Is fun and essential component in a healthy workplace? Inc. magazine devoted its entire August issue to the theme of Fun: The New Core Value. In the introductory article, they state their rationale:

With labor markets tight, business leaders understand that fun can tip the scales when all else is equal. Fun not only lures employees, it also helps them acculturate, which becomes more important as businesses become more virtual. And, of course, fun is associated with creativity.”

The introduction also cautions that fun at work can turn into a grotesque joke unless an organization first has its act together. For fun to thrive, prerequisites include, “… meaningful work, competent management, fair compensation, and mutually respectful employees are table stakes.”
Inc’s “fun” issue encompasses nine articles on the theme, ranging from case histories of organizations that have successfully infused fun into their corporate culture to twenty-five ideas for keeping things loose at work.
We’ve previously posted about creative workplaces and creative employers, such as Google and we have a humor section here in our blog, so we have been proponents of fun. Particularly with the millennial generation, fun can be an important step in bonding and teaming, and can also have many salutary effects, such as stress reduction.
Can fun go too far?
But there is a curmudgeon in every crowd, and Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard shows the dark side of all the jocularity, making the case that the recent emphasis on fun in the workplace is infantalizing corporate America. In his recent article in The Weekly Standard, Are We Having Fun Yet?, he notes that, “Like a diseased appendix bursting and spreading infectious bacteria throughout the abdomen, fun is insinuating itself everywhere, into even the un-hippest workplaces.”
Matt takes a biting look at the emerging industry of fun consultants and sees a a nightmarish picture of mandatory fun run amuck. (Matt, I hate to tell you this – but your article was fun to read!) He certainly makes some valid points and trenchant observations:

So who’s to say the funsultants are worse than anything else that’s happened to the American corporate drone over the decades? After all the paradigm-shifting and diversity-training and outsourcing and TQM’ing and synergizing and empowering and value-adding and globalizing and downsizing and full-frontal lobotomizing, maybe finger puppets are just the logical terminus.”

All things in moderation
The whole issue brings to mind that parental wet-blanket cautionary note, “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.” While we remain proponents of humor and fun, we agree that things can go too far, particularly when things become mandatory rather than optional. There are any number of employment attorneys who would largely agree with Matt’s take on things, reminding their clients that in the workplace, there is just a gossamer thin confetti streamer that separates fun from a discrimination lawsuit or a workers compensation claim.
Thanks to Workplace Prof Blog for the pointer to the Matt Labash article!

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