Miss Management: Your enjoyment is anticipated, and will be enforced (part 1)
November 17, 2009 | Galynn Nordstrom
Years ago, when I worked in a small, idiosyncratic publishing company in the midwest that has since been slowly dissected and absorbed by a large, soulless publishing company on the east coast, we published a magazine called Training, edited by the highly competent and extremely curmudgeonly Jack Gordon. Being basically similar in nature but widely different in politics, we entertained ourselves and our co-workers with sporadic literary exchanges in which he would advise me that “Gloria Steinem should have stayed in the bunny suit and spent her life burning toast” and I would counter by posting a mock press release about how Training editor Jack Gordon had been spiritually reborn after seeing the face of Elvis on an abandoned freezer in his back yard.
(It’s true. In 1963, noted feminist Gloria Steinem wrote "I was a Playboy Bunny," a freelance exposé about working undercover at the New York City Playboy Club. Jack usually had his facts right. It was his opinions that were the problem. Now that we’re connected on LinkedIn, maybe I’ll find out if he ever learned how to spell ‘pterodactyl.’)
Jack also once wrote an article for Training entitled “Structured Fun,” in which he discussed how some companies attempted to use humor to boost morale in the workplace, but did it in a way that was obviously the result of having some overpaid consultant, often from New Jersey, advise them to pit one department against another in a rousing quarterly game of badminton. (Isn’t it common knowledge that only dodgeball works in these professional situations?)
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a rousing quarterly game of badminton, of course. The point, ultimately, was that planning mandatory company-wide fun is in danger of backfiring unless that company already benefits from a culture in which employees are encouraged to enjoy themselves with some inspired tomfoolery once in a while. Ultimately, it fosters creativity, initiative, better morale and improved productivity.