There are many things a reasonable person expects from a job — bad coffee, a chintzy salary, nosey HR people and, of course, a manager with anger management issues.
There is one thing not even an unreasonable person expects from a job — fun.
Yes, work is not fun, which is one reason they call it “work.”
If work were fun, then they wouldn’t have to pay you to do it. No pays you to go dancing, or to go drinking, or to go home and lay in front of your TV watching “General Hospital.” Because those things are fun. (Except when Finn told Griffin about the results of Anna’s blood work. That was definitely not fun.)
As it turns out, a general lack of fun is one reason why so many people don’t love their jobs. How many? According to a Gallup survey cited in a recent Ayelet Fishbach article in The New York Times, “two out of three working Americans do not feel engaged at work.”
Fishbach is a professor at the University of Chicago, and I can only assume she is having fun at her job. Those toga parties are maximum fun, no question.
For those of us not fortunate enough to experience the nonstop merrymaking in the ivory towers of academia, Professor Fishbach suggests our malaise is self-inflicted. Our focus at work should be on fun, but instead we insist on concentrating on trivia, like salaries and promotions.
To Fishbach, salaries and promotions “are not enough. To identify a satisfying job, people should be thinking about office morale and doing work that is interesting and fun.”
To make sure your job is maximum fun, our Professor Fishbach has developed a “three step approach.” Let’s tiptoe through these steps and see where we come out.
“First, make sure you choose a career or project that you enjoy pursuing,” she writes. “Keep in mind that unless you find small pleasures in your daily routine, you will not stick to it.”
I agree. It is unlikely you will find small or even teeny-weeny itsy-bitsy pleasures in writing a report, or reviewing sales data, or whatever dumb thing you are paid to do, but you still can create small pleasures on your own.
Like covering a co-worker’s commuter coffee mug with super-glue, or sending strippergrams, cash on delivery, to your CEO, or coming in late at night and filling the conference room with chickens. Now, those are the kind of small pleasures that are fun-fun-fun.
The second step is “add present benefits to your working hours. Listen to music, make friends and break the rules with social activities.”
Sorry, this is not going to work. With a job as miserable as yours, you could have Taylor Swift perform a live concert in your cubical, and you still wouldn’t be having fun. As for making friends — I think not. It’s bad enough you have to work with the undead; you certainly don’t want to be friends with them.
This leaves social activities, which actually could do the trick.
Assuming your co-workers are also interested in upping the fun-quotient of their jobs, invite them to a fun off-site at The Kit Kat Klub. Since it’s your fun idea, it’s only fair that drinks are on them. Just be sure you don’t wait until the end of another no-fun day to get the party started. Leave for the bar at 9 a.m. and don’t come back until 5 p.m. You’ll have almost eight hours of fun, and so will your managers, who, with no one to manage, can do all the fun things they like to do, like pulling the wings off butterflies and screaming into the void.
The third and final step is to “mind those present benefits that do exist at your work.”
For example, you can “motivate yourself to engage in your work by directing attention to the positive aspects of your tasks.”
Printing endless reports? Think of all the trees that will have to be cut down. That’s a positive, assuming you hate trees. Fail to close the deal on a big contract? You’ve helped another prospect avoid your company’s overpriced, underperforming products. That’s a real win-win!
The message here is clear. If you want to have fun at your job, it’s up to you to make it happen. And if none of the three steps can turn the dead zone of your job into a fun zone, you can tell your managers what jerks they are and quit.
That’s always fun.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.