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Does Having Fun Make IT More Enjoyable? 249

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the laughter-is-the-best-medicine dept.
Lam1969 writes "ComputerWorld is running an article stating that some senior managers in IT think the answer to boosting morale is to have more fun on the job. The IT managers interviewed for the article claim making people laugh contributes to successful businesses and reduces turnover. How do you have fun? According to the article, Dale Sanders, head of IT at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, 'has posted photos on the intranet of staffers caught in awkward moments installing cables or servers, for instance. Sanders encourages others to add funny (and tasteful) captions.' John Wade, CIO at Saint Luke's Health System Inc., sometimes dresses in drag and encourages other unusual behavior. Other potential tactics for laughs include encouraging self-expression, encouraging 'serious play', and asking potential hires their favorite funny movies or comedians."
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Does Having Fun Make IT More Enjoyable?

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  • Ummmmm Yes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:42PM (#14333862) Homepage Journal
    Does having fun make ANY job more enjoyable?.................. *yes*.

    • by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:48PM (#14333892)
      Yes, that is a universal principle. At the office, I've instructed my staff to give every 100th Big Mac "extra-special" treatment.
    • by IntelliTubbie (29947) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @07:03PM (#14333939)
      Does having fun make ANY job more enjoyable?.................. *yes*.

      So in this case, does IT stand for "Information Tautology"?

      Cheers,
      IT
    • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      My coworkers and I have a great time at work. In fact, that is the only reason I am not really looking for another job and probably why I am still there. We just hired a hardware guy from another department, he too has commented many times that he actually enjoys coming to work now. The guy I replaced took another job for about 15K year more and he left only because of some differences with the IT manager, he would come back at his old pay if she ever left. People have reasons for staying and leaving, o
      • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "I have a great time at work..."

        I hear ya...and agree with you...fun at IT jobs DO help things.

        My first IT job years ago was a great atmosphere. Our BU mgr. basically gave us programmers carte blanche to do what we wanted...as long as the work was done on time and done well. We spent lunch hours that ran over quite a bit over an hour each day playing Descent, Duke Nuke'em...and other games over the network...with speakers at full blast and all the yelling and all that went with it. No problems.

        We'd tak

        • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SoloFlyer2 (872483)
          Yeah, at a place i previously worked we did a similar thing...

          We would play small simple games at lunch (Think Flash Games), though we usally didnt take anymore than the alloted hour :)

          After hours was a different thing all together, we would play Half-life, Counter-strike, TFC, DOD and many other games... We would usually play for about 1.5 to 2 hours each day...
          and Managment Loved it... Why? Simple...anyone working overtime who was having problems with computers could still call IT... and they didnt
    • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mnmn (145599)
      I have lots of fun working at a high paying job. I'll have MORE fun with higher income.
      • I share much of the same philosophy- I'll take that bundle of cash even if the job sucks, and it will enable me to do whatever I want when I'm not there.

        However, while earning lots of money offsets the will to quit a bad job, it doesn't make it any easier to put in the 40 hours. We spend a lot of our lives at work.

        Sometimes it's not worth it. If you're at a shitty 80k/yr job, and you have the chance to get a much more enjoyable job that's closer to home for 70k/yr, a lot of people might take it.
    • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sigloiv (870394)
      At the same time, this reminds me a lot of the hilarious series The Office. I mean, just because a boss is trying to be funny and cheer everyone up, doesn't mean he's succeeding...
      • Indeed. What I find most enjoyable about a job is if the people there actually enjoy there jobs, and are genuinely fun people. I have had more than enough of managers putting on the phoney fun act.
      • I mean, just because a boss is trying to be funny and cheer everyone up, doesn't mean he's succeeding...

        Yes, yes, yes. I would far rather a boss who actually respects his team, takes our opinions seriously, fires the incompetant people and lets us do our blue-sky R&D projects now and again to one who makes jokes or tries to take the team out to lunch every week but lacks the former attributes.
      • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @10:08AM (#14335945) Homepage
        At the same time, this reminds me a lot of the hilarious series The Office. I mean, just because a boss is trying to be funny and cheer everyone up, doesn't mean he's succeeding...

        Also, just because it's succeeding with some of the staff that doesn't mean it's making things more enjoyable for everyone. Some people might find the photo gags described in the article genuinely embarrassing... is that good for morale? The boss dressing in drag is the sort of thing that's going to be perceived differently by the straight men in the group than by any women or gay men (depending on how the guy behaves, the former might be creeped out by it, or the latter insulted by it). If the boss' idea of "fun" is Ace Ventura, and mine is Harold and Maude, introducing "fun" into the workplace - even if it goes over great with the Jim Carrey fans - is not going to make my job more enjoyable.

        One of the reasons for "professionalism" in a work environment is that it helps to establish a common, neutral social atmosphere. For example, several years ago when a coworker and I started working a lot on weekends - the usual expectations of office conduct set aside - I got to see what this guy was really like (stained Confederate flag t-shirt, fag jokes), which made it more difficult for me to work with him. (And I'll bet that his discovery that I was a fan of the Smiths and the Cure didn't make him any more comfortable working with me.) I'm not saying that a work environment where everyone checks their personalities at the door is a good thing, but straying from traditional standards and encouraging everyone to let their hair down can have unintended negative consequences as well.

    • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Robbyboy (802040)
      I agree with this sentiment. You can have a job shoveling turds for a living, but if you are in a good environment than you tend to forget the turds and enjoy the funny people. Case in point: I served 135 days in the middle east during the first OIF back in 03. I served with some of the best people ever encountered in my career. SCUD missle alerts, Chemical alerts, little sleep, but the people were what made it worth while. We all had very serious jobs (I worked in intel), but everyone found a way to make i
      • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shawb (16347)
        Hey... don't knock shoveling turds for a living. I work at an animal control facility, and after you get past the grossnes of it, cleaning up after dogs etc gets a sort of rewarding feeling in its own right. I don't know if I'd personally ever be able to get comfortable with cleaning up human feces, but dog? No problem. But yeah, working with people that can occasionally get goofy prevents the days from dragging on. It can be almost essential during stressful periods. Maybe it's just the camaraderie t
    • Re:Ummmmm Yes? (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'll gently disagree. I've had jobs I've enjoyed not because they were fun, per-se, but because the Not-Fun was kept far away from me. Basically, the jobs were interesting, management was supportive or absent, and i was left unencumbered to actually do work and accomplish something. You can skip the foosball tables, hawaiian shirt day, and mandatory bowling outings, and instead fire the incompetent cow-worker and preening, empire-building, managers. Average pressure decreases, more work gets done, and t
    • If Fun(IT) = infinity, then Fun(IT) + More Fun = infinity.

      And we ALL know that IT is infinitely fun.

      So the answer is no.
      • And we ALL know that IT is infinitely fun.

        Sounds like someone's either in the first stages of his first IT job, or is being sarcastic but forgot the bite at the end.

        If it's the former, I really don't have the heart to tell him, especially on Christmas.

        Curse you, compassion!
    • Maybe, but I think the main thing that would make work more enjoyable is... MONEY. More money.
    • A good working environment makes a job more enjoyable? Why didn't we think of this before!
  • Strange questions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Da3vid (926771)
    Does having more fun make it more enjoyable? It doesn't seem to be to be a very big stretch at all to define "fun" as that which is enjoyable. So, if you are having more fun, isn't it more enjoyable? This question seems easily answered by definitions alone.

    -Da3vid-
    • Yes. I think a better question would be "why do the people who enjoy work have fun doing it?"

      I've been relatively fortunate in terms of the jobs I've had, but in my experience fun was basically the default result of skilled people working in a relaxed environment doing things that they liked.

      I would think that a lack of fun is not an indication that there needs to be management-approved funny websites on the intranet, but that something is wrong with the department or company. Maybe the workload is too high
  • Improving Morale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mordors9 (665662) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:45PM (#14333880)
    This seems like a great idea. Improve everyone's morale by making fun of people. I can't believe it would be too long before someone's feeling are hurt by the made up captions provided by other employees. We certainly wouldn't to go to the effort and cost of providing decent pay, decent benefits, and treating employees like valued members of the company as a way to improve morale.

    • Absolutely right. The picture/caption posting will last right up until someone posts a manager inserting its head up its own ass.
      • Absolutely right. The picture/caption posting will last right up until someone posts a manager inserting its head up its own ass.

        That's because that's considered leaking secrets on how they're managing the war on terror. Don't you know you're helping the terrorists by discussing it? Please take a number and line up for the next bus to gitmo.

    • Re:Improving Morale (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Saturday December 24, 2005 @07:14PM (#14333982) Homepage Journal
      That's one of the things I see often in a lot of these companies that praise "motivational techniques" in their HR departments; they don't ACTUALLY consider their employees valuable. I think this causes a vicious cycle as well: turnover increases due to the fact that employees don't feel important, and the managers then don't see employees as being important because they'll probably be gone in a month anyway. So they try to place the blame elsewhere, on "bad attitudes", not having enough "fun" on the job, etc., where the real problem is that the employees just aren't being respected as individuals by their superiors.

      I found this to be worst when I was working at a call center; I swear, upper and middle management treated people there like children more than respected employees. Immediate supervisors were often easy to deal with, but when the problem starts from the top, it's nearly impossible to stop.
    • Re:Improving Morale (Score:3, Interesting)

      by humphrm (18130)
      You are absolutely correct, however, a good manager knows his team, and whether they can handle poking fun at themselves without getting bent out of shape. I work in a shop where if you are thin-skinned, no matter how many trips to HR you make to complain, you'll be gone soon enough. I've been there ten years, and I'm the low man on the totem pole seniority-wise.

      I don't think any manager should expect to look at a book or read slashdot for ideas about how to make their shop fun. If they can't figure it o
    • Watch out; some fool will probably reply to this saying how pay isn't really all that important and that people should be doing the job because they have a passion for it and not out of any interest in money.
    • We certainly wouldn't to go to the effort and cost of providing decent pay, decent benefits, and treating employees like valued members of the company as a way to improve morale.

      Every time upper management starts saying things like "our employees are our most valuable asset" update your resume, there is a layoff in the very near future. Upper management has realized that the salaries paid to their employees are worth more than any other part of the company or the products they deliver to customers. By
  • Monty Python? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jetson (176002) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:47PM (#14333887) Homepage
    Other potential tactics for laughs include encouraging self-expression, encouraging 'serious play', and asking potential hires their favorite funny movies or comedians.

    So how long before "Monty Python" is added to the Comp.Sci. curriculum at the local university? I'm all for having a fun and enjoyable workplace, but I'm not sure I want my professional qualifications trumped by whether or not the interviewer agrees with my sense of humour.

    • Re:Monty Python? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JamesWJohnson (928735)
      If a prospective Computer Science major isn't already familiar with Monty Python (to the extent that they can at least quote the opening scene of The Holy Grail) by the time they enter college, they have no business being a Comp Sci major to begin with.
    • by ChairmanMeow (787164) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @07:32PM (#14334028) Journal
      As long as "CS251: Introduction to Funny Walks" remains an elective, I'm fine with it.
    • I would love it if I were asked what my favorite funny movies were during an interview - it'd give me a chance to seriously fuck with a place that I pretty clearly wouldn't want to work anyway, if they need to resort to such artificial measures to try and boost morale.

      "What's your favorite funny movie?"

      "Hm, that's a toughie - I think I'm torn between Schindler's List and Silence of the Lambs."

      "... Uh... I don't really think those are comedies..."

      "Oh, sure they are - that part where that guy is shooting peop
    • Your professional qualifications mean nothing if you don't fit in with the team your trying to join. Sense of humor is a large part of personality; if your personality doesn't mesh with the team's, you might do more harm than good as part of that team. Everyone really does need to read Peoplware [amazon.com]
  • tantra (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Clockwork Troll (655321) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:49PM (#14333894) Journal
    I practice Tantric IT, wherein you purposely try to postpone job enjoyment as long as possible.

    They say it fosters a more special bond between you and your employer.

  • How about.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShatteredDream (636520) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:51PM (#14333902) Homepage
    You be as understanding as possible with them when they need to take care of their families

    How about accepting a little less profit as a price to pay for supporting good workers in your community (and companies need help defending and encouraging this practice)

    How about getting rid of employees, especially managers, that are abusive and/or want to build little fiefdoms

    Lastly, how about you take the bitter employees who like to complain about every little perceived slight and fire their asses ASAP for being disruptive. I know my girlfriend, who works as a softare developer and hates working for women, would back this wholeheartedly, but perhaps that's because it'd be the cause of most of her female peers getting fired on the spot.

    Look, work is typically what we wouldn't do if given the choice not to do it. That's why it's called work, it's supposed to be laborious and when it's not, you've got something great going for you. The best way to keep good people is to protect them, challenge them and give them excellent opportunities to get rewarded for working hard for their employer. You can let them play Halo for an hour a day on company time, but if they still work for a typical good ol' boy network and/or hyper-PC office or a PHB with sociopathic tendencies, you'll never have the kind of work environment that can match the aforementioned environment that makes work be work, but makes people feel like they get something good and safe from their blood, sweat and tears.
    • You have a girlfriend who works as a programmer? Is your relationship about to break up?
    • Re:How about.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ryuuzin (215760)
      Hear, hear. Just the formal introduction of 'fun' into a workplace that has other, serious problems does not a better job make. I started as an intern at a small, privately-held company, writing graphics software (I worked the integration side). Between us -- the developers (who worked hard to write the core software package), the integrators (who worked had to satisfy client needs), and the support folks (who had to answer to a seemingly-capricious collection of customers) -- we devised our own way of havi
    • Re:How about.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tim Browse (9263) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @02:33AM (#14335179)
      Lastly, how about you take the bitter employees who like to complain about every little perceived slight and fire their asses ASAP for being disruptive. I know my girlfriend, who works as a softare developer and hates working for women, would back this wholeheartedly, but perhaps that's because it'd be the cause of most of her female peers getting fired on the spot.

      I can't tell if you being funny or not.

      So your girlfriend, who hates working with women, and wants all her female peers to be fired, is annoyed about other people being bitter and disruptive?

  • He lasted longer than most of them but was fired after 2 years. Morale is a function of a lot more than a preprinted sheet of funny interview questions or a corporate approved list of funny movies.

    Better morale techniques are giving people the opportunity to get more out of their day job than a dumpy apartment or a better quality of life than they had 5 years ago. A popular technique in consumer electronics is to let people design things they'll actually want to use.

  • Trust in Employees (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iONiUM (530420) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:55PM (#14333915) Homepage Journal
    I think the biggest problem is that a lot of IT companies don't trust their employees enough to allow them more free time on the job.

    Where I work, we have a 7 foot projector with Xbox and Xbox360 hooked up, and frequently a few employees will go and play games against each other for an hour or two.

    Does work still get done? Of course. But nobody likes to work all the time, and video games are a good alternative to say surfing aimlessly around the web, because this way you get to leave the desk and interact with co-workers.

    Why so many companies seem to think you *have* to work every minute you're there baffles me, it's very unproductive. As for the state of my company, we're #1 in our field, and doubling growth every year. It's a mid-size company, and maybe that's why this works, it's small enough that the employees feel (and are rewarded) regarding to company success.
    • by jammindice (786569)
      i'd have to agree, our company is still a small business and there is still a lot of trust between the owner and all of us employee types. We are all very dedicated to expanding the company due to the rewards we all receive based on the success of the business. I've only been there a year but have had quite a few bonuses come my way "just because" we reached a milestone as a company (like 50 clients, a new record monthly income, etc...). our main attraction happens to be a foosball (foozball or however t
  • Work is fun if... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:56PM (#14333916) Homepage
    • Encourage a relaxed work atmosphere. Allow people to feel free to be themselves and not have to put on an act of phony ass-kissing professionalism.
    • Encourage people to speak their minds and to disagree, but professionally.
    • Weed out employees who can't hack it. Cut down on the support nightmares we all dread.
    • Reward honesty by not punishing mistakes, so long as: (1) corrective action is taken to prevent recurrence; (2) the mistake did not cause a severe impact in the company's bottom line.
    • Eliminate bullshit like software licensing, tracking and auditing. Running everything in an IP-unencumbered fashion to the greatest extent possible will make everyone happier.
    • Pay well, rewarding productivity and innovation. If I invent, suggest, or implement a process that saves the company money, or that brings in more revenue, pay me a bonus in recognition, or a comission on the savings or revenue increase. If you go with the commission, allow it to remain in place as long as the practice is in place, for as long as I remain with the company. If I have to have a non-compete clause, have it last until the non-compete expires.
    • Pay me for on-call time. 1/4 time for merely being on call, 2x time if I get called in for off hours work.
    • If I'm on salary, don't require that I work 40 hours a week, as long as I'm getting my assignments done and being productive for the company (ie, returning more value than I cost the company).
    • No dress codes that discriminate against culture -- and recognize contemporary subcultures, not just traditional national, ethnic, or religious subcultures. Allow people to express themselves through their personal appearance. Don't punish people for wanting to look different or unusual.
    • I think we had a fun expolsion during the internet boom. Then Management pushed back and we went back to the pre-empowerment days where managers try to _remove_ the fun and run the job like some kind of military exercise. of course productivity is down, but I think in general they are enjoying their iron fist too much to care.
    • Allow people to feel free to be themselves and not have to put on an act of phony ass-kissing professionalism.

      If you have to put on a phony act to be porfessional, maybe a professional position isn't for you. You can be professional while disdagreeing.

      I agree with everything else in your post.
    • You clearly don't work in a big city, do you?

    • * Encourage a relaxed work atmosphere. Allow people to feel free to be themselves and not have to put on an act of phony ass-kissing professionalism.

      - You can be as relaxed as you want... as long as you still get the work done on time. Which is never, because it was always due yesterday.

      * Encourage people to speak their minds and to disagree, but professionally.

      - You are free to disagree. But no matter how professional you put it, you are still wrong.

      * Weed out employees who can't hack it. Cut dow

    • No dress codes that discriminate against culture -- and recognize contemporary subcultures, not just traditional national, ethnic, or religious subcultures. Allow people to express themselves through their personal appearance. Don't punish people for wanting to look different or unusual.

      Sorry, wearing ThinkGeek T-shirts does not count as a culture...

      For me, the part about encouraging a relaxed work-environment is important, and definitely does not need to be at odds with professionalism. An employee sho

  • ick. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Triv (181010) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @06:57PM (#14333922) Journal

    According to the article, Dale Sanders, head of IT at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, 'has posted photos on the intranet of staffers caught in awkward moments installing cables or servers, for instance. Sanders encourages others to add funny (and tasteful) captions.'

    Know the easiest way to suck the fun out of a situation? Have it encouraged by management. Fun just happens. Make it a policy, and it becomes work again.

    • Re:ick. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Or, (some dude behind a desk)'s idea of what fun is is pushed on everyone else. e.g. why in the hell would I want to go play softball on my off hours or something, as if I don't have a life outside my job? Because somebody thinks it's "fun" and tells me it's "fun".

      I have had such experiences in the past, and am very fortunate to have a job now that I would consider to be "fun."
  • by evenprime (324363) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @07:03PM (#14333940) Homepage Journal
    Of course a fun work environment is more enjoyable. I've worked in an IT company though, that was lots of fun, without being very productive. The company doesn't exist anymore.

    Fun doesn't pay the bills. Think of it as a nice fringe benefit, but not something more than that. I
  • by Decaff (42676)
    depends whose fun and morale you are talking about. I know many IT people who's morale is improved by allowing them to make others have less fun....
  • From my experience working a crappy entry level tech support position, stuff like cube warfare [thinkgeek.com] can make all the difference between hating the customers you're on the phone with, and actually wanting to help them configure Outlook Express (for the 3rd time).

    As I moved up in the IT world, and moved through different companies and positions the trusty Nerf Vortex guns came with me. There's always someone who appreciates a good cube shootout as much as I do, wherever I go.
  • by volve (592475) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @07:09PM (#14333963) Homepage
    * Does breathing make living more enjoyable?
    * Does having paint make being a painter more enjoyable?
    * Does having a computer make developing software more enjoyable?

    I could go on, but I think we've all paid this post far too much heed as it is.

    -volve
  • pretty sad (Score:2, Funny)

    by mixenmaxen (857917)
    It's christmas eve, and I'm spending my time commenting on slashdot... Now that's no laughing matter.
  • by kid-noodle (669957) <jono@nano[ ]ep.net ['she' in gap]> on Saturday December 24, 2005 @07:11PM (#14333972) Homepage
    At least according to a study [sciencedaily.com] from the University of Alberta.

    Summary being that sad workers make less errors, presumably because they focus harder to block out the relentless hell of their lives.
    • Your title is off, it's sad workers are better (according to some studies) than happy workers. Miserable workers, I imagine, are even lower than both groups, and much more likely to go postal on their co-workers. Do you really want the people that support your systems and networks to be in horrible moods, and potentially sabotaging things?

      In the first study, sad people committed significantly fewer errors than did happy people (approximately half the number of errors) but there was no difference in the

    • Summary being that sad workers make less errors, presumably because they focus harder to block out the relentless hell of their lives.

      The article doesn't give much detail on the experimental methods, but I certainly get the impression that it focuses on "I'm having a shiatty day" sadness rather than "I hate my life" sadness.

      I imagine that the long-term- vs. short-term-sadness distinctinction is very significant, and probably workers who are trying to block out the "relentless hell" of a bad day are better w
  • so all the transit workers union wanted was for someone to make fun of them? could have avoided that strike with a fake moustache on the union president i guess. seriously, it shouldn't take a premeditated management decision to create a relaxed atmosphere. perhaps the employees would like adaquate pay and reasonable pension and health. maybe a little respect too. btw, i'm assuming "fun" makes all employees happier, not just IT. i guess it's cheaper to create a funny ofoto album than to increase wages or no
  • YES!

    Worst, Headline, Ever.

    -> Fritz
  • I'm 60. 30 years ago it was the coolest thing to be doing. I had a sense of growth, future, learning and making an important contributions. I bought terminal with my own money to work from home! What killed it? Greedy, arrogant bosses who just politick their way up. Insecure techies who hide code, secrets and, possibly evidence of their own lack of expertise. Distrustful managers who want you to fix broken fund transfer links but without any ID's or passwords. Getting reamed for wanting to really improve m
  • Does Having Fun Make IT More Enjoyable?

    Is having fun enjoyable? Read what you just wrote.

    You can answer that for yourself, right?
    • Fun or funny? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TeknoHog (164938)
      There's also the difference between fun and funny. Some of the suggestions seem like they're trying to use funny things to enforce fun in dull situations, which in my experience is a bad idea.
    • "You can answer that for yourself, right?"

      Alternatively, you couldn't answer what was really being asked? Yeesh. It's not such a self-answering question. Some people have jobs that they cannot stand going to. Heck, that reminds me of most of my time in high school. I remember wishing I'd get a stomach flu because I'd rather have dealt with being sick than being at school. So what do you do when it gets this bad? Organized sport? Allow people to play games without fear of being yelled at? Desginate
  • Keep it real. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by capologist (310783) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @07:35PM (#14334038)
    I've worked at places that did this well, and I've worked at places that did it poorly.

    At a place that did it poorly, the employer tried to "lighten up" the place with all kinds of stupid shtick and encouraging the employees to get into the act. Naturally, employees felt pressured to participate and to pretend to think it was fun, when it wasn't. (Cue Bill Lumbergh saying, "Friday is Hawaiian shirt day, so, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt, and jeans.") This didn't exactly improve morale.

    If you want to reduce stress, give your employees the freedom to be themselves. This starts with you being yourself. Don't try to be funny if you have no sense of humor, but if you do have one, use it. Don't try to be silly if you're naturally stoic by demeanor. Don't try to be a cheerleader if that's not who you are. If you're anything but genuine, and you have smart employees, they'll sense it, and that sends the message that this is what's expected, and your employees will feel stressed by it, though they may be unable to articulate the source of the stress (even to themselves). So just let your natural personality shine through.

    Unless, of course, you're naturally a complete jerk. In that case, the best thing to do is to shoot yourself in the head. Your employees will love you for it.
    • the employer tried to "lighten up" the place with all kinds of stupid shtick and encouraging the employees to get into the act.

      I remember this ep of The Twilight Zone where this kid literally has "looks that kill." He can make anybody die who displeases him, just by looking at him. What makes him unhappy? Other people who don't look happy, or raise their voice to him (oh, they'd be so dead).

      The whole show, everybody around him puts on a false act of being happy and joyous, all the time sweating that t

      • The whole show, everybody around him puts on a false act of being happy and joyous, all the time sweating that they'll do something to piss the kid off.

        So how did it end? Don't leave us hanging! :-)

  • OA5 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DarkIye (875062) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @07:41PM (#14334050) Journal
    Myself, I subscribe to Scott Adams 'OA5' company philosophy. Basically, nothing can make work more fun than its alternative, not working - that's why they have to pay you for it. So basically, the aim is to get the employee working as efficiently as possible by getting managers to remove obstructions to their productivity, and Out At 5 (hence the acronym). Managers don't waste their time with thinking up stupid morale-boosting techniques (just read any Adams book for excellent examples) and spend more time 'managing', also known as 'something useful'.

    Frankly, the only companies that can and should be trying to improve the morale of their employees (I mean the grunts, not the management) with techniques other than money or free time, are the ones with proper mechanisms are in place where smart people get to decision-making positions. Come to think of it, there probably isn't much to be done on the morale front there anyway.

  • TFA reminds me of Greg Sniper, AKA Grass Valley Greg, the man who invented the Delete button. His company's motto was "Where ideas can hang out...and do whatever!" GVG made his employees take tofutti ice cream breaks whenever HE felt like it. There was a poster in the workplace that read "Arbeit ist spiel", "Work is play".

    If I remember correctly, the sketch was based on a Microsoft executive that made his employees listen to Jimi Hendrix...whether they liked it or not.
  • Very few do in the IT world. Most people are not happy until they have a certain $$$ figure with their job. Little do these people know that $$$ does not always come hand in hand with respect.
  • I currently work in a higher-ed environment, and one way that our team stays relaxed and ready at the same time is by spending time with each other. I know this sounds a bit corny, but if you like the people you work with, then you enjoy spending time with them. Part of improving morale is knowing that there are actually *good* parts to your job and working those to your advantage.

    One thing we do is having daily Quake fragfests around lunch time. Even the director drops by, shakes his head, chuckles and
    • I currently work in a higher-ed environment, and one way that our team stays relaxed and ready at the same time is by spending time with each other. I know this sounds a bit corny, but if you like the people you work with, then you enjoy spending time with them. Part of improving morale is knowing that there are actually *good* parts to your job and working those to your advantage.

      Actually, that's not corny - it's fully accurrate, and provides much more benefit than most so-called morale boosting activiti

  • by argoff (142580) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @08:11PM (#14334112)
    You see, in the IT industry - there are all these sales people who are constantly trying to push this proprietary crap down your throat 7x24 that is alsmost always expensive, and will almost certainly be obsolete in a few years. You will have a much more fufilling career, if you are cyincal about all of this, and embrace non-proprietary stuff whenever you whenever you cen even if it is a little more work and a little less feature rich. Over the years, the non proprietary also has the advantage that it tends to build on itself while the proprietary stuff will often keep re-inventing the wheel and charge for it.
  • So, not only would I have to deal with unorganized management who promises the clients the world in a horribly unreasonable amount of time, and without consulting IT, but I would also have to squeeze into my already overtime-qualified day some more time to have "fun" with my other co-workers in order to boost morale??? Forgive me if I sound cynical, but I would much, much, much, much rather have organized timelines, clear specifications from the client, and an 8-hour workday instead of "fun." Besides, it'
  • "Oh, and remember, next Friday is Hawaiian shirt day"
  • King of the double entendre! I had to read that title three times before I figured out it WASN'T about sex!

  • Dale Sanders, head of IT at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation

    What the head of the department thinks their staff think bears little relation to what they actually think.
  • Of course not. Fun? Enjoyable? Bosh!

    What makes your IT job more enjoyable is being treated like a second-class employee. Having to reheat the coffee when you're called in by someone who can't find the "any" key. Training your own replacement before he takes your job home to Bangalore.

    Fun? What an astonishing waste of time.
  • In the developer cubicles, when we want to get someone's attention we often throw something -- a pen cap, a soft frisbee, a packet of parmesan cheese -- at the person so they'll take off their headphones and look around. We call it an "Instant Message."

    One of the gifts at our office White Elephant party yesterday was about 30 small koosh balls. That ought to keep things interesting.
  • Most of the employers who've tried to make the job "fun" have done so by trying to force me to participate in activities with my fellow employees. Most of whom aren't very much fun at all. At least not until the electric go-cart accidentally discharges 50,000 volts through them. But then everyone gets all bent out of shape, just when things start to get interesting...

    I derive far more enjoyment from my work when my manager actually takes me seriously when I tell him that module he wants is going to take 2

  • This reminds me of when one of my best friends of mine started with the same company. He and I had been in IT for years and had met through our hobby of computing. We used to have fun, cut up at work, and generally enjoy the work we were doing. Mainly because it was the same "work" we did at home for fun. A supervisor pulled us aside and told us that the perception around the cube farm was that we didn't appear to be very serious and joked around too much. Our response was that we enjoyed our work. Frankly,
  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @10:20PM (#14334440) Homepage Journal
    succeed.

    If you are succeeding, and people have a meaningful part in that sucess, and are treated like they have a meaningful part in that success, then you don't have motivation problems.

    Of course, that's like Steve Martin's routine about how you can make a million dollars and never pay taxes. Part one is get a milion dollars, part two is don't pay your taxes. Most of us don't know how to get to step one.

    It's like whistling when you walk past the graveyard, the cargo cult management formulas for improving morale and productivity. I remember once spending a week long retreat with the CEO, in a cabin on a remote island with no electricity, nothing but the senior managers, a Phd management consultant and piles of flip charts. The topic: what is the business we are in. I remember thinking, if the CEO doesn't friggen know, we're in deep shit.

    Incompetence, lack of direction and above dread of that which must not be spoken are like millstones around our necks. Doubt gnaws at us: fear that the terrible secret of how poorly we have managed our commitments will be made public. Anger and resentment eats at us like a canker, patched over with thinning layer of hopeless bravado. We struggle daily through a morass of pointless activity: the bulk of the work we do is cleaning up our messes, shifting blame, or delaying the inevitable.

    Free your workers from these burdens and you won't need any tricks. Tear of the covers on the festering mess and let the light and air in. Don't try to manage the morale problem: you can't without patronizing, and if your workers aren't smart enough to know they're being patronized, they're probably not smart enough to work in IT.

    If you try so hard to make things come out the way they are supposed to, and it doesn't work, perhaps dealing with the way things are wouldn't be so bad. If you are so much less than the sum of your parts, then perhaps you are misusing your parts. Look around with open eyes: things may be bad, but they aren't so bad that they can't be improved. Mere mediocrity would be outstanding in the cesspool of dishonesty and pretense that is business. Our model of success has become exploitation, where there are only two classes of people: winners and suckers. Many have done well by this model. But not you. If you are worrying about motivation you don't have the stomach for that game. Real operators don't need gimmicks, they keep the suckers eating out of their hands until they're done with them. You obviously need a different model.

    In short: Promise little, deliver much. Don't manage the people around you, relate to them. If managing appearances doesn't work, then live by eternal virtues like honesty, fidelity, honor and bravery. Don't think like a manager, think like a primitive barbarian hero: company after all comes from the same linguistic roots as companion: it means people who share each other's bread.
    • by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @11:24PM (#14334648) Homepage Journal
      No mod points so I'll just say, "Superb."

      I worry that the flaw in what you are looking for is the lack of managers with the guts and talent to carry it out. It's so much easier to find an a-hole who will bully people than to find a competent manager who can successfully lead. Sadly, the more incompetent the upper management, the more likely it is that the bullying technique will be rewarded since, to appearances, lots of people working long hours and weekends seems to mean that more is being done than by well motivated people only working reasonable hours.

      Fewer and fewer upper managers (C?O level) seem to understand that the same people who achieve amazing things in a forty hour week can be turned into unproductive drones working sixty hours by their favored "hard charging" overseer. Motivated people will "do what it takes" to get the job done. The same people, beaten up into working "as long as it takes," will accomplish very little. Sad.
    • Amen!

      Ummm...bloody hell. Exactly right. The original discussion about fun in the workplace is a perfect example of how management often misses the point entirely. If work is truly not a fun place to be, it's likely because the staff have had all of the interest and wit squeezed out of them, not because they need a bloody CIO mincing around in drag, while they work 60-hour weeks to desperately hold the company together.
  • Hiring a professional comedian for the office, except don't tell anyone he's a professional comedian. Just make him pretend to be working behind the computer, but his real job is cracking jokes all day and boosting morale.
  • Take care of your people.

    They will then take care of you.

    The leaders I've been most loyal to are the ones that first make sure I have everything I need to do my job, and then get out of my way so I can do it. My morale is best under such conditions - I will move mountains for such a leader if I have to.

    That said, reasonable office hijinks that don't directly relate to the job can be a lot of fun and take the drudgery out of things. Wouldn't do much at my job, most of us are out in the field most of the da
  • Word of Caution... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Saturday December 24, 2005 @11:28PM (#14334658)
    Everybody remembers the scene in Office Space where the whole room is covered in Post-It notes.

    I did this.

    I got in SOO much shit. My manager (the person who's office I did), kept bringing it up after 3 quarterly reviews and mentioned again for that last 2 Yearly reviews.

    Then the fucker had the nerve to say that "We want to support an atmosphere of fun and play."

  • That way, I can have fun buying rounds at the bar whilst railing against my stupid managers, even stupid users, etc.
  • Please God No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Sunday December 25, 2005 @02:27PM (#14336672) Homepage
    As long as having fun on the job is an institutional policy of the job, then having fun will be, sadly, a duty of the job. Having fun on command is no fun at all.

    Example: one day at a past helpdesk position, I and a cubicle-conspiritor became so sick of the state of things that we deigned that the next day would be Sock Puppet Day. The two of us brought in many socks, fabric scraps, glitter, glue, everything we could possibly think of that might find a home on a sock. We then suggested to everyone around us that they might enjoy making a sock puppet.

    The results were stupendous. Most everyone had a good time, and we were pretty adroit at hiding the process from management until we had all finished our socks. Then we hung them all over the place and went on with business as usual. No calls were dropped, tickets were still solved quickly and effectively. However, we were all in a much better mood.

    One of the middle management frumps noticed what had happened and asked me if it was a team building exercise. I looked at her like she had grown a fourth nostril. Maybe in some far-removed way it was, but the sponteneity and silliness of it -- not to mention hiding it from our superiours -- was what made it fun and effective and morale-boosting. I suspect there was a sprinkling of having gotten away with something that really brought the flavor out in the moment.

    The next year it was decreed from the top that we would again have an official sock puppet day. Everything was provided for us. There was a designated time and place where supplies could be found.

    The results were predictably pallid, and few people particiated.

    Don't make fun part of the job, you management types. If anything, make it easier for people to make their own fun on the job, but keep your mitts off of the actual process. You'll have much happier employees, and chances are they'll even take it up upon themselves to get work done anyway.

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