Who said that work can’t be a little bit of fun? After all, we spend 40 or more hours a week earning our weekly wage. I’m not suggesting that we don’t work hard or that no matter how hard we try it will all be fun. I’m just saying that, if we have to be there anyway, we might as well try to enjoy ourselves. Additionally, as managers, we should try to make work fun, or at least as pleasant as possible, for those who work for us.
The previous paragraph may be a bit of a tongue twister and a little bit of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true. Creating a pleasant, enjoyable, reduced stress environment for your staff can:
- Improve productivity.
- Minimize attrition.
- Increase product quality.
- Maximize department efficiency.
As the department manager, you have a major impact on your group’s mood, culture and general atmosphere. As a result, how you personally act, feel about work, and treat your team can have a major impact, positive or negative, on your team’s results. For example, which of the following two types of managers would you like to have?
1. A manager who smiles, treats issues as challenges not roadblocks, seems to enjoy his/her job, and is excited about the day ahead
2. A manager who always seems mad at the world, treats issues as problems that are painful to fix, and constantly acts like the last place on earth they want to be is at the office
My guess is that you would rather work for boss 1, not boss 2. That said, the people that are working for you, will most likely answer the same way. The one difference, however, is that in this case you are the boss, not the employee.
As the manager, there are a number of things that you can do to be boss 1 and, as a result, help foster a pleasant, enjoyable, dare I say, fun work environment. They are:
1. Try to make work as enjoyable as possible for yourself. After all, you are there all day, every day, so you might as well make the best of it. Additionally, and most pertinent to this column, is as the team’s leader your mood will be infectious on those you oversee. It’s hard to act differently than you feel eight hours a day. If you are not happy, then your team will eventually feel it. Conversely, if you are happy, your team will also innately sense it and draw from your positive energy.
2. Take advantage of small wins to provide positive feedback to your team and try to make a little fun out of it. As an example, say you are in a sales environment, whoever makes the most cold calls the previous week gets a free hot cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee on Monday. Will your sales people work hard all week just to save a two dollar expense on Monday? Most likely not. However, they will work hard for the opportunity to have you (his/her boss) present them their coffee at the Monday morning staff meeting. From your perspective as a manager, that can be two bucks well spent.
Page 2 of 2 - 3. Try to turn business issues and problems into challenges that can be overcome. This may sound like a silly cliché, but making day-to-day tasks feel a little more like an adventure than drudgery, can actually improve morale, productivity, and quality. After all, if Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer can make painting a fence feel like fun, surely you can attempt to do the same with your department’s tasks. The funny thing is that even if you can’t make it fun, the mere fact that you tried will be appreciated by your staff.
4. Try to foster a relationship of common purpose, camaraderie, teamwork and friendship between the members of your team. People like being with people they like and there is an excitement and comfort that comes with working with your friends toward a common goal. As the manager, this environment of shared friendship and purpose can make even the most difficult and stressful jobs more achievable and enjoyable.
In closing this topic, I would just like to say that I realize that there are many jobs that will never be fun or feel particularly challenging, and may just feel like an ongoing and endless march toward retirement. That said, even in these circumstances, the right manager attitude and management techniques can positively (or negatively) affect worker morale, and thus enhance productivity, and work quality, whether it is moving the proverbial dial from good to better or simply from awful to not-so-bad.
The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:
- How you personally act, feel about work, and treat your team can have a major impact, positive or negative, on your team’s results.
- Making day-to-day tasks feel like new adventures, can actually improve morale, productivity, and quality.
- Yes, there are many jobs that will never be fun or feel particularly challenging, but the right manager attitude and management techniques can move the proverbial dial from good to better or simply from awful to not-so-bad.
Until next time, manage well, manage smart and continue to grow.
Eric P. Bloom, based in Ashland, Mass., is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, a company specializing in information technology leadership development and the governing organization for the ITMLP and ITMLE certifications. He is also a nationally syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and author of the award-winning book “Manager Mechanics: Tips and Advice for First-Time Managers.” Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.