Do you go to work eager and excited about your job? Do you enthusiastically share work stories about projects, and even pitfalls, at social events or around the dinner table? Do you end the work day feeling you've accomplished something important? If you answered no to any of those questions then it's time to make some changes, says Dennis Bakke.
The author of "Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to fun on the Job," says today's workplaces, and their business cultures, need to understand the tremendous benefits of a happy, fulfilled workforce. The longstanding management belief that everyone's just lucky to have a job needs to be tossed in the circular file.
"Making work fun is really about letting people make a difference, doing something useful, feeling accomplished and being proud of whatever skill they're contributing to an organization," says Bakke, who founded AES, an electricity provider in 1982 and served as its CEO until retirement in 2002.
Sure, it sounds simple enough, right? Every boss knows a happy staff is a more productive one. But all too often a company's culture fosters a workday of misery for several reasons: managers who won't or can't give up control, leaders who don't let anyone participate in decision-making, and company leaders who view workers as machines instead of people.
"We're all human being. That's what separates us from other species. We have the ability to think, make decisions and hold ourselves accountable and workers will be miserable if they aren't given the opportunity to do all those things," says Baake.
While making work fun is more successful if done on a top-down approach—which Baake says is the most successful way to foster the management philosophy—individual workers can bring about the 'fun' change by taking personal responsibility for their job, talking with their managers and pushing the philosophy in front of company leaders.
"It's a tough sell to convince management to give up some power, to let others make decisions instead of controlling everything. But they'll see immediate benefits when you allow people soar to their potential," says Baake, adding that it's only natural for human beings to want power and retain in.
"In restraining their power, and giving it to others to grow, management can provide a culture where everyone participates and is empowered to achieve."
One good bottom-up approach is for IT staffers to begin what Baake calls random acts of responsibility. In this approach a tech expert has to take risks—stepping outside their role's boundaries to make something happen.
"It's a matter of not waiting to be told, or be given an assignment. You see what has to be done and you do it. Eventually, if done consistently, it can change the mind of a 'bad' boss into giving up control. It's a very difficult step for them but it can happen and it has to happen," the author says. "By taking that step and doing what needs to be done, management begins to see they can trust you, and can hand off decision making. For the tech professional the workday becomes more fun as they're putting all their skills, their brain power to use."
On the management side, the benefits are just as compelling. Not only will tech managers have staffers invested in IT's goals on a personal achievement level, which will bring greater productivity and innovation, they'll be provided more opportunity to have fun in their roles as well, says Bakke.
"They'll be working in a mentoring role and boosting that skill as a manager which is a great feeling. Everyone get's the chance to fulfill their destiny as an employee and use their talents and there's nothing like it when you're given the freedom to succeed," says Bakke.