Is Fun A Dangerous Expectation In Organizational Culture?

Full Transcript Below

[ANNOUNCER]: Breaking down everyday workplace issues and diagnosing the hidden sickness, not just the obvious symptom. Our hosts, James and Coby.


[COBY]: Did we lose a patient?


[JAMES]: No, that’s just my lunch.


[COBY]: Hey, thanks for joining us. I’m Coby, he’s James. And let’s get started with a question. Is fun a dangerous expectation in organizational culture?


[JAMES]: So, yes, when fun is the outcome that you’re trying to achieve with your workplace culture, it’s problematic at best. I mean, the root of this problem kind of comes, down to define fun for me. Even between you and I, who share a lot of similar interests, we have a lot of shared experiences, we have similar backgrounds and upbringings. What we find fun is not the same. And one of the reasons why we really wanted to talk about this topic is because personally we’ve been seeing a rise in not quite horror stories, but certainly not good stories about companies who focus on fun as the outcome. things like prioritizing fun in the interview process, ah, where it seems like every other question is, you know, what does the candidate find fun? How are they a fun person? Are you fun? Do you like fun? All of these? This is such a fun workplace. And almost focusing on fun rather than competency, as the driving decision making process to companies that are, you know, they cling desperately to this idea of fun that you know, they’re still this fun startup, even though they’re ten or 15 years into the supposed startup stage, because they’ve hinged their entire identity on this one very shallow aspect of being fun. So what I’m hoping that we’re, our conversation today, we’re going to try and really break down this idea of fun and hopefully provide a bit of an alternative.


[COBY]: Yeah. This idea of, you know, like, of kind of shifting kind of the impression that people you have on people as far as a place to work around fun. I think some of the, some of the increased use of it is, again, there has been because of the kind of like, you know, international, issues around talent attraction and retention. These are two huge topics that are top of mind for most.


[JAMES]: It’s not going to be a surprise to anybody listening.


[COBY]: Exactly. So a lot of it is trying to say, okay, well, you know, we’re starting to take things like employer branding more seriously or trying to take things more like, you know, our, you know, our outwards communication or our kind, of like, you know, what, what defines us as an employer? And so there’s, so I think this is why we’re seeing this happen more and more. Is people trying to figure out this whole idea of differentiation, like, what makes us different from other people?


[JAMES]: I mean, they need to do that. I mean, companies absolutely have to have an employer brand. They have to have, just like it’s important in the consumer market to have a value proposition to your consumers. You need to have some sort of value proposition to your potential employees.


[COBY]: Absolutely. And again, that is important. But I think what is where the issues are arising is this idea of really, not fully thinking through the depth and complexities that come along with these efforts, almost like trying to make shallow, decisions to create shallow brands, because we just want to get that box checked so we can get back to business. Not realizing this is kind of what your business needs to be about now. You can’t just say you got to live and breathe it every day. Right? But, but regardless of that, you know, getting back to kind of like, what, what this looks like, kind of like, you know, when we try and prioritize this idea of fun, is it kind of, it kind of really does confuse people who are not necessarily like, you know, totally vibing with what you’re putting out there. Right. I mean, I mean, you know, the idea of like, you know, if I was in a job interview and, you know, being a very, you know, competent, you know, very knowledgeable, very experienced kind of person for a job that’s applying for, we’re assuming, and, you know, and there was this shift towards, like, you know, like, trying to kind of find out how fun of a person I am. If I’m not, like, fully getting. We’re on the same wavelength, I’m m not totally vibing with you. That’s going to make me kind of uncomfortable. And I think that it’s something where we have to kind of realize there’s this situation that, not everybody’s on the same page. And I think you said it well, when you’re like, what defines fun?


[JAMES]: Yeah. I mean, that’s what, for me, one of the big issues I take with it, and there’s several. It’s like you said, if I’m in an interview for a, if I’ve applied for a job, I’m really excited about it, matches my skills, my interests. It’s something that I have probably spent a long lot of time, preparing myself for this interview process. I would fully expect that what would be the most important thing in the interview to find out is am I competent and capable of doing the work? Right. I would be. I would be thrown for a loop if I sat down into an interview process and the questions weren’t about, you know, this, you know, situational, or how would you handle this? Or tell me about your experiences. It’s, well, how fun are you? Or what do you do for fun? Well, my fun has nothing to do with work. I don’t go to work to have fun, even though I have my own business. Right. And I have a lot of autonomy over what I do day to day. But I have fun at work as an oatmeal, as a byproduct of the work that I do, as a byproduct of the people who I work with, not because I’m going to work to find fun. I want to have fun when I go home to decompress from work.


[COBY]: Yeah. And I mean, and I think that, like you kind of were saying earlier, the idea of like, you know, this is a fun place to work. We have fun here. You know, we look, we take on fun projects, we do fun things. You, know, we’re all kind of friends, you know, that kind of idea. In some situations, that might seem kind of authentic and very appealing and like that. And, but like, in others, it might kind of have the same cool factor as your middle aged dad trying to hang out with, with your teenage friends. Right. I mean, like, it just might kind.


[JAMES]: Of seem like, kind of like, hello, fellow kids.


[COBY]: Exactly. It might seem very, kind of, kind of cringey. Right.


[JAMES]: Yeah.


[COBY]: but the thing too is, but I think that what it really kind of boils down to is a question of, you know, what, how do you define fun? Because, like, for example, I don’t think I’m fun. I’ve never used that as a way to describe myself. you know, I’m laid back. I’ve got a good sense of humor. you know, but I would not under any circumstances ascribe myself as fun. And I think part of that because to me, I am a outgoing introvert. Right. So, you know, so, I mean, the idea of introverts get their energy from, you know, kind of like the kind of solitary kind of alone time or small groups, you know, big, you know, public displays, big group activities really drain an introvert. actually, it’s funny because it’s kind of a little side note, that’s something that has kind of come up in a few other conversations too. Is people having this on clarity around introverts and extroverts. you know what? We actually, when we did our episode on psychology a few episodes back, we got some good response to it. Maybe if you do another one, we should talk about those differentiations. But anyway, I digress.


[JAMES]: complete sidetrack there.


[COBY]: Total sidetrack. but as someone that I would not describe myself as fun. So if that was kind of like what people were looking for from me, I’m like, well, I don’t love big group events. I don’t like these idea of mandatory, kind of mandatory and air quotes or un mandatory air quotes, I guess I should say hangouts after work or, you know, a lot of these big group activities or this. I don’t, that’s not something that I look for in my work. Like I say, I’m easy to work with, I’m laid back, I’ve got sense of humor. But that does not mean that I’m looking for BFF’s in my workplace. What drives me is kind of the spark to achieve and kind of do kind of cool stuff and kind of have, you know, like, you know, have an impact. And to me, that’s what I look for. And so some people, they would not describe how I work or how I interact at work. Fun. so, you know, I’m like, well, I’m unsure if, would I fit in here? Would this be a good place for me? Because you’re kind of putting me on the spot and stuff that I’m not really, you know, aware of or I’m not even too sure what you mean by fun when you’re talking to me in the interview. So it really kind of creates a bit of ambiguity and it really does kind of create this kind of confusing situation that can actually, you know, really, turn off, you know, highly talented, you know, highly driven people, you know, if it’s, again, has that, you know, dad hanging with the teenagers kind of cringey vibe to it.


[JAMES]: Well, yeah. And I mean, it can create a bait and switch situation where, if you don’t clarify those expectations, I’m going to think that what I find fun is the definition walking into the workplace. Right.


[COBY]: Yeah.


[JAMES]: If that’s not the case, then I’m going to feel like I was sold a bill of goods that just, it’s not matching what, my expectations are. And that is problematic at best, too. But it’s not just about recruitment where we see this. And I chuckle at the, I, use the example of the startup, in kind of my initial answer because to me that feels like the middle aged dad trying to, hang out with the, you know, be the cool dad, hanging out with the teenagers, right. Trying to make friends with their kids and their kids friends. And like, it’s just, it’s so okay if you’re in, if you are, if your company’s been around for ten or 15 years and you still classify yourself as a startup.


[JAMES]: Are you a failed business? Like, really though? I mean, startup, the point, like a startup has, like, that’s the beginning of the business, right. There needs to be, you can’t be a startup forever. you can’t identify your business as a startup if you’ve been in business and generating, like, if you’re pre revenue for 15 years as a startup, that’s an entirely, like, that’s problematic at best. But it’s this idea that we’re so hip and cool and fun and we are this, we have beanbag chairs and we have pizza Fridays and we have, ping pong tables and, foosball, in the break room because we are a fun, hip startup.


[COBY]: Well, it’s, it’s like, you know, we are trying to emulate Google’s. Google from 20 years ago.


[JAMES]: Yeah, right. Like, it’s, but I mean, it’s how we’ve ended up with these very, very shallow employee engagement strategies. Right. Because you’re trying to be fun, but you’re trying to be generically fun.


[COBY]: Mm


[JAMES]: Right. How can you be generically fun?


[COBY]: Well, and the other thing too is let’s, you know, let’s flip. We talked about what that looks like when there’s, when there’s a mismatch in expectations. But let’s talk about what about if employees like, yeah, this is what I want. I want this fun workplace, then the question kind of becomes, okay, so, you know, I’m going to my job because my job is fun. I’m going to have fun there. I’m going to play on a foosball table and this, but like, when, you know, whoa, man, why you asked me to do work, this was a place for fun. You know what I mean? Like, you know, so where’s the prioritization of it? Right? Because, I mean, what do employees need to expect from you as an employer if this is a fun workplace? What is the, you know, ratio of actual hard work to fun? You know? You know what I mean? Because, because that’s something that’s also tough too, is you come here for the fun. You don’t come here for the work. Well, then why are you bugging me to work if that, that’s not what this place is about right. So there’s.


[JAMES]: Well, and who has ever had a job where every aspect of it has been something that you enjoy?


[COBY]: That’s not a thing.


[JAMES]: It’s. No, it’s not. I mean, I mean, going back to us, like we own our company, like we should have greater autonomy in terms of deciding what we want to do, what projects we want to take on than most people have. We are fortunate that way. Yeah, but there are still a lot of things that have to be done that are not fun for us to do.


[COBY]: Exactly. And I think where we’re going, where we’re going, I think where we’ll end up having a bigger chunk of the conversation.We’ll be talking about, you know, what, how this expectation of fun can set people up to fail.


[JAMES]: Yes.


[COBY]: And so, we classify kind of. So a lot of the results, the consequences of, again, this prioritization of fun used poorly can create what we call a chaos solution. So we did an episode a little while back about creating chaos solutions, which are basically, when you initiate something without fully understanding the complexity of it and ends up creating kind of, a, domino effect of problems that make you often kind of worse than when you started. so a few episodes back that we talked about that. So if you’re curious about this idea, check that episode out. But really, I think what we’ll talk about is there’s a number of chaos solutions that come from this fun. And I think the first one that we’ll talk about was what you said earlier about employer branding. Because again, trying to make an employer brand without understanding the complexities behind branding and what fun could mean really does create this chaos solution where like I say, there’s the bait and switch, there’s this idea of the skills mismatch. There’s the idea of, people with high skilled people and feeling like this would not be a place that they want to work because they won’t be able to, they don’t know what’s expected. But it also kind of creates this generic, idea of we’re kind of trying to make, we’re trying to have fun without really defining, without saying what it looks like and kind of hoping that this one word will do all the heavy lifting for us. So it really does kind of create some major issues around employer branding when we try and lean into this. We’re Google from 2000, right.


[JAMES]: And I think for me, it presents a like, from the employer branding perspective, it’s just if the only value that you can offer your employees is fun, then are you a stable business that I want to attach myself to for the next x number of years? Right. Am I actually going to be able to grow my career with you? Or is this just a place for me to hang out and collect a paycheck until it goes down in flames? I mean, yeah, if that is, if the cornerstone of the value that you offer people is we are, we are just here to have fun. Okay. Then I know going in this is a, or my perspective personally would be this is a sinking ship. So either I’m here to collect a paycheck for as long as I possibly can and then try to get out before the whole place burns up, or I’m looking for an opportunity to actually grow and advance my career and I’m going to choose somebody else over you.


[COBY]: Right, well, and we should also clarify too. and m we should probably just say this a bit earlier. Is that often this commitment to fund or this commitment to fund. Sorry. Can look, a few different ways. Sometimes it’s as overt as this is one of our core values in our mission statement. And, you know, and often that’s more in kind of that more startup mentality like that. But even in kind of more traditional companies that, you know, may not, you know, structure or structure like the startup piece, there might be this newer shift where we’re trying to kind of like, you know, differentiate ourselves by saying this is a fun place to work. Like, you know, and, and, you know, and, you know, and we, and our employees, you know, look for employees who are here to have fun and, and it’s it’s a bit, it’s not as kind of overtly, you know, in your face, it’s a bit more of like, you know, part of the trend of the conversations and trend of kind of the shift that they’re trying to make. But again, that’s shallow shift. So it’s something that, you know, it’s, it can look different in different companies and it is something that again, like, you know, it’s, it’s how they’re trying to portray it and what they’re, and what they’re trying to think that means. But also by checking that one box, what boxes are you unchecking?


[JAMES]: Yeah. And it’s, to me, for me, it is the focus on fun as an outcome.


[COBY]: M right.


[JAMES]: As it, our objective here is to create a fun environment. I have no problem with having fun at work. that’s not, to me, that’s not the issue. It’s not that people should not have fun at work. It’s that fun at work should be a byproduct of doing good work, of doing work that you find fulfilling, of doing work that you are actively engaged in. In working with people where you feel like you belong. Right. It’s the byproduct of having a good workplace culture where people, you know, feel psychologically safe, where they feel included and that they belong, and where they have work that engages them.


[COBY]: Right.


[JAMES]: Will, create that byproduct of people will naturally have fun at work. But if you focus on fun as the objective, you’re going to miss the depth and quality of, workplace culture that will just bring so much more productivity, so much more fun in the end, if you don’t focus on fun as the outcome.


[COBY]: Yeah. And I mean, kind of going kind of. I don’t know what you talked about, kind of with. Of engagement, everything like that. We’ve talked about this a few times. I’m not sure we talked about the podcast or not, but, kind of the difference between focusing on employee happiness versus employee engagement, because, I mean, one of the things that can be as, again, as much as a chaos solution as fun can be is kind of happiness as a focus. Right. We want employees to be happy. Well, happy is great, but you can be happy and complacent, you can be happy and lazy. You can be happy and absolutely phoning it in. Like, I’m getting a great paycheck and I do nothing. And some people, that could be the pinnacle job that they’re trying to.


[JAMES]: That’s what makes them happy at work.


[COBY]: Exactly. Whereas the idea, you’re right, just like we talked about in an episode, about a previous episode about, should people, should companies be doing employee engagement? And our kind of cheeky answer to that is, no, you shouldn’t be doing engagement. You should be creating the culture that engages people. and engagement, kind of, like I said, with fun, it’s kind of a bit of. It’s the consequence. It’s natural consequence. It’s the outcome. It’s the results of creating the right culture where people are, again, psychologically safe, feel like they belong and are engaged in their work. Right. And they find motivation, enthusiasm in the work that they do. And so with happiness, it kind of is really. It’s kind of almost like the other side of the coin, or very, at least very similar. The idea of, like, you know, should we be happy at work? Well, again, that could be a byproduct of having motivation, enthusiasm in your work, which is how we define engagement. But engagement should be the thing that you’re trying to create, not necessarily happiness, because happiness will. Will maybe not. M people may not be as happy if they’re well paid, motivated, and enthusiasm than if they’re well paid to do nothing. But, You know, there’s still a level of happiness that you can achieve by. By having a very engaged and motivated and enthusiastic workforce.


[JAMES]: Yeah, I like the happiness, tie in because it also ties very close to things like job satisfaction. And you don’t want unhappy employees. Right. If people are actively unhappy, just like if they are actively. If they have. If they are dissatisfied with their jobs, that’s going to create a whole bunch of issues for you. performance, productivity, otherwise, culture, toxicity, complacency, you name it. But with happiness, you don’t want unhappy employees. But do you necessarily need everybody to be happy at work all the time? No. They need to do their job. They need to be productive. They need to be compensated, properly for the work that they do. They need to be treated with dignity and respect. And if they are happy with that, wonderful. But as long as they’re not actively unhappy and causing problems, fine, great. Don’t really care about happiness in the workplace, because, again, our focus, the objective we are trying to, achieve as a business, is not happiness. It’s to create a culture, hopefully where people will be happy, hopefully where people will have fun. But we have a job to do, and that’s not always fun, and it’s not always going to make you happy.


[COBY]: Right. And it’s funny. So one of the other, So, like, I guess the third chaos solution, you know, meaning, employer branding being one, employee, engagement being another third one, is the idea of, like, fit, right. So, like we talked about in a couple episodes ago. Oh, this is. I’m just really referring back to a bunch of old episodes.


[JAMES]: So are we just doing a clip show here or what? That’s what. Yeah, well, I mean, when we. The podcasts going on two years now, so we’ve. We’ve had a lot of, topics covered.


[COBY]: Right. But going back to the episode we did on, should we be hiring for fit? One of the things that we talked about there is, kind of like our spectrum program where the idea, like, you know, that there’s different, roles in. For highly successful teams. And, like, you know, it’s like. And I, you know, four of the main ones, you know, others, the finders who are the explorers and kind of look for new opportunities and kind of bring opportunities to the organization. There’s binders that are the kind of people focus like, you know, bridge builders, kind of like, you know, the people people, right. you know, when we see companies that are kind of trying to hire for fit and trying to hire people that they think will have fun working with them, you know, those kind of like great people, those two kinds of skills that send a bubble to the top because they’re often kind of like, you know, extroverted. They’re often very people focused. They’re also very enjoyable to work with and, you know, again, very, very important skills to have in the workplace. But we talk about a strength based team. Those two skills alone don’t necessarily can’t achieve, the entire job because two of the other ones are the minders, which are more the administrators, the detail focus, kind of like keeping people on schedule, and the grinders who often are kind of the workhorses that kind of bury their head and kind of do a lot of the digging and stuff like that, they’re very focused on the work. Those two types of people often don’t appear on the surface to be as much fun as the outgoing, extroverted finders and binders, but they are essential to keeping things on task and the work getting done. So, you know, when you’re trying to, again, build teams and you’re too focused on fun, you might again overstack people that are the finders and the binders who are, again, that, that easy, overtly traditional sense of what fun might look like and missing two of the key elements, actually getting the job done and the whole idea of, like, you know, being able to kind of have this well rounded team and highly successful, high performing team requires a mix of different skill sets in order to achieve that. And if kind of that baseline that you’re trying to look at as a key filter or key lens when you’re assigning tasks, building teams, hiring people, whatever it might be, is this, you know, how is this going to be fun? How’s it going to be the most enjoyable? How is everyone going to be the happiest to work with that? You know, that idea, that morale piece, you know, sometimes you have to realize that you need, you know, you can’t just, you know, yeah. You know, you have to look at, again, from that broader setback, understand the complexity of what makes effective teams, just like understanding complexity of what fun could really mean.


[JAMES]: Yeah, I I like this point because to me, it brings to mind years ago, working as part of small team. And I had a colleague who phenomenal, smart, driven, incredibly detail focused, and, brought a tremendous amount to the team into the organization. Nobody, herself included, would classify, her as a fun person. Right. That wasn’t what they, that wasn’t what they wanted from work. They were brilliant. The whole. And their contributions to the team were huge. I mean, we were a very. It was a small, team that I was a part of. And if we had been focused solely on fun, rather than like we built. It took a while because my personality can be hard for somebody, very difficult to work with, very hard for some people to take. Well, yeah, anyways, moving on. it did take some time for us to learn how to work together, but where we built our professional relationship was on mutual respect and competency and what we were achieving, because we were very, very different people, personally and professionally. But holy crap, this person, I would never hesitate to work with this person again. They were phenomenal at everything that they did and so brilliant in their analysis. it was. Anyways, doesn’t matter, but that exemplifies to me the. Not only the value of a strength based team, but how. What a missed opportunity it would have been, if the organization hired for fun, or had this focus, because this person certainly pulled their own weight and probably and, you know, helped carry the team at times, too, depending on the projects that we were leading.


[COBY]: Right. And I think, you know, sometimes when in those kind of situations, you know, it’s often like, well, I really, you know, like, you know, I only want to, or I only want to, but, you know, prioritizing working with people that I like to have a drink with or I like to hang out with afterwards. Right. And then that is such, like a terrible kind of benchmark to kind of hold team cohesion to. Right. Yeah, because, I mean, and I think why maybe, you know, maybe if we had to kind of get to the, get to the root cause of why that mentality might still be present, you know, today is when teams are riddled with job dissatisfaction and then mutual respect’s not there, you know, then hoping that these people will click is the only thing that’s going to get anything done or keep them from being at each other’s throats. Right.


[JAMES]: Yeah.


[COBY]: So it’s almost like, you know, we, you know, we are, all our employees are miserable, but if they’ve got buddies they can hang out with, then that at least, you know, keeps them around a little bit longer than if they were constantly, you know, fighting with people because everybody was miserable, right?


[JAMES]: Yeah. If everybody’s miserable and paid terribly and the work environment was poor, you’re never gonna. But hey, if we can let them have friends at work and try to use that as the only tie in, to keep people there. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


[COBY]: So there may be, there may be some, some truth to that, right.


[JAMES]: So I don’t know that it’s ever that deliberate in the thinking. I don’t think there’s ever that level of self awareness.


[COBY]: No.


[JAMES]: but yeah, no, it’s interesting.


[COBY]: Ah. And that may be like when we say it’s often in most workplaces, it doesn’t necessarily look like this focus on fun as being the, again, the mission statements and stuff like that. When it is that more subtle piece. Maybe that’s what it might look like in a lot more common workplaces where it’s about kind of like, you know, focusing on the, on the, on the fit side of it, about having people that will fit together, that will be a cohesive group, that will be like, you know, they’ll, they will enjoy each other because that’s the only thing to enjoy when you work here. but I mean, like, so it might be more about trying to lean.


[JAMES]: Again, having the, not understanding what fit means and using fun as a substitute for, for it is. A lazy way of trying to get around that.


[COBY]: Yeah. And I think that, and which is kind of, again, why you kind of get into a bit of a chaos solution because the other piece going back to fit and fun is how does that impact with like belonging. Right?


[JAMES]: Yeah.


[COBY]: So I mean, you know, so, so then, you know, cause we talked about in the episode about fit, kind of like, you know, fitting in and being a good fit. Right. And fitting in as being more about like, you know, about assimilation where being in good fit is more about complementary skill sets. And when you are fitting in, your simulating as an expectation, then this idea of, well you know, we want everyone that has the same idea of fun. That is, all the extrovert people hanging out, grabbing a drink after work, friends, groups, clicks in a sense. Right. So, so I think that, you know, that that’s kind of that too, you know. Well you know, again, if I’m a serious person that works really hard and gets a lot of enjoyment out of the work that I do, but I wouldn’t consider myself to be an outgoing person, was hanging outside of work or would be fun, then I’m not gonna, then I wouldn’t belong here and I know what’s good about your story about your coworker was that, you know, this was a person that you enjoy working with. It was. That was enjoyable to work with. But you wouldn’t say that you were friends. You wouldn’t say that it, you know, that you guys had a lot of fun hanging out together at work, but you had great mutual respect and were able to work very effectively and enjoyed the work that you did because. Because of this mutual respect built foundation for your relationship. And that’s not what people would classify as fun. So, you know, you miss that opportunity to have those kinds of, kind of connections to your coworkers when you’re trying to kind of force this idea of fun assimilated. We’re all, you know, hanging out friends kind of, kind of piece, you know, happiness focus. Right.


[JAMES]: Yeah.


[COBY]: Is where. Is where I think that, you know, is where I’ll, I get a lot of that mishmask because of belonging.


[JAMES]: Are people, yeah. Are people mistaking fun for harmony? Like, are they trying to get to a harmonious, like, a non conflict riddled workplace and they think fun is the mean, is a means of getting there?


[COBY]: That’s a really good question. And actually, I think that, we should jump into what we think could be some alternatives to fun in a second. Let’s hold that thought. But one other thing I wanted to add before we did that. Well, we’ve kind of said this before about, like, you know, the, the problem with focusing on fun with, with employees is, you know, is really where we’re focusing on the majority of it. But fun can also be a difficult thing as far as kind of when it talks about the work and the tasks that you have, like you mentioned, you know, you and I, you know, owning our business, you know, we have, you know, we have to do a lot of things that aren’t fun. I think that’s something that companies, and this is probably more in the startup realm, where there are companies that maybe have fun is too high of a value piece, because I remember it’s a while ago I came where it was now, but I read a really interesting article, about, a CEO from a startup that fun was the biggest part of their value statement. And what that did was had them choosing only fun projects. Often the expense of the real worst stuff, like the gritty, the, you know, the, the stuff that was essential for having them actually build a strong business. and actually, you know, and if they focus on just things that they enjoyed, it really, you know, like, hindered their growth. They kind of had them spinning their wheels because they weren’t doing the hard, real stuff that’s essential to business success. They were just doing the stuff they thought would be the most fun.


[JAMES]: Yeah.


[COBY]: And, and again, and the other thing too is like, you know, sometimes people mistake fun in the tasks as being kind of whatever you want to do. But I think people undervalue the importance and the job satisfaction that can come from boundaries and limitations. Right. I mean, we talk about this when we talk about rules and empower rules of restrict in our economy, freeway program, the idea of setting clear rules, clear boundaries, clear processes. People can have full autonomy to work in letting them color right to the corners of this fence you’ve built around their authority and their work. That can be very enjoyable because it can be. Be very free because it can often alleviate micromanagement. When you say kind of, here’s how much you can spend, here’s how much, here’s the timeline, here’s the expectation, here’s delivery. You create this kind of the square around what they can do, and then within that dispense ability, as long as.


[JAMES]: You’Re not doing x, y, and z, have at it.


[COBY]: Yeah. And I think that, you know, that idea of those, that of people undervalue the. How enjoyable work can be with a very structured environment. And I think that that’s something that’s totally missed by this idea of looking at their fun projects or, you know, are doing only things, taking or only doing the parts of the job that you enjoy that you find fun is. I really think that, you know, there’s something that great work comes from limitations and from, again, the structured pieces of the work that we do. So, I think, yes. So, moving on, why don’t we talk a little bit about some alternatives to kind of that prioritization of fun. I think harmony is something that you mentioned that could be a reasonable. Maybe not the word you want to have in your, mission.


[JAMES]: No, but I think that’s what people are. People are trying to get to. Right. People are trying to get to a workplace where that’s not riddled in conflict, that’s not riddled in job dissatisfaction, that’s not, you know, so they’re, they, for lack of a better term or option, they default to fun when what they want is this idea of, well, the workplace culture hierarchy, right? Where people can feel that they belong, where they have work that engages them, where they are psychologically safe, where the factors of the workplace are not creating job, ah, dissatisfaction. Right. Where people are treated with, ah, dignity and respect.


[JAMES]: That’s what we’re trying to get to, right?


[COBY]: Yeah. And I think, you know, that there’s not, that that’s not a bad option to kind of consider. If you’re trying, if you’re trying to achieve this outcome, that may be something that might give you a bit more clarity in how you get there without kind of all the negative side effects of chaos solution that might come from something like fun. I don’t think it’s perfect. I think that it’s an option. I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect option.


[JAMES]: I wouldn’t use words like harmony in any type of employer branding, pieces.


[COBY]: It’s more as an outcome piece. The thing that we’re striving, what we’re.


[JAMES]: Trying to get to.


[COBY]: Yeah. another one that kind of, that kind of came up. kind of. I remember seeing it before was from. If you can help me remember the name of the company. it was about, I think it was weird or weirdness.


[JAMES]: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. We, were talking about this a while ago.


[COBY]: Yeah.


[JAMES]: And from, zappos.


[COBY]: Right, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


[JAMES]: They’ve got a, Part of their, is it their mission statement? I’m going to totally butcher this, because I’m trying to go off memory from a conversation a long time ago, but they have, as part of their mission statement, like core values, m this idea of not fun, but weird.


[COBY]: Yeah.


[JAMES]: Which at first sounds really weird. Right. Until you actually dig into it and it. I remember our conversation going back and forth on this and debating it, because how is weird actually a valuable value or something, valuable to have and it’s part of your workplace. but the way that it was articulated, the way that it was actually implemented and used was as a means of we value what makes you you. We value the individual, we value the idea that each person brings something unique and we’re all, in our own way, kind of weird. I can certainly say I am. I’m not sure how I would answer that question in an interview. What makes you weird? But the idea, I mean, you. Yeah, I wouldn’t use it as an interview question because it could lead you down a whole road you do not want to go down. but I. I kind of like this idea, though, because it’s an, it’s a, for lack of a better word, it’s a fun way of talking about what makes people unique or what makes you different. Right. And that we actually value the individual over as you were talking earlier, Kobe, it’s not about assimilation. It’s about acceptance. Good fit.


[COBY]: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and that’s the thing. Yeah, and I. The idea kind of everybody is a little weird and the idea of like, you know, we accept and if you’re.


[JAMES]: Not, that’s what makes you weird.


[COBY]: There you go. We embrace that. You can almost feel comfortable bringing your whole self to work because we get that you’re just, you’re a weirdo, like everybody else that works here. And it’s a, it’s, it’s also a bit disarming too. Right. I mean, I think that it’s, it’s something that you’d have to do really well if you’re going to lean heavily.


[JAMES]: I’d be very, very cautious of, just trying to plug and play the language around weird into your employer branding. Please, please do not take that as a recommendation from.


[COBY]: Here’s our advice. If this is interest to you, definitely seek an employer branding professional to help you with that. Don’t go far advice.


[JAMES]: Don’t go off of our conversation. Just plug weird into your.


[COBY]: Yeah, no, but, yeah, but this, but it does kind of bring forward this kind of cool idea of, again, letting people be accepted for their uniqueness. And it’s also a matter of like, you know, kind of also there’s, there’s that sense of like, you know, you know, you can be yourself here. And I think that that gets you a lot closer to the goal that you’re trying to maybe get towards around maybe even harmony or again, or where you’re trying to go with fun. It gets you there a lot cleaner, again, a little bit more work to kind of give you the context of what we mean by it. But once people get that, I think it’s a much cleaner path there. Again, it’s more. Has to be done upfront around the messaging and the branding and everything like that. But I do think that there’s value in there and I mean, it’s something that is again and again, it was Zappos, right? Yeah. the shoe. The shoe company, right? Yeah. So they, I’m assuming I have to go. I can double check, but I’m, I imagine they do it really, really well. So it’s so suspect. If you want to kind of get a better idea, look them up and kind of how, kind of how they do it. but, but again, it’s the, you know, it is an idea of, again, it is something that might be a better alternative to kind of get you to where you want to go over fun.


[JAMES]: So maybe the last thing we’ll talk about is, I think from, well, our language, we talk about in terms of mastery, in terms of skill mastery, and this idea that, you really need to identify, value and use the skills of the people you have, working with you. Because if you identify people’s skills, if you value their skills, and if you put those skills into use, you’re going to be allowing people to play to their strengths greater. You’re going to be allowing them. I mean, you can’t have only work that, is fun or that is perfectly aligned with that. But if you can put a greater emphasis on that, if you, understand the skill mastery and use that as a mechanism, you will create the outcome that you’re trying to achieve with fun rather than focusing on it as the objective.


[COBY]: Yeah, no, that that actually is. Is a good suggestion because, I mean, like, because again, when we talk about kind of master, comes up, we talk about kind of our. Our tools and strategies for employee engagement, stuff like that. And. And, you know, the idea of letting. Because actually even kind of going back to the strength based teams. Right. Because part of the value of a strength based team often is kind of, you know, the idea of mastery is kind of kind of built in there a little bit because it’s about doing more of what you’re already good at. Yes, and you’re right. It’s about kind of like, identify, use, and challenge is really kind of the three ways that we break it down in some of our training programs. Right. That you want to be able to kind of know the skills that they identify, the skills that you have available to you, to you and to them. Use them effectively. Don’t just waste them, but also push them to do more with it. And that’s where you kind of further develop it. But, I mean, if you’re in a job, if you’re in a team, if your work is about people, my skills are seen, my skills are utilized, you know, and I get to, you know, and I’m challenged on the things that I’m already good at and I want to get better at. There is something bold and empowering and fun and enjoyable and harmonious about that being your everyday.


[JAMES]: Yeah.


[COBY]: And so there really kind of is. And again, I don’t know if the word mastery would be what you want to put in your mission statement. but I think that that is something about, again, the idea. Idea of, you know, again, identify, use and challenge your skills and do more of what you’re already good at and kind of, you know, play to your strengths. That kind of ideas, whatever word you want to use to define that again, this is why you need to talk to an employer branding professional. would help you kind of be able to kind of mold that to kind of help, you know, this is kind of what we are aiming for in our everyday. I think that would be a good, another good alternative to, you know, trying to get, trying to use fun.


[JAMES]: Yeah, I think mastery, skill mastery, you know, just that idea of playing and to people’s strengths and helping them to improve their strengths is just a wonderful. We ah, use it, like you said, as part of our engagement strategies, building, engagement, not engaging with. We’ve talked about that to death. yeah, so weird. We cautiously, hope that you will not rely on our faulty memories and do your own research. but mastery, that is something that we absolutely, know and know will provide the outcome that you’re looking for if as a much better substitute than just we are fun.


[COBY]: Right? Okay, cool. I think this was a good conversation. I think, I’ll do a bit of a wrap up.


[JAMES]: Okay.


[COBY]: So the question was, is fun a dangerous expectation in organizational culture? And we really say a profound, yes. Fun can have a lot of, a lot of negative consequences when kind of unclarified or, or ambiguity or really, you know, not digging into the complexity of it because it can, it can impact employee expectations. It can impact, the way that you have, your recruitment process set up and how you might turn people off who could be a real asset to your company. But it boils down to the biggest concern is how you define fun. And how do other people define fun? By not really fully getting the complexity of what this means. You can create chaos solutions by leaning into fun. It can have a negative impact on your employer brand. It can have, you know, it can end up hurting your. The way that you create engagement in your employees. It can impact the way that you, have utilized the skills and build your teams and kind of have complimentary skill sets. It can really impact belonging and it can also have a negative impact on the projects that you choose, the work that you do, and kind of the focus that your company has on the, on the everyday tasks that are required to have a grow, a growing and successful company. So we suggest there might be some alternatives that you could, they could help you, be able to kind of get to where you want to go, maybe with a little bit more clarity and a bit more focus. So three would be kind of recommended, and we cautiously say that you should definitely have some experts help you if this is going to be part of your messaging. So the first was harmony around trying to kind of build this sense of kind of cohesion and kind of the morale and the kind of the easy to engage in workplace that you’re looking for. next was weirdness or weird. That’s something about kind of appreciating and accepting people’s differences and allowing them to kind of bring their whole self to their jobs. And the last one was mastery or skill mastery about letting people do more of what they’re good at knowing, saying that we, we want to, we want to understand your skills, we want to utilize them. We want to challenge you to be better at what you’re already good at. That, you know, those three, as alternatives could be something that could be a great part of how you position your, your, or your organization position your employer brand, how you seek to kind of add skills to your team, and kind of how you take on projects and how you take on kind of initiatives. Ah, as you go forward. So again, we caution companies to not fall into the trap of fun, whether that’s your big mission statement or whether it’s just kind of how you start to kind of show the value proposition of your organization and the benefits of working with you. It’s something that can end up doing far more harm than good. All right, so that about does it for us. For a full archive of the podcast and access the video version hosted on our YouTube channel, visit podcast thanks for joining us.


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