
“Sure enough, the day after the article (with my quote) appeared, my entire department showed up in pajamas. It was great fun. The office rocked with laughter and job.” More important, the days and weeks that followed were some of the most productive times his department ever had. People were having fun, and the work got better.
Note again the cause and effect relationship: the fun came first; the better work, second. Having fun unleashes creativity. It is one of the seeds you plant to get ideas.
Indeed, nothing is more important for a leader to do than to create this kind of an environment where people enjoy coming to work every day, where there’s a feeling of camaraderie and good fellowship, where people attack their work with alacrity and confidence, where they like the people they work with, where they think of themselves as partners instead of employees, where – in short – it’s fun to work.
But why should you care?
The number one reason that people mention for quitting their job is dissatisfaction with their boss. Indeed, interviews with 2 million employees at 700 American companies found that what determines how long employees stay — and how productive they are — is the quality of their relationship with their immediate boss. “People join companies and leave managers,” observes Marcus Buckingham of the Gallup Organization, who analyzed the data.
This article is a summary of ideas developed in Ideaship: How to Get Ideas Flowing in Your Workplace, by Jack Foster. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 2001.
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