Fun Seekers: Zap the Spirit Killers!

The freedom to have fun is one of the elements in my model of employee motivation. However, the fun I speak of is not the kind that comes from playing ping-pong or pinball at work (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I think fun on the job is best when it comes naturally from, strangely enough, doing your job! It’s fun when you get to play to your strengths. It’s fun when you get to be creative. It’s fun to do things your way. It’s fun to do what you enjoy. For me, I enjoy working in PowerPoint. I could putz around in it all day and be happy. (I know I’m weird like that.) For you, working on a slideshow might be pure drudgery. So first identify what’s fun for you and then talk to your leader about how your talents and strengths are being used/not used. Do a check-up on the reason why you were hired. Are you fulfilling the mission the organization initially laid out for you?

For example, I was hired in one large organization to conduct leadership and professional development training. Next thing you know, I was asked to coordinate retirement seminars! How did that happen? That’s a step in the wrong direction that needs to be investigated and discussed. I was hired for one reason, based on my qualifications and experience, but then was handed a role that was outside the scope of my personal purpose. On a larger scale, the task fell outside my department’s mission as well.

I think it happens all the time—work piles on from outside sources that are beyond our control. We think, “Well that’s no big deal; it’s not too hard or time consuming, so I’ll just do it.” The trouble is, the work keeps stockpiling, and it’s not work that falls in our wheelhouse. When we accumulate tasks that we do not enjoy or do not excel in they become what I call “spirit killers.” They drain us, they steal time from us, they seep energy from us, and they definitely stop the fun. So, when faced with a spirit killer, ask for a sit-down discussion with your leader to assess whether your talents are being used to the fullest. It’s like a post-hire interview. (You can even call it that if you like!) Am I doing the work I was hired to be doing? Am I exercising my talents, the ones we discussed in my interview, in a way that serves the organization best? How can I do more work that interests, inspires, and enthuses me? How can I use my strengths to propel the organization forward? Framed in this way, I think most leaders would welcome and enjoy this conversation. There is no need to suffer in silence. It’s time to identify your kind of fun, and strive to make it a bigger part of your world at work. Why wouldn’t ya?