Properly Using the “F” Word at Work

Why the “F” word? Is that really allowed at work?

Have you ever walked into one of those really uncomfortable situations at work where you squirm upon encountering the room because of what you hear or see going on in there? You stumble into two people doing something inappropriate and unprofessional for a workplace environment. This would be where you find yourself in Un-Comfortable-Land and you are not really sure what to do with yourself.

I’m sure that many of you can identify with the scenario where I recently walked into my office environment and noticed an unusually loud conversation happening toward the back.  Not wanting to disturb the people involved, I quietly approached and noticed the two participants who were causing the ruckus. They were arguing loudly. As I scoped them out, I found that they were unaware of my presence. So I hatched a plan of intervention. One that would take away the dissonance and replace it with harmony.

Hhhmmm…but what’s a leader to do?

Fighting the natural reaction of reaching for my cell phone to create a video for YouTube, I decided that the best approach to capitalize on this situation would be to to whip out the “F” word loudly and strongly in a loud vocal outburst.  So, cautiously I crept closer to my two unsuspecting victims, readied myself for the surprising event, then jumped out and yelled at the top of my lungs:

“FRIDAY!  It’s FRIDAY!”

After “scraping the two previously arguing co-workers off of the ceiling” from the after-affects of my outburst, a curious thing happened in the room.  Everyone stopped from their sudden surprise. And they quickly started laughing. Yes, laughing. The mood changed in a few instances from one of arguing mayhem, to one of abrupt shock, to end in a state of total relief and laugher. This dynamic happened suddenly and quite effectively. And it all happened by using just one of my favorite “F” words.

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But why?

So, what is the point of my bellowing my “F” word in this situation?  Why would I decide to interrupt a negative situation with such a technique? Well, the point that I am making is that the real “F” word is “Fun!”  (What were you thinking, that I’d advocate saying another “F” word at work? Please…don’t be silly…)

Providing a fun and engaging environment can be the game-changer that keeps good employess around. It can be the key to maintaining a healthy and vibrate corporate culture.

Do you have fun at work? If so, is it real, or is it some kind of corporate forced-fun? And how can you tell the difference?

WTF? Why The Fun?

Quick Question: So what do you and your organization have to gain by having fun at work? Do you think that having fun in the workplace might engage your people to the point that your team experiences increased creativity, productivity, fewer sick days, and getting along better with co-workers?

Hhhmm, How Cool Would That Be?

Just take the scenario described above where my attempt at fun resulted in both laughter and diffusing an uncomfortable situation and you can begin to see how “fun” becomes a useful coaching tool in addition to the usual excuse to let off some steam.

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Aside from these obvious benefits, there are other rewards that employers stand to gain by encouraging a fun workplace. The key benefit is attracting and retaining top talent. Current economic conditions give employers the upper hand with what they can demand from employees.  However, as conditions improve, organizations that fail to implement fun and other elements beneficial to employee morale in their culture will see increasing difficulty in attracting and retaining talent.  This will be especially relevant with Generation Y employees.

Creating an “F” House

So, how do you make your organization more fun-friendly and start reaping some of the rewards mentioned above?  Performing an internet search will yield about 6,350,000 results.  We’ll skip 6,349,995 of those and offer you some simple guidelines to consider when crafting your fun.

  • Chose, plan, define, and encourage activities appropriate to your culture and employees
  • For office or stationary jobs, consider contests that encourage exercise for additional obvious benefits
  • Allow equal access to fun for all employees
  • Senior leadership can lead by example with both time for fun and time for work
  • Remember that employees are unique, and will have different ideas of what is fun

Quick Quiz:

Here are two examples of organizations that have implemented fun into their culture. One of the examples might be better for your group. You decide which one is a better implementation.

Organization #1

This mid-sized organization demonstrates commitment to teamwork and fun as soon as you walk in the door. New employees see the huge table with a partially assembled 20,000 piece puzzle near the back of the reception area for employees and guests who need a few minutes throughout the day for short puzzle breaks.  Senior executives are readily seen participating in many of the fun options. This commitment to fun-filled exercises continues with special areas throughout the facility to help create an environment conducive to renewal. This includes a small library and quiet reading room complete with fireplace and an entertainment room featuring a card table, video games, large-screen television, and pool tables.  Additional fun facilities include a half-gymnasium as well as a separate fitness room with weights and machines.

Organization #2

This small company connected a video game console to a large monitor, provided a foosball table, and even allowed electric scooters within certain areas within the facility.  Senior executives are almost never seen participating. Soft soccer balls were infrequently kicked around or tossed about, and Friday barbecues often happened during the warmer months.

So, which organization had a better implementation and why?

The answer is Organization #1.  Not because they had more amenities or more beautiful or expensive facilities.  No, Organization #1 had intangibles that could not be seen. Their success lies within their execution model. They are more successful because senior management led by example and participation, showing all employees that there was time for both work and play and provided guidelines for employees to follow related to duration and some breaks for fun throughout the day.  Organization #1 was intentional with defining how fun would fit their culture, and with planning different kinds of activities offering something that will appeal to most employees.

Organization #1 experienced many benefits including:

  • Impromptu meetings happening over puzzle sessions, yielding idea exchange and feedback
  • Increased productivity, commitment, and job satisfaction
  • Healthier and happier workforce
  • Groups of employees staying late at the office for fun events, while working on or talking about special projects yielding more hours worked per week

Let me leave you with two last thoughts and observations about fun.  First, benefits of fun do not have to be about how much money you spend on your facility, but about how it is consistently used, applied, and encouraged in your organization.  Second, think twice before you go behind a co-worker and yell anything, even “FRIDAY.  It’s FRIDAY!”

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Mike Nelson
is Director of Business Development at Vision One Coaching and Consulting.
He can be reached at mnelson@visiononecoach.com

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19 Responses

  1. Yes, absolutely FUN is FUNdamental. Let’s go further and replace the word ‘work’ with ‘play’…now that will go a long way to increasing job satisfaction if people commit to it.

    • People that have fun at work are indeed much closer to leaving the office at the end of the day fulfilled…

      FUNdamental FUN. Nice!

  2. Mike,
    Thank you so much for this article! It was excellent and will make me pay more attention on how to make the workplace fun!

    • Karrah

      Thanks so much for the positive feedback! Workplace fun is actually PRODUCTIVE. Noodle that for a bit, and your head will start to hurt!

      Good luck!

      Mike

  3. As a person who animates laughter yoga sessions in parks or companies, I can only agree. Fun, just like laughter, produce the right endorphines and this boosts productivity. Thanks for your humorous approach in your article , I really thought that you had used the more common “F” word!!

    • Chris

      Thanks for the positive feedback! I’m a huge proponent of laughter, although I’ve yet to experience laughter while doing yoga. Sounds like I might get injured!

      I’m glad that my humor wasn’t lost in the translation to text, and that the catchy title got you to view the article!

      Again, thanks!

      Mike

  4. Couldn’t agree more. Very fun article. I was a little worried when I saw the title, but hey it got me to read it. Couldn’t agree more that fun is critical.

    Russ Faulkner
    Principal | Your Training Team

    • Completely agree – very creative and great positive psychological approach…thanks for posting! ;)

      ~Melissa

  5. Thanks Russ! I’m glad you found it entertaining, and hopefully somewhat interesting.

    I appreciate the feedback!

    Mike

  6. So glad to see the emphasis on fun in this article, thanks for sharing! I have always believed in having fun at work. If you enjoy yourself at work and truly like the people you work with, this equates to less “sick days”, loyal employees and productivity. leading by example, by having upper management encourage FUN at work or “FUNdamental Fun” (Fantastic!) it’s a win-win situation for all. Great article, thanks for sharing.

    • Angela

      Great comment about “sick” days. How many “sick” days are really “um, I don’t feel like going into work today” days rather than actual illness?

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article and more importantly enjoy some fun at work.

      Mike Nelson

  7. Hi, Mike – good article.

    I agree that most workplaces need to encourage more fun in the daily grind. Plenty of research will back up the idea that people who regularly laugh and engage in enjoyable activities are healthier and more productive than those who do not.

    Your article did include some good caveats that I would like to reinforce. As you stated, individuals are just that and my idea of “fun” may be your “worst nightmare”. This is why Karaoke creates such a range of reactions in people.

    I work with behavioral preferences and have a real sensitivty to keeping the idea that each person has a somewhat unique perspective on almost everything we do. Fun is no exception.

    A second point would be that a major mistake of organizations and managers has to do with the idea that we need to institutionalize “fun”. This perception is somewhat like the idea that a government entity can legislate moral behavior.

    In my opinion, managers would do well to keep the official company protocol for “fun” to a minimum and just nurture a culture where people are comfortable enough to engage their natural proclivity to enjoy life. Forget the Corporate-level initiates and expensive programs (I’m thinking t-shirts for all that say “We’re a FUN Company!” and the like) .

    Just make it easy for people to joke around. Of course, we will have to hogtie the Human Resources department to make this happen:).

    John

    • John

      So right in that institutionalizing fun usually has the exact opposite effect in that it makes fun a chore.

      I also agree completely with cultivating and developing a culture that invites fun to happen on its own.

      HR? Well, I’ve known some HR people that were among the worst offenders that I’ve ever seen. Seems like some know just exactly how far they can push things before crossing that line…

      Cheers to a great culture where fun is possible and encouraged!

      Thanks for the thoughts and contribution!

      Mike Nelson

  8. Hi Mike

    Good piece. I strongly beleive that having fun in workplace is THE THING REQUIRED TO SPICE UP OUR DAY AT OFFICE. The first company that I worked for was just like a college and I did not feel that I was working at all. Every moment we were together as a team was pure unadulterated fun, with leg pulling, random jokes, hilarious situations we experienced with customers but could not laugh at the customer site.
    Even today the 60 minute lunch break I have with my team is a rip roaring session with great topics for discussion and laughter. We have a lot of teaming activities, we play cricket on weekends, indulge in some internet games as teams. With fun work becomes enjoyable.
    It makes the team bond better, controls attrition, encourages sharing of knowledge and a whole host of benefits

    • Shankar

      Amen to spicing up the day at the office, and having a session where you can laugh about what happens at clients sites is important as well.

      I remember one of our consultants that literally fell asleep in the server closet. Absolutely horrible to discuss with a client, but laugh inducing at every instance thereafter, and probably fodder for one of my future articles/blog posts.

      Information Technology is a difficult industry, and I agree completely that laughter can help keep everything in perspective.

      Enjoy that lunch, and hoist a beverage in my honor!

      Mike Nelson

  9. I Will have to come back again when my course load lets up – nonetheless I am taking your RSS feed so I can read your site offline. Thanks.

  10. I think it says a great deal about our work evolution over the years that the idea of “fun” seems even the slightest bit unusual. We’ve screwed it up and if an occasional F-word helps, I’m all for it. More fun.

  11. [...] you can’t force fun.  Neither can you force Lean Thinking.  You can adopt the tools, but the transformations tend [...]

  12. [...] attention and write articles like “How to Lead Ugly People” and titles like “Properly Using the F-Word at Work” and have fun while doing [...]

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